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Winner Sales Follow Through

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The implication of this title is that if you don’t properly follow through on the sale then you are a loser.  Well, it is true - you are a loser.  The difficulty of gaining a sale is hard enough, but the real difficulty is to get the re-order.  This is where we should all be very finely focused.  Rather than approaching a potential client with a sale in mind, what if we set off with the idea of the re-order firmly entrenched in our brain?  This simple switching of gears completely changes the conversation, the goals and the execution of the sale follow through.

What often happens though in a busy life is we have more than one client on the go.  As we are completing one sale, we have other sales coming to fruition.  There are proposals to write, meetings to be held, materials and data to be gathered – all sorts of tasks required to make the sale happen.  In the middle of this rush, a sale is registered and the concentration on the imminent future sales, suck up all the energy and time that should be available to do a proper job of the follow through.

We need to think carefully about our workload and ensure that above all, we protect our reputation for reliability.  If we are going though the Valley of Sales Death, where we have run out of prospects and the sales pipeline is now empty, we may be rushing around like a maniac trying reboot the sales process. 

This means we are often over extending ourselves and we don’t get to the follow through in a timely manner.  It might mean not following through fast enough with potential clients we met at networking events.  We lose the momentum and now they don’t respond to us.  It might mean, that we have sealed the sale and then mentally move on to securing the next one, without properly nailing down the execution piece of the first sale, we have just completed.

One key thing we need to check with the clients, is what are their expectations on the follow through, be they someone to meet after the networking event or actual clients who have just purchased from us. 

Clients themselves are genius at this.  You meet them, hit them up for a follow on meeting and they say contact me:

after Golden Week (May)

after obon (summer holidays in August)

after Silver Week (September)

after bonenkai (end of year party) season

after oshogatsu (New Years). 

Basically they are trying to condition our expectations of getting a meeting with them.  That is to say, they are resisting our efforts to see them, by trying to slip out of our schedules.

We can take a leaf out of their book too and make sure we set up the proper expectations for our follow through.  If we are going to be busy, then we should say:

"Is it okay if I get back to you in a week or so,

regarding scheduling our follow up meeting?"

In this way, we are not putting too much pressure on ourselves, if we think we cannot actually squeeze in this next meeting reasonably soon. 

If we have had the meeting, gone through our offer and have promised to send a proposal with pricing, then again we need to consider what is the time frame which will allow us to remain in control and project the best image of trustworthiness and reliability.  

We could say: 

"Thank you for the meeting today, would you mind

if I shoot the proposal out to you in two weeks time?" 

If we have just made the sale, then we could looking at conditioning the follow through, by saying: 

"Would it be too much trouble if I sent you the necessary materials

you have requested, in about two weeks time?" 

I struggle with this myself.  I get on a roll and pump up the client meetings, then the proposals have to start rolling out and this is highly time consuming.  The days are filled with more and more meetings and the time between them to do the follow up gets squeezed. Deadlines start to get missed or start to drift and things start to fall of the table and not get done at all.  I have to have a few harsh words with myself and tell myself to stop biting off more than I can chew.  

Often, the client will stall you on a decision.  "We will study the materials and get back to you".  They don’t and you don’t get back to them either, to see about the why they haven’t gotten back to you as promised.  This is because you have moved on seamlessly to the next client meeting, then the next subsequent round of either hollow promises or genuine undertakings, which are slow to materialize.  Sales brethren, don’t expect the client to do all the work on the follow through – that is our job. 

So the first step is to condition the client’s expectations as you end the meeting about what will happen next and when it will happen.  Give yourself time because you want to reinforce trust, credibility and reliability.  Remember to the client, the things you promised in the meeting are just so much hot air coming from a salesperson.  The real test is when we get down to the follow through.  How do you want to be perceived when it’s show time?

Having set the time frames in a reasonable way, so you don’t blow yourself up, you now have to really ensure you deliver what was promised, on time, or even slightly ahead of time.  Not too early though, because it will seem you were just sandbagging them on your turnaround times and certainly do not deliver anything after the agreed deadline.  

