So, you have created a customer, you’ve actually sold something, and you have some money in the bank. Feel free to celebrate and luxuriate in the good feelings that bubble out of you. That’s one of the fringe benefits to selling – it feels great when you succeed.
Before you become too enraptured with yourself, let me remind that you are not finished. There is a greater goal and a larger and more encompassing strategy into which this transaction fits. If you focus all of your time and energy on creating sales, you will, unfortunately, miss the mark.
It’s Not All About the Sale
In a very fundamental sense, in face-to-face, one-on-one selling, the ultimate goal is something larger and more significant than the sale itself. It is the creation of a positive business relationship because the relationship supersedes the transaction and makes all future transactions much easier and more profitable. Think of that annuity.
For example, if you have a great experience with the place from which you bought your TV, you are much more likely to go back there again. The next time, you are inclined to buy from them, less likely to price shop, and more likely to be less critical and demanding. You may even tell your friends about that place.
It’s About Relationships
From the seller’s point of view, he has succeeded in creating a relationship with you such that you are favorably inclined to come back, buy again, and refer your friends. The second sale is so much easier than the first because now you are less risk to the buyer. That’s the net result of a positive business relationship.
And the ultimate positive business relationship is something I call a “Partner.” A partner is someone who trusts you, believes you consistently bring value to him, sees you and your company as an integral part of his business, and buys almost everything he can from you.
Your fundamental, long term strategy is to develop and nurture a passel of partners. Your partners then become an asset to your organization, providing years of revenue, in the same way, that a brand or product line is an asset to the company. You can’t note them on your balance sheet, but they are, nevertheless, one of the sources of future wealth for both you and your company.
Suspects to Prospects to Customers
Your fundamental strategy begins with the land of apathy and ignorance, in which your suspects live. They don’t know who you are, and they don’t care. Your job is to reach into the land of apathy and ignorance and identify people who you suspect might one day do business with you. Then, you learn something about them and eliminate those who aren’t really prospects to focus on those who are prospects. With those who are prospects, you engage with them, make them comfortable with you, find out what they want, show them how what you have gives them what they want, gain an agreement on the next step and BINGO, you have a sale! You have created a customer.
Clients to Partners
Now, notice the next two steps in the process. When a customer buys over and over from you, he becomes a “client.” And some clients will be so enamored by the value of what you bring and the ease of doing business with you that they will commit to doing a lot of business with you. They become “partners”.
The process of moving customers to clients and clients to partners throws off money, almost as a fringe benefit. Before they can become partners, they have to become clients. And, in order to move from being a customer (someone who buys from you once) to clients, they have to believe that you bring them value and can meet their needs on an on-going basis. Ergo, the ROF call.
One of the most powerful one-on-one sales calls you can make is what I call the ROF call. That stands for “Relationship building, Opportunity identifying, Follow up” call.
It’s the sales call you make after the customer has purchased and implemented your offer. For the realtor, it’s the call you make on your buyers after they have moved into their new home. For the car salesperson, it’s the phone call after the customer has driven off the lot with the new car. For the B2B salesperson, it’s the visit you make after they have begun to use your new service or product. And for our free-lance grant writer, it is the visit you arrange after the grant application has been submitted.
Why would you do it? After all, you’ve made the sale. You do it because you understand the bigger picture. It’s not just about this sale; it’s about the relationship.
It’s powerful because it’s unusual. When was the last time you had a salesperson contact you after the purchase? Since you will be one of the very few salespeople who actually care enough to follow up after the sale, you will stand out, head and shoulders, above your competitors.
Fifteen years ago, I needed to hold a small meeting with about eight of my customers. I rented a small conference room for a couple of hours in a local hotel. No meals or rooms involved. Just a small conference room. I think it cost $25.00. It was probably the smallest sale that the meetings department of that hotel could make. Two days after the meeting, I received a phone call from the salesperson who rented the room to me.
“Was everything satisfactory?” she wanted to know. “Was the room clean, the temperature OK?”
