The Lost Art of Following-Up
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Supply 55 BannerPRO, EcoPRO continuous ink supply system, guardian laminators, quickmount


The Lost Art of Following-Up

Visions of grandeur danced in my head back almost twenty-five years ago. I set out to set the sign world on fire. Little did I know that the limited sign skills that I possessed would not take me where I wanted to go.

By Mark Roberts

Full of determination, I ventured though the sign sales world with blinders firmly in place. My only sales training was a three-year stint as a Frito Lay route salesperson. I guess the Frito sales world helped me more than I realized. At least I was not afraid to go into a place of business and ask for an order. Asking was not the problem, as long as they said yes on the first call. If they did not, I quickly lost interest. Now I know what I was doing wrong.

2008 Sign Price Manual from SignPrice.com

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  • Somewhere along the line I read a story in Personal Selling magazine about the number of contacts it sometimes takes to close a sale. I was shocked to see that the statistics show that 85% of sales were closed on the fifth call. Five calls to sell a sign? Can that be correct?

    Of course we all know that many of our sales calls can be closed on the first call. I mean, either they need a sign or they do not need a sign, right? Maybe yes, and maybe no. There are some tried-and-true documented steps to mastering multiple call selling which we will see right now.

    Step One: The building of a business relationship
    Business relationships are built upon providing a service and results. Our clients are always more concerned with our delivering on our promises. We should never try to become the client’s best friend. Our only bonds we should ever make with any client are the bonds of trust and the bonds of reliability.

    Step Two: The skill of making and keeping appointments
    Earlier we discovered that many times it would take up to five personal contacts to close a sign sale. We will aggressively obtain appointments with our clients, and we will also go out of our way to keep in close contact with them. The responsibility to set the appointments is ours and ours alone. If we sit and wait for their call, the call may never arrive.

    Step Three: Know when to play “coy”
    When making a sign sales presentation, we only bring one piece of advertising for one product only. If our client wants to talk about a tangent sign project, we simply say that we do not have that particular information at our fingertips, and we will have to make another sales call to discuss the new matter. Now we open our “Day-Timer” or access our PDA to schedule the next appointment. This will give us yet another personal contact with this client in order to build a bond, not to mention the increased chances of closing the sale on the next call.

    Clarke Systems Architectural Signage Systems Wayfinding ADA

    Step Four: The phone is not the tool used for larger sale sales
    Sometimes our client will ask us to describe our services and prices over the phone. This could be a dangerous request. As we all know, major sign projects must be sold and closed in person. Sure, the $100 banners can be sold over the phone, but why should we risk a multi-thousand dollar sign project without putting forth the effort of a full-scale effective sales presentation? We will explain to the anxious client that we must show them something….in person…and then we make the appointment. Our conversation will be brief and professional. A very professional trick to use to confirm an upcoming sales appointment is via email or the fax machine. This simple step will really let the client know that we mean business!

    Step Five: The follow up after the sale
    We must always be available for our clients throughout the entire sign production process. If something unforeseen creeps into the production schedule, we will immediately pick up the telephone and inform the client about the problem. This follow up through the delivery process will make a lasting impression of us in our client’s eyes. Going these extra miles will transform a client into an advocate.

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    Step Six: The follow through on our follow-up
    Our reputation is won or lost by what we do as opposed to what we say we will do. Like the saying goes, “Don’t tell me, show me!” The purpose of the follow-up is to build trust and credibility. We will keep our promises and commitments. We will provide excellent service before the sale, through the production phase, and well after the sale, on every transaction. Once we “walk-our-talk” there will be no question as to which sign company this particular client will call the next time a need for a sign arises.

    See how easy this is? Sign sales and client retention is so easy and basic that many times we do not see what we are doing wrong. If we all would “sharpen our saw” a little before making those sign sales calls, we would all be happier, and never wish for “better clients”. Taking care of what we have is the best job security around! Let’s go for it!

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