5 GOOD REASONS TO PRACTICE ‘THE FOLLOW-UP’ / ‘FOLLOW-THROUGH’ / ‘FOLLOW-ON’
Whatever you call it, this is one of the most important activities in sales and marketing, in fact, in business as a whole.
Whenever I gain a new customer, among the many things I ask them is how and why they chose me.
This is a common-sense approach that can often elicit huge insight. From the responses I have received, the main reason I was chosen was that I had actually ‘followed-up’ my proposal or quotation. Strange as it may seem, there are many businesses that simply don’t bother. In fact, too often I hear of companies that do not even respond to a request for a quotation! This is very un-professional to say the least, and wastes good business opportunities.
Take my recent contract to train a sales team in France. They had approached four companies; two French and two English. They did not say how many had responded with a proposal, but apparently, I was the only one to follow-up my quotation! Needless to say, during the subsequent conversations I was able to match my product to their need and I won the contract.
So, why follow-up and how can it help to make the sale?
1/ Helps to build the personal relationship
2/ Is an opportunity to learn more about the prospect and build this into your approach
3/ Gives you the chance to make further adjustments to your quotation, making it even closer to their need, and to differentiate yourself from the competition
4/ Provides another opportunity to try and arrange to meet up, as the face-to-face approach generally is far more successful than trying to win business by ‘phone
5/ Is a chance to open negotiation, aiming to close the deal and win the business
It is wise to try and monitor and manage these follow-ups to ensure that no opportunities are missed. I use a simple spreadsheet I call my ‘Opportunity Log’. It lists contacts that I believe should be nurtured and followed up as I have identified potential for:
- New business
- Support for, or supply to my business
How soon should you follow-up? I would normally say within 2 to 3 days of the initial contact. If in doubt, ask or suggest. ‘Can I get back to you about this on…/in a couple of days?’ They are then duty bound to read it, as, when you call or visit, you are likely to be asking questions!
If you’ve left them something to think about, don’t waste the opportunity, follow-up and make sure you win the business.
I was asked the other day: ‘How should I deal with competition’?
It seems that another supplier of this persons services had moved into the area, and, more significantly, into their circles, their network.
The immediate reaction is often to be affronted; ‘I was here first’, or to panic; ‘There’s not enough to go round’.
BUT, as with all things, there are ways of turning this situation on its head; turning a problem into an advantage. After all, you can’t exactly ask them to go away!
Here’s what to do:
1/ Accept that they are there and have just as much right as you to target local business
2/ Realise that all the work they do to promote their services helps to ‘seed’ the market’ and show more businesses the value of what you do. They help to create the market.
3/ Look for differentiators – those aspects that make you different from each other; the individual strengths that allow you to say, ‘they do this aspect well, but we specialise in this other area’.
4/ Meet with them, confirm the differentiators and explore the opportunities together.
– They may be targeting companies of different sizes or geographical areas from you.
– They may claim one expertise but not have the resources to provide it. Can you provide it for them?
– They may be happy to set up a referral agreement whereby they pass to you the business that they are not best suited to provide and vice versa.
This has happened to me on a number of occasions, and each time I have been able to turn the situation to mutual advantage.
So, don’t resent the competition, embrace them!
As many of you know, I am dead against ‘pressure selling’. There is no need for it.
It is counter-productive in that you may win the order, but you won’t win their loyalty, their referrals, or their repeat business, and pressure-selling probably makes them a bit cross!
It gives Sales a bad name. I still come across people who are are at least suspicious of sales and sometimes even anti-sales.
To counter this, I used to promote a more hand-holding approach to sales that generated more respect and credibility. it was more successful, but it was not infallible. One reason for this was the ‘fence-sitters’. We have all met them; they are those who know they need what you have to offer, but still dither and appear afraid of investing in their own business.
I now promote what I call ‘Challenging Sales’; nothing like pressure sales, but not totally customer-hugging either. It offers a diplomatic challenge to prospective customers that can wipe out all their objections.
This is still ethical selling, but it uses techniques in ethical influencing to ensure the best rate of sales conversion.
If you want to know how this can work for you, go-on, don’t sit on the fence; I challenge you to talk to Salient!
Which is the best route-to-market?
Do we need both?
Often I find myself waxing lyrical about the marketing ‘balance’ as I call it. One thing that really frustrates me is when ‘media experts’ make claims such as:
“Traditional marketing is dead; online marketing is the only way forward”. While I cannot stand intolerance(!) they are able to show plenty of evidence that social media campaigns can bring significant new business.
Likewise there are others who shun online marketing, regarding it as an unnecessary evil where the ‘experts’ simply talked up the need and created the market by claiming it as the next version of sliced bread. Some ‘traditional marketeers’ believe themselves to be more in-touch with their market because they actually talk to them, as opposed to ‘engaging electronically’.
