In our company, the kitchen and bath division has
communicator/customer service meetings Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3
p.m. The most serious issues discussed are not broken cabinets, but
rather breaks in communication.
Communication is much like a baseball player’s batting average
while perfection is impossible, striving for perfection is not. I
believe many of our communication challenges can be prevented or
minimized by following up. I’m going to share, in chronological
order, many areas where improvement on the follow-up can yield
You need to follow-up on leads or customer referrals from home
shows and out-of-showroom contact. Whether you gave a formal quote
or not isn’t important. This potential customer is going to do
business with someone, and in today’s shopper’s world, a follow-up
call will greatly improve your chances of getting the business.
My suggestion is to send a note thanking them for their time and
interest in your offerings, and inviting them to revisit your
showroom or call for further information. In addition, personal
contact should be made by phone, if possible.
Don’t just leave a message on voice mail, however; keep trying
until you reach the potential customer. This phone call can supply
you with lots of information. For example: Is the project still
alive? Is this prospect still interested in you? Has the time
parameter of the project changed? Is the prospect going with
another company? If so, with whom and why?
I understand why sales achievers do this first step of follow-up
on leads because they know there’s value not only in attracting the
prospect back to their business, but also in knowing why a sale is
lost. I also understand why the lower producers don’t make these
follow-up attempts; they haven’t learned to accept rejection. They
are content to let the prospect come back on their own, or simply
In collecting information to serve the prospect, questions may
arise that cannot be answered at that time. This list of questions
can be rather lengthy, and special circumstances may surround each,
so it’s vitally important to follow-up. The answers to these
questions are needed for the project to be developed in an accurate
and timely fashion.
Additionally, the tenacity shown in following up on these issues
is a display of your control of the project and your ability to
keep the selling process pointed toward a successful conclusion as
soon as possible. There’s also an unspoken message to the prospect
that you are excellent at detail, concerned about their needs, and
would be terrific at guiding the project.
TIME’S BLACK HOLE
Once the prospect becomes your customer, some anxieties may set in.
One is what I call “buyer’s remorse” wondering whether they bought
the right thing from the right person at the right price. It’s also
normal that no matter how long they took in making their decision,
they’ll want you to get started right away.
Both of these feelings can be helped with a follow-up note with
a genuine thank you for being chosen for their very special project
and a re-explanation of the expected timing of the project.
At this point, while you’ll likely have at least half of their
expected investment, it still may be several weeks before the
project begins. About midway between making the sale and when the
project starts, call or write and confirm what has taken place. For
example, you can tell the customer that you have received the
acknowledgement from the manufacturer and the delivery date has
been confirmed just as you had previously discussed.
This is also the appropriate time to let the customer know if
something has occurred to potentially alter the expected schedule.
It’s much better to deal with the accurate information now as
opposed to later. I believe customers deserve this communication,
and, at the same time, it gives them an opportunity to raise any
questions or concerns. The longer these concerns and questions go
unaddressed, the greater they may become.
This is also a good time to review what the expectations are, so
there are no surprises for either of you.
If it’s possible, visit the job site early on in the process.
The customers want to know they can trust you, and that you will
take responsibility if any challenges occur or expectations are not
Remember, particularly if this is a remodeling project, the
customer may be nervous and a bit uncomfortable, and will be
watching this project with an eagle eye to see if anything goes
awry. As the salesperson/designer, a follow through now is your
chance to shine. You can keep the customer informed, hold his or
her hand and follow through to assure yourself and the customer
that things are going as planned.
A STRONG FINISH
There are two important elements to finish off the sale and make it
as successful as possible. First, make sure the expectations are
met and you get your money. Second, use your success to develop
future sales by getting referrals.
Now the sale process begins all over again by turning the
referral into your next sale.
Remember to also follow-up well after the project is completed.
Your customer may be surprised to hear from you, but a six-month
follow-up is good business. The customer may be living with a small
annoyance but has been too busy to have to call it to your
attention. The nature of the problem is likely small and easy to
solve. By doing so, you will have a happier customer one who is
likely to call you for his or her next project.
I suggest you review any of your customer service problems and
see if you’re missing out by not following through as best you can.
With proper follow-up, don’t be surprised if you attract more
business, have less problems and create more profit.
The sales producers in our industry don’t sell and run, they
sell and follow through.