You’ve been able to generate sales leads – prospective customers who may want to buy your products or services. You’ve generated enough interest to draw them to your website or location. They’ve taken action to identify themselves by calling or filling out a website form. They may have even expressed precisely what they’re looking for and want to purchase.
But when you try to close the sale, they balk or ghost you altogether. What’s going on, and how can you fix it?
Why leads aren’t turning into sales
When seemingly solid leads don’t pan out as actual sales, several issues may be in play. We’ll explore six reasons why your leads may not be buying.
1. Your leads aren’t ready to buy.
Research shows that half of the leads you generate are qualified but not ready to buy right now. If you look at website visitors, the numbers are even bleaker. Marketo found that only 4% of website visitors are ready to buy. Yes, they’ve taken the time to check out your website, but remember, this is the very bottom of the sales funnel. The vast majority of these visitors are doing preliminary research only.
2. You lack timely and consistent follow-up with your sales leads.
Lead nurturing is the process of cultivating a sale by anticipating a potential buyer’s needs and understanding where they are in the sales process. For example, prospects should receive immediate acknowledgment if they have taken a desired action, such as filling out a web form or signing up to receive emails.
Effective lead nurturing is crucial. Many leads never turn into sales, and lack of lead nurturing is the most common cause of poor performance. According to the Annuitas Group, nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than those who buy immediately.
Some of the best email marketing software has autoresponders triggered by submitted web forms – an easy way to begin the lead-nurturing process. Autoresponder emails have among the highest open rates and click-through rates of any email type.
3. You don’t have enough website content to inform the prospect.
Since many online visitors are in the discovery phase, it’s critical to have sufficient content on your website. The prospects are there for information, so you must provide everything they may want to know.
High-quality website content keeps visitors engaged longer, establishes your company as an expert in its field and generates goodwill with prospects.
4. The leads aren’t qualified.
The leads you’re generating may not be your actual target audience. If you are attracting attention with online giveaways or wild claims, you’ll draw people who want something for nothing. These individuals never had any intention of buying in the first place.
One way to tell if leads are qualified is to utilize lead scoring, which ranks potential customers using criteria to determine which leads are ready to make a purchase and which are unqualified.
For example, if you sell expensive equipment to other businesses, a startup wouldn’t be a qualified B2B lead prospect since it probably can’t afford what you’re selling. Another example: People who are not yet engaged are not qualified leads for honeymoons, wedding cakes, and venues.
5. Your team is making ineffective sales pitches.
To successfully convert your leads, you need a refined, effective sales pitch. Your sales pitch is crucial whether you’re making it via a website product page, phone call or in-person meeting.
A good sales pitch will consider the customer’s needs, budget and hesitations, and preemptively answer objections. It uses facts and emotions to make a sale – appealing to the prospect’s emotions and using facts to support their buying decision.
If you suspect your team’s sales pitches are causing your lack of conversions, listen to sales calls, sit in on meetings and analyze your product page. After gathering information, modify your training and materials to build a sales team with top-notch sales pitches.
6. Your website offers a poor user experience.
Imagine that a prospect comes to your website, ready to buy, but is then confused and frustrated by your website design and functionality. Next thing you know, they’re gone – along with your sale.
An effective website user experience ensures prospects can easily find the information they want and purchase your products or services effortlessly. A good user experience includes the following:
- Clean, attractive and uncluttered website design
- Well-written and error-free copy
- Code without bugs
- Logical flow of information
- Clear navigation elements
- Call-to-action buttons (e.g., “Buy Now”)
It’s also essential to create an accessible e-commerce website that meets ADA compliance standards. The more customers your site is accessible to, the higher the potential for satisfied prospects and customers.
How to turn potential customers into buyers
Most companies don’t know what to do or where to start. What sort of communication moves customers closer to making a purchase? How do you get them to buy? Will a hard sell work, or will it alienate the prospect?
It’s easy to believe there’s a laundry list of things you need to do before making a sale. But really, you only need to do five things well to get customers to buy:
- Agitate their problems, solve them, then repeat.
- Stay in regular communication.
- Make regular deposits in your customer’s emotional bank account.
- Provide value.
- Get a steady stream of “micro-yeses.”
1. Agitate prospects’ problems, solve them, then repeat.
Problems get our attention much more than solutions. In a classic study, the late professor and researcher John Cacioppo showed that people have intense and immediate reactions to things they perceive as negative.
Problems create fear and anxiety. However, solutions relieve fear and anxiety.
- Remind leads of their pain. Remind them about the pain they’re experiencing due to their problem and the consequences of leaving the problem unsolved – or only partially solved with a less adequate solution.
- Offer a solution. Show prospects how your product or service will solve their problem and how solving this problem will make them feel (relieved, happy, proud, secure, etc.). To make them feel confident in buying from you, proactively deal with their objections and provide social proof, such as testimonials, reviews and the size of your customer base.
