Phenomenal Follow-Up

By Dana Ray

Selling skill might show up in your figures, but the true sales professional shows as much concern for the customer after the sale as before the close. What you do before the sale often reflects how badly you want it, but what you do after shows how much you care about continuing the relationship. Sales initiate relationships – relationships you must be willing and able to nurture and protect if you want the buyer’s repeat business. To make sure your follow-up strategy encompasses all the basics that keep customers satisfied, incorporate these ideas from OneSource director of sales Thomas Sobol and follow-up expert and consultant Tom Begg into your follow-up plan.

Follow-up benefits
Buyers with an ongoing need for your products or services present you with a lifetime of selling opportunities. Conscientious follow-up demonstrates your concern for those customers and your ability to exceed their expectations, building buyer loyalty to ensure that your first sale to them won’t be your last. As Tom Begg notes, after the transaction brings you and your buyers together, follow-up helps hold you together.

“It really cements the relationship,” he explains. “It lets the customer know that you’re not in it for the commission check, you’re there for the long haul. Ultimately, you reinforce buyers’ faith in you and your company and show them you sincerely care.”

Guidelines for follow-up
A customer saved is a customer earned, so your follow-up strategy warrants the same investment of thought and planning as your selling strategy. Start with a full measure of appreciation, communication, visitation and frequent contribution to create a recipe for follow-up success. For salespeople who don’t know where to begin, Begg says to start by thanking buyers for their business.

“First and foremost, I send thank-you notes for any orders or referrals I’ve received,” he says. “I’ve sent countless thank-you cards that have helped keep my name in front of customers so that when I show up for a visit, they remember me.”

Sobol points out that checking with buyers to be sure you upheld your end of the sales agreement also belongs at the top of smart salespeople’s follow-up to-do list. Knowing you’ve satisfied the basic terms of the sales contract gives you a follow-up foundation on which to build.

“The first thing you have to do is be sure you accomplished what you promised,” says Sobol. “Even if keeping all those promises will take some time, be sure you’re on track with an agenda explaining how and when you’ll do what you’ve said you would.”

Both Sobol and Begg are big on communication. The more you talk with your buyers, the better you know where you stand and how to solidify your position as their one-and-only supplier. To find out what buyers really think of their product and performance, says Sobol, his company schedules regular meetings so buyers can speak their minds.

“Depending on the situation, we might start by meeting weekly to ensure that the transition is going smoothly,” he says. “Also, we include other people who are involved in the account – on-site supervisors, for example, who help maintain day-to-day operations. We let the customers do the talking, and if they have any concerns or special issues, we address them at that point.”

In addition to talking business with your buyers, says Begg, relationship-building follow- up includes pointing out any interests you have in common with them and asking them about their families and hobbies.

“I try to discover some type of common interest,” he says, “whether we went to the same college, or we share an interest in golf, then I try on a consistent basis to send articles or other little things related to that interest that can really help strengthen our relationship and show them I’m thinking about them.”

Begg also reminds salespeople that making yourself indispensable to customers means adding value even after the sale. Good ideas, for example, cost you nothing to give, but they may be worth a fortune to your buyers.

“Especially nowadays,” says Begg, “it seems that no matter what you sell, price is an issue. To prove to my buyers that I offer more for their money than anyone else, I always try to contribute new ideas that show I’m genuinely committed to helping them improve their business and that I want to serve them as a resource, not just a vendor.”