There is a tradition in marketing that says that you need an average of at least seven contacts with a potential customer before you get a sale. It might go something like this:
- The potential customer calls or emails you or signs up to your list. (That’s the first contact.)
- You reply. (That’s the second contact.)
- You follow up 10 days later with a phone call (etc)
- They have some more questions so you send more information in the post
- You email
- You call again
- They call you and they’re ready to buy
Which contact number do you stop at?
A typical seven step sales process may go:
- Call, letter, call, letter, call, letter, call, sale, or
- Call, email, letter, call, email, letter, call, sale or
- Email, email, email, email, email, email, sale
Nowadays, especially with the amount of advertising people are bombarded with, you’re more likely to be successful if you contact people 20 or 30 times, because they ignore three quarters of what they see: don’t take it personally; it’s often they’re just short of time. But even if you only stick to seven steps, choose now to follow up more with enquiries and customers.
Look at your own buying habits, or pretend you’re one of your customers, and you’ll see that buying is often a process, rather than an instant decision. Say you want a new vacuum cleaner; the chances are, you don’t stroll into a store and buy the first one you see.
Instead, you probably:
- Decide it’s time for a new vacuum cleaner.
- Read some reviews on and offline
- Start noticing the car advertising
- Asking others their opinions/knowledge
- Call or email for some brochures and read them and/or visit a few stores
- Think about how much you want to spend and compare prices
- Make your purchase, or decide to hire the appliance
This process applies if you’re house hunting, or wanting a new car, dinghy, horse, dinner service, plasma TV or computer. It can even apply to buying shampoo, but let’s stick to something like vacuum cleaners or cars for this example.
So now you know how the buying process goes, can you see that keeping in touch could pay dividends? Even when they buy from you, keep up the customer service and they’ll be more likely to buy from you again in a few years’ time, or at least recommend you to other people.
You need to start keeping in touch when the buyer puts out feelers and makes the initial contact (by phone, email, or in person). At this point they’ve given you permission to sell to them and communicate with them. Most retailers will send out the information and leave it at that: if you carry your marketing efforts further, you’ll get more rewards.
It’s OK, you don’t need to go into ‘hard sell’ mode. All you need to do is be very helpful (not annoying or obsequious, just genuinely helpful) and focus on solving the prospects’ problems rather than on a sale per se. Ask questions, find out their needs and wants, and offer solutions. When the time comes to buy, they’ll seriously consider you. If you can’t help directly, then say so… and recommend someone else who can help them, even if it’s a direct competitor with whom you have no reciprocal agreement. The prospects will remember your good deed and tell others.
And remember to do the same for your existing customers: keep in contact with them and see how you can help them further. This is especially important if they’re likely to be approached by your competitors or see adverts for similar products (and don’t see any of yours). Have a follow up system for your existing customers and offer them new/additional products or services at regular intervals. Mix your methods of communication and test to see which work best with whom and for what product.