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How well are your inquiries handled?

We all know that only a small percentage of the inquiries we receive will eventually result in an order, but it is almost impossible to predict which of them will.

One purchasing department may only be collecting literature. Another might unfortunately be either shopping a job to death or gathering prices just to keep its current source honest.

Although you can't be sure what motivates these inquiries, you should build an efficient system for handling and evaluating them. Chances are good that one or more of your competitors may also have received an inquiry from the same individual. So, by having a more effective inquiry handling system you could make a better impression and get your message there first.

What are some of the ingredients of a good system? First, it should be responsive, quickly providing what the prospect needs while his interest is still high. Next, it should be qualification oriented to determine how the inquiry will be handled and by whom. Also, a mechanism should be established to make sure the inquiry is followed up by the salesperson or agent. The whole system should be efficient and easily understood by the sales staff.

Finally, there should be some means of evaluating the quantity and quality of inquiries and determining resulting sales.

Building an Effective System

The first step in building a good system will be to develop a means of assigning top priority to the apparently best or hottest inquiries. The less promising will then be carefully evaluated. However you build your system, it will only be useful to your salespeople if they can be sure hot leads are real and not just idle curiosity.

Giving all leads to salespeople tends to discourage them because so many are fruitless. "Just a waste of valuable time" is a common attitude of many salespeople. On the other hand, salespeople become much more enthusiastic once they see the inquiry handling system is a good one and that it can help them generate more volume.

Many foundries simply respond to inquiries with a form letter, sending a copy to the salesperson or manufacturer's rep. While this is adequate for many routine inquiries, it is not the best way of handling all of them. A more successful method is to qualify most inquiries by a phone call. This way, you can quickly determine the interest level and degree of urgency. Also, the prospect may be interested in additional literature or information. You can be sure she will be impressed with this special handling of her inquiry. And you may cut as much as two weeks off the qualification cycle.

If you do use just a form letter for answering most inquiries, make sure it contains the following important elements:

* thanking the inquirer for his/her interest;

* mentioning the material enclosed to satisfy his/her request;

* pointing out features and benefits, if applicable;

* providing name, address and phone number of agent if not served directly;

* suggesting the next step for the inquirer to take.

Also, be sure to include any other literature or material you think might be of interest. When the information is brief, consider faxing it. If it is extensive and urgent, use overnight express mail. This will show you are really responsive.

Follow-Up Is Important

An extremely important aspect of your inquiry handling program will be adequate follow-up to make sure your salesperson or agent doesn't drop the ball by failing to contact the prospect. Many companies use an abbreviated call report form, sometimes of the snap-out variety.

There is no single best method for following up with salespeople. Some foundries don't use call reports at all, but rely on getting the information feedback in their weekly phone calls with agents or sales meetings in the case of direct people.

This is probably the best way to get the information. But, it shouldn't be too casual. All points of interest still should be put down on one piece of paper for future reference.

Inquiries are another marketing area where it pays to keep score. Your two principal items of interest will be the number of inquiries generated and the sales that resulted. This should be broken down by territory to evaluate interest and the salesperson's effectiveness in handling. Often, these figures can be a real morale booster if the numbers are significant.

Some of the more sophisticated inquiry programs use special snap-out, carbonized forms and many pieces of paper. These systems may look attractive but they don't work too well in the normal foundry marketing situations. So, you would be well advised to keep your program simple with a minimum amount of paper and a maximum amount of personalized contact.

If implemented properly, a good inquiry handling system will pay many times over for the effort involved in setting it up. It is surprising how quickly salespeople begin to conscientiously follow up leads when they have confidence they are dealing with live ones.
COPYRIGHT 1994 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:foundries
Author:Warden, T. Jerry
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Jul 1, 1994
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