They have given you permission to delay, but they don’t trust people who can’t make their own indulgent deadlines.  Your trust quota from the client will immediately start to evaporate.  Remember, our objective here is the re-order, not just a single sale.  You might worry about all the potential business you have left on the table by taking this extra time to concentrate on the follow through with this one client.  The trade off is that your reputation remains solid gold and you are going to ensure you will be around for a long time, not just a good time. 

The terms of the deal will have certain specifications and these must be met.  If you unilaterally decide to alter them and then announce the fact as a fait accompli to the client, expect trouble.  Flexibility is not a widespread trait here in business in Japan, so expect a possible client meltdown.   

There are so many human relations complexities in play here in Japan, because the people we are talking to have promised something specific to others.  If we don’t fulfill our side of the bargain, then our clients lose face with their buyers.  This is the modern commercial equivalent of seppuku (suicide) in Japan.  The clients are more concerned about their long-term position in the market, based on established trust, than they are about saving a few pennies on the pound.  They will never deal with you again, because the risk is too high against the potential reward.  You don’t want that reputation – it will always come back to bite you when you can least afford it.  In this social media world we now live in, bad news travels vast distances and at light speed. 

You may have seen entertainment programmes where the performer has a number of large plates spinning on a thin, reedy looking stick.  As they increase the number of plates in motion, they get busier and busier rushing around to keep them all spinning, so none crash and get broken.  This is the sales life of follow through.  If we over estimate our capacity and launch too many items for follow through at the same time, like those spinning plates, we will falter and crash. 

We need to have a brilliant technology for time control and time management.  We need to be highly disciplined.  We need to be excellent memo takers to ensure we write down what needs to happen next.  Never try to commit the many things you have to do to memory, unless you are operating at the genius level of detail recall.  There is an ancient piece of wisdom on this:  

"The faintest ink is superior to the best memory" 

Write it all down, in detail, so that it is clear, creates a retrievable record and which is then actionable.  We need to be able to transfer that information to our schedules and link it back to the required sequences of follow through.  These all add up to our completion of the promise. 

Often, we depend on others for some parts of the follow through and this is where we need to be excellent at delegation.  The main reason we don’t delegate at all and blow ourselves up, is we are scared to rely on others.  Somewhere in the past we were let down and we are haunted by that memory for our entire working lives.  We cannot grow unless we get leverage. The chief source of leverage is other willing hands.  The issue with delegation is we don’t do it properly and then conclude the tool, rather than the tradesperson is the problem. 

When delegating there are some fundamental steps which must take place in order for us to be successful.  Firstly we need to plan the delegation and select the best person for the task.  This sounds infinitely reasonable, except we usually select the person who looks the least busy instead. Later we wonder why we have trouble on our hands.  

The next step is we meet with that person to explain the task.  This is where 99% of people get it wrong.  They tend toward the "dump it" approach rather than the "sell it" approach.  The "dump it" approach is where they just hand off the task and maybe explain a few of the details.  Typically they just say, "I need this done by next Monday".  They leave out the WHY and the "What Is In It For You" part of the conversation. 

Having explained the background, the WHY, their self interest in the project etc., we now work with the person being delegated to, on the timeline and delivery method.  We want them to be doing the main part of this, so that they have ownership and control over how they deliver it.  There will be milestones towards completion which need to be monitored.  At the successful fruition of the delegation we celebrate the achievement. 

Follow through is not a one time effort, it is an every time thing.  In Japan, there is no margin for forgiveness of an error.  We are focused on the re-order, so we begin the follow through in the way we want to finish – highly regarded as someone true to their word, who can be trusted and who is totally reliable. 

Action Steps

1.       Understand the risks of poor execution after the sale has been completed

2.      Control the client’s expectations

3.      Realise if you have too much on your plate and slow down the pace

4.      Gather the best time control and time management methods you can find and use them

5.      Write it all down some place where you can later find the notes

6.      Use proper delegation methods that lead to success

 
 
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