Using Follow Up to Close More Sales

In our company, the kitchen and bath division has communicator/customer service meetings Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3 p.m. The most serious issues discussed are not broken cabinets, but rather breaks in communication.

Communication is much like a baseball player's batting average while perfection is impossible, striving for perfection is not. I believe many of our communication challenges can be prevented or minimized by following up. I'm going to share, in chronological order, many areas where improvement on the follow-up can yield positive results.

You need to follow-up on leads or customer referrals from home shows and out-of-showroom contact. Whether you gave a formal quote or not isn't important. This potential customer is going to do business with someone, and in today's shopper's world, a follow-up call will greatly improve your chances of getting the business.

My suggestion is to send a note thanking them for their time and interest in your offerings, and inviting them to revisit your showroom or call for further information. In addition, personal contact should be made by phone, if possible.

Don't just leave a message on voice mail, however; keep trying until you reach the potential customer. This phone call can supply you with lots of information. For example: Is the project still alive? Is this prospect still interested in you? Has the time parameter of the project changed? Is the prospect going with another company? If so, with whom and why?

I understand why sales achievers do this first step of follow-up on leads because they know there's value not only in attracting the prospect back to their business, but also in knowing why a sale is lost. I also understand why the lower producers don't make these follow-up attempts; they haven't learned to accept rejection. They are content to let the prospect come back on their own, or simply fade away.

In collecting information to serve the prospect, questions may arise that cannot be answered at that time. This list of questions can be rather lengthy, and special circumstances may surround each, so it's vitally important to follow-up. The answers to these questions are needed for the project to be developed in an accurate and timely fashion.

Additionally, the tenacity shown in following up on these issues is a display of your control of the project and your ability to keep the selling process pointed toward a successful conclusion as soon as possible. There's also an unspoken message to the prospect that you are excellent at detail, concerned about their needs, and would be terrific at guiding the project.

Once the prospect becomes your customer, some anxieties may set in. One is what I call "buyer's remorse" wondering whether they bought the right thing from the right person at the right price. It's also normal that no matter how long they took in making their decision, they'll want you to get started right away.

Both of these feelings can be helped with a follow-up note with a genuine thank you for being chosen for their very special project and a re-explanation of the expected timing of the project.

At this point, while you'll likely have at least half of their expected investment, it still may be several weeks before the project begins. About midway between making the sale and when the project starts, call or write and confirm what has taken place. For example, you can tell the customer that you have received the acknowledgement from the manufacturer and the delivery date has been confirmed just as you had previously discussed.

This is also the appropriate time to let the customer know if something has occurred to potentially alter the expected schedule. It's much better to deal with the accurate information now as opposed to later. I believe customers deserve this communication, and, at the same time, it gives them an opportunity to raise any questions or concerns. The longer these concerns and questions go unaddressed, the greater they may become.

This is also a good time to review what the expectations are, so there are no surprises for either of you.

If it's possible, visit the job site early on in the process. The customers want to know they can trust you, and that you will take responsibility if any challenges occur or expectations are not met.

Remember, particularly if this is a remodeling project, the customer may be nervous and a bit uncomfortable, and will be watching this project with an eagle eye to see if anything goes awry. As the salesperson/designer, a follow through now is your chance to shine. You can keep the customer informed, hold his or her hand and follow through to assure yourself and the customer that things are going as planned.

There are two important elements to finish off the sale and make it as successful as possible. First, make sure the expectations are met and you get your money. Second, use your success to develop future sales by getting referrals.

Now the sale process begins all over again by turning the referral into your next sale.
Remember to also follow-up well after the project is completed. Your customer may be surprised to hear from you, but a six-month follow-up is good business. The customer may be living with a small annoyance but has been too busy to have to call it to your attention. The nature of the problem is likely small and easy to solve. By doing so, you will have a happier customer one who is likely to call you for his or her next project.

I suggest you review any of your customer service problems and see if you're missing out by not following through as best you can. With proper follow-up, don't be surprised if you attract more business, have less problems and create more profit.

The sales producers in our industry don't sell and run, they sell and follow through.