by Kelly Riggs
A lot of attention is paid to teaching people how to close a sale.
“Secrets” of closing the sale. Always be closing. The “art” of closing the sale. Be Bold and Win the Sale.
Which is a critically important step in the sales process, to be sure. You have to get the business before anything else can happen. HOWEVER, it is not at all unusual to see a deal go sour, or for a salesperson to leave a bad impression with a customer, simply by what is done — or not done — after the deal is closed.
In many cases you’ve worked for weeks or even months to secure a piece of business – a process that likely included several meetings, a number of presentations, and a host of follow-up calls before you finally hit the goal line and heard the magic words, “Let’s do this.”
Do you really want to screw it up now?
This is when the real work begins. Like when a home builder sells a house — it’s great to get the sale, but you still have a home to build. And that experience can lead to a delighted customer who tells everyone about you, or it can become a train wreck that kills the opportunity to get tons of referrals.
So, before great salespeople even think about counting their commissions, they make doubly sure the customer gets exactly what was ordered. They ensure that the product/service delivery goes smoothly and any challenges or issues are dealt with quickly and professionally.
The “deal” isn’t done until the customer has successfully implemented the solution the salesperson offered and the money is in the bank.
Well, actually, high-performance salespeople don’t really worry about the money. They know the money will be there if they execute the sales process well. They don’t get the order and then disappear. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. They believe that the delivery of their product/service is the first step in the art of follow-up.
In fact, I would suggest to you that the road to sales greatness is paved on effective follow-up.
“The road to sales greatness is paved on world-class delivery and follow-up.” @kellyriggs #sales #BizLockerRoomClick to tweet
Effective follow-up is a crucial part of a salesperson’s success because effective follow-up can produce 1) new connections, 2) lead referrals, and 3) and the opportunity for business in other departments, divisions, or locations. This is true even in the industry where repeat business is not readily available, but it is just as true in an industry where customers buy a product/service over and over. Follow-up is critically important in maintaining and protecting that recurring business.
In short, it’s easier to sell customers who have already bought from you and had a tremendous experience, so it is in your best interest to master the follow-up phase of the sale process.
Or would you rather start over after every sale from ground zero?
Let’s quickly review five essential elements of effective follow-up:
1. Never, EVER forget the two most important words you know: “Thank you.”
Interestingly enough, if you have done your job well, you will often get a thank you from your customer. It is inexcusable, however, to fail to thank a customer for doing business with you. You can substitute, “Thank you for your business” or “I appreciate your business” or something similar, but you must sincerely acknowledge your gratitude to your customer. You can say thank you in-person, or with a personal, hand-written card.
Either way is fine; doing both is fantastic.
2. Ensure that your customers get exactly what they agreed to, and the installation/implementation process is completed successfully.
Many sales are actually “dead on arrival” – and future sales are sacrificed – because the delivery of the product/service is rife with minor issues and poor communication that erode the trust you have worked so hard to develop. This can largely be avoided by overseeing the process and being proactive in communicating with the customer. And the pay-off is enormous when customers observe that you are someone who takes care of business.
3. Make sure you are accessible.
After the sale is made, poor salespeople take longer to return calls, answer questions, and deal with issues, which – from the customers’ perspective – is tantamount to saying, “All I really care about is my commission.”
4. Own your customers’ problems.
Too many salespeople are intimidated by the prospect of a problem once a sale is made and the result is a significant loss of credibility in the eyes of the customer. One huge mistake is to pass blame off to another department – the shipping department or accounting, for example.
Remember, in the eyes of the customer, you are the company. Take responsibility, handle the problem, and ensure the customer is satisfied.Again, the pay-off is enhanced trust and credibility when the customers sees that you are willing to take care of business.
5. Begin the process of delivering the NEXT sale.
To set the table for the next sale, seek to become an ongoing resource to your customer. Connect your customer to other customers, network contacts, or other resources. At every opportunity, look for information that your customer will find useful and valuable, and make sure they receive it.
Great salespeople sell more than a product or service, they sell themselves. To do that, they look for ways to benefit the customer beyond the product/service they provide – creating connections and resources that provide additional value to the customer.
To continue to build trust, which is essential to future opportunities, a salesperson must take great care in the follow-up process. Keep this in mind: you can be awesome in a sales presentation and be a great closer, but it is considerably more difficult to get repeat business and referrals if you don’t take great pains to provide excellent follow-up after the sale.
Kelly Riggs is a business performance coach and founder of the Business LockerRoom. A former national Salesperson of the Year and serial entrepreneur, Kelly is a recognized thought leader in the areas of sales, management leadership, and strategic planning. He serves clients ranging from small, privately held companies to Fortune 500 firms. Kelly has written two books: “1-on-1 Management™: What Every Great Manager Knows That You Don’t” and “Quit Whining and Start SELLING! A Step-by-Step Guide to a Hall of Fame Career in Sales.”