For too many salespeople, generating initial interest is a lot easier than following up. But many sales are lost because the seller waited before taking action. Follow-up is essential to the sales process because it can take four or five interactions before a sale is made. Knowing the most basic, successful, follow-up options will help close the deal.
Short of impulse buys and must-purchase items needed to fill a void, most sales do not happen quickly. In fact, sales typically follow a back-and-forth dance between the salesperson and the prospective customer or client. It’s one thing to get your customer on the dance floor, but fail to move your feet and the dance will soon be over.
Customers need convincing, reassurance, and answers to their questions and a gentle nudge, or perhaps a push, to recognize the significance of what you are selling and why it is of value to them. They need to weigh options and evaluate their financial commitment, with help from an outside source representing the product or service.
It’s important to find out how people like to be contacted before following up. Then you must reach out within a short time frame. The following are five tips on successful follow-up:
- Phone calls: The easiest and most obvious means of follow-up is to call a day or two after your initial meeting. Make this more effective by delivering the answer to a lingering question from your first sales encounter. Or throw something new in as an incentive. You also could call about an upcoming event or sale that you “forgot” to mention or that has just been added. Have something new to bring to the conversation besides simply following up. And remember what you learned about your customer from your first encounter. You should have a data card handy rather than strictly recite from a prepared speech.
- E-mail: Again, this is an easy one, but it also is another opportunity to do more than just check in. Send a link to your Web site, enquire about whether the customer would like to sign up for your free e-mail newsletter and attach one as a sample. Provide a short article on the product or service or deliver an answer that you didn’t have at your first meeting. Again, give them the next piece of additional information and advance the sale. Keep the e-mail short and sweet so it shows up in the preview pane and can be read before they hit delete. Also, be sure that the person knows whom the e-mail is from. Your name may or may not strike a familiar chord. The “From” field of your e-mail should state your business name as well as your name.
- The personal meeting: For a major sale, you may want to schedule a personal follow-up meeting. Be prepared to meet at the client’s office or a neutral site, perhaps over coffee. Find a location that is easy for the client to get to, or let her choose the place. Bring all necessary information and pick up the tab. Don’t spend the whole time selling; listen instead to your client’s needs and establish a rapport.
- Thank-you cards: A handwritten thank-you card can be very effective. Send it out as soon as possible, allowing for a couple of days to reach your potential client by mail. This is a nice gesture that can help keep you in mind.
- Gifts: Sometimes sales may require that extra special touch. You may want to send a small but targeted gift. Find out what the client likes or is interested in and send something appropriate. Remember, it’s not a matter of trying to buy their business but rather to show clients that you are genuinely paying attention to their needs. This is essentially a token that can show your interest.