If you asked me what the most important step is to selling to gift shops, I would tell you follow up! Simple as that sounds, I found (now that I am a store manager again) that the follow up system you use can make or break a potential sale.
Most buyers are very busy people who spend their time juggling customers, vendors, sales reps, employees and inventory management! It is a miracle they have time to order or re-order products. My best advice to any producer, manufacturer or sales rep is to NEVER EXPECT A STORE BUYER TO FOLLOW UP WITH YOU. If you want your products in a certain store, make it your responsibility to follow up promptly with the buyer.
Follow up with EVERY communications you may have on every level, whether it be for more information, for current price sheets, for orders (believe it or not, some producers don’t even follow up when stores tell them they are ready to order!), for any problems with shipments or payment, for re-orders ….. and anything in between!!
Listed are some good rules of thumb for following up with customer communications of any kind (I have a detailed section on this very issue in my e-book, The Complete Guide to Selling to Gift Shops):
- Return phone calls the day received, or no later than the next morning. Acknowledge the request or concern with an immediate callback even if the solution is not immediately available. And let them know your best estimate of when the issue will be answered or resolved.
- Answer emails daily, and within 24 hours of receiving them. Email can turn into a time waster, so schedule breaks once or twice a day to manage your emails.
- Process and ship orders within 7 working days, two days is better.
- Mail out information requests the next day (or the next day you are in your office) … your customer will be just as prompt about ordering, as you are about meeting their information needs!
- After mailing information requests, follow up ASAP… a couple days after you think they got the packet, or no later than the Monday following. If you take too long, they may find a competitor, lose interest, or even forget about your line.
- Remember, the longer it takes you to respond to a customer – for any reason – the less important they feel.