Me? I have a foot in both camps. Both sides have a valid point but neither sees the whole picture.
I go for a balanced approach! BOTH approaches are valuable and can be used to compliment each other in a well designed marketing plan.
Four essential points to consider:
1/ Your target market. If the decision maker is over 50, their use of the internet is likely to be somewhat less than that of a 20-25 year old. They may respond better to tactile or ‘traditional’ marketing than what appears on the screen…and vice versa.
2/ Internet marketing relies on avoiding spam filters. It can also have an engagement time of only a few seconds. It appears on the screen and then disappears as the reader has other things to do on their computer. Traditional marketing is often tactile and will stay on their desk for hours, if not days, until a decision is made to file, dump or action it.
3/ Online marketing requires knowledge of the systems needed to integrate the contact engagement into an effective marketing campaign or plan. This means you will either have to learn how to do it yourself, or pay others to do it for you.
4/ Many companies rely heavily on the internet to locate suppliers. If they cannot find you there, they will use another company. Sensible and planned internet marketing can be hugely effective in promoting your business and products.
- Traditional AND online marketing are needed in a well balanced marketing plan.
- Consider your target market and decide the best method of first contact, and then compliment every initiative with other forms of engagement.
- Learn to use both approaches to greatest effect. This done, you will have a very powerful platform for attracting new business. But, don’t forget to make sure you have a really effective marketing message ready to transmit with your preferred route-to-market, AND the necessary sales skills to convert the interest generated into valuable sales!
BUSINESS UP AND DOWN AT THE MOMENT?
PEAKS AND TROUGHS; FEAST & FAMINE?
WANT TO FILL IN THE TROUGHS?
Some call it ‘seasonal’. To others it’s more unpredictable; some months are good, even excellent, but others are embarrassingly bad.
What can be done to smooth the graph?
How can a constant income be generated and maintained?
THERE ARE WAYS! Here are a few ideas that may work for you….
- Consumables; are there products or services you can provide that are ‘time limited’ or repeatable? (Your business equivalent of printing ink!)
- Support Services; would your customer find value in your offering regular support, help and advice related to the product or service they have purchased?
- Marketing Campaign; if you can identify a likely dip coming up, then a well planned promotional campaign can result in new sales. These can coincide with the dip and even continue growing afterwards.
- Referral requests or reminders; again, well timed, these will likely result in new sales during the anticipated ‘barren’ period.
Using any of these could help to remove the ‘lean months’ from your business year.
Using more than one could make a significant difference to your overall income.
Introducing consumables or support services will provide a good background income.
Campaigns and referral schemes can be timed to overcome expected troughs and can be repeated at regular intervals.
Salient is expert in advising and setting up such trough fillers.
EFFECTIVE ‘TROUGH-FILLERS’ MEAN NO MORE LEAN MONTHS
To discuss how you can achieve continuity of income, call Salient on 01793 843118 or 07941 041364.
Try this quick test to see which you are.
– a pattern emerges…..
I talk to many business owners and sales personnel every week. They experience a variety of obstacles to business growth during their working week. I find it rewarding to help them remove or overcome these obstacles.
The common theme or pattern emerging is the fact that too many of them are OPERATORS, rather than MANAGERS. For them their business is a day-to-day job, rather than a planned and managed activity focussed on business growth, development and success.
Here are some Salient questions to see how you fare:
Note: there are no right or wrong answers, every business is different.
1. How much time per week do you spend planning your business, your strategies and activities? 0-10%, 10-20%, 20-30%, more than 30%?
2. Is your email alert switched on all the time?
3. Can you switch off or ignore the ‘phone when engrossed in important business
4. If someone asks you to do something for them, how often do you…
…… do it, schedule it or decline it?
5. Do you fully understand the difference between ‘urgent’ and ‘important’?
6. Would you say you are pro-active or re-active in your work with customers?
7. Do you follow your own plan, or are you part of someone else’s?
Are you happy with your answers?
A further observation is that operators do not tend to revisit their business plan; they set few, if any targets or objectives; they seldom monitor or review progress; and they find they spend a lot of time ‘fire-fighting’.
Is this you…or at least partly you?
Salient designed the BUSINESS FOCUS SERVICE for just this situation. As a monthly mentoring package it is structured to provide face-to-face expert sales consultancy focussing on sales and business development, together with an on-call facility to cover any day-to-day issues. You’ll find more details here.
TO SEE THE LANDSCAPE AHEAD,
YOU NEED TO COME OUT OF THE TRENCH ON A REGULAR BASIS!