Or Part 2 of why people dodge sales calls.
No one is going to contact you about purchasing anything unless that person has a project in mind. The standard lead qualifiers - budget and timeline - need to be met. Without these key elements, you can call this person all you want, but there will be no sale. It will just be a waste of your time.
With that said, you must be wondering if marketing activities are a waste. They aren't. Those activities should be reaching new people, building awareness of your company's product and offerings. You are trying to find people who need what you sell. And often, you'll come across someone who is new who needs to buy something now. But more on this later.
Let's get back to how people need to have a project in mind when they call you to buy.
It really is as simple as that. Again, you can call phone numbers you get from a lead generation form, but if those individuals don't have a project, a budget and a timeline, the call is a waste of time.
Prospects need to be enticed to have a conversation, similar to a girl at a bar by a potential suitor. There has to be a reason for conversation, and product features (or looks) will only go so far. From my experience, the best conversations in these situations have a strong non-committal aspect to them, or rather, an escape factor.
There always has to be a way for someone to leave right away if something goes bad - too much pressure, someone says something ridiculous, or someone does something unacceptable. There has to be a way to leave quickly, cleanly, and politely. No one likes to reject people on a first meeting. It feels weird and judgemental - and people generally don't like to think they are that way.
The same is true for prospects. If you want to talk to prospects, you need to remove the pressure.
There are 3 qualities that have to exist in the conversation and the medium where that conversation takes place for a successful prospect conversation:
- Escape path
- No expectations during the conversation
- Keeping it casual and conversational in tone
Like dating, these initial conversations are about getting to know someone and keeping it non-committal. The goal is to get to the date - not the phone number - so the more casual the better.
What are the 5 best ways to achieve this?
- Online chat. I love online chat and find it highly effective to generate solid leads. Even the word "chat" has a casual aspect to it. And if the conversation gets weird, you can always close the chat window. There have been many times that I have used chat to ask a few technical questions, only for the conversation to get too involved for chat, so I initiate a phone conversation. I'm sure others are similar. The conversation is about the prospect's needs - not a sales pitch.
- Social media. I love Twitter and use it often for support and for questions during the very early stages of the sales process. It's very casual - notes are no more than 140 characters. It's quick, easy, and not very involved. And if you need more help - take it to email or phone. Same with Facebook. The beauty of social media is that it is very public - everyone can see your communication. This makes this all the more casual and keeps it "normal" - everyone can see a weird/pushy conversation, so they are typically avoided, and you can easily leave a conversation (ignore it or just get out and delete your thread). It meets all the criteria.
- Lead nurturing. Someone comes to your site to get a white paper. After a few weeks, you send him something else that may interest him. He reads it and wants more. And this continues for a while. He is an information junkie, but he may choose your product when ready to buy because you have given him so much free knowledge. Or he may refer your company and product to someone who is ready to buy. Nurturing a lead won't convince him to buy - he will only call when he wants to buy - but it will keep you at the top of his mind for that moment.
- Sales call to talk about some related subject - NOT ABOUT BUYING PRODUCT. If you have experience with this working, let me know. I want to try this with a program, because I think it would work, at least it has with me in the past. Has a sales person ever called you - not to sell something, not to invite you to sales event, just to check-in and ask you what you thought about the products you purchased or a new announcement or something new happening? It's powerful. And it is multi-purposed: it's casual customer research (you are getting his opinion), it's a great way to keep in touch with customers (a reason to talk to them), and a great way to check in if someone will EVER buy. Yes - EVER buy. Just because someone downloads a bunch of white papers, there may be no project or budget in place. But you can confirm if it is nothing, or maybe something someday, or just customer insight. You can't lose!
- Trade shows. Yes, they may seem to be dying, but trade shows are fantastic places to meet prospects and get to know them. It's like a massive singles party - some are looking for a commitment, some just want a good time, some just like to watch people. It's the same for sales - some have a project, budget and timeline, some are just curious, and some just want to look around. It's all about conversations - and there may not be a sale there, but there is great awareness about what you sell for future reference and referrals. And yes - there is always an easy escape (always need to get a drink or food or run away), no expectations (the likelihood of selling anything on a show floor is slim), and casual - it's just knowledge sharing.
If you want customers to contact you, you really need to meet 3 criteria - allow an escape, no expectations, and keep it casual. It's like dating - show you are a good conversationalist and could be a good friend, and that person will warm up to give you that date. Or for sales, give you a meeting for a sale if there is indeed an opportunity.
More on how to present your company to people to grab those opportunities in the next post.