On a recent “Selling Power Live,” where I am the monthly host, I talked with Erik Bergman, a salesperson in the manufacturing industry, about sales follow-up and what causes it to succeed or fail. Because the information was so powerful and so real, I am presenting it here for your selling pleasure:
Erik Bergman: In my experience, most salespeople don’t follow up well, or they follow up incorrectly. They usually say, ‘Hi, this is Joe, remember me? We’re the greatest; why aren’t you buying from us? Blah, blah, blah.’ I think the people that develop a specific strategy are the ones that are successful. Instead of passing out literature, I work on developing relationships and building value. That is where most salespeople fall.
Jeffrey Gitomer: Is it because they think it’s all about their company and not about the value of the customer?
EB: Very much so. It is very much about their business cards and who they are, not how they can help the customer.
JG: Is there a particular technology that you use to follow up? Do you use a laptop?
EB: I try to use everything. One of the weaknesses that salespeople have is that they spend a ton of time and effort in building their office environment, but when it’s time for lunch, all they take is their cell phone. That’s fine if you want the sales process to stop during that hour.
When I travel, my office comes with me. I have a laptop with my software package for mapping that links to my GPS, so no matter where I am, I never get lost. I also carry a wireless device that enables me to receive and send e-mail. These things are critical to a salesperson.
If a salesperson loses his e-mail at the office, he freaks out, but he’ll put eight to 10 hours a day on the road and not even worry about it. I don’t wait to get back to my hotel or office to respond to e-mail messages. I use technology to free up time so I can build value. That has a direct return on investment.
JG: I think the faster you follow up, the more wow there is in the sales process.
EB: It also lets the customer know you are concerned about them on the sales call. And it’s important that the customer sees you as a person who is going to stay with them after the sale has been made, especially if they need something extra. If it’s a prospective customer, they look at your habits and they translate that into ‘What’s it going to be like when this person actually does become a vendor?’ The way a salesperson sells is indicative of the way the salesperson will serve — should they make that sale.
JG: What you are telling me is that you’re exceptionally responsive. And I’ll bet that you’re as responsive after the sale as you are before the sale.
EB: Sometimes even more. I believe that about 75% of my account retention is due to responsiveness. Customers do not have time to wait, particularly in a manufacturing environment.
JG: Do your customers like you because of your professionalism or your friendliness?
EB: I think it’s a combination of friendliness and doing what I say I am going to do when I say I am going to do it. I think my customers buy from me first, for what I do, and second, for who I am.
First, the customer…
JG: You know, Erik, this is not an interview about follow-up — this is an interview about dedication to personal excellence. This is about a person who understands what to do and wakes up every morning and does it.
EB: One of the problems with follow-up is that salespeople are always thinking I can follow up tomorrow. The difference between today and tomorrow is that three other competitors are knocking on the door offering the same service. The salesperson that is a slacker on follow-up is going to lose more sales than he makes. I have a creed that I maintain and it’s very simple: Get the customer then the order. I believe that most salespeople will respond to a hot lead very quickly, but they don’t spend much time building the relationship. The follow-up process is so critical to developing a relationship that it needs to be systematic and dogmatic.
JG: I like the philosophy of ‘Get the customer then the order,’ because if you get the customer, you’ll have ORDERS — instead of AN order.
How do you rate?
Erik Bergman is a great example of a real-world salesperson.
He is dedicated, focused, and knows his customers’ buying habits. And his follow-up ability is legendary. How would someone rate your follow-up ability?
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Jeffrey Gitomer, author of “The Sales Bible,” and “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless,” is president of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer. He gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or e-mail