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Follow-up Or Fall Down - Part 1

Furniture World Magazine


Shy or uneasy about making follow-up calls? Don't like rejection? Here are some sure fire ways to follow-up successfully and consistently.

At the beginning of my retail career, my boss instructed me to call my prospects back within three days of their visit to the store.

Well, I'd just sit there. I'd look at that phone. It would grow wings, horns, & fangs. If I experienced a lot of rejection that day it would start breathing fire! On an average day, I would still be sitting by the phone at 7:45 p.m. By then it was too late!

Sometime later I realized that my fear of follow-up rejection was absurd. There is an easier way. I call it the "magic bullet" of follow-up! All you have to do is tell them:

  • That you are going to call.
  • Why you are going to call.
  • When you are going to call!


The generic "I want to assist you and answer your questions," call!

Sylvia, a design consultant from Clearwater, Florida once told me that she let her customers know that she would be calling them back in the following very professional, yet generic way:

Salesperson: "You know "Harriet" you are going to leave here and think of at least three questions you should have asked me. For that reason I'm going to give you a call in a couple of days. I want to see what questions you have, and how I can assist you."

If you use an approach like this, you are sure that your customer knows that you are not calling to annoy her or sell her anything. You are calling to assist her in making this important decision.

Never ask permission to call. Don't say, "I'll give you a call in a couple of days. Will that be okay?" Your customer will almost certainly reply negatively with a response such as, "oh no, that's all right. If I have any questions, I will call you." Then, you're done!

The "don't "spill your guts & tell her everything you know up front," call!

You might offer to call your customer with specific information regarding a question or concern she had. If she liked a particular sofa and selected her fabric, you might say, "let me call and check on the availability of the fabric. That way I can really fine-tune the delivery time for you."

You don't have to spill your guts, and tell her everything you know up front! Suggest that you will call the factory or representative and see if anything new has been introduced. Everybody wants new! It shows your customer that you care about her and that you're willing to "do that little something extra" just for her. The point here is to select a reason to call her back!

This particular strategy helps to eliminate any fear you might have of being rejected. Your customer expects your call. It is simply a matter of picking up that phone and dialing.

The "yes but, I still need to shop & compare," call!

If your customer explains that she still needs to shop some more, you might respond by saying, "that's great! You should shop and compare. Harriet. This is an important decision for you. However, you are going to find the more you shop the more confusing it can become. You will have a whole new set of questions you'll need answered.

"I would like to be the one to answer those questions and assist you with your decision. I will give you a call in a couple of days to hear how your shopping experience is progressing and how I can assist you."

Please note that no one else on the planet is offering to do this! They are all telling her, "if you do come back in, please make sure and ask for me."

If you find yourself uttering these 13 words, you've just re-entered clerkdom!

Remember that you can't assist your customer with her decision if you never talk to her again!


The implied prerequisite for using these techniques successfully, is that you must have established rapport with your customer. If that wasn't done, this won't work!

It is always a good idea to tell your customer what it is you are going to be doing and then tell her why you are doing it! Nobody likes surprises!

This is especially true today when it comes to Ma Belle. We live and loathe this world of telemarketers! We are not really bothered by the fact that they're trying to sell us something. We dislike taking impersonal calls from people who don't know our needs or how to even pronounce our names! We don't like being interrupted unexpectedly. Telemarketers are always interrupting us! We just sat down at the dinner table... we're giving "Billy" a bath... the poodle just ran out the back door, and a hundred other events are occurring all around us! It's an interruption!

When you tell them you're going to call; they're expecting your call. It's not a surprise! You can now find out where they are in their decision making process.


One of the most important reasons to follow-up with the consumer is to establish where they are in the "buying/shopping" process.

You "must" try to make your investment of time spent with each customer pay! You can't do that if you never speak to them again! If they bought somewhere else, find out! You need to know!

