Following Up

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The closing is not the final stage of a sale. The final stage is following up, which is actually a process that may continue indefinitely. This stage may have two valuable outcomes: referrals and future sales. 

The nature of a follow-up to a sale will depend on how the sale was carried out. If you sell via mail, then the delivery should be accompanied with a compliments slip thanking the customer for their custom and making clear your hope that you can do more business in the future. If you sell in person, then it can be very beneficial to follow up with a call a few days later asking how they have found the item.

When you carry out the follow-up, it is important to leave the customer feeling like they have been well treated. It is likely that you can think of a case where you have been given excellent customer service – you probably told your friends and family about it, and when you have required anything in the same niche you will have thought immediately of the salespeople that covered your sale and gave you such excellent service before. 

You will want to ensure that you receive that level of service again. As a salesperson, this is how you want people to think of you, too. By providing an excellent level of service every time, you will gain more business from the friends and family of that customer, and from the customers themselves.

Thank You Notes 

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Thank you notes are a sign that you are interested in building a long-term relationship with a client.  They show clients that you value their business and that your interest in them did not end when you closed the sale. We hear very often in this day and age of a lack of politeness and many people decry the cursory way that transactions are carried out. Although almost all companies make a great play of offering “excellent customer service”, there is a world of difference between saying that you offer something and offering it every time.

The effect of a “thank-you note” is to make a customer feel that they have been more than just a number. They will read a thank you note and feel positive about their purchase. It has been proven time and again that we as humans have what people call “sense memory”, where we associate a certain feeling with a certain occasion, incident, or place. If, for example, a certain song was playing at a certain time in our lives, we will always associate that song with that occasion and how we felt at the time. 

By the same token, a well-written thank-you note with a personal touch will stand out in a customer’s memory. How you write the note is up to you. Obviously you do not want to spend more time writing thank-you notes than selling, but taking the time out to write one that shows you remember the customer (as opposed to “Dear X, Thank you for buying Y, we hope it is working well for you. Regards, Z”) may well be what it takes to encourage them to come back to you when they need something else, and pass your details on to anyone they know who is planning to buy in the same niche.

Pitching a note at the right level is important. It does not need to measure up to Shakespeare or Oscar Wilde, but at the same time it is important not to write something that sounds as warm and personal as a pre-printed card. A good example would be along the lines of:

“Dear [Customer’s Name], 

Thank you for considering us when you decided to purchase a [item] and for choosing us as your vendor. 

I hope it gives you hours of pleasure and makes your [activity] easier. If there is any way we can help you in the future, with this purchase or another, please do not hesitate to contact me at [telephone number/e-mail address]. 

Thank you again, and kindest regards, 

[Your name]”. 

The note can be personalized to a greater or lesser extent depending on your area of business.

Resolving Customer Service Issues

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Providing excellent customer service after a sale is essential to maintaining strong relationships with customers. Starting at the closing, tell customers that they should feel free to call you any time to discuss any problems or questions related to your products.

If a customer has a problem with a product purchased from you, try to see the situation as an opportunity. If you can demonstrate to customers that you really are committed to helping with their problems, they will think more highly of you, your company, and your commitment to customer service. 

This is another example of a way that you can turn a potentially negative situation into a positive one. “Customer Service” is a lot more than just a phrase. When a customer comes to you or calls you, it is important not to simply play lip service to their enquiries.

Should a customer complain to you that a purchase they have made from you is not living up to their expectations; your first response should be to get to the heart of their complaint. Your response should be along the lines of “Oh, I’m sorry to hear. What is the problem?” From their response to this, you should be able to think of a few solutions to that. 

There are three elements to be taken account of in your response to a customer problem – efficiency, politeness, and thoroughness. 

All customers with complaints will want their problem to be dealt with speedily. In doing this you need to find the right balance between “too quick” and “too slow”. Many people take an attitude to problem solving which seems to suggest that the last thing they want to be doing is dealing with problems as it holds them back from going to do what they consider to be their “real job”.

However, the way that you deal with problems has a real impact on customer retention. It is best to deal with them quickly, but to be fully aware of what the customer wants before going straight into a process of solving the problem.

The above point is linked to politeness – naturally you will want to solve any problem quickly, but if you do not pay attention to what the customer wants and needs, and take the time to apologize for any problems then they will feel like you resent them taking up your time. 

Without a reasonable, polite attitude from you, they may well simply wait for their problem to be solved and then take their leave of you. If you are polite and understanding, this will stick in their mind. It is essential to consider that the final impression given to a person is the one that will resonate most. If they have a problem with an item but you solved it, and did so quickly and politely, then it will be the latter fact that stays with them.

The final point is that you must be thorough with your problem solving. From the nature of a customer’s problem you will either know how to solve it so that it does not reoccur, or know someone who will be able to do this. 

There is sometimes a tendency to go for a quick fix (“Have you tried turning it off and then on again?”) This is far from advantageous, as the chances are that the problem will be back again before too long. 

This will not help the customer, and will not help you retain the customer. If you deal with the problem quickly, politely and completely they will be happy to come back again when they have another purchase to make, and their overall impression of your company will be “When I had a problem, they solved it”.

Staying in Touch

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Here are some occasions that might prompt you to get in touch with established customers:

  • The anniversary of a sale
  • A workshop offered by your company that the customer might find worthwhile
  • The customer’s birthday (an especially good idea if you sell life insurance)
  • A new product offering
  • A sale or special offer
  • An upgrade to the product you sold

These occasions can all be marked quite effectively on a computer-based calendar and reminders can be sent to you via e-mail. This will allow you to then contact the customer and ask them a few questions in regards to how the product is working for them and so forth. 

Showing that you remember them even after a year, or that you recognize the proximity of a special date for them, demonstrates a personal touch in how you deal with customers, a touch which will mean a lot to them. 

The most effective way to stay in touch with a customer is to retain certain information on them which can then be sent through the post or e-mail to alert them of another potential purchase they could make. 

It is likely that your sales niche will contain a number of different sections itself. Once you know what they have bought before, you will understand more about where their needs are and be able to point them to a new purchase that you think will help them. 

The key is not to contact them with a straight sales pitch right away – unsolicited sales pitches are rarely welcome – but to alert them to something that they might be interested in. By doing this you give them a chance to make a purchase without putting excessive pressure on them.

Staying in touch with a customer can have a range of benefits from the simple fact of keeping yourself in their mind if they should have another purchase to make, to putting the idea of another purchase into their head. 

It is a form of advertising, with the benefit that there is already a link between yourself and the customer. If you can keep a personal touch in the contact that you make with the customer this is all the better, as they will remember that you did and think of you as a person to do business with. 

Case Study

Kate lost her marbles and ran out of words as she made thousands of phone calls one right after the other. Kate knew there had to be a better way. She remained fresh out of thank yous and barely had the strength to lift the phone once again. Matt heard her dilemma and ran to his desk to snatch paper and pen to save Kate from herself. Matt informed Kate that she had the wrong idea in her head and that the key to maintaining a long list of happy clients laid hidden in the ink of her pen. Matt told Kate to write a thank you note instead of calling each client because would make Kate the brightest star in the sky and saved her from losing her head after making unnecessary phone calls.