I cannot take take credit for the title and subject matter of this column. An outside salesman at a client company said this. It was towards the end of an all-day workshop I was leading. It was the third of four such workshops, because my client, a large distributor of plumbing and HVAC products, put 220 people through my program.
About 90 days into my projects, after a marketing review, some staff and customer interviews, and creation of a sales growth game plan, we teach the work to the customer-facing staff who will do it. We had already done the mindset part of the day. We had listened to my interviews with happy customers who were glowing about my client. They now knew how valued they are by customers. And we were coming towards the end of the techniques portion of the session, where I run through what the sales and customer service people in the audience can do to grow sales.
These actions include simple and lightning-fast communications like asking the did you know question, asking the reverse did you know question, making proactive phone calls to customers when nothing is wrong, asking for the business, asking for referrals, and following up on quotes.
Around this time, the outside salesman raised his hand. “It just dawned on me,” he said in front his peers and colleagues. “This is the last 1% of the work.”
I was stunned into silence, because I’d never thought about it this way before—and it’s my program! I stayed quiet so he could continue. (A great technique for all of us when speaking to customers.)
“We’ve already done 99% of the work,” he added. “This is the last 1%.”
I nearly jumped up and down while screaming, “YES!” I think I didn’t, but I might have, because that’s how excited I was to hear this. It’s a hugely insightful and totally accurate observation. You’ve established a solid and trusting relationship. You’ve been available and communicated back to the customer in a timely and convenient manner. You’ve serviced the account incredibly well, and you’ve won the customer’s loyalty. Conversely, you’ve been continuously loyal to the customer. You’ve delivered on time, and have not made them wait. When necessary, you’ve taken the product into your car and delivered it personally.
They value this. You’ve built a friendship. They depend on you; you depend on them. Now they’ve asked you to write a quote. You do it, because they requested it. You send it. That’s the 99%: all that work, all that excellence, across all those years.
The final 1%? That’s where the magic is:
Follow up on your quote, and ask the customer where they are at with it!
Ask the customer for their business, tell them you want it, and you are interested in helping them.
Call the customer proactively and tell them you were thinking about them, and ask what are they working on that you can help them with.
Ask the customer for a referral: “Who else do you know who I can help the way that I help you?”
Tell the customer about what else you can help them with: “Did you know we can also help you with x, or y, or z?” Ask the customer what else they buy elsewhere that you can help them with.
This is the final 1%. This is the last step, after all the other thousands of steps that brought you to this point. Amazingly, most salespeople stop at this step. They allow fear of rejection to stop them from taking this final step.
Here’s the thing: The customer wants more of your help. They wish that you’d do this final 1% of the work. They don’t want to buy from four suppliers. They want to buy it all from you. Nobody wants four purchase orders when they can just have one. Nobody wants to manage four relationships when they can do it all with you, the easy and excellent supplier.
Don’t let fear stop you from doing this final 1%. It’s where the value is for your customers. And it’s where the money is for you.
In fact, you’ll find that there is 20% sales growth for you in this final 1% of the work. You’ve done the hard work, the 99%. Now do the easy work: the final 1%.
Alex latest book, the Wall Street Journal bestseller Selling Boldly, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.