If she went to three other stores after she left you and she likes yours the best, hooray! Now she just needs to bring "Fred" back in so he can see what she selected. Set up an appointment, a definite day and time for her and "Fred" to come back.

Professionals run "Me, Inc." by appointment. Clerks believe them when they say they'll be-back! (see the September issue of FURNITURE WORLD).

You'll also find out if the car died, the washing machine blew up, and if "Johnny" decided to go to Harvard! They now have to put off this decision until October! That's okay, you'll contact them in September.

You could also suggest alternative methods to assist them. These could include financing, delayed delivery, lay-away plan, or any other services your store may offer. This locks in the price as well as availability of fabric and product. Create a sense of urgency for them to own this now!


Isn't progress wonderful! The world operates by pressing a button or flipping a switch! We have answering machines, voice mail, e-mail, pagers and the internet! It just makes my day when I can speak to a person, human-to-human! How about you? How do you handle it. When instead of speaking to "Ethel," you are "asked to leave a message after the beep!"

Tell her that you're sorry you missed her," & when you'll call back! Never ask her to call you! You could be retired before that happens! Never leave information on the machine. Now you no longer have a reason to call her back, and it could accidentally get erased.

You want to be in control. That's why you're calling back! That's the point of all of this!


When I was in management I told all my consultants, "your job starts when the customer 'approves' the paperwork."

The typical store, 'wines & dines' the consumer until they sell them. Next step, they are placed atop what I call the consumer conveyor belt! This sale is closed... so up the customers go onto this moving apparatus, never to hear from us again and then... they fall off!

Don't close a sale. Instead you should open a relationship. You've worked very hard to develop a relationship with your customer. Why would you just want to sell her one time? Remember she bought you! Don't disappoint her by not ever talking to her again!

I know what you're thinking. In fact you're probably squirming in your seat as you read this. "What if there's a problem, a delay, a glitch? I have enough people screaming at me today, I don't need another one!" If something goes wrong, then head 'em off at the pass. If there is a delay call her. This plan works much better than her calling you! Now she's not only upset about the delay, she's mad because she had to call you to find out!

People do not mind if there is a delay. They really don't! What they do mind is being told about it at the eleventh hour. That they mind! Don't get me wrong, she will not be dancing in the street over this news. But, at least now she knows you are following through and working on her behalf. You are looking out for her.

Wait a minute. Are not problems and delays the customer service department's responsibility? After all, you sold the product. Service is someone else's responsibility.

Yes, it is their responsibility, but, if there is a problem or a delay for your client, you should know about it. You worked too hard in the beginning to get her to become your client. Why should you risk letting someone else jeopardize this relationship for future business, and referrals for your company, "Me, Inc?"

Let your customer service department do their job. That's what they are there for. Just let your client know that you are aware that there is a delay and that you'll be staying on top of it! This is extremely important. She knows you, not the person in the customer service department. It's one phone call out of your busy day. It puts her mind at ease and keeps your professional relationship intact.

The more sales you write, the more glitches you may encounter. It's the law of averages! It's called retail, handle it, you're a pro, you can do this! Go ahead and cut 'em off at the pass and follow-through, follow through! As Dr. William Boothe emphasizes in his seminars "don't sell to... sell through!"


You followed up after you met them. You followed up after they placed their order. My, you are good! Now always follow-up after they're delivered. One of the consumer's greatest fears is that you are going to take their money and they will never hear from you again. Don't prove them right!

Many salespeople say, "oh no, we've been told never to call after delivery. We might be opening up a can of worms! If the problem is not that bad, she'll live with it." She'll live with it! What does that mean? Are you selling customers or creating clients? When you worked hard to assist your customer, you not only want her coming back to your "store," you want her working with you!

You build your client base, your company, by repeat business and her referring you! This means you better make sure she's ecstatic!

Tell her right up front at point of sale, "I'll be calling you after delivery to help you with the finishing touches for your new room." Let her know you are not going to leave her in the lurch. You will be her net. She won't be out there all alone to finish what you helped her start!

