Stop chasing me!
We’ve all been there.
There was a great initial meeting, the potential customer was enthusiastic and the meeting ended with a good feeling that this would turn into a sale. A proposal followed, the feeling that this order was in the bag was so strong that the figures were written into the sales forecast for next month.
Then a couple of weeks go by and the expected order doesn’t materialise. A call to the prospect resulted in assurances that everything was fine, but no order yet. The forecast is amended to show the sale will now be ‘next month’. The boss says to make sure to keep on top of things and ‘chase up the order’. A few phone calls and a few weeks later, still no order.
It’s at this point I’ve too often observed a shift in the attitude of the salesperson. If a call or two to the buyer isn’t returned suddenly it’s the prospect’s fault that the sales forecast has to be amended again. Suddenly the prospect is being accused in sales meetings of being a time waster. Further emails and phone calls go unanswered. The boss asks if this piece of business is ever going to be ‘closed’ but somehow the calls stay unanswered.
The prospect controls the timing
Something I learned a long time ago is that the potential customer controls the timing of when they buy. In most cases any time sales ‘technique’ is used to try and speed up decision making it has exactly the opposite effect of what was intended. Let’s go back to that initial meeting. Was there an agreed next step or did the meeting end with a ‘put that in writing’ request?
In my experience long term profitable relationships rarely start with a ‘one meeting, one proposal’ approach. Were the buyers and seller sharing the same expectation of what would happen next and were they both as motivated to move at the same pace?
Did the salesperson make sure they answered some basic commercial qualification questions?
The decision making process
Budget and money
The basis on which the decision would be made
Critical success factors driving the decision
Let’s assume we go away from that first meeting with all the right information and with as many of the commercial qualification questions answered as possible (the more we can answer the stronger the potential for a positive decision), we also need to bear in mind that when we leave our potential customer goes back to their real world day job of multiple and conflicting priorities.
Most customers aren’t being rude or discourteous when they don’t respond to follow up calls; they are just saying it’s not their priority right now. It isn’t our job to make what we want them to do their priority; it’s up to us to make sure they are just as enthusiastic to buy from us when the time is right for them.
If we are not careful there is a risk that our follow up calls can end up being an interruption of the prospect’s day rather than a help. Our follow up calls end up feeling like chasing – which feels like pressure – which feels uncomfortable and which can end up with the potential customers avoiding us. We do need to keep in touch and show interest, of course, otherwise they may become more enthusiastic about buying from a competitor.
If any follow up becomes a negative experience or ends up with the potential customer feeling that they were sent something generic or inappropriate then their enthusiasm for us takes a nose dive, more quickly than if we had made no contact at all.
The right thing to do is ensure that any contact offers real value. With careful thought any follow up can ensure that there is a reason to make contact that isn’t experienced as an interruption to the day in pursuit of a buying decision, but as something that adds to the day. This is unlikely to be a newsletter, brochure or other device which shows that they have merely been put onto database. It will be valuable and appropriate content which will be useful and interesting. This will ensure that over time enthusiasm is maintained.
If any follow up becomes a negative experience or ends up with the potential customer feeling that they were sent something generic or inappropriate then their enthusiasm for us take a nose dive, more quickly than if we had made no contact at all.
If you are tempted to chase a decision or an order stop and think:
Might there something going on in the customer’s world right now that has higher priority?
How can I make contact and add value?
How can I maintain enthusiasm to buy my product or service – when the time is right?
Drop the word ‘chasing’ from your selling vocabulary – think follow up and valuable content.
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