It can be a breath of fresh air when someone new joins the team – energizing and invigorating. I had a moment like that earlier this year when Michele Schwartz joined PPAI’s business development group as sales manager.

Michele hit the ground running. I mean that, literally. We flew her out to Las Vegas for The PPAI Expo on her very first day. But Michele’s a trouper, with a deep well of experience to draw on, including almost a decade in sales leadership at industry supplier Fossil Group.

Nothing brings a team together like working an event the scope and scale of The PPAI Expo. The same goes for PPAI’s own staff. As I was getting to know Michele better, the discussion frequently turned to sales tactics and philosophies. She’s an expert, so it would be foolish not to take the opportunity to learn from her.

One of the things that immediately stood out to me in our conversation was how important follow-up is as part of the sales process. On the face of it, that’s a silly thing to say. It’s obvious that after you meet a new contact or after you have a first order with someone, you follow up. We all know that, but it’s so fundamental that we can also forget how doing it right takes some forethought.

We all get busy. We go to the next meeting, on the next trip, move on to the next prospect. But follow-up is too important to be taken for granted. It’s not just to do it, but to do it well.

From A Person I Don’t Know To A Person I Know. When you’ve just met someone, be it at a trade show, through a mutual acquaintance or however, effective follow-up is an important part of cementing that connection. Try these email greetings:

“It was nice to meet you.”
“Regarding that thing we were talking about…”
“Here’s that article I mentioned last night…”

Regardless of what territory it covers, following up on an initial conversation is taking the next important step in a business relationship.

Keeping Us All On The Same Page. The next time follow-up comes into play, it’s likely just after a meeting. Whether you’re a supplier presenting your line to a distributor or a distributor sharing ideas on a promotional products campaign with an end buyer, one thing is universal: You won’t remember everything that went on during that conversation.

That’s why giving a good recap of the discussion is vital. It’s not a hard sales approach. It’s making sure we’re all at the same place. Michele is a big advocate for the quality recap.

Following Up On The Follow-up. We’ve made the connection and had the meeting and set next steps, and then we … wait. And we all get busy. And maybe we don’t want to hear “no”, so we don’t check back in or make that extra touch. But we should!

Following up on the follow-up makes sure the issue stays top of mind and that deadlines get met. It’s very likely that the person you haven’t heard from does want to work with you, they just have a lot on their plate too, and responding got lost in the shuffle. It’s often that one last reminder that seals the deal.

Once The Deal Is Done. You’ve completed the sale! Now, follow up! Following up after delivery is a great way to get feedback, learn and cement your relationship with the client for future collaborations.

Even if what we hear is negative, it’s important. We hope our customers tell us when they didn’t have a good experience with the company or when the product arrived broken or an imprint didn’t look right. They should do that. We need to know so that we can make it right.

Often, people will think that after the deal is completed, it’s over. Their job is done. But it’s just the beginning. Your sales job might end when delivery is made, but your merchandising job has just begun. A distributor might share ideas on how to stage the product or use it most effectively. A supplier can give a heads-up on what would be a great tie-in to that product for next quarter. Share something that gets the client thinking ahead.

Follow-up is the often unrecognized hero of the sales process. It has done wonders for PPAI. I’m so glad we followed up with Michele when she reached out about a position at the Association.

Davis is PPAI’s director of business development.