When you make those after delivery follow-up calls, please don't call her & ask, "is everything all right with your delivery?" Upon hearing that question, put that way, she will pull out the binoculars, flashlight and magnifying glass to look for something wrong. Don't set yourself up. Just tell her, "I couldn't wait to talk to you about your new sofa!" Now talk to her about the finishing touches for her room!

If you can't be there at time of delivery for a large order, you must call her within three days. Two weeks is too, too late. She finished the room already without you!

Remember that this phone call is being made for two reasons:

  • To make sure your client is "happy" with her delivery.
  • To assist her in "finishing her room!"

This should not be just PR call! Don't get me wrong, public relations are wonderful, but, she needs your help to finish what she started. The moose that "Harry" shot in Montana 15 years ago is still over the mantle!

Set yourself up for this phone call. Tell her at the point of sale. "I'll be giving you a call at the time of delivery, so that we can discuss the finishing touches for your new room!"

Calling after delivery is crucial for several various reasons:

  • Your showroom is gorgeous. She thinks that just by ordering a sofa and a chair that her living room will look like your showroom. Wrong! So now is she disappointed? You bet! When you call, do you get answers that sound like this? "I guess it's nice but it doesn't look the way I thought it would look." Don't panic! It's only because her room isn't finished yet! Let her know this!
  • She may also be surprised at delivery because for the past fifteen years she's been living with a plaid Herculon wing sofa, "Fred's" orange crushed velvet recliner, and the "rake" for the shag carpet is still in the closet! By the way, you sold her taupe! Is she surprised? Oh yes, because now she's experiencing color shock and change all at the same time!

"Lucy" stops in to see what "Ethel" purchased. "Lucy is jealous that she didn't get something new, so she blurts out, "this is what you picked?" "Ethel" is now feeling a tad insecure! She needs your assurance that she made the correct decision.

One time I had a client call me and let me know, "you better get over here. You sold me too much furniture for this room!" I was on my way to her house anyway, but now I really picked up speed! Once my pulse rate returned! I flew over there, ran in, took one look at this room and said, "Louise, it's beautiful. There's not too much furniture here. It only seems crowded because it's been empty for the past five years. We could have put a chair and a table in here, and because you could not bowl through the room anymore it would look cluttered!" She laughed and totally agreed with me.

In all of the cases listed above the same theme is occurring. Customers are now dealing with change! No one likes change. All they need is for you to hold their hand & reassure them of their beautiful decision.

Just make sure you don't panic! Instead, mine for gold. Once you've made that crucial call after delivery you have now earned the right to "mine for gold!"

Take heed! You have to earn the right to mine for gold. When I make a return visit to stores, one of the first questions I ask is, "how are you doing in your mining for gold?" "Well, Cathy, I am just afraid to call her," salespeople often say. "Afraid?" I respond, "Why are you afraid? If you called her after delivery, where's the problem?" "Well," they say, "she could have found something wrong since then."

If she did, don't you want to know, so that you can take care of it? Aren't you the professional here? You worked too hard to sell her in the first place. For heaven's sakes, don't lose her now! (remember that conveyor belt!) You need her to increase your business.

Stay in touch with her. Give her a call several times a year to ask her how she's enjoying her new room or what new projects she 's considering. Here's a wonderful opportunity to ask for a referral! You've now earned the right to ask!



I call this mining for gold,"because once they've bought you, they are gold! It is much easier to call someone who's already bought you then to greet a stranger at the front door.

Research has found that you work six to ten times harder to close a new customer vs. assisting a client who's already bought you! I don't know about you, but I don't like those odds!

Don't sit behind the fort and wait for traffic to pull up to your front door. That's clerkdom! Get on that phone - "mine for gold!"

Cathy Finney is President of Ancell Affiliates and "T'NT" (Trained & Talented). She is a noted motivational speaker, sales trainer and management consultant. Questions can be addressed to her care of FURNITURE WORLD at finney@furninfo.com.