To increase idea-selling success, boost follow-up with internal clients.
by Sam Harrison
Because of hail damage, we needed a new roof. I solicited three estimates, and one roofing firm’s salesperson far outshined the others. Barry was polished and personable. We hit it off immediately. That night I told my wife about Barry’s visit, and we agreed to move ahead with his firm.
But then – no Barry. He had promised to fax an estimate bright and early the next morning. But when I phoned him late afternoon to check on its whereabouts, he apologized, saying he’d been hit with a big job. No worries, he said, I’d have the estimate in a few hours. It didn’t arrive until the next night. And when I left voice mails with a few questions, he took another day or two to respond.
In the end, we hired another company. Its rep was absent in the personality department, but he gave an estimate on time and returned calls within minutes. I felt I could count on him to make sure the job was done right.
Follow-up is a secret ingredient of successful selling. Yet it’s overlooked again and again. You probably have your own sad tales of times when a salesperson dropped the ball. And you probably took your business elsewhere.
Following-up is just as critical when you’re selling ideas to in-house audiences. Unfortunately, follow-up is especially easy to dismiss when dealing with internal clients. After all, you’ll no doubt cross paths with these folks in hallways, cafeterias and meeting rooms. Do you really need structured follow-up procedures after every presentation?
You bet. Follow-up builds momentum toward final approvals. By following through after an idea pitch, you nail down credibility. You open channels for feedback. And you let clients know you care about their wants and needs.
Here are six tips for following-up:
1. Tell client how you’ll follow-up.
Before leaving the meeting, review what happens next. If the idea was accepted, discuss implementation steps. If the idea was rejected or needs revisions, suggest next steps and time frames.
2. Make post-meeting notes.
Back at your workspace, sequester yourself and immediately review the presentation on paper. Write a short summary of the meeting. Then list questions asked, objections raised, insights gained and next steps.
3. Download with your team.
Hold a download session with team members involved with the idea (regardless of whether or not they participated in the presentation). Talk about what went right, what went wrong. Discuss decision-maker reactions, lessons learned, tips for next time and action steps.
4. Pause before acting.
Take a break before making decisions or jumping into action. Give your mind time to calm down and adjust, especially if the session didn’t meet your expectations. Things always appear differently after lunch or the next day.
5. Send thank-you notes.
If you’re dealing with top executives you rarely encounter, consider handwritten notes. But for most internal clients, e-mails will do the job. Keep these short and sweet, simply thanking decision makers for their time and feedback.
6. Send a summary.
Within forty-eight hours, provide decision makers with a concise, written summary of the meeting, action steps and timetables.
Sam Harrison is a speaker, workshop leader and writer on creativity-related topics. His latest book, IdeaSelling: Successfully pitch your creative ideas to bosses, clients and other decision makers, was released in May by HOW Books. He is also the author of IdeaSpotting: How to find your next great idea, and Zing!: Five steps and 101 tips for creativity on command. His website is www.zingzone.com.