The following story is the best testimonial I've ever heard about the true value, importance and tone of customer-focused follow up. When a financial planner expressed feelings of boredom with the routine of making follow up calls, this story came to mind. It always does when people express anxiety about this stage in the selling process. Every time I tell it, it helps me remember too. Follow up, at it's best, is about making contact, doing so with respect and an eye on service. A lawyer calls a couple of paper shredding companies because it's time to clean out the files in his garage; we're talking boxes and boxes of old client files. He contacts 2 companies: both sales reps he talks to answer all his questions, then they ask if he's ready to move forward, and he says no. Why? He still has to clean out his files!
At this point the two sales reps take entirely different tactics. One accepts the "no" and the other hears "No, not yet."
The Rep who hears the "No, not yet" asks if he can check in with him in a month. Lawyer says yes. Rep calls a month later as agreed. When he does, he asks two questions: he asks if he's ready to move forward, and further, if he has any more questions about the service. The lawyer always has a question - often the same question as last time - and the rep graciously answers all the lawyer's questions. At the end he asks Mr. Lawyer if he's ready to move forward. Lawyer says no and Rep asks permission to check in with him in a month.
This goes on for months, and when Mr. Lawyer is finally ready for the service you know who gets the business!
If the Rep had called and the lawyer didn't answer, I might expect a message like this. (From here on out the story is not based on fact, but extrapolation from the facts.)
"Hello Mr. Lawyer, so and so from such and such. Just calling to check in as agreed to find out how you're doing with your sorting project, if you're ready to move forward, and if you have any questions. Here's my number. I look forward to hearing from you."
Now, if Mr. Rep had a new service to tell him about he could certainly mention it in the voice mail. Furthermore, if he had something to send the lawyer with the latest and greatest updates on document compliance, for example , he could let Mr. Lawyer know to look for it in the mail.
It really is that simple. It is not flashy, and it really isn't hard. So, why, oh why, do so many of us feel shy, scared, and reluctant to do such a simple thing for the people who have expressed interest?
Do extroverts have an easier time with this, or is this a problem for all of us responsible for selling services?