On a recent Saturday, I went online to find a local supplier of a business product. Finding a website of a company that I thought could provide me with a quality product, I filled out a form requesting information, and clicked "submit."
I immediately received two email replies. The first confirmed my login and password for future use, and the second confirmed my request for a quote.
Just before noon on Monday, I called the company, as no further communication had been received. The person who answered the telephone told me my contact had not yet arrived in the office, but my name and number was taken, and I was assured that my call would be returned promptly.
The next day, Tuesday, having not heard back from the individual that I called for the previous day, I made a second call. It was just after noon.
This time, when I called, I spoke to the owner of the company, who assured me in no uncertain terms that the person I was searching for would, in fact, call me that very afternoon.
I did hear back later that day from the gentleman as promised. He left me a voicemail message. That message was professional, short and to the point; he provided the quote I sought.
This particular industry has been hard hit over the course of the last few years. One owner in the industry I know stated: "Just when I think we have hit the bottom, the bottom falls out again." Meaning, the industry is still shrinking.
This might lead any reasonable person to believe that when a sales lead comes in from whatever source, it should be followed up on until the prospect either buys or says, "no."
Companies have downsized and things fall through the cracks. In my mind, that would be a sign that companies who want business have an immediate need to "up their game," especially when it comes to following up on prospective business opportunities.
But there are other issues in play in my story.
The first is the immediate follow up via automatic email messages. When I received them, I was impressed at the prompt response, and felt assured that the company would respond on the next business day with what I was seeking, a quote.
The second is that I had to pick up the phone to call the sales person on Monday before they had a chance to call, email or text me. When someone answers the phone and tells me the company's representative "isn't in yet," despite the fact that it is past noon on a Monday, it raises some questions.
I would have liked to have heard is: "So-and-so is visiting clients this morning, but his calendar shows he will be in by 1 p.m. and will return all calls and quotes no later than 3 p.m. today."
The fact that I did not hear from the sales person for another 24 hours, and had to call the company again, speaks volumes about the sales person and the sales management system.
Third, perhaps the commission opportunity for the sales person was not appealing enough. Maybe the order was more work and effort than it was worth; maybe the business opportunity I offered was not profitable, either short term or long term.
Those things might be true, and if the company had stated that their minimum order was a certain dollar amount, I could have made a decision to proceed with my request for quote or sought another vendor.
But lacking this knowledge, I made a decision to secure a quote for a product.
Fourth, let me address the linked issues of follow-up and sense of urgency. To quote Neal Boortz, "The revered 40-hour workweek is for losers. Forty hours should be considered the minimum, not the maximum. You don't see highly successful people clocking out of the office every afternoon at five. ... The winners drive home in the dark." Nowadays, they drive to work in the dark as well.
Since that voicemail message was left on Tuesday afternoon, I have not heard back from the sales person. My bet is I won't.
Fifth, notice the subject of price never came up. I wasn't looking for the cheapest or the most expensive product, I was searching for a quality product from a quality producer.
Business owners: Plug the leaks in the sales process, and fill your bank account accordingly. There are dollars out there for you to take.
Ken Keller is president of STAR Business Consulting Inc., helping top executives make better decisions. He can be reached at (661) 645-7086 or KenKeller@SBCglobal.net.