Follow-Up Is Crucial To Effective Selling

by Len Rashkin
Posted On: 3/1/2018

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In the mid-90s, I was the educational chairman for the National Beverage & Products Association's annual convention's seminar programs. I had planned many seminars over the years, but it dawned on me that I had never put together a seminar that included the "Best OCS Sales Representatives in the U.S."

To make a long story short, we reached out to some of the largest refreshment services throughout the U.S. and asked them to bring their best to Atlantic City for our annual NBPA convention. We assembled six of the most productive salespeople and had the most well-attended seminar in our history.

Operators from all over the U.S. and Canada attended, and many brought their sales teams to hear how other OCS salespeople acquired new customers and what made them so successful.

One of the questions I asked the panel was, "What is the one sales suggestion that you can share with our audience to make them more successful when selling to a prospect?" The answer most gave was, simply, "Follow up after every sales call."

All good sales representatives must follow up on all leads. If the lead is a past sales presentation, phone your contact or someone from the location whom you happen to meet. Always attempt to reach out, now or in the future, depending on what took place on your first or second attempt to close the sale.

Here are a few sales scenarios that warrant a simple follow-up:

A seasoned salesperson knows that many sales presentations don't produce a close on the very first try. Larger companies usually interview several potential providers before making their decision. Following up with the decision-maker will remind the buyer who you are, and remind the prospect that you're available to answer any questions that may have arisen since you last presented.

Buyers want to deal with people they like, and reaching out to them gives you another opportunity to counter another company's offer.

There are times when the decision-maker may have rushed you because of their own time constraints. Following up gives you a second chance to add any information that you may not have had time to provide.

When making a phone sales call, the key to follow-up is to ask two questions. For example:

• I have a new brewer that we are just introducing. Will you allow me to show you the benefits it offers that will make your coffee break much more enjoyable and more affordable?" This question arouses curiosity in the mind of the buyer: "what is it?" –  and "maybe it will be more economical."

• Mr./Mrs. Decision maker, "before we hang up, would it be OK for me to call you back at a later date, if I find something new that could be good for you and your firm?" This leaves the door open for a future sales presentation. When you do make another phone call, you just say to the receptionist, "This is Jim with XYZ Coffee Service. Kevin said that I could call him when I had something new for him to review that would enhance your coffee break."

Following up does not always have to involve a sales call, either in person or on the phone.  Using emails can entice the buyer by presenting something new or announcing a price reduction in coffee.  I do not subscribe to cutting prices, but coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world (oil is first) and if there is a price drop, you can reach out and let your contact know that you now can make your original offer more economical.

Sending a company newsletter to all of your sales prospects is another form of follow-up, by introducing a host of new services, equipment and products. If you keep yourself and your company in the mind of the decision-maker, you will make more sales.

Time should never stop you from touching base with past prospects. Remember that over time, situations change, management changes, prices change, services change and companies change.

Finally, you will never know what potential accounts you missed, if you don't make an attempt to follow up. This important sales practice has worked for the best salespeople in the OCS industry; why would it not work for you or your sales staff?

Training your team is never-ending. I have provided my "OCS Sales Training Program" for the past 12 years. This is a complete sales training guide to increase profitability for your company. Please take a look at my advertisement in this issue, which describes a special that I am offering my readers.  If you are training new salespeople or have an existing sales team, they will gain valuable information and insight into selling your services.

» LEN RASHKIN is a pioneer of office coffee service. He founded Coffee Sip in 1968 and later merged it with Dell Coffee, of which he became president in 1991. Sales at Dell topped $7 million. He also founded the Eastern Coffee Service Association and National Beverage & Products Association. He is a speaker at trade conferences, consults on OCS sales and marketing, and is the author of two OCS training programs.