Written by Sean McPheat |
17 March, 2008
This is a long un, but a good un!
I just received a question from a sales person called Jack.
Jack wanted to know, among other things, how many times we should be contacting prospects and clients without coming across as desperate.
Here’s Jack’s question:
I have been subscribing for a while and look through your sales tips regularly, I find a lot of them helpful/successful and often entertaining!! If at all possible could you delve into your encyclopaedic mind and find some tips regarding follow up calls to prospective new clients. I find I can draw business from around 8% of people I speak to “as long as they’re the right person” once they have perused our pricelist list and found that we are drastically cheaper than our competitors (even though price isn’t always the most important thing). I would like to increase my success rate and I think I let myself down on the follow up calls, maybe I am too impatient but for outbound sales people it is important to keep sale up and regular! Any advice would be vastly appreciate. After all “a sale a day keeps the MD away”!
First and formost is the initial ‘cold call’ once we’ve found the right person to speak with, I ask/check what equipment they have (I usually already know.. so I am just re-confimring!) then send them the consumable prices via email, we are usually the cheapest and if not I can make it so! So yes in brief I am chasing the prospect!
The most difficult thing in our industry is to get the initial sale; should I push for it without seeming desperate or play it cool? It’s more of a time management issue, the products we sell use up approx every 4-6 weeks and often I feel with a new prospect I have to catch them when they need my product.
On another note RETENTION!
The most important thing to me is customer retention, but often I get the feeling I am ‘bugging them’ for orders too! How often should I contact xisting customers? Once a week, once a month. It’s not easy tell how long our products will last (not that their ‘dodgy’ or anything…lol)
Maybe I should let them know how often I will contact them.
I found that sending a email, with a read receipt and if no response within a day or so if I gave the customer a call it often worked.
I have about 40 – 60 regulars, and want to gain at-least 5 new clients per month.
My thoughts on this:
Ok, let me start by first doing what we should all do in selling anything; and that is correctly to identify the problem. Let me see if I can narrow down your concerns and questions:
1. Using the call-mail-call approach, you first cold call
the prospect, confirm and qualify the DM, then send
literature/price list via email. Then on the follow up
call, it seems the prospect becomes harder to get on the
telephone than when you cold-called, forcing you to have to
2. In that information price package, you clearly sell or
empathize that you have more than competitive prices, with
the hopes of garnering interest, even though that is not
your only selling point.
3. When you do get the prospect on the telephone on that
second, warm call; closing the initial sale is difficult
and conversion percentages are low.
4. Even after you have closed for the initial sale,
retention rates are low and you often feel as though
you are “pestering” the customer to call often for the
second and third sale.
5. In short, follow-up call-to-customer rates are low
as well as customer-to-client percentages.
Does this sound about right?
This is a common scenario, especially when selling inventory-type products as a “supplier” where the product is nearly or exactly identical to the competition, pricing is cut-through and getting a customer to “switch” or to change suppliers is difficult.
All of these issues though result from the same source: the philosophy of the approach.
Here is what I mean.
First, it is most likely that the literature/price package you email or send to the prospect provides far too much information. Inadvertently (or deliberately) you are trying to make the sale in the brochure and pricing list.
If your business is such that you get most of your sales from customers calling in to place orders via a web site or catalog, then this may be the approach. However, if you must get the prospect on the telephone or in person to close sales, then you can not provide too much information.
When your pricing pack gives the prospect all of the information they need to know: all products, all pricing, all services and shipping info, and
everything else, then why do they need to speak to you?
You have given the prospect everything he or she needs to know to make a decision. You have forced the prospect to make a buying decision based on the information and pricing. You have effectively removed yourself from the sales process.
If you must close on the telephone, then your information package must sell ONLY that next step—that next follow up phone call—-and not the products. You need to provide enough information to inform the prospect that you do indeed have the tools and supplies that they need; that
you do have the better prices and the better service; but you cannot try to make the sale. Your information has to point to the next step—the follow up call.
