The Lost Art of Follow Up
Agribusiness sales are long-term relationships, putting in the work is key
Imagine you are a buyer of products. Products like the one’s you sell. You have been buying from Company ABC for the last 15 years. ABC has been great to work with. They provide you with quality products, help you out when there are emergencies in your business, and give you fair pricing. Chuck, the ABC salesman has been your sales rep the whole time. At times, ABC has had a few problems as any company does. But, the relationship between your business and ABC is fairly good.
It’s Wednesday morning and as that buyer, you are busy reviewing spreadsheets when in walks Jody. Jody is new in the market and sells for XYZ. You know XYZ and even bought a few products from them over the years. However, they never were able to meet the quality of ABC, they weren’t able to hold onto their sales people and you avoided them when they called on you.
If Jody wants to have a chance of selling this buyer, she has to understand this situation and understand it from that buyer’s point of view. No matter the price or monthly special offers, that buyer does not consider Jody nor XYZ a credible vendor.
Agribusiness sales are typically long-term relationships that revolve around a high level of trust. To build that trust with the buyer, Jody is going to have to put in the time. And time means multiple sales calls. Jody will have to work on the relationship first and then on the products she has to offer. Her challenge is that the buyer will rarely reveal the relationship issues first. He will focus on the products and pricing. Jody will need to dig in with good questions to get the relationship going.
- Why is Following Up called a Lost Art
It’s lost because few people talk about it. Even sales training programs spend very little time on it. They typically get to the end of day two in training and say, “We’re out of time and won’t cover the next section. So, Follow Up on what you promised during the sales call”. Leaving the student with no idea of how to actually get a follow up appointment. It’s an Art because, as the sales person, you have to find a reason to come back for the next appointment. And that reason is discovered during the current sales call, at full speed while you are conducting a sales call.
- Why is it the most important step in the sales process?
Normally, any prospect will give you the first sales call. But, rarely does a prospect buy on the first call. It’s sales call #3,4,5….25, 26 and beyond that become increasingly difficult to get. Why? Because you need to find a relevant reason to come back.
- Dig Deep to Uncover Opportunities!
- Ask a lot of questions, question a lot of the answers, take a tour, walk the fields, walk the cows, ask “why” a lot of times.
- Take great notes so you don’t forget.
- Learn more than you are taught: After you get home from the appointment, go to that great research institution called Google and start learning about what you discovered on your sales call. Find relevant information, especially about any problem areas the buyer discussed. If you are lucky enough to have a research department, reach out to them and discuss what you learned on the sales call. Same goes for other departments in your company: manufacturing, distribution, customer service and yes, even accounting.
- How long and how often do I keep going back?
- We’ve all seen the different posts that say it takes 5 calls to sell an account and that 40, 50, 80% of sales people never make 2nd, 3rd, or 4th sales calls. There are different versions out there, but the point is – few people have the persistence to keep going back. Be one of those few!
- My opinion is that you keep going back if you have relevant reasons to go back.
- Secondly, you honor their timelines. If they tell you to not come back for 4 months, then that’s what you do.
As you head out into your territory and start calling on buyers or farmers, keep their perspective in mind as you ask them to buy your products. It takes time, persistence, relevance and a combination of art and skill to keep following up until they become your customer. Once trust is established, the sale will follow.