The internet is a fantastic medium for generating business, but many sales leads generated through online marketing are closed offline in a more traditional sales process, particularly for companies providing services. While ecommerce has continued to spread its wings, it only makes sense for some businesses to close sales completely online. So, this article is about how to respond to leads generated through online marketing so you set yourself up to turn them into closed business.
Let’s first establish the primary objective. When you generate a lead online, via phone call or some type of web-form submission, your primary objective is to set up a face-to-face meeting or a phone/online meeting. Once you’ve accomplished this initial objective, then you start down the road of closing the sale by first becoming a trusted advisor to your prospect.
There are 3 important elements to getting a meeting with your prospect that came to you from online marketing (phone or form submission). They are:
1. Respond to your prospect in a timely and quality way
2. Be respectful of your prospect’s time and privacy when requesting the meeting
3. Always be focused on becoming a trusted advisor to your prospect
Respond in a Timely and Quality Way – Phone Contact
As mentioned previously, most online leads will come to you via phone or form submission. Let’s take the phone call first. A recent LinkedIn survey of salespeople in various industries reported about 70% of phone calls go to voicemail. Unless you are among the few that have resources set up to avoid anyone getting an auto-attendant (voicemail greeting), you have to think about how effective your phone system and greeting are. Here is a checklist to evaluate how effective your phone system is at communicating “trusted advisor status”:
1. Is your automated “phone tree” easy to work or do you put people through a series of steps risking frustration with each one?
2. In your voicemail greeting do you sound professional and do you promote anything special about your company?
3. When a caller is put on hold do you have any on-hold marketing messages that build the credibility of your firm or promote a certain product or service?
4. If you are promoting a specific product or service, is your first auto-attendant selection specifically assigned to that promotion?
5. How long is your voicemail greeting? If longer than 15 seconds you should shorten it.
Now let’s say you and your prospect get lucky and you answer the phone. What’s your greeting and does it sound professional? The most standard format for a phone greeting these days is “Hello, this is (your name) with (your company’s name). How may I help you? You’ll likely make a positive first impression with a greeting like this.
At that point you and your prospect will engage in a conversation that will determine whether you are a good match for each other. Sometime during the conversation mention that you have some information you want to send the person and ask permission to email it to him/her. This could be a related article, some warranty information about a product, details about what it is you are promoting, or whatever. By acquiring an email address, you are able to add this contact to your prospect database for appropriate marketing in the future.
Respond in a Timely and Quality Way – Web-Form Submission
If you are receiving sales leads via a web-form submission, you have done a very smart thing – you have provided prospects the ability to interact with you via the web. We find far too many companies fail in this area.
The first step in your online interaction is an “autoresponder”. An “autoresponder” usually comes in one of two forms; 1) upon clicking the “Submit” button on your web-form, a new web-page opens that communicates a message to the prospect who submitted the form, or 2) an email is sent immediately with a similar message to your prospect. In either case, you’ve taken the first, positive step to communicating you can be a trusted advisor. If you don’t have an “autoresponder”, get one.
Here is a checklist for your “autoresponder”
1. Is it attractive and does it reinforce professionalism and credibility?
2. Does it provide information about how quickly someone will respond
3. Does it provide an opportunity for the prospect to learn more about your company?
4. Does it provide any other helpful information to strengthen your status as a trusted advisor - something like a link to an article, video or whitepaper?
How you respond to an online form submission is your decision – via email or phone call. I recommend you respond via email. If you do respond via email, there are 3 important elements to your message, as follows:
1. Thank the person for contacting you. Gratitude, kindness and humility are traits nearly everyone respects
2. Include some important and relevant information with your email either in the form of an attachment or a web-link. A web-link that takes the person back to your website for an article or blog-post you created is particularly impressive because you begin to take on the personality of an expert and trusted advisor in your field.
3. Request permission to call the person. People cherish the privacy and anonymity of the internet, so don’t violate it by automatically assuming the person wants you to call him/her, unless specifically requested. When you seek permission to call, you are overcoming that “sales stigma”.
Follow these tactics and 9 times out of 10 you’ll achieve your first objective – getting a face-to-face or phone/online meeting with the prospect. At that point, you need to put on your “trusted advisor hat” and start down the path of turning that online lead into closed business.