Obviously I mean this figuratively, but at $4.19/gallon here in OC, I couldn’t resist the metaphor.
You have a potential client. They want to buy a new AV system, and you schedule a time to look at their space. After the meeting you give a quote. What do you do next?
Obviously following up is key, but calling to say “I’m just checking in is largely a waste of time.” In fact, any follow up call that you position as “checking in”, is most likely weaker than this blog’s title. Checking in is for teenagers running late after curfew, not for sales calls.
Every time you call a customer you should have a legitimate business reason for doing so. You should articulate that reason very clearly, and be direct in the purpose of your call. Otherwise, you start to sound like Chip from The Cable Guy looking for someone to go to Medieval Times with, get a Pepsi from Janeane Garofalo, and then have a mock duel to the death while making obscure Star Trek references (who makes odd movie references anyway?)
My first follow up call is always directly after I send out a proposal. I always call to let the customer know it was sent, confirm they received it, and to set up a time to come walk them through it in person. This eliminates the chance that the proposal is lost in Cyberspace, stuck in a Spam filter, or is not noticed for several days.
It also does one other thing. Let’s face it, to most folks our proposals are as clear as mud. They are loaded with part numbers and industry specific terminology that could put the most over stimulated ADHD case to sleep. Setting up a time to go over the proposal assures that the potential customer understands everything in the package and how it relates to the job. It gives you more time to develop rapport, and separates you further from the “give a number and hope for a phone call” crowd.
After the proposal presentation, I always ask if there is anything that they would like to touch, feel, see in person that would make it easier to pull the trigger on a purchase. If there is, I work to get my hands on demo hardware, and then do a potential mock up, to eliminate uneasiness. This really makes a difference, as they have now seen the product and it is a known quantity. My proposal has just become “comfort food”. They look at the other proposals and they sound great on paper, but they are hungry and know what my meal will taste like, so they don’t pursue the unknown entree.
After this, I typically call the client to make sure we are competitive with the other proposals. I don’t care about being less, I just need to be somewhat close. Finally after getting that information, I always request that all other things being equal, if the decision comes solely down to price, to give me the final chance to take the job at that price, or to concede and walk away.
If I have done my work in the previous follow up, I am almost never denied that opportunity, as the client understands my level of attention, detail, and concern. They see the value in the extra steps I took, and see the contrast between that, and the other guy who just gave a number.
In the end, it is the difference between selling on price, and adding value to the client. So is it worth it?
Absolutely, and I received 2 POs this week for jobs I was not the low bidder on that are proof positive I am right.