By Patrick Chapman
What is the one thing you can do that most Territory Managers do not do well that will dramatically impact your success this year? The survey says…Follow Up!
Unbelievably, only one in eight sales professionals have a clear follow-up plan. That represents an incredible opportunity. If you follow up at all you will have a distinct advantage over your competition.
The role of the territory manager is best viewed with a long lens. It takes time to gain trust. The beginning of a lasting relationship with a local contractor is to ask questions that help you discover what matters most to them. Part of this involves their goals for the company. Part of this involves defining what they are looking for in a territory manager.
Years ago, when I was a new TM, I met an established dealer who had been in the area over four decades. When I walked in, he greeted me with words I will never forget. “So which version are you?” He told me every few years a new TM would show up with new things they wanted him to participate in to help the TM hit their goals for the year.
I said the only thing that made sense in that moment. Well, sir, I would like to be the first to change that. Helping you is my primary goal. He simply said, “OK, we will see.” I would love to tell you that I left that day with his business. That did not happen. What did begin that day was the start of a relationship that ultimately bore a lot of fruit for both of us. Consistent, purposeful follow-up was the key.
I would submit to you that there are three times to follow up with a customer.
When they say Yes, No, or Not Now.
Let’s begin with the one that should be most obvious. You should follow up if your customer says yes. A yes means you have succeeded at asking the right questions and discovering their goals. You have also shown how you; your products, services, and promotions can help them achieve their targets moving forward.
Ironically, the number one complaint among contractors across markets is they felt important to the TM until they said yes. The yes is not the end, it is just the beginning. Establish a clear plan of implementation. Follow the adage: WWDWW. This stands for Who Will Do What When. Define each of these areas for you and the contractor. The best way to complement follow-up is to follow through. This is where you develop a relationship and trust with a contractor that leads to loyal, lasting partnerships.
The second time to follow up is if they say No.
There is a gentleman on the show Shark Tank named Kevin O’Leary. He is affectionately known to fans of the show as Mr. Wonderful. If Mr. Wonderful offers you a deal and you do not take it, his next words are “You are dead to me!” Unfortunately, that is the way many respond to a customer who does not say yes immediately. Many of your best customers will require pursuit over time. The key is who will be top of mind when they have a need.
Getting a no today is usually not no forever. No to one part of what you offer is not a no to everything. Most of you have a diverse offering of products, services, and resources to help contractors grow their business. Find what is the best fit for them at the time. Often starting with a small part of what you offer can lead to more in the future. Exceed expectations with what you have been asked to do. As they see your diligence, good things will happen.
The third time to follow up is if they say Not Now.
Not now is not a no. It’s actually a soft yes. They like something about you, your products, or your services. Now may not be the best time to make a change. Maybe they are in the middle of an agreement with another TM that they must finish first.
A dealer who will finish a program he started before making a change shows integrity. You will appreciate that one day when the shoe is on the other foot. If you can pull people out of commitments they have made, someone will return that favor to you down the road.
For the Not Now customer, learn the time frame of their decision. Stay in touch. Continue to add value with every interaction. Share posts, blogs, and industry articles. Include awards and distinctions for both your products and you as a local provider. Make sure to include what other customers are saying about their experience with you and your team.
Follow-up is critical to sustained success. Since very few do this well, applying these strategies will help you see lasting results with your customers.
Patrick Chapman, with 20 years of HVAC industry experience, has worked in Sales, Service Management, Installation Inspections, HR, and Territory Management for a major distributor. He joined Grandy in 2017 as a trainer and consultant, providing engaging learning environments and assisting contractors in unlocking greater profitability and discovering the pathway to consistently achieve their goals.