June 13, 2012 by Ken Dooley
There’s one point in the customer relationship when your company is most vulnerable.
It comes right after the sale has been made, according sales and marketing consultant John Graham.
Some salespeople do a great job of selling until the prospect buys. Then everything changes. After the prospect takes ownership of the product or service, some salespeople become scarce or even disappear.
Once the sale is complete
Once a sale is complete and customers begin to use a product or service, they’re going to be anxious to see positive results. They may also have challenges and problems and nowhere to get the answers, because the salesperson has become scarce and less attentive.
If they do hear from the salesperson, it’s usually a casual, “Hey, how’s it going?” Some customers, not wanting to cause conflict, may say “pretty good,” but inside they may be steaming.
There are usually four reasons why salespeople don’t focus on the after-sale process.
1. They’re focused on getting to the next sale. Once they’ve made the sale, they’re on to the next one with no time to turn around and make sure the customer is maximizing the investment.
2. They’re afraid to hear the results. What if they do a follow-up meeting and the customer is upset because it’s not working? It’s easier to just keep quiet and hope for the best.
3. They’re not really sure how to help the customer maximize a purchase. They know a lot about the features and benefits of a product or service, but very little on the various ways this product should be used to solve problems for customers.
4. They forget that no product or service is excellent in itself. It’s excellent only if it fulfills a customer’s need. Needs change and that’s why an effective after-sale approach is essential.
When customers have problems
Studies show that when customers have problems, they may not tell the salesperson. They just decide to cancel or to stop doing any business with the salesperson in the future. Those who do complain are frequently turned over to customer service reps who may be unable to resolve the problems.
Four positives from after-sales support
There are four positive results from an effective post-buy process:
You ensure that customers are maximizing their initial buy.
You keep the competition away, because customers usually remain loyal once you develop a long-term relationship.
You take the customer’s temperature on a regular basis to head off small fever spikes before they turn into deadly infections.
You lock customers into a perpetual business relationship that will only expand and may lead to an ongoing stream of referrals.
Scheduling after sales support “check-ups”
It’s always a good idea to schedule check-ups after delivery is made. These meetings can be formal or informal and can take place face-to-face or over the phone. Not only are these post-sale steps effective for providing service after the sale, they should be talked about in the pre-sale stages to help in the closing.
Scheduling post-buy meetings before the closing sends a clear signal to prospects that you’re not going to run away and that a “partnership” is actually beginning. You may separate yourself from the competition by developing better strategies and processes for the after-sale process.
Develop a post-sale check-up meeting
Even when you sell a product or service that is basically complete at the point of closing, you can still come up with a post-closing check up meeting. It’s the best way to make sure the customer is happy with the product and to get feedback on ways you could improve.
Ask yourself, “What would I do if I bought my own product or service to make sure it worked at a maximized level after I purchased it?” Then put together tools, information, meetings and personal involvement to help the customer do the same thing.
Identify “touch points”
Identify “touch points” you need to make with the customer between selling cycles, whether it’s over a two-week period or over a year. Point 1 is when the initial sales took place, and Point 2 is when the renewal or next sale takes place.
Other touch points may be any number of contact methods – personal meetings, phonecalls or e-mails. Come up with some objectives for the touch points, such as what you’re going to review in your check-up meeting.
Write them down and share them with customers, especially new ones. It may reduce their fear of failure or improve their ability to see a favorable return on their investment in your product or service.