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Monday, October 24, 2005

Sales Secret Common Sense but Not Common Practice

So, you need to build your business, make more sales, and increase your revenues. It’s universal; what business person doesn’t? But did you know that one of the most effective, easiest and least expensive things you can do to accomplish all of these is also one of the most overlooked sales activities?

Follow-up. Yes, FOLLOW-UP!

How many networking events, client meetings, etc., have you attended where you made solid contact with someone that is a candidate for your services or products? They may not have run at you with their check book, but they fit your “good client” profile. What did you do? Trade business cards, chit-chat and then… what? You took all those business cards you collected back to your office and added them to the box, the folder, the heaping pile of other cards from other events….. If you’re really good you may have actually entered the prospect’s information into a contact database. But, do you have a process in place to follow up with these people, especially those who weren’t ready to write you a check on the spot?

A successful sales person has to have a process – an order taker does not.

For example: In the early to mid-‘80s Fidelity and Vanguard funds were THE 401(k) provider of choice. This was, in large part, because Fidelity and Vanguard started the “bundled 401(k) program” by including all the participant recordkeeping, compliance and administrative services for “free” if their funds were the plan’s exclusive investments options. For the next decade, Fidelity and Vanguard needed “order takers” to sign up new clients; people who understood business and 401(k) programs. There was no selling involved. Their “sales” reps were fielding calls left and right and if they didn’t follow up on an inquiry, there would be ten other calls coming in the next minute. Ah, those were the days…

Alas, things change. Fidelity and Vanguard are still leaders in the mutual fund industry today. They are not, however, the only game in town any more. Fidelity and Vanguard actually have to sell their services these days; they have to differentiate themselves, articulate the benefits unique to their investment philosophy and yes; they are even known to negotiate on price now and again.

If you’re business is not the only game in town and responses to your audio logo or elevator pitch don’t normally include “Yes! That is exactly what I need; how much?”, I guarantee you can increase your business significantly by just following up correctly.
Selling is all about trust and relationships. When you follow up it is important to:

· Be consistent. Follow up is a process. It isn’t a single call. You want to develop an ongoing and positive relationship with your target market. You and your business should be first-in-mind when the need for your product or service arises. Consistency is the key here.
In addition, follow up isn’t just for prospects. For most companies, developing new business with existing clients costs less than half of what it costs to win new clients. Don’t forget your current customers!

· Be genuine. People like to do business with people they like and trust. Get to know your client and prospect and develop an understanding of the issues and challenges they face. Don’t try to be something you’re not and don’t misrepresent your product or service. This might sound like a no-brainer, but even the slightest omission or exaggeration can kill a relationship.
· Focus on adding value, not on closing the sale. Follow-up doesn’t mean ‘close the sale’. You follow up to stay in touch, provide information and develop the relationship. Doing all of these things will bring you closer to closing the sale, but you and your prospect will arrive at that point together; you won’t be dragging them there. Going for a ‘close’ before your prospect or client is ready is one of the biggest mistakes small business owners and sales people can make.

For all of you self employed and small business owners who hate to sell, you will see your business increase if you’ll just follow up according to these 3 principals. If you haven’t already, it’s important that you invest in a database; a single, computer/PDA-type repository of all your customer / prospect information (name, contact and business information, past call reports/communications, specific interests, etc.) ACT!, Goldmine and Outlook are three well- known contact databases out there. As your client and prospect lists grow, you’ll be thankful you made the investment in a quality contact database AND in learning to use it!

If you do nothing else to improve your sales and business growth this year, show a genuine interest in your prospects and clients through consistent follow up with a focus on helping them find solutions to the challenges and issues they face. You will see your business take off.