When you tie a bow on a gift, you might feel like the work is done. But to strategically delight the person who receives it, there's more to do: Attend the gift-giving event, deliver the gift, and clean up afterward, at the very least.
The same is true of sales. After the prospect has signed, follow-up work is required to set the stage for a long-term customer relationship. Even then, constant tweaks are needed to ensure that future sales go smoothly.
What does that follow-up work look like? It depends on the product and the person who bought it, of course, but a few strategies apply generally:
1. Dump every detail into your CRM
A cloud-based CRM software like Salesforce can help you not just close deals faster, but also make it easier for your entire team to manage client relationships. Salesforce can help you build relationships with clients and collaborate more effectively with your other team members.
Contact and contract information should be in your CRM, of course, but so should lots of other information you might have learned during the sales process:
Schedule preferences, such as prime working hours and "never ever" hours
Demographic information, such as age, gender, and location
Psychographic details, like hobbies
"Hot button" topics, either positive or negative, that may engage or disengage the client
What if you're not sure if something belongs in a CRM profile? Add it anyway: Unless it's outright inaccurate, account managers welcome any and all information you can share about their clients.
2. Follow up immediately
Communication, both with clients and between teams, is essential for a seamless handoff. If you aren't communicating properly with clients, they won't be around for long; if you aren't giving the full story to your team, you may not be around for long.
Use software tools to standardize and streamline this process. I personally have used email automation apps like Mixmax to set up templates, sequences, and automate manual tasks. I typically use them for both types of communication.
With new clients: When you bring a new client on, there's probably a standard set of details you need to share. Why not template information like:
Timeline for deliverables
Expectations for communicating with account managers
Frequently asked questions
Sales feedback survey invitations
With colleagues: In a similar way, the people you work with expect certain information when a new account comes on board. Set them up for success by using email automation to:
Schedule account health checks
Setting up "try this" suggestions via chained emails
Templating resource guides, such as partner agencies
Asking for feedback on the handoff
3. Set expectations for the customer experience.
What happens once a customer comes on board but before the work is done? The customer experience. Making yours as strong as possible will help you close more sales and retain more customers.
Put together a post-sale plan. To make sure everything goes smoothly after the prospect signs:
Craft a follow-up email, and via that email, schedule two phone calls to ensure you and your client are on the same page
An introductory phone call to introduce the client to their new main points of contact
An informational phone call about what the client’s program will look like moving forward
Use an instant messaging tool like Slack to announce the sale to your team. The earlier your team members know a new client in the pipeline, the more time they have to prepare to deliver a great service. Shared channels on Slack allow you to connect with the right people, streamline communication, and share information faster.
4. Practice careful task management
Once you know your workflow, it's critical to employ a task management tool, like Trello. This will give everyone in your organization, not just project managers, a visual view of what is being worked on and by whom.
Trello provides your team with a board where you can create lists and move items from left to right. In sales, Trello boards are best used to get everyone on the same page about where leads and prospects are in your pipeline. As you move a card or a list of tasks from left to right, you help team members know when they need to do their part.
To use Trello effectively:
Make your board easy to understand. Teamwork requires everyone to be on the same page, and boards get complicated quickly. The eye will naturally see the top left card on the board first, so use that card to provide an in-depth explanation of each board.
Hire enough account managers. Salespeople may feel pressured to keep moving accounts through the pipeline, even when your account team’s capacity is full. If cards are piling up in the "onboard" column, it’s a good sign you need more account management staff.
Adjust your board as needs change. You may feel pressure for your board to be perfect the first time you create it, but this won't be the case. In fact, you can and should tweak your board as your needs change. Maybe a checklist becomes so big that it needs its own board, or perhaps your workflow isn't as smooth as you thought it would be.
5. Always be improving
Companies that care about their sales experiences are constantly looking for ways to improve them. What gets measured improves, so keep a close eye on your sales data. Look for opportunities to improve efficiency, salespeople who might need an extra hand, and sales team members who are going above and beyond.
Both across the team and for individual sales representatives, keep an eye on:
Monthly sales volume: This metric is perhaps the single best way to judge the team's performance, as well as that of individual salespeople. Emphasize continuing education for salespeople who consistently lag behind the top performers.
Close rate: This measure of sales effectiveness ensures salespeople are spending their time wisely. Close rates vary widely across industries, so look for outliers. Ask salespeople who overperform to share their secrets.
Employee net promoter score: Salespeople are burning out faster than ever. Keeping them engaged is key to a great customer experience.
Hours worked: Another metric associated with burnout, hours worked can balloon without adequate sales support. Salespeople should not be working more than 55 hours per week, and ideally no more than 45 hours per week.
Performance of web pages and landing pages: Although this doesn't apply on an individual basis, the online portion of your sales process is important to optimize. Remember, your web content is typically a lead's first impression of your company.
Ask people across your company to pitch in. Every role touches sales in some way: The tech team can make web pages load faster. HR can brainstorm ways to enrich your company culture, which can boost sales engagement. Accounting can keep a closer eye on the books, ensuring that you receive the payments you were promised with fewer follow-ups. Marketers can share personalized content with prospects to boost close rates.
Add it all up, and you'll improve your sales experience slowly but surely. No one piece — communication, automation, project management, or tech — will make a night-and-day difference. Only by making small, iterative improvements every day will you see the results in your year-end sales figures.