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The Forgotten Step in the Selling Process

By Percy Chong, 28th October 2014

Of all the stages or components of the selling process (ie. Prospecting, approach, objection handling, closing etc), the least talk about is probably the “follow-up”.

Perhaps it is because it is almost common sense or good practice to follow-up or keep the prospect’s “interest” going, that most sales people think it is not necessary to articulate it. Sadly, this common sense have become an uncommon practice and many sales persons have either jumped too quickly into the fact-finding or even sales/product presentation for their own good; or they have simply lost their ability to build relationship through good and creative follow-ups.  

It would be foolhardy to assume that the prospects would want to proceed straight into the sales situation without first knowing or understanding the sales person. Though it may happen, the chance is relatively small.

What is “Follow-up”?

Follow-up is nothing more than the “romancing” of the prospect, so that the prospect will have the opportunity to know the sales person a lot better. An obvious example is in the sports of golfing. No other sports or lifestyle activities, has seen more business deals being transacted over. Golf essentially is the medium that provides the collaborating partners (Prospective clients and sales persons included) with the opportunity to know each other better. Some prospects will use the platform to size up their eager consultant’s personal qualities as well as their wares. And in the Asian context, mahjong provides the perfect setting for future mother-in-laws to screen their prospective son-in-laws.

The objective therefore is not in the game, but in the opportunity to secure a connection with the prospect. And the benefit of the follow-up is not restricted to a one-way screening or interview. Experience sales persons have also used these platforms to learn more about their prospect. It becomes for them, an informal fact-finding setting where they can identify the important information or “hot-buttons” and even “taboo-buttons” about the prospect. Clearly such information will increase the chance of connecting with the prospect on a deeper level.

The follow-up also manifest itself in a later phase in the selling process (ie. After Closing stage). Sometimes the closing may be delayed or deferred because of genuine circumstances (ie. Change in prospect’s situation or priority to more urgent matters etc). Under such conditions, patient follow-up is the order of the day.

Putting both roles together, the common function that follow-ups play in the entire sales process (see Sales Funnel) may be crystallized to “keeping the prospect interested” , in both the sales person as well as the products and services that is being touted”.

How to Keep the Prospect Interested?

Keeping the prospect interested really boils down to spending enough time nurturing the relationship that is the key to keeping the prospect interested. It is the comforting and unobtrusive presence that allows the prospect to bond and eventually connect with the sales person.

Think of your own relationship with your closest friends?

The friendship and trust was forged over a period of time through numerous activities/events where you have opportunities to learn about each other. However, in practical sales situation, it would be impossible to invest 5-10 years into relationships with every prospect before reaping the fruits. The key in the example is to recognized that nurturing of relationship is absolutely critical; and how to amplify the relationship building process over a shorter period of time, through creative settings or opportunities…follow-ups.

Like the flowers, gifts, tasteful dates and interesting conversations which are integral to the romantic success; sales person too need to work some of his strategies to win prospect over. Don’t just work hard and bulldoze blindly into every selling situations. Hard work needs to combine with old fashion common sense to secure results.

It is also important to identify any common interest or commonality early in the sale process, so that the sales person may create an advantage to “sell himself” or influence the prospect’s impression. The degree and time it takes to nurture such bonds is really in the skills and creativity of the sales person, as well as the personality of the prospect approached. Some prospects who are more aloof (or indifferent) may take more time to win over. In general, the greater the value/quantum of the sale, the longer of more challenging the romancing process will be.

So before rushing into the next sales opportunity, be sure to invest in the relationship and allow it to blossom with the fullness of time.

Article contributed by Percy Chong (through Asian Sales Guru)
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