Clients expect service, but agents, salespeople, and clients often have trouble defining “service”.
Driving across town to deliver donuts often gets listed as a service call. Dropping in to see how things are going often appears on weekly call reports as service. To some sales agents, service is what they do when they don’t feel like selling. Service can be a way to put off more important activities. Servicing your customer is very important. Just be careful. Don’t use service calls as a way to convince yourself that you’re selling. A service call should have definable objectives.
One problem with service calls is that there’s very little short-term reward for doing it. Few agents or sales managers greet returning salespeople at the end of the day with, “Did you provide great service to your clients today?” Instead, managers ask, “Who did you sell today?” There’s more financial reward for, and more attention paid to selling than to servicing.
Let’s define SERVICE as anything that builds trust and confidence in you, your company, and the services you provide to the customer. The following is a list of potential customer service and contact ideas that are specific and measurable. You can use this list to plan what you will do right after you make the sale.
- Write thank you notes. I sometimes write as many as 10 thank you notes per day. I’ve made sales calls where I’ve seen my handwritten notes on my clients’ desk months later. Carry cards in your car and fill them out at the end of the call while still in the customer’s parking lot.
- Bring coffee and donuts. It’s cheaper than buying lunch, and most of the time easier for your client. Get stickers to put on the box with the logo and your agency’s telephone number. This gives you a dozen chances to register name awareness. It helps to be known by many people in the organization from the boardroom to the breakroom.
- Help clients with long-term planning and strategizing. Offer to participate on a project planning team.
- Return all phone calls immediately. The simple act of returning a phone call can differentiate you from the competition.
- Establish a follow-up schedule. Remember that last month’s no may be this month’s yes. Try to touch base with prospects regularly without being intrusive. Also, group prospects according to when you expect them to buy (within 30 days, within 60 days, etc.). Consider their unique shipping cycles. Is their product seasonal? Do they have a contract expiring soon with another carrier? When will they accept bids? The sooner you expect a prospect to buy, the more frequently you should stay in touch. Design a follow-up contact calendar to help you keep track of your prospects and the contacts you make with them.
- Vary your modes of contact. A call or email will have more impact if it’s reinforced with another form of contact. Follow phone calls with an email outlining the highlights of your conversation and confirming any action steps your prospect approved. Call your prospects and current customers within a week after you send an email to confirm receipt and offer to discuss any questions or issues they may have. Personalize your method of contact and show your customers that you’re persistent in your desire to help them.
- Send literature sparingly. Withholding literature selectively keeps your service information (late pick-ups, customized billing, early delivery, etc.) customized for each individual prospect. Use your customers’ requests for information to gauge their level of interest in your service.
- Make buying fun. Selling doesn’t have to be all serious business. Relax; show them you’re at ease with what you’re doing. Adopt an energized, off-the-wall approach to show your customers you’re a forward-thinking, innovative go-getter. You don’t have to sacrifice professionalism to make buying an energizing, enjoyable experience that will keep your customers coming back.
- Most importantly, do what you promised, do it when you promised, and do it more often than the competition. Constant communication is the key to building a lasting relationship with customers and prospects. You must stay in touch.
- Many customers are suspicious of freight salesmen. They think that we’re there at the time of the sale but not when they need us if something goes wrong. Many people get buyer’s remorse. Soon after the sale they think, “Did I make the right decision? Maybe I should have chosen someone else.” When they get that follow-up email or phone call, or they experience the other customer service techniques discussed here, it makes them think, “Yes, I made the right decision.”
So start today— Make service an integral part of your sales strategy.