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Prospecting Does Not End With The Sale – Keep Asking

Last weekend I went to a family reunion of a good friend of mine.  The reunion happens every year around this time and I look forward to it because it gives me a chance to connect with folks I haven’t seen in a while.  My buddy flies in from Hawaii and it is the only time of year I get to spend any time with him.  I have known him since 1979 and, oh yeah, we met in detention.  You get the idea.

His mother has always been like a second mother to me…ready to shower us with either discipline or praise, (mostly discipline), whenever the need arose.  She travels to Europe to visit family whenever she can and I asked her if she had gone this year.  She told me her twin brother was not well and she had begun to make plans to go see him in a few months.  Visiting family abroad is always more complicated than planning a trip to the Caribbean for five days so she was starting now for travel plans in the fall.

The fact she has a twin brother took me by surprise and I began to digest the newly found knowledge so as not to forget it.  I thought I had known enough of my friend’s family not to be caught off guard but, well, I was caught off guard.  I just assumed I knew and stopped asking questions.

Sales isn’t any different.  A good example is a very loyal customer of mine that had for over a decade.  After a while of developing this account, I had stopped asking questions about their needs settled into a comfortable client/vendor routine.  Being one of my top five accounts, I had put more effort into developing the marginal accounts than trying to continue to grow this one.

So one day, during a casual conversation, I mentioned a deal I had been working on for another client involving document cameras.  For those of you unfamiliar with document cameras, think of them as electronic versions of the over-head projectors we went to school with 30 years ago.

“Too bad I didn’t know you sold document cameras.” She said.

“Why’s that?” I answered as the ice ball began to grow in my stomach.

“Because we just launched a district-wide initiative and put one in every classroom.  200 units.”

The ice ball fell through my insides.  At 500 dollars a unit, it would have been an order to make any of my months a good one.

It was a tough lesson to learn and it made me realize a few things.  First of all, I hadn’t made it clear to my customer what I was able to provide.  I had simply assumed that because others knew I had document cameras, so did she.    Secondly, I had stopped asking questions.  I thought I knew all there was to know about my customer and I was wrong.  Customers’ environments are constantly evolving and you have to regularly ask questions and inquire about what is important to them or you will be far behind the curve of those salespeople that actually take the time to ask.  Finally, I realized how simple and easy it is to get into a rut in sales.  You have to find a way to keep yourself fresh to your clients or they won’t know what you and your company bring to the table.

With the example above, I had not listened to any of those rules.

You have to ask questions.  That’s it.  Prospecting doesn’t end with the sale.  You then have to prospect for the next opportunity for the same customer.  Keep digging and if your able to provide a new service or a product, make sure to reeducate the customer about you.

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