Sales 101: Write it Down!

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Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on a lot of technical sales calls. There is one critical error that I consistently see made by sales people, both novices and seasoned pros. They don’t write things down! What frustrates me even more, when I point this out, they go to great lengths to justify why a pen and notebook are not among their most important selling tools.

I get excuses like, “I have an excellent memory”, or “I don’t want to take the customer’s time making notes, I’ll make notes when I get back to the car (actually, they rarely do)”. I may be told, “I am just here to do a demo, there will be no need to take notes”.

Let me explain why not taking notes is such a bad idea. First, very few of us have such an excellent memory that we will remember all of the things we need to from a sales call. Second, even if you do have the rare gift of total recall, your customer probably doesn’t know it, or doesn’t believe it. They will assume that your lack of note taking means that you probably won’t remember to do half the things you promised. During the  course of a typical sales call, you will likely make a number of commitments that require follow-up. You may promise to send a quote, more technical information, or to make a follow-up call. Ours is a technical business. Your customer may ask for specific technical information, maybe something that you need to research or delegate to an assistant. If you forget just one detail, you will have failed your customer. And they will remember that.

So, on your next sales call, make sure that the first items to come out of your demo bag are a pen and notebook.

There are many additional advantages to taking careful notes, over and above the obvious memory aid. Taking notes shows your customer that you are carefully listening to them, and unlike most sales people, there is a good chance that you will actually provide the follow-up you have promised. Note taking forces you to slow down a bit, and to ask questions.

At the end of your call, review your notes with your customer. Something like, “Just to summarize, I agreed to get Bob in technical service to call you, and  send you a revised quote for your project. You agreed to get me a purchase order to cover the cost of the changes, and we agreed to meet again next Monday. Is there anything else?”  You have established that you were paying attention to the customer’s needs, you will follow up, and you even used your notes to help close an order.

Just one more thing. Now that you have clearly committed to follow-up, make sure that you do!

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