- Repeat as necessary. If the sales process involves multiple interactions, address different pain points, revisit the original pain points and repeat the process until the prospect takes action. Toward the end, ask the prospect if they have any unanswered questions or concerns to uncover additional pain points to address.
2. Stay in regular communication with your prospects.
Create and stick to a prospect contact schedule that details how and when you’ll contact them. Depending on the type of product or service you’re selling and its cost, you may want to contact prospects one to three times a week.
More frequent communication is appropriate closer to receiving the initial lead, becoming less frequent as time goes on. If you contact prospects only a couple of times and then ignore them, you’re leaving money on the table.
3. Make regular deposits in your customer’s emotional bank account.
A marriage proposal on the first date scares off most people. Yet that’s the same mistake most companies make when they expect customers to buy right away. Want them to commit? Here’s how to make regular deposits in their emotional bank account:
- Start by giving. This doesn’t mean you flood prospects with content marketing spam. You give them the information and solutions they actually want, and you find out what they want by asking and observing.
- Gauge their responses. Ask your customers about their problems, and watch how they respond. Did they respond well to your infographics? Are customers raving about your latest blog post?
- Generate more deposits. Use the data you’ve accumulated to create more information and solutions. Do everything you can to give consistently to customers before asking for a commitment. But whatever you do, don’t abandon the relationship.
Create a customer knowledge management system with the tools, resources and content your customers need to give your team leverage.
4. Provide value so prospects know they’ll get their money’s worth.
Before handing you their money, prospects must feel they’re getting their money’s worth. This includes the product and its features, as well as with your company’s customer support, warranty or guarantee, return and exchange policy, instructions, and documentation.
Here’s how to show prospects they’re getting their money’s worth:
- Back your offering. Let your prospect rest easy knowing that your company fully backs your product or service. Offer detailed information about warranties and guarantees, and showcase your customer service offerings, including live chat support.
- Ensure your offering is the latest and greatest. Assure prospects that your product is based on the latest industry information and isn’t outdated or obsolete.
- Offer future support. If you provide updates or discounts on future versions, let your prospects know.
- Showcase your expertise. Before the sale, demonstrate your value by providing helpful content, FAQs, case studies, and other information that showcases your expertise and customer care.
5. Get a steady stream of ‘micro-yeses.’
Remember when you signed up for a free offer and got an unexpected phone call the next day? Remember how persistent they were – how they wanted you to buy something you weren’t quite ready for?
If you’re like most people, that approach didn’t work.
Mastering the “micro-yes” is vital to close more sales. A new customer relationship is fragile; there’s only so much it can handle. These customers usually aren’t ready to buy an expensive, premium product – it takes time.
It’s sort of like school: It’s not a great idea to stick a first-grader with eighth-grade work. Treat your prospects like that first-grader. Give them “grade-appropriate” material and time. Then, give them legitimate reasons to say yes repeatedly so you can move them to the big yes (whatever that is for you).
If that sounds like a long process, that’s because it often is.
Track industry trends to find ways to improve and add to your product line so you can assure prospects they’re getting best-in-class products and services.
What not to do when closing a sale
Keep these “don’ts” in mind when implementing your sales process:
- Don’t manipulate prospects. Working with a customer’s wants means agitating what’s already there, shortening the sales cycle. Manipulating a customer’s wants means acting dishonestly, introducing something that’s not there (or twisting something that is). As soon as a customer believes that you’ve manipulated them, they’ll get angry and want out.
- Don’t pressure prospects. While it’s OK to introduce urgency with such phrases as “limited-time offer” or “get it before it’s gone,” customers get turned off if they feel like they’re in a sales pressure cooker. While you may prefer to close the sale in one visit, this is not always feasible. Even if you get a quick sale, the customer may have sales remorse and cancel the transaction.
- Don’t give your pitch without listening to the prospect. Many organizations give their sales team a pitch script they must memorize and give precisely as written. While a prewritten sales pitch ensures the salesperson covers all of the product’s features and benefits, reciting without listening to the customer can backfire. Take pauses to let the customer comment or ask questions, and then address them before picking up the pitch again. Or let your prospects know you’ll answer their questions in detail a little later, once you have given them the basics.
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep. When you overpromise, you may get the sale, but you also may end up with a cancellation, a terrible reputation, or both. Unhappy customers love telling others about their disappointing experiences, causing short-term and long-term damage to the company. Be honest about your product’s capabilities, and redirect the focus toward positive aspects. Ask questions to guide the prospect toward the sale, such as “How will you feel when you no longer need to [deal with the problem]?” and “Is [feature] important to you?”
Andrew McDermott contributed to the writing and research in this article.