Friday, March 13, 2009

Five Common Sales Follow-Up Mistakes You Can Avoid

image You’ve got him hooked, and the next step is to reel him in. But suddenly he is gone. Where did you lose your sales lead?

While some salespeople may chalk up a lost customer to any of a hundred possible reasons, the real answer may be right under your nose. It’s true, you never can be certain that a prospect, even a hot one, will result in a sale. But many sales get lost due to a failure to properly follow up on the lead. Here are some common sales follow-up mistakes to avoid.

1. Only Calling the ‘Good Ones’

Do not judge a book by its cover or a potential sale by the enthusiasm or the number of questions asked by the client. If you have 40 leads, don’t assume that only the best 20, as judged by any criteria you choose, are the only ones to call. The least likely 20 can also result in sales. Follow up all of your leads and be pleasantly surprised where you will find sales.

2. Not focusing on What’s in It for the Customer

You care about the benefits of the product or service and your commission, but customers don’t. Your prospects and clients need to know the benefits the product or service provides them.

Follow-ups require that you give them useful information from their side of the equation: how they can save money, save time, be better connected, look better, or utilize the product or service in a way in which they can make more money. You must advance the desire for customers to buy the product or service based on what it can do for them. Focus on the three features of a product that really hit home for them rather than rambling on about other features.

3. Being a Pest or Being Invisible

Calling and or e-mailing daily to follow-up with a potential customer probably will put you on their “avoid” list, and waiting a few months to contact will likely have them scratching their heads to remember who you are. You need to strike while the iron is hot and then time your continued follow-ups appropriately. Good sales follow-up means a happy medium where you are neither annoying nor invisible.

4. Passing the Buck

After making the contact and establishing an initial relationship, you should do your own follow-up. Handing your leads over to someone else means establishing the relationship all over again and losing any rapport a customer may have established with you. Since making a sale often results from building a relationship, shifting that relationship to someone else typically sours the deal.

5. Not Listening

When you call a prospect and ask about her husband, forgetting that she’s recently widowed, you can write off that sale immediately. Listening during your first meeting and again during follow-ups helps to establish a relationship with a client that can lead to a sale. Far too often, sales are lost because the salesperson keeps on selling without acknowledging the specific needs of the potential buyer. Listen and learn. Does a prospect respond more favorably to e-mail or phone calls? Then plan accordingly.

These are just a few of the common follow-up mistakes. You need to be prepared for the follow-up, respectful during it, and never condescending. Honesty is a requisite, even if it costs you a particular sale. The client will respect you for your honesty and the relationship is maintained for future sales. However, making promises that cannot be kept or simply bending the truth to make a sale risks ruining the relationship forever. Today’s customers are well-informed and Internet-savvy and may even know more about the products than do the people selling them.

By Rich Mintzer at AllBusiness.