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The lost art of sales follow-up

Liz Wendling //December 7, 2010//

The lost art of sales follow-up

Liz Wendling //December 7, 2010//

Following up is a critical part of the sales process but sadly it’s become the most neglected. There are many reasons why sales are lost, but one of the biggest reasons is poor or no follow-up. The question isn’t how many sales are you making each week – it’s how many are you losing each week. Sales follow-up is a critical part of relationship selling and omitting this step creates a fatal flaw in the process. Plus, it’s part of your job!

I’m not crazy about the phrase “follow-up” because it’s overused and its meaning is hollow. Actions speak louder than words; people need to stop talking about following up and actually start doing it. Failure to follow up happens in every industry, every day, and it affects all of us personally and professionally. With this type of negligence, it’s not surprising that so many business owners and salespeople are struggling. They are leaving money on the table.

I’ve often wondered why someone would bother to start a business, deliver a sales presentation or meet with a new customer and then not take the time to stay connected and get back to potential customers. How in the world can you not find the time to follow up and complete the business you’ve started? If you willingly let your customers fall through the cracks due to a lack of organization, failure to follow-through or poor communication, you can jeopardize the sale, your professional reputation and the potential for referrals.

Think about how many times that you, as a customer, have walked away from a business because of poor follow-up. How many times were you willing to pay more for a product because of better service? Poor communication or lack of responsiveness is a leading reason customers leave businesses for a competitor. It’s the easiest fix for most businesses and an instant way to generate more sales.

There is a big disconnect between what people are saying and what they are doing. Think about how much time, money and energy you’ve put into developing sales strategies, networking and advertising. Dropping the ball at the follow-up stage sends a message to customers that they can’t count on you. This is not only unprofessional sales behavior, it’s bad business. Is that the first impression you want to leave with your potential customers – that you talk the talk but can’t walk the walk?

It’s a critical, costly mistake and there is absolutely no good reason to neglect this aspect of business. The excuses are endless and overused: “I’m just so busy,” “I already left one voicemail,” “I just ran out of time,” or “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Those may have worked when you were 10 years old, when you forgot to do your homework or take out the garbage, but they don’t work for serious business owners and salespeople. There is just no good excuse for dropping the ball on potential business. Not one.

Following up is in your control, it’s your choice and it’s an easy way to differentiate yourself from other salespeople. It’s a unique way show your commitment to your customers. Plus, it’s your job.

A good follow-up system will generate sales and keep your business in business. It’s an investment you can’t afford to pass up if you want to stay ahead of your competition. Customers respect business owners and salespeople who are efficient, organized and dedicated enough to follow up and follow through in a professional manner. When you follow up, you win customers.
Since few salespeople follow up properly with customers, you will truly stand out when you do. Great salespeople write things down, they have a daily to-do system, they return calls, they keep their promises and they do what they say they will do.

In the sales world there are those who think about it and talk about it, and then there are those who just do it. Over the last four weeks I have been polling clients, friends and colleagues about this issue. They unanimously agree that businesspeople have an easy time saying they will do something and a much harder time actually doing it. This bad business behavior must stop!

I challenge all business owners and salespeople, for the next 21 days, to stop talking about what you need to do and start doing it. If you say you will call someone back, call them back. If you RSVP for an event, just go, don’t pull a no-show. If you say you will email me, just send the email. If you tell someone you will take care of something, take care of it. Honor your words. Follow up and follow through. Remember, it’s part of your job!
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