(As published in the Sunday Star Times, November 16, 2014)
I’m not a particular fan of the hard sell. I’ve never been able to do it to others and I certainly can’t stand it when I’m on the receiving end – it makes me feel uncomfortable and awkward and keen to get away from the person as fast as possible. There’s something about the hard sell that reeks of desperation and, in my view, it’s not a good road to go down. But you can go too far the other way…
Simply giving the customer some information or answering their questions and then leaving them to mull it over or come to their own conclusion may just lose you a sale. And, potentially, a lifetime customer. Why? Because for some customers, a business’ laidback approach to their enquiry is a reflection (albeit perception) of how the business will treat their transaction – half assed. Why would you buy off someone who doesn’t seem to want to go the extra mile to make the sale? From a company who doesn’t seem to genuinely want to help you?
So be eager in your dealings with them, but not desperate. The key is to be eager about helping the customer – not eager about selling your product or service with no concern if it was really what the customer needed or wanted.
What’s your process when someone gets in touch with your company for a quote or more information? Do you send them an info pack or some suggestions and then leave it up to them? Many businesses do – I see it with the people I business coach all the time. It’s not enough. Ask a friend why they chose one business over another when they recently got new curtains, had plumbing done, bought a new car, changed internet provider etc and you may hear, “They never followed up.” “The other company offered to come out and see me so I just went with them.” “They didn’t seem particularly interested in my business.” It’s human nature to go for the person who puts in the most effort and who appears to care the most.
There’s a stat out there that says it takes eight (eight!) follow ups to turn a first contact into a customer. Sending them information is one step. What can you do for the next seven without appearing like a stalker? Follow up with them to check that they got that information. See if you can get them any other information. Ask if they’d like to meet to go through the ranges/samples/choices/options. Let them know when you have a sale or promotion on. Let them know if you get more stock in that you think they’ll like or is closer to what they were searching for. If you find an article that you think is relevant to them, send it to them with a quick note: “Hi Sarah, just saw this article on the benefits of UPS double glazing over aluminium and thought it might interest you. How’s the build going?”
Mix up the ways you contact them (unless they’ve personally requested the form of communication). Use email, phone calls, personal visits – even Skype if it suits.
Another interesting stat: the first company to follow up on an enquiry gets fifty percent of the business – so be quick about getting back to people. Try and get back to them that first day, even if just to say, “Thanks for your email. I’m working on your proposal now and will have it with you asap”. And then stay responsive. Eight follow-ups is a lot but you can streamline the process by being fast with your responses and striking when the iron is hot.
With each of your follow ups, aim to be helpful as opposed to badgering them. If you hear them pick up the phone and sigh when they hear it’s you again, you’re overdoing it.
Zac de Silva is a business coach, director and speaker. For business coaching or consulting, contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org or www.businesschanging.com