Your work isn’t done when the contract is signed; follow up on delivery, set-up
By Marcia Gauger, for SBT
Question: I just had a big sale fall apart because the technical person delivering the product confused the order for my customer. I thought it was a done deal. Now, I find myself having to resell the entire solution. Do you have any suggestions for avoiding this in the future?
This happens all too often and is as frustrating to the customer as it is to you. Here are some tips for ensuring that your deliveries are all that you promise.
Product delivery tips
There’s a lot more to delivering a product to a customer than "dropping it off." Delivering products or equipment should be thought of as another chance to impress the customer and another chance to build your relationship. Here are some tips for successful delivery:
— If you are not delivering the product yourself, make sure that your set-up or technical person has adequate information about the customer, the customer’s goals and how the company will use the equipment. Make sure that person understands that his or her job is not to sell the equipment. Rather, it is to ensure customer satisfaction.
— Good delivery begins before delivery. Always check out the equipment before you take it to the customer. Are all systems operating correctly? Are all the options or settings requested by the customer correct? Is the equipment clean, and does it look good? As the old saying goes, "You only get one chance to make a good first impression." It may be helpful to create a checklist for your delivery personnel to follow.
— Walk the customer through the operator’s manual. You (and the customer) may not have the time to review how every control works, but be sure the customer knows where to find information when it is needed.
— Answer any questions the customer may have, and listen carefully. The questions asked will tell you what issues are important to this customer and will guide you in determining what additional information the customer may want.
— Be sure to cover safety issues and any operational issues, which, if not known to the customer, might be dangerous or damage-causing. Use the owner’s manual as a guide.
— Enhance your value to the customer by giving operational tips that improve performance or reduce cost of operation. When you provide valuable advice, you transition from "salesperson" to "valued consultant" in the eyes of the customer.
— Re-enforce the wise purchase decision this customer has made. Point out additional features that you did not cover during your sales presentations. Review the productivity improvement this product brings to the customer. Adding value to the product also adds value to you, in the eyes of the customer.
— Position your company as the complete support organization for this customer. Be sure to provide phone numbers and names for service and parts personnel. Make yourself readily available for any further questions on operation or use of the equipment. Remember, each customer contact is a chance for you to further build rapport.
Customer follow-up tips
Good customer follow-up is key to building your customer relationships. A week or so after delivery, make contact with your customer. Have an agenda prepared for the discussion.
Your goal is not just to check on the recent purchase but also to position yourself for additional sales.
Here are some tips for successful follow-up.
— The first and most important point is to make sure the customer is happy with the equipment. Ask about performance and operation. Are there any questions? Does the equipment meet expectations? Follow up on issues that may have surfaced during delivery. Be sure any commitments that were made have been honored.
— Again, answer any questions the customer may have, and listen carefully. The questions asked will tell you what issues are important to this customer and will guide you in determining what to discuss. If necessary, review the features and performance factors that first interested this customer in the product.
— If the customer is happy, use the situation to prospect for future business. Ask about other potential business. Ask if the customer will give you referrals and/or testimonials. Remember that a satisfied customer can be an extension of your sales efforts. If the customer is happy with you and the equipment, now is also the opportunity to sell the rest of your services.
— Remember that each customer is different. Some will want little or no contact with you until they feel the need. Others will want significant handholding as they use new equipment and get acquainted with it. Having a "standard" follow-up procedure can offend people at either end of the spectrum, so adjust your approach accordingly.
— Whatever additional commitments are made during follow-up, act with speed. Many businesses offend their customers by slow response to an issue that might be very important to the customer. Act quickly. And at least communicate often on an issue where you have little control over time.
— Always follow up on commitments made by others within your company. Become a customer advocate, and you build relationships. Remember that good follow-up practices tell your customers that you are grateful for their business and help set you up for future business.
Marcia Gauger is the president of Impact Sales, a performance improvement and training company with offices in Wisconsin, Florida and Arkansas. You can contact her at 262-642-9610 or email@example.com. Her column appears in every other issue of SBT.
Oct. 17, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee