Never say “Thank you for your business”

By S. Trunkett,

Every sales rep appreciates winning a big order from a key customer; but it’s rarely appropriate for him or her to say so to the customer.  Saying ‘Thank you for your business’ is bush league, and can significantly weaken your position.

Top performing sales executives recognize that customers buy their solutions because to do so makes good business sense for the customer’s organization.

That isn’t to say that personal relationships don’t play an important role in the process.  Strong relationships throughout the complex network of buying influences can play a significant strategic role in the sales rep’s ability to understand and communicate the relevant value that their solutions offer their customers’ organizations, to the exclusion of the competitors.

World class sales organizations train, coach, and provide the tools necessary to enable their sales reps to systematically investigate, identify, quantify, and prioritize customers’ specific value drivers, and enable them to formulate and communicate high value solutions across the buyer’s organization in order to clearly differentiate their offering against the competition.

Receiving a big order is confirmation that the sales team has successfully established its solution as offering superior value versus the alternative competive options.  This is no time to weaken your value proposition with bush league ‘thank yous’.  Receipt of the order means that it’s time to proactively manage your customer’s post purchase evaluation phase.  A strong competitor is not going to go down without a fight, and purchase orders have been known to be withdrawn after their award for a variety of reasons.  Receipt of the purchase order means it’s time to reconfirm to all of the important buying influencers that their decision was the correct one.  Saying ‘thank you’ serves virtually no purpose towards this objective, and will more likely plant seeds of doubt about their decision.

Send your customer a message that successful execution of this project is a top priority to your organization, and that it will be planned and executed in a manner that exceeds the expectations of the customer.  Be careful not to open any cans of worms that may potentially cause doubt, but be thorough in communicating that your organization has a solid plan to execute and deliver.

While it is certainly acceptable – and generally expected – to send an order confirmation, the confirmation should be oriented around the message of “We look forward to working together with you to ensure the successful execution of this very important project,” versus “We would like to thank you for your business.”  Below is a sample listing of some key activities you can initiate to solidy your position and competitor-proof your Purchase Order.

  • Provide your custmer with a Point/Counterpoint Table illustrating the customer’s key issues and how your offering will successfully address each;
  • Initiate an internal project kickoff meeting to ensure that your organisation is prepared to deliver 100% customer satisfaction;
  • Submit a detailed production, service, installation schedule that illustrates how your solution will meet the customer’s key milestones;
  • Initiate a joint production kickoff meeting with your  customer and the key influencers in the decision;
  • Develop a joint project communication protocol and milestone update schedule that highlights the collaborative teaming nature of the project;

Yes, receiving a 6, 7, or even an 8-figure purchase order is a milestone that deserves celebration.  It may have taken you and your team months – or even years – to secure such an order.  But don’t put such a huge win at risk by letting down your guard.  In today’s highly competitive business environment, receipt of the PO doesn’t signify the end of the race.  It represents the beginning of a joint collaboration between your company and your customer’s team to successfully execute and deliver a complex high value solution that will solidify your long-range organizational relationship.