Written By: Scott Koepf, Vice President of Strategic Development – Cruise Planners
Follow up is a step in the sales process but in truth it may be a part of every step in the sales process. Every salesperson dreams of the ‘one and done’ sale where the entire sales process up to and including the receipt of the deposit happens in one phone call. They do occur, especially with loyal customers, but it is quite rare. Therefore, the sales process may take follow up throughout the process, not to mention the follow up that should occur after the deposit has been received. Because there will most likely be numerous touchpoints in every sales process it is important to think through each touch point to maximize its effectiveness. Here is a list of ten suggestions to keep in mind as you continue the sales process with each customer. Please note that a number of the ideas below reference a phone call. While there are some transactions that happen through just email or text, they are still rare. Your closing rate will be significantly higher if you connect with customers by phone (in person is even better but also rare these days). Make sure you do not get in the habit of hiding behind your emails. Your connection and relationship with your customer is severely limited if all connections are electronic. A primary goal of each sales process needs to be at least one connection by phone. How else will they really find out how wonderful you really are!
- End every touch point with an agreement for Action by you and the customer. Never assume the customer knows what will happen next and it will always help if they know what is expected of them the next time you connect.
- End every touch point with a specific appointment for your next contact. Never utter the nebulous and kiss of sales death phrase ‘I will get right back to you’ or anything similar. Instead end with ‘I will call you at 3pm on Wednesday so what will be the best number to call you at then?’ This approach establishes a commitment from both parties and begins to build trust.
- Every Call has an Email and Every Email has a Call. If you connect by phone and have implemented number two above, then send an email reconfirming the appointment. If you did not connect but left a message, then send an email letting them know you are trying to reach them. Recaps, reminders and even teasers as to the extraordinary service you will provide should all be part of your process.
- Make the customer happy you contacted them. A phone message simply requesting a call back does not make anyone happy. Add humor, hints of exciting information you will share or even just enthusiasm for the opportunity to help them plan a dream vacation will bring a smile…and a response.
- Have a compelling and exciting reason for your call. Per number 4 above you should endeavor to have every contact with a customer be a happy experience. However, it is important to take that one step further and have concrete information and/or suggestions to share with them. A better offer, Itinerary insights, Product insider knowledge or even testimonials to share from other clients who have previously experienced the vacation they are considering.
- Create Urgency. A request for a call back will fall on deaf ears unless you provide a reason the customer should call you back NOW. Use terms like ‘limited time’, ‘will expire soon’, ’24 hour hold’, or anything else that will urge them to get back to you right away. Also, don’t use the word ‘option’ when it comes to holding space for a customer. Instead let them know you have ‘held the space’ and they can confirm it with their deposit.
- Log every touchpoint. If you are not using a CRM, you should be. However, make sure you are using your CRM system to it’s full potential. Every touchpoint should be entered into the system and if a call then include the primary information exchanged or promised in the conversation. You can also use your CRM to now que you for the next touchpoint.
- Be creative. Sometimes in mid sales process the customer just disappears. You leave messages and send emails with no response. When this happens – don’t give up. But also make sure you are trying different approaches to get them to contact you. If the message you left the first time got no response, then why leave the same message again? Some agents have found success on their third or fourth attempt by asking ‘Have I done something wrong?’ or ‘Have you fallen and can’t get up?’ – really, and they work!
- Prepare your Plan. There is no doubt that follow up will be a part of your daily routine if you are going to be successful in sales. Don’t just leave the process to chance. Write down your plan for follow up for each situation including the time lines for when each contact will occur. Again, this can be built into your CRM but in any case, don’t ‘try to remember’ to call back – commit to it!
- Earn your Nos! The worst response a travel agent can give when asked what happened with a potential customer is ‘They did not get back to me’. It is not their job to follow up with you, it is your job to follow up with them. All the way until you either make the sale or you have earned your no. You earn the no in two ways. First, the customer told you no, they are not going to buy from you. It may be helpful if you can determine why but even without that information you have earned your no. The second way to earn a no is to have followed your system for follow up to it’s completion and then if no response, you can say that no is earned. One or two follow up calls or emails is not earning anything, just frustration. For each customer ask yourself ‘Did I do everything I could to make that customer fall in love with me or at least talk to me?’ If not, then you did not earn your no. Sales will always be a numbers game to some extent and no one has a 100% closing rate. So each no that you earn brings you closer to the next yes. Remember the old EF Hutton commercials? (dating myself no doubt) – Now when some one asks you how you have built your sales to such an extraordinary level you can lean in and quietly say ‘I earn them’ and you have!