Are you skipping the most important sales call of your sales cycle?
Salespeople routinely dig a hole and throw themselves in it after they close an order with a customer. You get an order, and your instinct is to quickly move on to the next prospect before the customer asks a question you are afraid of answering out of fear that it will cause a change of mind.
Even though you have an order, you haven’t finished the job of selling the customer. Your sales process doesn’t stop with an order. There is one more very important step to take -- one that can make the difference between a one-and-done and a long-term relationship with a loyal customer.
The most important sales call you make during the course of a sale is the first call after you receive their order and before the product is shipped or the service delivered.
Why? To answer that question, let’s examine a couple of immutable rules of what I call Andy Paul’s Sales Calculus.
Sales Calculus Rule #1: Your customers’ expectations for your product or service expand logarithmically in proportion to the number of sellers that they talked to. This rule is pretty easy to understand. In competitive sales situations, customers are promised so many features, advantages, and benefits by so many different sellers that within 24 hours of making a decision, they have a hard time remembering which seller promised what. Instead, they have combined the best of what they heard and inflated it into a big fragile balloon of unreasonable expectations that is just waiting to pop.
Sales Calculus Rule #2: For every degree of positive expectation on the part of the customer, there is a two-degree letdown when what you actually delivered doesn’t precisely align with overinflated expectations. Having customers be unhappy with you because they believe that you overpromised and underdelivered, even though you give them just what they ordered, is not the ideal way to embark on a long-term relationship.
I see this happen with salespeople all the time. Fortunately, it is easily and completely avoidable.
Here are three tips to guide you in making this call.
1) Align the customer’s expectations with your commitments.
After you have received and accepted an order from your customer, pick up the phone and call the decision maker and/or the person who has responsibility for your product or service. Use your call notes, quotes, and proposals to summarize and walk the customer back through the buying process. Highlight the key requirements the customer had for the product purchased and review the commitments you made for how your product will meet or exceed those requirements. Review your proposal with the customer to make sure he precisely understands the products and features you contracted to deliver.
The objectives of this important sales call are to reinforce the customer’s own requirements in his mind, to refresh his memories about what he ordered (and why), and to clarify precisely what you are going to deliver and when. Your goal is to align the customer’s expectations with your committed deliverables to ensure that the first perception of your product or service is positive.
2) Don’t give in to your fears.
The prevailing philosophy in many sales organizations is that the very last thing you should do is to call the customer immediately after you receive the order. Many sales managers and salespeople remain hostage to the irrational notion that you risk triggering a cancellation if you talk to the customer too soon after receiving an order.
In my work, I have seen both sales managers and salespeople who believe that, although the customer may have given them the order, it was done only with great reluctance. Thus, they are afraid that if they speak with the customer after the order is received but before it is shipped, the customer will give in to some monstrous case of buyer’s remorse that has been simmering just below the surface.
I guess that could happen. But, in more than 30 years of selling, I have never witnessed it.
3) Make the call the first day after you receive the order.
As previously stated, the most important sales call you make will be the first call to your customer after you receive an order. It’s not a coincidence that it will also be the first sales call you make for the next order this customer will give you.
The most important sales call also plays a vital role in reducing, if not eliminating, buyer’s remorse. People will tell you that buyer’s remorse is a perfectly normal reaction on the part of your customers. I don’t believe that. According to a definition I found online, “Buyer’s remorse is an emotional response on the part of a buyer in a sales transaction, which may involve feelings of regret, fear, depression or anxiety.” Regret. Fear. Depression. Anxiety. These are not the emotions that we normally would associate with a long, healthy, and mutually profitable relationship with a customer. (Think of the upbeat testimonial you would get from a customer who experienced these emotions about buying from you: “Initially I was filled with self-loathing about my decision to buy from XYZ, Inc. But despite my anxieties about their product’s abilities to meet our requirements, it hasn’t been as bad as I feared.”)
Buyer’s remorse is a signal from your customer that the decision to purchase from you was perceived to be the least bad -- or least risky -- alternative. Risk is a trigger for fear, regret, and anxiety. When a customer chooses to buy from you, the decision maker may have a lot at stake from both a business and a personal standpoint. A buyer could fear that if your product or service doesn’t perform as promised, it could negatively affect her career. A buyer’s anxiety could also be based on the fear that a manager or peer inside the company will challenge the decision based on the perception of a better solution having been available.
To mitigate this perception of risk, you have to make it easy for the customer. You have to take the potential downsides from Sales Calculus rules 1 and 2 out of the equation by proactively making the most important sales call. It will have an immediate dampening effect on any incipient buyer’s remorse the customer is developing. And it will continue to build the trust that is necessary for a long-term productive relationship.