Howard Olansky
You can barely hear the sound of traffic over the moans and groans of some salespeople about business they've lost. I'm talking big-time moaning, big-time groaning, big-time despair, and big-time denial. The other day, a friend -- who is a well-respected industry pro -- reminded me that the more things change, the more certain proven principles remain the same. The problem is that those principles seem to get lost in the shuffle. I got the message loud and clear: I have been guilty of taking for granted that everyone knows the key selling principles. So why write about them -- right? Wrong! Shame on me!

My friend related how he had won, in preference to another retailer, a carpet job from a law firm. It was good-sized sale. He had put a great deal of time into this job and stayed in close contact with the client. He focused on helping the client make the best selections for his offices.

When he and the law firm manager met for lunch to sign the papers and review the installation schedule, my friend asked him, "Would you mind telling me how much less my price was than the other bidder (a very large-sized company)?"

The manager's answer: "I have no idea of the amount of his bid. After going through the job, reviewing various carpet samples and looking at colors, a week passed before I heard from him with a question. And that was the last time I heard his voice. I figured he wasn't interested in my business."

Then he told my friend why he was getting the business. "I was really impressed by how hard you worked with me, the care you gave the selection of the carpet," he explained. "You listened to my needs and made good suggestions. You stayed in touch with me. Your follow-through was superb. And so you earned and deserved the order."

The competitor got locked out in the cold. He undoubtedly stomped his feet and blasted (to himself of course) the law firm manager. Never once, I am sure, did he review what he did to get the order and, most of all, what he didn't do that cost him the sale. What he didn't do is follow through.

If you think this is an isolated case, you're wrong. Management and its staff must dedicate themselves to following through with every prospect. Not just any old follow-through, but intelligent and thoughtful follow-through based on thoroughly understanding the customer's needs and presenting the products and ideas that best meet those needs.

Follow-through -- that's the key to reducing the number of lost sales and increasing the number of sales closed.

Howard welcomes your comments. He can be reached via e-mail at, or you can write him in care of NFT.