The Follow Through

Edition: October 2011 - Vol 19 Number 10
Article#: 3822
Author: Mace Horoff

When I look back over my long career in medical sales, there was one thing that I did consistently. My customers told me that this was the main reason they did business with me. Quite honestly, I was shocked to learn that every salesperson didnít do the same thing. But after speaking with many of my old customers, I realize that this was the key to my success. Do you want to know what it is?

Donít be shocked when I tell you. Itís so simple, so obvious, but many salespeople just donít do it. I was glad for my competitors who didnít, because their failure to do this one thing opened many, many doors for me.

Are you ready? Here it is:

Always do what you say you are going to do.

I know what youíre thinking: ďThatís it? Thatís the key?Ē

Thatís the key. Notice the word always. It doesnít say ďmost of the time,Ē or ďusually.Ē It says always, and I mean always.

The best quality

Everyone in business makes promises and commitments on a daily basis. Either you volunteer to do something, or a customer or prospect asks you to do something. Following up on this commitment is the key to long-term success in sales.

The number one quality you can have in business is to be trusted. Earning trust is as simple as doing what you say you will do and being who you say you are. For example, if you tell people you are honest and ethical, you had better be honest and ethical without any deviations Ė ever, or the trust is gone. The seemingly little things add up toward the trust factor. Have you ever told a customer, ďIíll find out that information and call you tomorrow,Ē and then two or more days passed until you called them? Or have you ever said, ďIíll deliver that to your office in a day or twoĒ and then get it there in a week or two, or not at all? If this sounds too familiar, then it could be one of the reasons that your business is not growing like it should.

Ask yourself, ďDo I do everything that I say I am going to do all the time?Ē Be brutally honest with yourself and if youíre not sure if you can, then ask some of your customers that you have called on for a year or longer. Just be prepared for some shocking news.

Planning your commitments

So how do you follow through on what you say you are going to do without failure? Itís going to take some effort on your part, but I promise you that the small amount of time invested will yield huge dividends.

I have a good memory, but itís not good enough to remember every detail and every commitment that I make. So I write them all down. And I donít write them just anywhere Ė I write them in my personal planner in a way that demands that I take action. Whenever a customer, prospect, friend, associate, or whomever asks me to do something, my immediate concern is what and when. So if a customer asks me, ďMace, can you call me tomorrow afternoon so I can give you that information?Ē the first thing Iím going to do is get out my calendar for tomorrow afternoon and see if I have a realistic time slot to call him. If Iím booked solid with appointments or Iím going to be tied up training or speaking, then I wonít commit to that day. Iíll check the next day and if itís good Iíll say, ďTomorrow is not good, what time can I call you the day after?Ē If that works, I enter it in my planner like an appointment Ė because it is an appointment!

Have you ever entered an appointment or task in your planner and then you became so busy you didnít check your schedule until it was too late? That is one of the reasons I use an electronic PDA as my planning device. It allows me to set an alarm to remind me of the commitments I have made so I donít forget. When the alarm goes off, I excuse myself and make the call. Done!

What happens if I get tied up and canít keep the appointment? I call the customer and let them know that something has come up so they donít think that I forgot or Iím irresponsible. I reschedule the commitment with them and enter it in my PDA, or if time is lacking, I tell them that I will call them at a time to reschedule and then enter that in my PDA. Do you get this?

Letís review because this is important. Before you agree to a phone call, a delivery date, a sales call, or anything when a time is specified Ė get out your planner and make sure the time will work for you. Only then should you commit and enter it as a must-do appointment. Personally, nothing drives me crazier than a contractor or vendor who promises to meet me somewhere, doesnít show, and then when I call him, he tells me that he got tied up on another job!

Have you ever heard the phrase under-promise and over-deliver? This works great for commitments. Try to schedule yourself some extra time for getting back to someone and then get back to him or her sooner. Ninety-nine percent of the time it will be appreciated.

Make sure you are aware and follow up on the promises that your managers, associates, or anyone else in your company makes to customers or prospects. Take responsibility for making sure that whoever made the promise, follows up on it. I had a manager named Ted who my customers loved whenever they were around him. He was charming and charismatic, but he had the fault of telling them that he would call them next week to invite them to his beach house for the weekend, or to get together with the spouses for dinner, and then he would never call. This would upset my customers Ė a lot!

I learned that any time Ted had contact with my customers, there was a good possibility that he promised them something. Initially, I tried asking Ted, but his charisma was often offset by his short memory. So I would contact every customer after they met with Ted to ask if he made any commitments by asking, ďDid Ted say when he would be in touch with you again?Ē Once I learned that Ted was supposed to get back to them on anything, the following day, week, or month, I did several things. First, I marked it on my calendar for the date that Ted was supposed to follow up. Second, I called Tedís secretary and asked her to put it on his calendar. Third, I called Ted and discussed the importance of him keeping that commitment. When the date rolled around for Ted to get back in touch, I followed-up to make sure it happened.

Why would I go through all of that? Because when anyone in my company makes commitments they donít keep, it makes me look bad. I wasnít going to let that happen with Ted and Iím not complacent about it now. Make sure all of your associates, managers, and support people do as they say when it comes to your customers.

Follow through on your commitments. Itís simple in concept, but it takes some effort to make it happen. Remember, if you are someone that people can trust, then little can stop you.

Mace Horoff has spent the last 28 years working with the medical device industry. He is an award-winning speaker, trainer, author and consultant focused on sales force effectiveness for the medical device, pharmaceutical, dental, and other related healthcare industries. To learn how Mace can make your medical sales force more effective, please call him at (561) 333-8080 or at