How Great Salespeople Follow Up and Reap the Benefits

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The speed of the internet has greatly affected the way salespeople and customers interact. We often ask customers what they expect from salespeople. They respond that they want sales people to take accountability and respond quickly.

One of the least discussed behaviors of salespeople that has a huge impact on sales performance is follow up. Within the printing industry, following up means responding to leads, moving customers through the sales cycle and responding to customer problems.

Great Salespeople Follow Up Better

If 20% of salespeople generate the vast majority of business within our industry, what are they doing differently? Great salespeople seem to be able to prioritize and effectively manage customer communications at every step of the customer life cycle.  

I am not completely sure why many salespeople do not follow up better. My suspicion is that salespeople are so busy managing customers and issues that they do not always prioritize their time most effectively. We do know that top salespeople set customer expectations, identify opportunities and are able to pounce on ready prospects faster than lower performers.

Areas Where Follow Up is Required

For salespeople, there are three critical customer interactions that require great follow up:

The Lead

Quickness and timeliness is vital when a lead comes in. These are when customers express interest on line, on the phone or through a reference. All research affirms that a quick response increases the chances of closing business.

The Harvard Business Reported, “U.S. firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which we defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.”

The Sales Process

Moving customers through a sales process and follow up requires good judgment, great listening skills and the ability to set expectations.

For instance, how quickly should a salesperson follow up on a quote or presentation that has been presented? Ideally, follow up should take place within 24 hours. Each customer may be different, but all sales steps require timely follow up.

Customer Complaints or Questions

Anytime a customer has a concern or complaint, a direct call or email should be made by the salesperson within an hour. If that is impossible, a designated CSR should respond letting the customer know when someone will get back to them and respond to their problem.

How To Ensure Great Follow Up

Here are three recommendations for better follow up:

1.    Build a Professional Process

Don’t wait for sales managers or customers to complain. Create a personal follow up plan. Make changes and adjustments based on results and customer feedback. The first step is to set a follow up guideline for leads, customer complaints and sales process follow up. The last step is to review your results.

For instance, you may want to set an objective to follow up with a phone call or email within an hour for every lead that comes in. The idea is to quickly qualify the lead and arrange with the customer a good time to talk or meet to further discuss the opportunity. For customer problems the goal could be for a CSR to contact the customer in one hour and you follow up in two hours.

Another potential objective is to contact a prospect who has not responded to your calls at least three times and then wait a period of time to contact them three more times.

2.    Set Expectations Early And Often

After each customer contact always gain agreement and set an expectation for the next step in the sales process. Too often salespeople forget to do this.

For instance, if you had a meeting with a customer who is asking for a print sample, negotiate a time-frame with the customer as to when they want to receive the sample. Some customers will expect it in one day and others may want a week. Gaining agreement with customers up front will ensure a satisfied customer.

A common printing sales scenario is when a customer is unhappy and requires the salesperson to fix a problem. Again, testing to make sure you understand the problem, setting expectations for resolution, gaining agreement on what and when things need to get done is good selling.

3.    Get Customer Feedback

There is no better way to know if you are doing a good job or how good your follow up process is than by just asking the customer.

In the printing business, salespeople and relationships make the difference. A key driver to higher sales performance is effective follow up. Getting better at follow up may very well be the key element required to move up to the next level of sales.

Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions (www.intellectives.com) works with printing and technology organizations to improve their sales, marketing and operational effectiveness. Joe can be reached at 845 753 6156. Follow him on Twitter @joe.rickardis. This article was published October 1, 2015 in Printing News Magazine.