By Nelson Tan on Oct 21, 2015 12:00:00 PM
It's great that your website is doing well at generating sales leads, but the seller's journey is far from over. As your marketing or sales department begins to disqualify prospects and take note of the few good ones, you can't help but feel like you are walking on a tightrope: one bad move and the hot lead could say, "I'll think it over," or mention some other excuses and s/he gradually slips away.
It's a real bad feeling to have when all your efforts come to nought. It may be true that somewhere down the sales process, bad strategies rear their ugly heads, and so it is time to identify who or what is at fault and remedy the situation. It is also true that the failure to convert leads into sales arises due to external forces beyond your control.
You see, we cannot discount the fact that the online marketplace has evolved such that merchants and sellers have no choice but to adapt to changing consumer trends. In days past, sellers would diagnose prospects' needs, align those needs to their solutions and sell the solutions based on a 'match' that is wholly 'conjured' by themselves whether they actually solve those needs or not. Now with the Internet, consumers can have all the accessible research data at their disposal, to define a solution for themselves, and compare competing sellers to find the best possible match for their pre-defined solution without having to approach sellers at an earlier stage and suffer through listening to their promotional bias.
In a sense, this is good news because according to a study by the Corporate Executive Board, prospects are up to 57% closer to a purchasing decision by the time they make first contact with a seller. If that seller is you, it means that the positioning of your solution is convincing and strong enough to sell on its own.
We present 5 sales communication tips for enhancing your sales-closing capabilities in the 21st-century marketplace:
1) Seek customers' feedback: Much has been said about following up on prospects in order to guide them closer towards the sale, but following up on customers after the sale is just as important to gauge how well your solution or product is working to solve their problems. You could ask them to rate specific features of your product, how long a time period does it take to solve their problems, or if there is any improvement they'd like to see in future product iterations. Translate positive feedback into an emphasis of strength by retooling your promotional copy, and also publish feedback as customer testimonials to boost the positioning of your solution.
You can also research similar competing products to yours and see if you can further differentiate your positioning in more unique ways.
2) Shorten response time: This practice is much stressed by our director, Stanley. Within 3 rings of the phone, it must be picked up. When an enquiry email comes in, reply to it, or call the person back within 5 minutes. The impact is unmistakably massive: Prospects are almost always impressed by quick response. Any length of time you can reduce in the buying process through quick response and resolving any questions that could affect their purchasing decision accrues to their benefit and yours too. This raises the bar on your competitors, while your prospects can't help but remember you the most.
3) Know your hot prospects intimately: Presuming you come across a prospect who knows more than most, it's time to 'switch' your sales approach towards selling on the prospect's terms. Do some research on the prospect's professional background through social media, his/her business, the history of his/her interactions with your website, lead score, CRM records etc. Standard templates can only get you so far. On the other hand, such research helps you understand a particular buyer persona, personalize the sales process, create conversations and plan for meetings. Having an intimate understanding of where your prospect is coming from can boost his/her perception that you care, and this in turn increases the likelihood of a sale.
4) Seek common ground by asking first, telling later: During meetings, get prospects to talk first so you can align yourself or your positioning to them in an agreeable manner. It's like what Stephen Covey said, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." Ask them about how their problems or challenges arise in the first place, what information have they gathered as part of research, and "What help are you looking for?" Asking questions help you determine from what angle the prospect has positioned his problem as a priority, so you can 'attack' from that angle and gain his/her trust. Any experienced salesmen who know their products at the back of their hands should be fearless at asking questions because they know they can always be in control of the conversation. It is why you are just as much qualified as the lead to arrange for a meeting in the first place. Yes, trust yourself on that. If you can't come up with a satisfactory answer on the spot, you can always get back to them later after doing your own research.
5) Persistent follow-up: Again, follow up on prospects every step of the way to clear all their questions, while giving them some time and space to think through your offer. It could take between 5 to 12 follow-up instances to close the sale. According to Dan McCade, it could even take up to a year to close a sale. More importantly, following up prevents them from turning cold.