So there you are, sitting at your desk when the phone rings.  You pick it up and guess who it is?  Your next “potential” customer!  They’re interested in doing business and want you to send them a quote.  Sounds simple enough right?  So like any customer service oriented individual does, you send them the quote and go about your day.

For most small business owners and employees there is never a shortage of tasks to handle.  For every customer who is simply prospecting, you have one who wants to purchase your product or service right now.  What typically winds up happening is that you shift your focus to the paying customer and the one who was prospecting?  Unfortunately, they usually wind up lost in the shuffle.

Now, what separates the stellar businesses from those that are merely successful is a little thing called follow through.  It’s not all that hard to implement and in the end, it can yield substantial results.  Here are some important things those in charge of your company’s sales or marketing function should keep in mind.

Single exposures don’t seal deals.  Most potential customers won’t make a decision based on one sales or marketing exposure.  Thus, follow-up contact is essential to success.  Sales companies have found that a customer needs, on average, seven exposures to a product or service before responding.

Implement a system.  The buzzword being thrown around these days is customer relationship management or CRM.  Stated simply, CRM typically involves technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes – principally sales activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support.  The goal is to find, attract, and win new clients, nurture and retain those the company already has, entice former clients back into the fold, and reduce the costs of marketing and client service.  While you don’t have to fork over loads of money for a fancy CRM system, you should at least have a way to 1) track who contacted you, 2) capture what was said during each contact and 3) remind you to initiate follow up contact.

Customers get busy too.  Often times business owners don’t want to follow up for fear of coming across as badgering or being a pest.  Yet, sometimes a customers lack of response is simply because they’re busy.  A friendly reminder or two, is sometimes all that is needed to prompt them to contact you and move forward.

Ask for the sale.  Too many small business people lose thousands of dollars in sales every month because of one simple mistake; they don’t ask the customer to buy!  The easiest way to do this is to ask them an involvement question that doesn’t allow them to answer “no.”  For example, you could say “Okay (name), based on what you were looking for, how do our services fit with what you had in mind?”  If they say “it fits perfectly!” you can go straight to “Okay, we just need a deposit of XX dollars.  Which credit card would you like to use…”

Don’t forget your existing customers.  Marketing expert Dan Kennedy recommends a 10-12 step MINIMUM “touch” with your clients and selected prospects every year.  During these interactions, you’re NOT selling them something … but rather giving them useful information to further your relationship.  The competition is always trying to seduce and woo them away from you.  If you fail to remind them why you’re important and valuable, you could unintentionally send the message that you aren’t, which is not what you want.  So make sure you regularly engage your current customers; it shows you value the relationship and who doesn’t like to be appreciated?