I was so impressed by the fact that she cared enough to call that I recommended that hotel consistently, and used it for every local meeting I held for the next 15 years.
The ROF call is powerful for one more, very specific and tangible reason. It often produces additional opportunities. At the end of this very specific sales call, you ask for other opportunities.
Here’s how you do it. After you have delivered what they purchased from you, then call them for an appointment. When you are one-on-one with them, first ask about their satisfaction with what they bought. At this point, either one or two things will happen. They will indicate they are satisfied or they weren’t. If they weren’t, you need to apologize and do whatever you can to fix it. It’s good that you found out right now before it has a chance to fester and spread to other potential customers.
If they are satisfied, great. Confirm it. Then ask them what other opportunities they have for you and your service or product in the near future. If they indicate something, good for you, you have an additional opportunity to work on. (You have ‘found out what they want’ again) If they don’t, it’s OK.
You’re Not Done Yet
But you are not done yet. Now, you want to probe for external opportunities. These are potential relationships and opportunities for you outside of the confines of this customer’s reach. Does he know other people to whom he can refer you? In a large organization, it could be other departments or plants. In a smaller one, it could be business colleagues. For an individual, it could be friends and neighbors.
If they provide you with a name or two, you now have a short cut into an engagement with a “right person”. And you are back at the start of the sales process with someone else. Since you have a recommendation from a trusted reference, you are entering that engagement with an advantage.
So, you have made a ROF call and wrung additional value out of the transaction.
But what if they have no near-term additional opportunities? How do you develop a positive business relationship with this customer when there is no reasonable expectation of additional business in the short term?
Think in terms of “top of mind awareness.” Known in the advertising world as TOMA. TOMA means that you work to keep your name, or your company’s name, or your products, on the customer’s mind, so that, when the time comes for him to buy again, he thinks first of you.
Now, think in terms of “touches.” Touches are light, non-intensive communications from or about you to your customers that spotlight your name, and keep you at the top of their minds.
Together They Work
Now, put those two concepts together – TOMA touches. That’s the answer to the question, “How do you develop a positive business relationship with this customer when there is no reasonable expectation of near term business?
TOMA touches are all around us. When you receive that birthday card from your life insurance agent, that’s a TOMA touch. When you receive that quarterly newsletter from the realtor who helped you buy or sell your last home, that’s a TOMA touch. Those emails from that investment newsletter you signed up for? A TOMA touch. That calendar that was mailed to you by people from whom you buy your auto insurance? A TOMA touch.
The Common Elements
Notice that they all have some common elements. They are personal, addressed to you by name. They carry the name and contact information of the seller. They reflect positively on him/her. And they are light and non-intrusive.
In the B2B world, TOMA touches can be creative. They can range from a fun exhibit at the trade show or convention, to the gift basket delivered at Christmas.
Anything you can do to make your touch stand out and get noticed will be worthwhile. For example, in my world, where all my client’s vendors send Christmas cards, I send Thanksgiving cards. (Now don’t everybody go out and do this!) Instead of being buried in the pack of Christmas cards, because mine is unusual, it stands out.
For years I called on hospitals. It was a common practice for many of the vendors to bring in Christmas gift baskets. I arranged with my wife, who is a gourmet cook, to create a large variety of home-made cookies and candies. We’d package them in disposable water carafes and bedpans, wrap them in colored cellophane, and take them to my customers. Believe me, everyone else’s gift basket looked like a third-string bench player compared to my superstar TOMA touch.
The possibilities for TOMA touches are endless. Think in terms of all the electronic communications possible: Twitter, LinkedIn, email, etc. Then think about hard-copy touches, like calendars, imprinted pens, self-stick note pads with your name on them, etc. There are entire catalogs brimming over with these kinds of possibilities. Don’t forget personalized birthday and holiday cards.
Explore more extensive and expensive possibilities as well. Remember my bedpans packed with home-made candies and cookies. Consider, if it is appropriate for your business, joining organizations to which your customers belong. The trade associations, Rotary clubs, etc. all provide you an opportunity to keep your name at the top of their mind by mingling with them live and in person.