Thank you management: the value of thank you notes

By Ernest Falkner III

Zillion Dollar Thinking


Some decisions in management do not have to be complicated. This management principle works in any economy, as principles usually stand the test of time. Let’s start with a question:

“When was the last time you got a handwritten thank you note from a salesperson?”

Consider the sales cycle: It begins with questions, is cemented by solutions and then sealed by signatures. Lastly, it should be wrapped by a personalized thank you note. But, how often does that happen?

A few years ago in a managers meeting, I laid down a challenge to the others that I could manage our sales group and the entire sales effort by monitoring just one category. I did not say at the time what that category would be, but I did get a few to take the bait with their own methods. We shook hands and agreed to return a month later and compare results.

The method was simple. I asked the salespeople to make a copy of each handwritten thank you note they were sending to clients and prospects, and drop it in my mail box. Again, considering the sales cycle, the note was the result of a completed transaction. Several transactions; several notes. No transactions; no notes, and everything in between.

I did tell them that I would make calls within the month to follow up on some of the notes, at random, in order to gauge client satisfaction — just in case. Of course they could see the method behind the madness, but I got to repeatedly use a favorite slogan from our regional director at the time: “Don’t tell me about the labor pains, just show me the baby.”

There is nothing more sobering in sales than to realistically face the fact that nothing happens until somebody sells something — especially when it’s you. And this simple method puts the onus right where it has to be. Ouch.

So, at the next manager’s meeting, my job was easy. I simply held up a stack of thank you notes that told the entire story. Winner.

There is a verse that says, “The simple shall confound the wise.”

Here’s the really tough question: How many handwritten thank you notes are you sending out? The answer can be revolutionary to your practice.