You know, there’s something that’s always rankled me about the term “sales funnel”. I mean, I get it.
I understand the idea that you are starting with a big mass of people initially and eventually working them down the funnel until you are able to convince a few to actually buy from you.
But it sounds so…clinical. So laboratory-ish.
It’s a term that makes your consumers feel less like human beings and more like molecules! And I don’t know about you but I sell to people, to humans. The more I think of them as wholly-formed people with needs and lives, the easier I find it to sympathize, market and sell to them. Don’t you?
I’m sure I will use the term sales funnel again. It’s the industry standard and it’s a nice shorthand way of discussing what we all do as entrepreneurs each and every day. But I propose a different metaphor, just for this particular lesson.
How about we talk about the “Sales Passage”?
To me, passage brings to mind a fun, un-hurried journey. It’s got an adventurous, low-pressure ring. One embarks on a passage. One can even open an actual door out of curiosity and enter a passageway.
This is how we need to think about our prospects. They aren’t something to be shoved into a funnel. They’re someone to be guided along an interesting, satisfying passageway.
Here are some key things to keep in mind when you are nurturing a newcomer/lead and guiding them on a path towards your shopping cart.
Have you ever been on vacation and idly wandered into a shop or restaurant that looks interesting?
You begin to browse around and find yourself interested in some of the products on display or in the delicious sounding menu posted on the wall. But yet…no one comes to greet you.
You wander, you linger, you wait. You begin to get annoyed. You yell “hello? Is anyone here?” No response. Now you fume and minutes later, you leave. And you likely complain about the lack of response to your fellow travelers.
This happens online, all the time!
Would it surprise you to find out that, according to a HubSpot marketing report, 65% of companies have no official process to nurture leads? None!
65% of companies have no rock solid process to greet the ‘wandering in’ customer and make them feel like they were smart to show interest in one’s goods or services? 65%!
That sounds crazy, but you may be the same. What processes do you have set up to officially answer and nurture leads that come in from your site or on your Facebook page? I’m not talking about an admin whipping off a quick “For more information on product X, please contact Salesman Y”. That’s not nurturing a lead, that’s passing the buck.
So how long do you really have to properly reply to them? What’s the time frame analogous to the amount of time a physical customer will linger and wait in that empty restaurant or store before they finally give up and huff out the door?
Internet customers expect a response within 44 hours of them first contacting you. Not 10 business days. Not a week. Less than 2 days.
Keep that magic number – 44 – in your head at all times when dealing with inbound leads. Make sure your staff knows it too. Post it prominently on a wall if you must, but get back to those curious new customers within 44 hours or risk losing them forever.
I’d suggest actually bettering the 44 as that is an average, after all.
More Than Twice
According to Sirius Decisions, a research and advisory firm, most salespeople only attempt to reach an incoming lead twice before giving up. Two times and that’s it!
Think about it. How many times has someone you really want to talk to (your child, your best friend) tried to reach you over a few days and you play phone tag until both of you are able to finally be on the phone at the exact same time? If you’re anything like me, that can be at least 3-4 times.
By the end, aren’t you simply leaving the voice mails like “Tag, you’re it.”
So why on earth would you just give up after two times if a potential customer asked you to call them?
Remember, this isn’t a cold call where you are ‘bugging’ them. If they left you their phone number and asked you to call them…call them!
I’d follow up a few times in the first week and then try once a week for the next two weeks. You can jovially tell them “Hi, I’m not trying to bother you, I just wanted to call you back like you asked me to. If you’d prefer I stop calling, no problem, just let me know by emailing me at …” etc etc.
It’s tempting to think of “leads” as “fresh new people who have yet to know how awesome my products are!” And indeed, you should constantly be trying to usher as many newcomers into your front door as humanly possible.
Yet hundreds, maybe even thousands, of leads are already lurking in your system. They populate all those spreadsheets you have cooling their heels on your hard drives. They’re your past customers! They’ve already proven to have trusted you enough to give you their money in the past, why not go back and ‘nurture’ those leads into new sales?
Assign a salesman or admin to extract your past customer’s contact information, categorized by product or time period. Create an e-blast just for them, letting them know that you are running a “Loyal Customer Appreciation” sale just for them. (For a limited time only, of course!)
You can offer them products that complement the ones they already bought from you. Or, if it fits better with your model, you can offer them a new improved version of what they bought from you. Something’s that’s evolved with brand new benefits since the last time they tried your offerings.
A bird in hand, people!
Everyone’s Doing It
One of the easiest ways to warm a cold lead into a hot-blooded loyal buyer is to not do it at all. Don’t try to convince them that they did the right thing by liking your Facebook page, or subscribing to your newsletter, or sending you an email asking for more information.
The best salesman in this case isn’t you at all. It’s not even your sales force.
It’s your other customers! One of the best, most compelling lead-nurturing tools you have in your arsenal are the testimonials of other satisfied customers. I’m hoping by now that you have taken the time to gather at least a few (if not a few dozen!) happy testimonials from thrilled customers.
Ideally you’d want these talking heads on video so you can send that YouTube link out in a flash. But even if you only have them in writing, you can still make a fun, interesting video highlighting snippets of your customer’s letters.
Whatever you can do to show casually curious leads that they were smart to reach out to you in some fashion, and that the people who did so before them were ever so glad they did!
Pick Your Moment
Research conducted by Ohio State University and the C.E.O. of InsideSales.com revealed a very interesting stat we all should keep in mind when nurturing new leads. They examined three years of data and 15,000 unique leads. Among other findings, they determined the two best days to get back to leads by phone.
By a substantial margin, Wednesday and Thursday were the best days to make contact with ‘first dials’ to your leads. That’s something to keep in mind when you or your sales force sits down with a list of leads.
Maybe you move your regular Thursday sales meeting to Friday to give your folks more time to reach their new leads. Maybe you make sure everyone’s work-from-home day is Wednesday, in order to give them the quiet they need to get through to people.
Whatever you need to do, try to treat at least a portion of Wednesday and Thursday as lead-nurturing day.
Pick Your Medium
Whenever you can, reach your lead the way they have specifically asked to be reached. Too bad if you personally prefer the phone, and feel you close more deals that way. Its not about you! If your lead has indicated that they prefer being emailed, do that first. Always.
In fact, give them the option of being texted! Sounds crazy but in this day and age people love the convenience of texting. Better still, since most companies haven’t yet adopted this, texting is still the realm of friends and family. So when you text your customer (again if they indicate this is an acceptable way to get back to them) – it actually feels more personal!
How many leads do you get per month? Per week? Do you have a system to reply to and nurture them all? If not, why? Tell me in the comments below so I can properly chastise and help you!
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