There is a host of research on effective sales, and there are many, many “rules of thumb” that offer advice about how to succeed. Writers and researchers are, however, nearly unanimous in the view that effective follow-up is essential. Here is what is basically an undisputed principle: it often takes multiple follow-up “touches,” whether they are follow-up emails or phone calls or personal visits, to close a deal with a client.
It is unusual for a prospective client to make a major purchase decision after your first conversation with them, or even the second time. It may take multiple contacts, possibly with multiple people within an organization, before that initial presentation is converted to a sale or a contract. Some sales organizations use the rule of thumb that five to seven touches are needed to close a sale. Following that guideline, you would contact the client at least five times before deciding that they are not going to buy.
You simply must follow-up. The plan for follow-up begins the moment the presentation is complete. Experienced leaders often delegate elements of the follow-up to others. Sales professionals often do it themselves, but sometimes the organization provides resources specifically to help with follow up (and also, in some instance, preparing).
Perhaps the phrase “always follow-up” lacks the power of “always be closing,” but the habit is just as crucial for success. In many, perhaps most, leadership and sales situation much of the hard work remains to be done after the presentation. To succeed in the persuasion business, you must always follow-up. Examples of follow-up include:
Setting up the next meeting(s)
Getting back to answer questions
Asking for referrals
Following up to check on customer satisfaction
When possible, follow-up should be presented to the customer (or audience, in the case of leaders) as a display of interest, part of the charm of the presenter.
It is rare that a person or audience is persuaded the first time they hear an idea presented or see a product. For that reason, effective, well-planned follow-up is an essential ingredient for an organization’s sales program. Yet follow-up is crucial in all forms of persuasion.
In the case of customer service, the ¨Three S Rule of Service¨ is a compact, easily repeated version of the ¨three Ps of persuasion¨ that can be used in every interaction with a customer. The Three S Rule describes three steps.
First, SMILE and greet the customer. This prepares you for and the customer for successful interaction.
Second, STOP what you were doing and give the customer your undivided attention. Here you present your organization´s customer-first approach.
Third, SEE to it that the customer need is satisfied. You and your team must persist until the customer need it met. Here, your product knowledge is important, but it is also important that you know when to pass the customer’s request to another responsible person on your team. Customer service is a team effort.
There are many sets of guidelines for customer service, and most can be seen through the lens of the Three S Rule. For example, consider this discussion from Dr. Al Infande at Selfgrowth.com.
However trite, the customer is the most important person in your business! Why? It’s simple: If there were no customers, there would be no business.
As with any service establishment, it is very important to portray a favorable first impression with your customers. It is important for the survival of your organization to have as many favorable first impressions as possible. Did you know that, on the average, it takes approximately six favorable impressions to overcome one unfavorable impression?
If you’re looking for ways to improve your organization’s reputation for service, I would like to provide you with some proven customer service guidelines that I have found particularly beneficial. They are as follows:
1. TREAT THE CUSTOMER THE SAME WAY YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE TREATED! Provide the customer with the same level of service you would expect if the roles were reversed.
2. ANTICIPATE AND ACCOMMODATE YOUR CUSTOMERS’ NEEDS! A nation-wide study asked people what they wanted most as a customer. Approximately 70% indicated that they wanted their needs and desires met prior to having to ask.
3. MAKE THE CUSTOMER FEEL AT HOME! Make your customers feel at home by being courteous and allowing them to feel comfortable and appreciated for doing business with you.
4. ALLOW THE CUSTOMER TO GET THE BEST VALUE FOR THEIR MONEY! Customers look for two things: The quality of the product and the quality of the service.
5. ACT TO SOLVE ANY AND ALL COMPLAINTS AND PROBLEMS TO THE CUSTOMER’S SATISFACTION! It is not the fact that the customer has experienced a complaint, but the way the complaint was handled that will determine if they will return or not. Handle each complaint in a courteous and professional manner and to their satisfaction.
6. ALWAYS BE WILLING TO DO A LITTLE EXTRA! Go that extra mile to satisfy a customer by always providing excellent service at all times.
7. ALWAYS SMILE, BE FRIENDLY AND COURTEOUS, AND MAKE EYE CONTACT WHEN SPEAKING TO THE CUSTOMER! This shows the customer that you care about their needs and are glad that they are doing business with you. By providing these services to the customers, they will be more likely to do business with you again.
8. NEVER ARGUE WITH THE CUSTOMER! Remember: The customer may not always be right, but the customer will always be the customer. There may be times when the customer is wrong about a certain situation. It is important that you never tell them that they are wrong, but to apologize for their inconvenience and assure them that you will do everything in your power to accommodate them. Again, it’s the approach that is important more than the actual incident itself.
9. LISTEN AND HANDLE ALL CUSTOMER PROBLEMS IN A PROFESSIONAL MANNER! Listen with not only your ears but also with your eyes. Make good eye contact so that they are assured that you are listening and care to solve their problems.
10. IF YOU CANNOT ASSIT A CUSTOMER, DIRECT THEM TO SOMEONE WHO CAN! Never leave a customer unattended. If you don’t know where something is, find out!
Most of these suggestions (numbers 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10) involve following-up—persisting—until the customer need is met, while the rest of the list pertain more to preparation and presentation. What also makes this list useful is that it lends itself to the creation of a comprehensive stack of habits important for customer service professionals in a variety of retail, hospitality, and administrative settings.
Persuasion in leadership is a complex process specific to each issue and audience, but persistence is almost always a key ingredient for success. The book Change Agents in Sunglasses: the Art and Science of Leadership in the Information Age shows how this process works in organizations consisting of a complex mix of people, process, and technology.
First, a leader must develop a vision, preparing them to move a team, an organization, perhaps even a whole society, as in the case of leaders discussed earlier, forward.
The second phase, planning, involves presenting the vision to a widening circle of people involved. Here the leadership team refines the vision in what is, in effect, a series of trial closes where the message is tested and refined.
Persistence is absolutely necessary in the third phase, implementing the vision. A leader must move the vision through many steps and many audiences in order to make it happen.