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LisBiz Strategies: Customers here today, back tomorrow

Nov. 18/25 2013; Volume 27/number 15

By Lisbeth Calandrino

Lisbeth Calandrino
Lisbeth Calandrino

I know it’s hard to believe, but there are customers who are not ready to buy. That doesn’t mean you stop selling; it means you change your sales tactics.

You’ve heard it a million times: “People don’t come into a flooring store just to browse.” I don’t know who said that, but I doubt they understand us “real shoppers,” and I put myself in that category.

Customers who say they’re not ready to buy are a challenge. As a salesperson, should you believe the customer? How do you know if she’s buying from your competitor or what other issues are delaying her decisions?

No matter what the customer’s reason for leaving, and you may never know, eventually your goal is to convince her to buy from you. One of the secrets is staying in touch.

Most companies spend significant dollars on marketing and advertising to new customers. Why not invest some of this money in reaching out to customers who have expressed an interest in your store? My experience is that salespeople will follow up during the first two weeks and then forget about the customer. Instead, it would be more profitable to assume the customer hasn’t disappeared for good but is still browsing options. Of course, staying in touch with customers who are off your radar is both an art and a science.

A realtor friend of mine says he continues to call prospective customers whenever he finds a home he thinks they might like. In his experience, it takes very little time to follow up and it has provided handsome results. When he calls customers, they always remark, “I can’t believe you remembered me.” Most businesses, including your competition, just assume when the customer leaves she is gone forever. This may be very far from the truth.

Consider these tips:

1. Instead of calling these customers and trying to “pitch” your product, why not follow up with articles and information that will address their concerns and continue to build trust? Hopefully when they’re ready to buy they will come back to you.

2. Use all of forms of communication to reach out to your customers. These days there are the usual letters as well as video and social media.

3. Set up a follow-up timeline. If possible, you should follow up once a week for the first       month and then once a month. Having a timeline will make more sense to salespeople and will also keep them connected. Without a system in place, it’s easy to drop the ball and forget about the customer.

It’s doubtful your competitor will follow up consistently over the next year, but that’s what it might take to close the customer. The follow-up may include a CRM system or having someone on call who is dedicated to helping sales staff become more successful.

With today’s uncertain economy and competitive environment, it’s not uncommon for customers to take longer to decide. Most salespeople will forget the customer after she leaves the store or after the first week. The longer and more consistently the customer stays on your radar, the more likely you are to close the deal.

Continued follow-up also provides a way to measure the effectiveness of your campaign. With this, you will know what doesn’t work and what does so you can do more of the latter. Haphazardly working a follow-up program will yield spotty results. The key is to develop a good system, continue to test it out and refine it.

Once you get your method together you won’t have to worry about the customer who says, “I have to think about it.” You’ll just go to the next step.