Don't sell to your customers and then leave them

Smart sales professionals know that their job does not end when the prospect signs on the dotted line.

While many in sales subscribe to the "sell them and forget them" philosophy, this unprofessional attitude is not only arrogant, it shows a lack of understanding of not only the purpose of the sales process but also the true duty of the salesperson.

When you allow the achievement of the sale to be the end of the relationship, you will not only produce dissatisfied customers, you will rob yourself and your company of repeat sales.

What appears, then, to be the end of the sales relationship with your prospect is really just the beginning -- that is, the beginning of a long term, proactive, customer needs-oriented process building toward the goal of complete client satisfaction.

Making the sale should be seen as the transition point where the prospect starts to become your long-term client. The key to establishing this relationship, and thereby ensuring that your sale wears well, is to establish that your product or service is right for the buyers and that they are happy and satisfied.

While identifying your prospect's needs is a pivotal component of the second step of the selling process -- qualification -- it should not end there.

Long after the sale has been made, those needs must continue to be met and you must continue to investigate whether that is happening or whether those needs have changed. Your goal should be that the product or service always fits the customer's needs precisely.

Make it clear to your customer before, during and after the order that your focus is their complete satisfaction.

It's easy to do this before and during the sale since you'll likely have ample opportunities to communicate with them. After the sale, however, you must make it a part of your daily routine to keep in contact with your customers and abreast of their needs.

When you talk with them, you should inquire as to whether anything has changed, answer any questions they may have and make adjustments or suggest different products or services you have to offer, if necessary.

This kind of routine checking-in communication lays the groundwork not only for customer satisfaction but also for future sales.

It must be foremost in your mind, throughout the selling process as well as in the relationship building stage that follows, that your reliability is the most important thing you have to offer your customers. To effectively communicate that they can rely on you, everything that you promised your prospect to get the sale must be done. Delivery must be made on the date promised. Any extra service and training that was promised must happen.

Customers must receive the benefits they expect from your product or service exactly as you described them.

Any faltering or deviation from how you described things before the sale took place will impair your clients' ability to trust you and put your relationship with them in jeopardy.

When you put in the effort to deliver on your promises, your client will come away from the experience feeling respected, secure and well taken care of. Conversely, poor follow-up and unfulfilled promises will result in canceled orders and a bad reputation for not only yourself but for your company as well as the integrity of the product or service you sell.

What's worse is that customers for whom you do not deliver and whom you let fall off your radar will be left to their own devices.

Unsupported and lacking reassurance, they will invariably experience "buyer's remorse" -- that cloak of doubt mixed with fear and second-guessing that settles over nearly all of us after making a major purchase. The last thing you want is for your prospects to go through this process without the benefit of your reassurance.

When they're awake and pacing the floor at 2 a.m., worrying about the decision they have made to commit hard-earned dollars to your company, they need to know that their purchase was not only a wise investment but that it fills their needs.

Since your clients buy emotionally and then justify their decisions logically, you'll want to be in contact with them immediately after the sale to reassure them and remind them of the logical reasons that resulted in their choice of your product or service.

It goes without saying that you should also take the time to express your thanks to your customer for their order.

Phone them later and thank them again. When you call, make sure everything is going well and provide them with answers to any questions they might have. Leave them with the understanding of what your follow-up plan is so that they know when they can anticipate hearing from you next.

This time taken to communicate to a customer that you appreciate their business and that you care about them long after the sale will not only show you to be a consummate professional but also a human being of trustworthiness and integrity.

When you possess these qualities, you stand out from the crowd of "sell them and leave them" salespeople.



Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.