How Good Is Your Sales Follow-Up?

In the pre-technology days, salespeople relied on old-school methods to keep themselves and their territories organized. There were no cloud calendars, CRM, or sales force automation programs. There were no laptops, PDA’s, or smart phones. No electronic alerts.

Salespeople used paper calendars, account cards (index cards), and Rolodexes. A follow-up system meant a tickler file. This was generally an index-card file box or a set of dated file folders where salespeople would store follow-up information. The problem was that it often involved double record keeping. Salespeople needed one file (or card) for customer information and another for a follow-up reminder, the tickler. Things slipped through the cracks, and it was time-consuming. If salespeople were not organized, they often missed opportunities. Pipeline management generally meant keeping a list of pending sales opportunities and updating it daily. Managers would ask to see this list on demand.

Today, salespeople have incredible tools to keep themselves organized. Calendars that sync with laptops, company systems, and smart phones make information access immediate. There is no double entry. There are reminders and alerts that prompt salespeople hours in advance to make calls, send emails, or call customers. These electronic assistants are like having a personal support staff to keep salespeople organized.

There is no excuse for poor follow-up.

The result of these systems is that it is nearly impossible to have sloppy follow-up these days. In fact, today’s salespeople have to work as hard at being disorganized as old-schoolers had to work at being organized. Salespeople who fail to follow up on time and as promised do not deserve the success they desire.

Every Product Is A Commodity

All products are the same … except for the ways in which they are different.

Questions of differentiation focus on the chasm between you and the competition.

  • What differentiates your product: packaging, usage, longevity, user-friendliness, energy consumption, size, reliability, brand name?
  • What makes your company stand out: depth and breadth of services, inventory levels, ease of doing business, management philosophy, locations, logistics, or industry expertise?
  • What makes your people special: attitude toward customers, teamwork, commitment to their work, engagement in the process of delivering value, or integrity?

Value comes from total customer experience, not just products. Your total customer experience is the combination of your products, from your company, and supported by your people. These three areas are a unique customer experience and differentiated solution. No other competitive solution is exactly the same as your unique solution. So, the next time someone asks what makes your stuff different, answer them, “We make it different.”

Tom Reilly is literally the guy who wrote the book on Value-Added Selling (McGraw-Hill).

Next Value-Added Selling public seminar is September 27-28, 2016. It is presented by Paul Reilly. Call to reserve your seat. 636-537-3360 or visit


What Makes a Good Salesperson?

A Google search for “Sales Secrets” yielded 18 million hits. One article offered 25 secrets. Really, that many secrets? There were multiple seven-secret articles and several three-secret articles. Why read a paltry three-secret article when a 25-secret article is available? Some are obvious to the point of embarrassment: Timing is everything, and only sell to people who want to buy. Most share common themes: Practice the A-B-C’s of selling—always be closing; People buy quarter-inch holes, not quarter-inch drills; and No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Some are downright ridiculous: Stay healthy, selling is good theatre, and be a happy loser.

There are three absolutes for sales success. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

The nascent field of neuroscience—young, compared to other scientific disciplines—offers some insight into the potential everyone has for sales success. Through sophisticated brain imaging technology, neuroscientists have identified an altruism gene. Stated differently, humans are hard-wired for altruism. Humans are wired to think in terms bigger than themselves. Humans are biologically predisposed to set aside self-interests for the good of the species.

Preservation of the species is not limited to humans. In the animal kingdom, there are examples of one animal species rescuing a different species. The L.A Times, People Magazine, and BBC documented heart-warming acts of kindness. In a German zoo, a Dachshund adopted a tiger cub rejected by its own mother after its birth. In a Russian zoo, a German Shepard adopted a litter of cougar cubs when the staff felt the parents might become too aggressive with the cubs. In New Zealand, a dolphin rescued a pygmy sperm whale and her calf that were caught on a sandbank. Even Koko, the famous hand-signing gorilla, expressed a fondness for kittens. Caring is instinctual.

For humans, altruism manifests perceptually as empathy: It is the ability to see another’s point of view. Empathy is the antecedent of fairness and understanding. One could argue empathy is foundational to integrity. How can one be truly empathic when sacrificing another’s welfare for personal gain?

So, if there is a secret to sales success, it must be to follow one’s natural instinct to view things from the customer’s point of view, pursue fairness in all transactions, and build relationships on mutual trust.

This article is excerpted from Tom Reilly’s new book, The Humility Paradox, available at AMAZON. Read and comment on this article at

Tom Reilly is literally the guy who wrote the book on Value-Added Selling (McGraw-Hill).

Next Value-Added Selling public seminar is September 27-28, 2016. It is presented by Paul Reilly. Call to reserve your seat. 636-537-3360 or visit