Last month we published the first chapter in this serieson our web titled: First International Sales Meeting: Do your Homework, Listen and Ask! Based on a number of reflections and advice on achieving success in your first international sales meeting. Over all these years of experience working with hundreds of clients, it has become evident that making a good impression in the first meeting is not enough: our follow-up and continuing sales management has proven to be as or more important than this first meeting.
Something we hear all too often from many clients is: “we have a meeting with a potential client, everything seems to fit and go well, but all of a sudden the lines of communication dry up, they don’t answer and seem to lose interest, what are we doing wrong?”
There are many reasons why a potential client may lose interest in our company and it is not always for reasons of whether or not ours is the best product on the market: more often than not it is due to mistakes we have made in the planning, follow-up and sales management and stages. Following are a few points detailing what your shouldn’t do during the negotiations:
- If we arrange to call a client on a specific date and time, you MUST make the call. “I was in a meeting”, “I got caught up” are NOT excuses.
- Do your homework before you pick up the phone, you should have your sales pitch prepared beforehand, are your certain you know why this client should buy from us? Does the product we are offering really meet the needs of the client? Will he derive immediate benefits? Will the product make his life easier, save him time and/or money?
- We shouldn’t concentrate exclusively on those clients which, for whatever reason, we have decided will produce the best results. We must make time for all our potential clients so as not to miss any potential business opportunities.
- Never make promises you can’t keep! You should avoid committing to supplying goods you can’t make, don’t agree to sending catalogues, documents or samples you don’t have.
- All offers, documentation and samples should be sent in a timely manner.
- The aim of the call is not just to wish the client all the best, rather it is to make the sale move ahead by answering all outstanding matters: Can we offer any further details? Have we provided all the information requested by the client in a clear frank manner? Are we following all the stages of the negotiation logically or have we moved on without properly finalising a previous step?
- Does the answering machine make you nervous? You should prepare for this possibility: you must speak in a confident tone and explain the reason for the call clearly. Consider the possibility of leaving a comment that will catch the attention of the client.
- After the first meeting and establishing a relationship with the client, you should try to avoid passing the contact on to another person. This might generate a feeling of distrust and that negotiations have gone back to the starting point. Never forget that business confidence is based on trust and personal relationships.
- The bustle of the day-to-day, business trips, meeting etc…. means we are not available 24-hours a day, but that is no excuse for not returning a call or answering a mail as soon as is humanly possible. When we return the call, if the person we want to speak to is not available, we must leave a message explaining when we are.
- If we send mails or make calls everyday, we run the risk of becoming a “spam supplier” for the client. That does not, however, mean letting months go by between calls which will leave us open to “being forgotten”. We must capitalise on the inertia of the first meeting by following up regularly without overdoing it nor becoming invisible.
The way we manage the sales follow-up will set the tone for our future relationship with the client and the success of the negotiation will depend on this rapport.
Consulting Partner at ITC