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Sales Follow-up Systems Help Close The Sale

Furniture World Magazine


You don't need a high tech computerized follow-up system to sell more of those customers who 'walk' without buying today.

Most businesses track how much they sell in a given month or year but what about the activity, or lack of activity, that produced those results? Beyond the most obvious factor... advertising... are many other elements that can drastically increase the effectiveness of any marketing campaign and therefore increase sales.

Following up with customers who leave the store without making a purchase is one of the best ways home furnishings retailers can generate sales. Recently I helped two companies design follow up systems. Both substantially improved their sales, and both credited the follow-up system for this increase.

The goal of a sales presentation should be to close the sale while with the prospective customer. However, what about the customer who didn't buy today? To not follow up on this large group of customers is a very costly mistake. It's like going to the store, buying a jar of food, getting it home and because it's a little tough to open- throwing the jar in the garbage and paying for another jar. That's as ridiculous as not following up with your customers. Most companies make a significant investment in advertising to "bring customers through the door." Just because customers don't buy today does not mean they won't buy soon. Unfortunately for many home furnishing retailers who do little follow-up, customers who walk out today... never come back. Too many salespeople wait for the next customer to call or stop in, rather than following up on the previous customer. The worst thing is, they may very well have been able to close both customers with just a little follow up.

A tracking system used in numerous home furnishings showrooms, showed that the customer who didn't buy the first day was most likely to buy from someone within 48 hours after their initial visit. Customers are more emotional and their memories are freshest shortly after shopping.

To be able to follow up with your customers you need their full name, address and phone number. A survey card will provide you with all of the above. The card is given to the customer just before they leave without buying. A survey card can also be filled out by the salesperson when a customer does buy, so they have a means of following up, requesting referrals and notifying them of future sales.

The survey card should be a pre-printed 3" x 5" card with no more than five questions on it. The title should be 'ABC' marketing survey or 'ABC 'advertising survey. The first question should coincide with the title as shown in the card (opposite page top right).

This survey card can provide you with other valuable information, but the main purpose is to provide the salesperson with a name, address and phone number to follow up with. The way that this card is presented will determine how many people give you their address and phone number. If the salesperson simply asks the customer to fill out the card without an explanation, approximately 50% of the time you will not have a completed card. Salespeople should explain to your customers that you are doing marketing/advertising survey to determine the effectiveness of your marketing/advertising and you would like their input, quickly explaining it will only take a minute or two. Role play the situation with your salespeople, reminding them that like any other new situation it will be uncomfortable at first, but the investment in time and energy will be well worth it.

Most customers have some indication that advertising is expensive and they will think your company is astute for monitoring it. Also, many people feel important when asked for their opinion. Following this method, the customer will almost always agree to fill out the card. Hand them the card and a pen. Stand with them while they fill out the card. This is the step that ensures that they will fill it out completely. Thank them when they are done and begin a conversation regarding the products they were interested in. Do not be surprised if they decide to buy from you today, even though they said they needed to think about it, etc. This is in part because you have their name, address and phone number. What if you call them back? They won't want to be embarrassed by telling you they bought somewhere else.

If the customer finally leaves without buying, follow up with a phone call within 48 hours. When first asked to implement this powerful strategy, the untrained salesperson will call the customer and say something like:

Salesperson: "Hi Mr. Johnson, this is Mark from 'ABC' furniture Company. When you were in yesterday, you said you needed some time to think about the bedroom set you were looking at. I'm just calling to see if you have decided yet?"

Don't lead with your chin! A better strategy would be to introduce yourself, remind the customer of all the great benefits that they most liked about your product or service, and then give them one or two additional reasons why they should own it.

Postcards or notes are a second approach. However, they are not as effective as a follow-up phone call because a one way conversation cannot build as much excitement. The message on the postcard or note should be exciting, personalized, and brief.

Whichever method you choose, you are building a stronger relationship with your customer, illustrating to your customer you are interested in earning their business and probably showing up your competition. Also, you will double the effectiveness and profitability of your investment in advertising.

Laura Laaman is a popular sales, management and customer service trainer. Questions can be directed to her care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at editor@furninfo.com.