19 July 2024, 07:35
By Adam Hankinson Jun 21, 2021

The money tree

What can salespeople learn from the best in the business? With the post-lockdown boom (hopefully) in full swing, now’s the time to get personal and plant the seeds for future success, writes Furniture Sales Solutions' Adam Hankinson …

Have you ever heard of Joe Girard? Joe holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for the greatest ever salesperson. For 14 years, Joe worked for a Chevrolet dealership in Michigan, USA, and in that time, he sold over 13,000 cars and averaged six vehicle sales per day. 

In his best-ever month he sold 174 cars (according to Huffington Post, the average car salesperson sells about 10 cars per month, with even great salespeople selling an average of only 20 a month).

There were five key follow-up strategies that Joe cited for his sales success.

1. Follow up

Within a week of closing a deal, Joe would call the customer to check up on how the car was doing and to make sure they were completely happy with their purchase. Then, if things were going well, he would kindly ask for a referral to a friend or family member. Otherwise, if there was an issue, Joe would go above and beyond to solve it and make the customer happy.

2. Stay front of mind

Every single month, Joe would send greetings cards to his customer list. He knew that most people would want to buy another car at some point in the future and so wanted to ensure that he was top of their mind when that time came around.

Importantly, Joe didn’t send sales messages inside these cards – instead, he gave the recipient value in the form of a local news story, a book review or birthday greeting.

3. Upsell

Joe also utilised this method of continuous communication to let his customers know about other products that the dealership could offer them. He understood that it was far easier to sell to someone who has bought from you before than it is to attract and sell to a whole new customer.

4. Keeping it personal

Sending these cards to the first 10 people that you sell to doesn’t sound like too much work – perhaps even the first 100 sounds quite easy. However, once your client list starts to grow into the thousands like Joe’s did, it’d be very tempting to start sending out mass client emails for the sake of convenience.

Joe, however, knew the value of personalisation, and he even went so far as to keep files with information about every customer – including their family members’ names, birthdays, professions and hobbies – so that he could personalise every message.

Because of this extra step, his customers knew that they were dealing with a real person who actually cared about them, and not just another big corporation only concerned with hitting their sales quota by flogging them any old product.

The modern sales environment is increasingly reliant on tools and hacks to increase the ease and efficiency of every aspect of the sales process, including communication with your customers. However, there are some parts of the sales and follow-up process which are worth spending your time on.

Nearly all of Joe’s business was from recommendation or referral. If he hadn’t taken the time to find out about each and every customer, making sure they were constantly looked after and happy with their purchase, and had instead moved on instantly to the next new customer, he would have been just like every other average salesperson, and his results would have reflected that.

By the time you’re reading this, we’ll hopefully have enjoyed three weeks of buoyant business, with the pent-up demand amplified by the lack of any certainty on when we might be able to enjoy a foreign holiday.

With all these delighted customers, it would make sense to utilise their goodwill to spread the word about your people, products and services.

How many times have you ever been asked by a workman, salesperson or anyone providing you with a service to recommend them to friends or colleagues? I ask this question a lot, and I have never once had anybody say they’ve been asked to do it.

It would be nice to think that happy customers would automatically tell family, friends and colleagues, but unfortunately this doesn’t happen without prompting.

Firstly, of course, you have to have earned the right to ask for referrals, making sure that you have met and exceeded the customers’ expectations and fulfilled their needs completely.

By an overwhelming majority, the usual salesperson’s protocol is to then take a business card, staple it to the receipt, fold the receipt in half, and slip it into a folder. Finally handing it over to the customer, accompanied by the dreaded phrase: “If you’ve got any problems please give me a call.”

And what inevitably happens to that folder? As soon as the customer gets home, they place it in a drawer along with piles of similar paperwork from years gone by, never to be seen again.

There is a simple process, which I have found to be extremely effective as an alternative. Take two of your business cards, handing one over to the customer and telling them with a slight bow that, that one is “just for you, for whenever you need your next sofa/bed/table/etc, or when you start your next project”. 

Next, you take out a second business card, handing it over to the customer with both hands with a slight bow, asking sincerely if they know anyone who would benefit from your services in the future – genuinely asking and waiting for a name before letting the customer take the card.

This does a couple of things. First, it imparts more value on the business card, as if the card was a representation of you, the salesperson. Handing them over in this slow and deliberate manner makes the customer feel as though you’re giving them something of high value – namely the person that they should be dealing with. They will then, therefore, be far less likely to throw away or discard the card, because it represents a person.

Secondly, having the customer name a referral plants this in their mind, meaning that they’re much more likely to actually hand the card over to them.

Coincidentally, this ties in to Joe’s fifth (and most important) point …

5. Always ask for a referral – but only at the right time

Think of business cards as money tree seeds that, when properly planted, produce a warm, smiling lead on a wet Wednesday afternoon that comes into the store asking for you – even though you’ve never spoken to them before. Please try it – I promise it works.

Image courtesy of pixabay.com/eko pramono

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