One way to do this is to stress “personalized” or “customized” orders. In other words, when you sell via a type of catalogue or price list, all the customer has to do is pick what they need and order it. But instead you should stress that unlike your competitors, your products come with “personal service.” That you do not just sell the item in the catalog; that you play an active role in insuring that the item is the perfect fit and ways to help combine orders for maximize savings.
You are not just selling these items; you are a consultant who will HELP the prospect save not only money, but time and headaches. You are going to take the “responsibility” of making sure their supplies are always up to date.
Unlike her current supplier, you will be there (calling, checking) constantly, almost like you have an office in the building, making sure they never run low. When they place an order with you, they—HIRE YOU— they do not just buy the item.
In your initial price-pack, you need to stress that while these “low” prices are great, they represent only your
“standard-off-the-shelf” numbers. However, you do not sell in that manner. Your customers do not simply order from
the list, like with other companies—No! All of your “clients” receive a personalized, customized proposal; they receive a long-term
“program”, uniquely designed exclusively for them and them ONLY. You, as an industry authority, as an expert, realize that
no two clients are exactly alike and you take the time to get to know everything about them, so you can provide for their
needs—before they arise!
You may note, that if you take this approach, not only do you “set up” the follow up call, but you automatically eliminate the problem of “pestering”
customers to get reorders. That fact that you will call and stay in close contact is part of the service you strongly sell right from the start!
You see, if you are calling just to get another order, if you are calling because you are too inpatient to wait until the customer’s supplies to exhaust, if you are calling just to make a another sale and get another commission—then you are correct—you area pesky telemarketer who is bugging them and they don’t like it.
However, if your true motivation is to provide excellent service; if your reason for calling is that you are concerned; you care about them and you want to make sure that they never have to worry or ever run low, if the reason for you calling is for THEIR benefit—then you are a high-level professional sales expert that is checking on their well-being and the love it!
Also, let me give you one note on making that follow up call that could also be causing a problem. You want to be careful of the very first words of that follow up call. Most sales people when using this approach, the first thing they say when they get the DM on the telephone is they
confirm the literature with something like this, “Hi Mr. Prospect, Steven Graham with ABC Tools—I sent you some information a few days ago, have you had a chance to look
This all too common opening appears to be innocent, simple and common sense. However, it is a critical mistake. When you ask this question, you force the prospect to:
1. Have to had read the literature or
2. Have to remember the package and/or
3. Have to explain to you why he or she did not
read it yet—he has to explain why he is causing the delay.
This is why you hear prospects respond with, “Well, I ah…I’ve been really busy…” or “I’ve been out of the office…” etc.
The prospect feels compelled to justify their inaction.
Think about that: within a few seconds the prospect is under pressure to have to explain their actions to you and this immediately sets up a defensive posture: it creates an adversarial relationship.
Don’t ask them about the information you sent.
Just refer to it, and continue, “Hi Mr. Prospect, Steven Graham with ABC Tools, how’ve you been? —- As we discussed the last time we spoke, I’m getting back to you about the information I sent, and as you can see…”
So, first, you do not want to try to close sales in the literature—tone it down and do not provide too much information.
Stress and sell ONLY the next step—the follow up call.
Let the prospect know that you will be contacting them to design a personalized proposal so they can see what you REALLY do.
Inform them that in the next step – a short telephone call—you will show them why even with HIGHER prices—you are the leader.
Make the fact that you will “be there” constantly a positive selling point. Stress the fact that you take a personal interest in making sure they never have to call YOU. And on that follow up call—do not put the prospect on the defence by asking if they read or recall the information you sent.
This altered philosophy, this way of thinking, this altered view of the process will help you immediately increase the percentage of completed follow up calls, the closing rate of follow up call conversation and ultimately, your overall retention rate—turning more prospects into customers, and
more customers into long term clients!
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