In my last article (“Focus on the Follow-Up,” February 2015), I was pretty direct about my opinions on why you should be scheduling and completing follow-up visits with your customers, but in case you missed it, I will sum it up: I think follow-ups should always be done, and I believe there are few, if any, legitimate reasons for not doing them.
Maybe I have you convinced to make follow-ups mandatory at your company—but what now? How do you actually conduct a follow-up?
You may remember that I suggested scheduling the follow-up at the time of the sale. This way, it is in your calendar, and while I suggest that you call the customer to remind him or her you are coming, I also think you should consider this visit as important as the sale itself.
Before going to a house for a follow-up, I put together a folder of material that I planned to review and leave with the customer. This folder included:
- Follow-up form;
- Business card/contact information;
- Copy of the sales agreement;
- Maintenance schedule and recommended filter/salt list;
- Article on soap usage;
- Article on the benefits of soft water;
- Well sanitation instructions;
- List of recommended vendors (such as well drillers, electricians, plumbers, etc.); and
- Referral coupon worth $50 to the customer and the person he or she refers.
The follow-up should only take about 15 to 20 minutes. I always started by taking a look at the installation. I believe that there is not a piece of residential water treatment equipment on the market worth thousands of dollars by itself. That said, I have no problem selling a high-quality piece of equipment for several thousand dollars if the intangibles are there—and that includes the installation. If I, as a consumer, just bought a softener for $3,000, then I would expect to see a top-of-the-line installation. That means straight pipe, no solder drips, secured drain line and a location with which I am completely satisfied. As a sales professional whose livelihood was contingent on referrals, I feel this is critical. Even if the customer was OK with the installation, if it was not a top-of-the-line installation, we would always go back to fix it. And, even if it was a great installation but the customer expressed any dissatisfaction over a location or other factor, we would go back to fix it.
I never wanted my customers to look at the equipment and say, “Eh, it’s okay.” I wanted them to jump up and down with joy over it (although maybe not literally). You may be thinking, “But I don’t want our installers to have to always go back to redo an install.” What I am suggesting, however, is that the installers do it right the first time. When I was in sales, I rarely rescheduled installation corrections. Our installers were superb, which made it easier to make sales.
While I was looking at the installation location with the customer, I took the opportunity to show him or her how to reset the clock on the softener. I also explained the bypass and demonstrated how to change any sediment or reverse osmosis (RO) filters. And I always checked to make sure drain lines were secured.
The Follow-Up Folder
Once the installation was inspected, I went back to the kitchen and quickly tested the water. I used the follow-up form (download your editable copy at www.moti-vitality.com or www.wqpmag.com/following-through-follow) to record the water analysis results, making sure to point out the soft water and excellent rejection rates from the RO system. I asked the customers if they dumped their ice tray, and whether they noticed a difference in cooking and coffee.
Before completing the remainder of the follow-up form, I generally reviewed the information I had placed in the follow-up folder. Once this was done, I completed the form with the customers, allowing them to answer each question before I wrote down the answer. I wanted to make sure they knew what the warranty and maintenance of the equipment entailed and how to maximize the benefits of their investment. I also wanted to make sure I had permission to use their name as a reference.
This also is an ideal time to bring up additional equipment and determine the customer’s interest.
The Referral Section
I firmly believe in asking for referrals, but I also have always felt uncomfortable just asking for names of people customers know without earning those referrals first. So I might say something like this when I get to this section: “As I have mentioned to you before, I truly appreciate the opportunity to earn your referrals. I recognize that, in order for you to trust me enough to give them to me, I have to give you superb service. That said, if there is anyone you know who might have a water question, I’d be happy to follow up with them.”
The most important thing I am doing here is reminding them that I work on referrals and getting them used to me asking for them as I continue to stay in touch with them in the future.
The Comments Section
One of the most powerful tools I carried in my test kit was a three-ring binder full of reference letters from customers I had been able to serve. I would usually hand this book to the customer after I had explained all of the equipment options to them at the initial sales visit. I would say something like: “I’ve spent the last hour telling you how great our company and products are, and of course I’m going to say that, because I work there. But while I’m packing up my test kit, I wanted to show you what some of my customers have said about us.”
At this point, I would hand the customer the book and go pack up my test kit and clean up the sink area. In the book, the customer saw a bunch of reference letters, as well as photocopies of follow-up forms that had comments from other customers on them. The comments usually would say something simple like, “Great service!” or “Couldn’t be happier!” or “Highly recommended!” but they got the job done. It also served to give a preview to the customer so he or she was not surprised when I asked for comments at the follow-up that was to come.
At the follow-up, when I got to the comments section, I said: “Any comments you have, good or bad, about me or our service and install departments are always very valuable, but at the very least, if you will autograph and date below, I’d appreciate it.”
I found that the vast majority of the time, people would make a comment, and they almost always would be positive.
Keep Following Up
Your sale and relationship with this customer has only begun. You have indicated to him or her that you want to earn referrals. That will not happen if you do not stay in contact at least every six months. Do check-up calls and send letters, but strive to remind the customer why you and your company should be the only choice when it comes to addressing water concerns and questions.