Follow-up a vital part of the sale

A true sales professional does not constantly go out selling one person and then go out and look for another. He or she follows-up with current customers to ensure that they are happy with the sale and makes sure the sale wears well.

Customer follow-up should be a vital part of any salesperson's daily activity. It ensures that your existing clients remain happy and is a prudent strategy that will generate referrals (and more sales).

Your contacts with your sold customers should be often enough to remind the client of your continued availability to serve his or her needs or solve his/her problems. It would also be the correct time to introduce new products that your company offers or new products that are new to the company.

While you are contacting the customer you can also inquire as to any changes in their needs and wants and any way you can help. These repeated contacts are necessary because customers, even those who are good friends, need reminding as to your existence and your eagerness to meet their needs.

Did you get the sale through connections or referrals? It may be very rewarding to get a sale through connections but it is erroneous thinking to believe that they will be lifelong customers just because you sold them once. You have to prove yourself over and over again.

The product or service you sell may determine the frequency of your customer contact or service you sell. You also have to keep in mind the time invested as it relates to the cost of your product or service.

You have to be frequent enough that they can distinctly recall your last contact. Some salespeople contact their customers once a month. Some salespeople keep in touch via cards for every occasion: birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, holidays, graduations etc. With cards coming all the time it will not be long that the client thinks of you as one of the family (or at least an old friend).

In fact, if you stop the routine the client may even call you wondering if anything is wrong! It also helps if you personalize every card or note. Nothing is worse than an obvious form letter. Form letters give the impression that the recipient is only one of hundreds, maybe thousands and is not worth the personal effort. Get in the habit of handwriting a few notes every day, perhaps blocking off five to 10 minutes for the activity.

It is also not a bad idea to drop notes or send cards to current prospects that have not bought. Your persistence will perhaps not be rewarded immediately but the next time the prospect buys he will remember your cards.

Imagine if you have been sending him or her cards and the salesperson who had sold him did not. Who do you think he or she will be inclined to purchase from the second time around? All these cards and letters might sound time consuming and a pain to do everyday but they can be very rewarding.

It would be a good idea to include a business card with every card or letter. Some will argue including two or more so to encourage the satisfied customer to pass them to his friends and acquaintances. You may want to have cards printed with your picture on it if you want people to put the name and face together.

The number of prospects you have on your mailing list will vary from industry to industry and on the product or service you sell. But you should always have a system in which to store and retrieve information on any given prospect or client.

Every contact should include details on who they are and what they need. You can also list personal details such as birthdays, children's birthdays, professional affiliations and the like. Everything is important and relevant, hobbies, travels, etc.

Mailing lists are only valuable if the information contained in them is current. If you have been sending letters and cards for awhile it is always a good idea to follow up the letters with a personal phone call. This way you can either talk to the person and ask them if they have indeed received your letters.

If so you can then ask them if the information that they received was a benefit to them and if there were any questions that you may be able to answer. This establishes rapport and gets more information as to the clients changing needs. You may find that the recipient has been transferred, promoted or moved on.

Each time this happens you will then have new information. Has the prospect moved to another company in the same industry? Will he or she need different products? Who is the person replacing him or her? Will it be a promotion or are they hiring from outside the firm.

If there is a job vacancy you may know someone who has been thinking of changing companies. You can imagine that they will be appreciative if you were instrumental in getting their foot in the door in the new company.

Retaining clients is not the most glamorous part of selling. The unglamorous groundwork and preparation almost always precede the big sale.

How do you form the habit of doing the same things over and over again? By doing them ... and doing them ... and doing them until these activities are second nature. Do them even though you dislike, even detest them. Discipline yourself by setting aside a specific time to perform the tasks and reward yourself when you have accomplished your goals. Recognize how completing these tasks you dislike help you accomplish your sales goals.

You will find that the disciplined use of customer follow-up will pay off by creating a loyal customer base that will send you referrals and repeat business.



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