Written By: Scott Koepf, Vice President of Strategic Development – Cruise Planners
Each step in the sales process is generally accepted as necessary for success, however, the order in which they occur and how often they occur are anything but consistent. For example, overcoming objections is a step in the sale but it can occur at any time and numerous times during the sales process. A customer might open with ‘I am afraid of flying’ and then at another random moment hit you with ‘This is too expensive’. Just knowing it is a part of the process and being prepared for it, regardless of the order in which it occurs, will result in more sales.
Follow up is the last step in the sales process but it may be first in the number of times it occurs and as the cause of lost sales. In vacation sales there are very few one and done sales made. In other words, unless you are talking to a customer who has purchased from you before, most consumers will not provide their credit card to you at the end of your first conversation. We can all wish that were the case but in fact, if the customer did not buy a house or a car that year, there is a good chance you are talking to them about their biggest purchase of the year. The majority of people will need to think through their decision as well as talk to others who will join them. We may hear things like ‘I need to think about it’ or ‘Let me talk to my spouse’ or ‘I need to check my schedule at work’. In some cases, there is no doubt those statements may be excuses or artificial road blocks but, in many cases, they are sincere requests.
No matter what the circumstances there is a good chance that you will need more than one conversation with your potential client and sometimes, many conversations. Once again, knowing this is going to happen allows you to be prepared with a plan of exactly what your follow up process will be and what you will discuss at your next appointment. Yes, I specifically said appointment instead of your next conversation.
The first and best recommendation I can make for successful follow up is to always end each conversation with a customer with a specific appointment as to your next interaction. In other words, say something like ‘I would love to talk to you and your spouse about this exciting vacation. I am available Thursday at 4pm, what is the best number to call you at then?’. First, this establishes that you are a professional and working by appointment stresses your value. It also creates an obligation which will help solidify your role in helping the customer make a good purchase decision. Try to eliminate ever saying things like ‘let me call you back’ or ‘why don’t you call me back after you have talked to your spouse?’ or ‘I will get right back to you’. Any time you leave the follow up to the customer it is almost guaranteed failure and remember, it is not their job to follow up with you! If you say you will follow up but without a specific time line the chances are you will not meet the expectation of the customer. When you say, ‘I will get right back to you’, you meant in the next couple days and their expectation was to hear from you in ten minutes. By setting the appointment you also help eliminate the desire of the customer to continue shopping.
As I noted, this kind of follow up may happen numerous times for one sale. Not only should you be ready for the number of times you may need to interact with a customer but also be prepared for how many attempts it may take you to connect each time. Setting appointments will help but still not eliminate the need to leave messages and make additional attempts to reach the customer. Set your follow up plan ahead of time: the number of calls and the number of emails (or texts), the cadence of when those follow ups will occur and the scripts for each message. You choose how many times you reach out and over what time frame. However, if you are concerned about becoming a pest or bothering people take the following study results into account.
Dr. Herb True, a professor at Notre Dame discovered that:
46% of all salespeople do not follow up at all
24% follow up once
14% follow up three times
4% follow up four times
This is in spite of the fact that 60% of ALL sales are made after the fourth follow up!
In other words, less than 4% of all salespeople are making over 60% of the sales. Remember, these customers reached out to you so go beyond your comfort zone and create a system that will help you reconnect with your customer as soon as possible. The worst thing that will happen is that the customer will tell you to stop calling as they are no longer interested. In truth, that is good news as you can now move on to the next customer and you are that much closer to the next sale!