The never-ending cycle works like this: Customers lead to an endless stream of purchases and referrals, which lead to another endless stream of even more purchases and referrals.

That’s great news, but be careful you don’t overlook something that is very, very important. It will end abruptly, without warning, as dry as a desert rock, if you leave one ingredient out of your sales process: follow-up.

Yes, that “after the sale” stuff shallow and short-sighted salespeople resist like fire ants at a picnic.

Customer satisfaction is the ultimate goal. Without knowing of their satisfaction, exactly how do you propose to gain any assurance they’d ever use you or refer you again? (I’ll wait while you think of an answer.)

You must know the way customers feel about you even if it hurts. Here’s a quote I happen to like a lot about this very message: “Customers will never care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

There are several ways of going about this. You can set up contacts via customer newsletters, questionnaires, postcards, emails, phone calls or personal visits; you could even use social media to touch base with your customers after the service call. It’s all part of a simple customer retention program.

Without contact, how is anyone supposed to know you care, or help you find the solution to your problems in service or product delivery? You are not your own customer, so their perspective is invaluable to you. Your customers represent many thousands of like-minded solutions to your problems. Each translates to thousands of dollars in sales — or lost sales — in which you should be keenly interested.

Avoiding bad news because it represents a problem in your company is the same as thinking a fire in your home will go away if you pay it no attention.

The key is to let your customers know you care about them. By the way, if you don’t care, then we suggest you learn to care or suffer major consequences. Let your customers know:

• You want to do business with them;

• You understand them; and

• You have empathy for their needs.

Got it? Good. You’re well on your way to seeing something not one in 20 so-called salespeople will ever go to the trouble to know. And it centers on …

The plumbing success zone

Sales are the actual purchases achieved from a salesperson’s work and presentation. (And maybe a little perspiration, too!)

Sales leads are the result of good marketing, which is the foundation upon which a business exists.

Each sale becomes the reward and eventually your paycheck for your hard work. To the “ho-hum” salesperson (really an order taker, in my opinion), the rewards often seem inadequate.

Yet as a sales student, you’re unlocking success through time-tested principles put into action plans by highly trained, experienced contributors. Once you apply these practices and principles, your rewards should be more than sufficient — and earned in much less time than trial-and-error methods.

This practice of trial and error is good in some ways, crippling in others. Good when you learn from mistakes quickly. Good when you blaze a trail, leaving no signs for your competitors.

But it’s bad when you disregard the wealth of knowledge out there. Or you decide to do it yourself, even though faster, easier, better, more efficient ways are right in front of you. And it’s terrible if you’ve seen others have blazed a shortcut to the same goal that you can follow but you refuse to follow their example.

This — in my not-so-humble opinion — is sheer bullheadedness and it costs you in money, brain cells and, of course, time. Time is a commodity in short supply that just happens to be irreplaceable.

Yet you cannot shortcut on fueling your sales machine. By this I mean investment. You’ve invested in this program and the time it takes to absorb it. Yet if you attempt to run a high-performance salesforce without spending what it takes to fuel sales, you’re no better than the guy who won’t patch the hole in his boat “because it’s too expensive.” One day it just sinks.

Sales are not an expense, they’re an investment because they’re part of marketing. If you don’t currently believe that marketing and sales are an investment, you will by the end of this material.

And the last time I looked, company owners don’t pay the commission on sales, customers do. Marketing encompasses so much that the department has no choice but to appear expensive. As the old saying goes, “You gotta spend money to make money.”

Before you think I’ve stepped off the deep end and intend for you to pour tons of money down a dark hole “just to see what will come back,” let me assure you.

I’m in business, too. If the investment fails to pay a return, it is not a good investment. I earn no commissions from your sales, no royalties and earn no agency fees on media (unlike 95% of the ad agencies or media salespeople you’ve dealt with), so my passion for your spending is to be construed as a passion for your profitability.

That being said, your marketing expense produces leads. Those leads become appointments. The appointments turn into sales. The sales result in commissions and in profit to the company. So the cycle continues.

Because sales are the foundation of a business, they cannot be looked upon as just sales. One must view sales from a managerial perspective. If your mission statement fails to include a phrase allowing you “to make a profit,” then you may have mistaken your business license for a charity certificate.

Invest wisely in the sales and marketing process. It will pay you handsome dividends. One of the most astounding projects I ever worked on was a complete marketing makeover for an HVAC/plumbing contractor who was taking a total business nosedive.

We yanked out all his old marketing systems, put in new fresh, sales-oriented, customer-focused marketing and developed a plan.

In short order, his sales were up 276% (documented). Our client had an epiphany he thankfully shared when he said, “I finally realized I didn’t run a contracting business that also marketed and sold contracting. I ran a marketing and sales organization that specialized in excellent contracting work.”

Wow. Let that sink in for a moment.

It is no secret that good salespeople are the key to achieving sales. To become a sales-focused business you must:

• Support your salesforce. Set good goals and provide the tools of achievement. Don’t set unreasonable goals. Irrational goals only dishearten your employees.

• Practice good marketing techniques. Great selling does not exist without great marketing, and great marketing means having a cohesive online and offline presence.

• Support your customers. Give your employees plenty of liberty and tools to solve customer quandaries. Viewing your business from a customer’s perspective puts your business on a perfect track.

This article was originally titled “An endless stream of sales” in the May 2015 print edition of Plumbing & Mechanical.

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