The Power of the Follow Up by Bernard Lauper

Bernard Lauper is the president of MacCorkle Insurance Services, a leading Insurance Service Provider in the Silicon Valley. Bernard is one of the nicest business people I have met. Whenever I visit his office, there is one thing that pops up immediately – his employees are happy and the effects of that show up positively everywhere. Bernard is also an angel investor with a heart – supporting entrepreneurs all the way. More about Bernard here.

Here is Bernard’s story of winning his first customer. Irrespective of what you are selling, there is a lesson to be learned from his story.

The product I was selling was Insurance Coverage – HMO

At the time employer’s were familiar with Kaiser but not companies like ours that were brand new and were offering an HMO like Kaiser but through private doctors and hospitals. My job was to reach out to employers and convince them that they could offer my company in conjuction with Kaiser or their existing insurance plan or put all employees on the HMO I represented.

My first customer started with a cold call. My first call did not go well but I told the prospect I would send company materials describing who we were in mail and would follow up. I followed up one week later and was told they were too busy to speak with me. I asked when a good time to speak to her would be and she told me for not at least 3 weeks. I called back 3 weeks later and reminded her that she had asked me to call her 3 weeks later. She sighed, but gave me enough time to start asking questions.

Based on the answers I recieved I was able to send her several aricles and reports that I thought might be of interest to her. I then followed up with another phone call but was still not able to get a face to face meeting. I once again followed up with written materials where I summarised the advantages of my HMO to her company, to her employees and to her persoanlly.

I was then able to arrange a face to face meeting where I was very lucky in that she litterally gave me all the information I needed to do a complete analysis for her. It took me 3 more face to face meetings but I won her trust and made the companies first sale and mine.

The challenge? Brand new salesperson with a brand new service and company. I was able to overcome them by asking the right questions, listening to what she and her company needed and then providing her with the solution to her issue

Lesson(s) learned? It does not matter how smart or good you are if you are not orgainised and do not follow up. In my buisness the sale is never made on the first call and most salespeople do not follow up. Do what you say you will do when you say you will do it and you will succed.

There is a tremendous amount written on how individuals and companies need to diffenentiate. while I agree with this differentiating before you do the basic block and tackling is like putting the proverbial cart before the horse.

If I have to sum it up, all I can say is that you have to: Crawl, Walk and then Run!

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Have a great day!

To everyone taking the unpaved road…

Welcome!

Over these years, I have been involved in multiple startups and being a part of the Band of Angels and Founders Institute, I also have been fortunate to have watched hundreds of other startups from the sidelines.

My theory is that in most cases ONE reason is sufficient to bring down a startup. On the other hand, MANY things have to come together in a nearly perfect fashion for a startup to survive and then thrive. It will be almost impossible to say what all those things are (like a prescription.) To start with, there are external conditions and internal conditions and the interplay between decreasing the odds for success every step of the way. A series of magical moments have to happen to bring this all to life. One such magical moment is landing your first customer (or customers if you are consumer business)

Landing first customer(s) provides a lot of things. To start with:

  • It brings a new found confidence to the startup team
  • It enhances self-esteem for the entire team
  • It brings the validation that is much needed
  • It provides a new ray of hope that they CAN make it
  • It brings a new level of clarity on the problem and solution for which the customer is willing to pay
  • It provides the courage to keep going
  • It brings in a new level of support from family and close friends
  • It brings real attention from potential investors, partners and advisors
  • It brings a new level of respect for the team and the product or service
  • It eliminates expressed and unexpressed skepticism
  • It provides social proof for the offering

So, this blog will therefore focus on two main things

  • How to win your first customer(s)
  • How to keep your first customer(s)

I am no expert on everything but we will have a number of experts who have been there done that to come and tell us their real stories of how they won their first customers. Their journeys might provide you the much needed inspiration and insight to go and find your own first customers.  And, for those of you who already have their first customers in your bag, I am sure the insights are useful anyway  🙂

Once again, welcome. I am glad you are here!

Photo Courtesy: Daralee’s Web World Photos on Flickr