“How’s it going?” is NOT a Good Call Strategy

in Opening Statements

Sales 101 tells us that it easier and more profitable to sell more to an existing customer than to try and get a new one, we should do whatever we can to nurture existing customers, and our good customers are our best source of referrals.

But so many sales reps either neglect their customers, or make lame, haphazard half-attempts at really servicing their customers and therefore building profitable relationships.

Case in point: The “How’s it going?” and “Just checking in…” calls.

What wastes of time. Worse, potentially damaging.

Here’s a personal example.

I had leased a vehicle from a local dealer. The young sales rep was enthusiastic, but didn’t do a particularly good job of selling. I was in no hurry to buy, but he was in a huge, seemingly desperate rush to sell.

As a result, he kept lowering his price, and finally hit a point that was too good to pass up.

Over the next several weeks I received a few calls on my cell phone voice mail from the relatively new sales rep, each one pretty much the same:

“Hey, just wanted to be sure everything is OK with the car.Give me a call.”

Well, to me that is a worthless call, and I felt there was another motive. If everything was not OK, I would certainly have let them know. I never did return the calls.

Finally, after a few more voice messages,  I answered (I guess you can attribute it to persistence, or just wearing me down.)

The call went the same as the others:

“How’s everything going with the car?”

Just fine, I replied.

“OK. Know anyone else looking for a car?”, he then asked.

Not right now, I told him.

I did have a small issue though… they were to arrange to get my license plates to me and it was past the time they had promised.  So I asked him,

“By the way, I still have not received my plates yet. Can you check on that?”

He assured me he would.  He never did get back to me, and I handled it on my own.

Several sales points here:

1. Some people might say the “Want to be sure everything is OK”-call is good customer service. No, usually it is a thin disguise for a self-serving motive, which it was in this case: asking for a referral. I’m not saying don’t call. Do. But have something of value or interest as the reason. He had known the issue about the plates before, so he should have called with an update on them. Or some other news, or something of value like info on the free oil changes I was promised.

2. I’m all for asking for referrals. The best time to do it is when you have just been told how good you are, or how much someone enjoys your product.

3. If someone is going to make the effort to place a call to supposedly find out if “everything is going OK” and then is told it is not (no plates yet), shouldn’t they then follow through to give the appearance that they truly care that everything is OK? I believe so.

Of course calling existing customers is your best source of additional business and referrals. The key is making someone feel that every time they speak with you they had gained by doing so.

I’d like to see comments from those of you making calls to regular customers, and what types of value-add reasons you have for calling. Please share below.

 

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian Knox July 17, 2013 at 7:52 pm

I work for a trucking company and I do legwork for my customers to ease the heachaches that arise from moving stuff from point A to B.
Forgive me if this one is so simple it falls into the “duh” category.
But anytime I quote a current customer (offer them pricing on a potential load or project), I put a reminder in my Outlook to follow up.
Yes, it results in me getting ‘reminder’ pop ups all through out the day, but then I can call that customer to follow up and they realize I have a vested interest in helping their business. Win-Win.
*People may be quoting your customers all day long, but not everybody is following up on their quotes. We’ve got to master the fundamentals.
Brian (877-272-6513)

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Jason Ellis July 17, 2013 at 8:03 pm

At our company, normally the second call after the initial sale is made, would be about a week later and would be to gather information and build report with our customer letting them know that we are actively taking care of them. ” I wanted to follow up with you as promised ” Chit chat a little, maybe bring up some main personal points from the initial call, birthdays, trips, kids, etc.. We don’t leave any money on the table, so we ask questions to find out exactly what items they are using that we can not only provide, but give them a bettter value with..

The 3rd callback, we have a goal, based on their usage and assume they will place a larger, more profitable order for the company, with incentives for doing so of course. We start with our numbers high, because you can always change the offer to less if you have to, but it’s almost impossibe to start low and work your numbers up. The more product of ours they have on the shelf, the less likely someone would be to swoop in and get our business. On that same note, taking care of them better than anyone else can will help lock that customer in. If we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will!

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Jason McCants July 17, 2013 at 9:02 pm

I agree with what is being said here, both in the main article and in the comment section, however I would add that it is important to be genuine in one’s desire to nurture a relationship with a client; no hidden agenda. Be friendly. Be friends. Show up or call just because you were thinking about them and wanted to say hi, and talk about what they want to discuss, whether it be business, world news, friends, family, whatever. If this person has something to say to you about your product or service, it will come up in the conversation, just be patient and let them bring it up.

I have found great success over the years with this approach. It doesn’t take much time to implement, usually 5 to 15 minutes once a month or so, but it does go a long way to getting repeat business and referrals.

Good luck to everyone, and thanks, Art, for sharing your wisdom and knowledge so freely. Your tips and advice have helped me again and again, and I truly appreciate you and what you are doing for the art of Smart Calling.

Cheers!

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Gary Slavin July 17, 2013 at 9:20 pm

I am constantly checking news e-mails, Websites, local papers and trade magazines for articles and information of value to my existing clients. Once I have some valuable information about an industry trend, competitor or even news about the client’s company that they may not have seen, I call them or send them an e-mail, based on their communication preference. I find doing so keeps me in front of them and shows them I am genuinely interested in them, their company and their success. I never call just to touch base and they soon learn that when I do call it means I have something of value for them.

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Darren Betts July 18, 2013 at 12:43 am

I agree that you should always have something interesting to say when you’re ‘checking in’ with a client, to avoid becoming annoying. Although, the intention of the call is often to just ensure that all deliverables are being met and that there isn’t any dissatisfaction left to fester, and to of course foster the relationship. Your story regarding the car lease is a little contradictory however — the rep followed up clumsily but there indeed was a problem (the plates) and if he had managed to rectify this, I’m sure you would have a different view of the transaction. The real point is, be informed about the client deliverables, have something of value to client to mention, and if there are any issues – actively demonstrate a commitment to solving them. Just my 2c.

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Robert Lehrer July 19, 2013 at 8:10 pm

My grandfather, who was a fabulously successful sales executive used to talk about this topic with me. He’d train his sales people (in the 1940’s and 1950’s) to NEVER use the words “checking in”. He’d say “if I was a prospect who you say that to, I’d tell you to check OUT.” In other words, “get out of here.”

The worst mistake that the young sales person at the auto dealer made was not finding out about Art’s license plates and getting back to him immediately. If he had done that, Art may have ignored his “checking in” mistake. But his lack of follow up and sincerity magnified his screw-up.

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