Two businesses in the same industry. One converts 5% of website leads into sales. The other converts 60%. Read on to find out why.
I used Google AdWords to find sales enquiries for a lawyer. We targeted people wanting a prenup contract. That's the contract some couples sign before marrying.
The campaign was cooking! We got loads of sales leads.
Three months later he cancelled. He told me that the leads were poor quality. He sent a quote (or estimate) to everyone but only one in 20 became a sale. He never heard from the rest again.
He couldn't justify the cost of advertising with such a low closing rate.
I looked at the enquiries. On the surface they looked like they’d should be a good fit. They were all from people wanting a prenup in the area my client served. A few of them looked sketchy but nothing that would suggest a reason why he lost 19 of every 20 enquiries.
I didn’t want to dump a great AdWords campaign so I called a guy I knew from playing volleyball at university. He'd studied law and had recently set up his own legal practice.
His wife Melissa handled the admin. She got the job of dealing with the website leads.
It took her about a month to get into the flow. After that three of every five website enquiries turned into a deal.
There was no real difference in the product. A prenup for a young couple is boilerplate.
They weren't any cheaper than the first lawyer so it wasn't that they were discounting to get business.
The secret is in the way Melissa respoded to the enquiries.
The first lawyer had his secretary handle sales leads. She batched her work for efficiency. She’d keep the week’s website enquiries in her inbox till Friday afternoon. Someone who filled in the contact form on a Friday night would get their first response a week later.
That response was an email - a copypaste price list, written in lawyer.
Mellissa's approach was chalk-and-cheese different.
She called everyone who enquired. She has a great English accent. It’s like phoning Kiera Knightly.
She’d start out by congratulating the bride or groom and asking about the big day. Then she’d move onto finding out why they wanted a prenup contract. She has a warm friendly manner and she never speaks lawyer.
The people she was talking to respond well to her personal approach. She’d advise them on the prenup and suggest that they consider writing wills to protect their spouse. Obviously she could help with those too.
Want to turn more web leads into sales? Be like Melissa and pick up the phone. Fast.
The longer you delay responding to a web lead, the lower your chances of hearing from them again.
One study showed that if you respond in under five minutes you have 900% more chance of making contact than if you waited a day.
That same study showed that response speed is a huge factor in whether you make a sale or not. The faster you respond, the more sales you’re going to make.
The chances of a sale plunge after 30 minutes. After 24 hours you have less chance of making a sale than a porpoise has of frying an egg.
But, don’t start selling yet. This first contact call isn’t a sales call. It’s there to start building the relationship of trust and work out what kind of enquiry this is.
You’re going to get four kinds of enquiries from your website:
If you treat different kinds of enquiries in the same way you will close fewer deals, miss opportunities and squander your time.
- Starting the sales process is the right response for someone who is a good fit and ready to buy right now. It’d be the wrong response to someone who is in the research phase, not ready to buy now.
- Treating someone who is waving their money at you in the same way you’d treat someone early in the research phase is also wrong.
- Preparing a quote (estimate) for someone who isn't a good fit for you business is a waste of your time.
Calling is the only way to find out what kind of enquiry this is. You never get enough information from the form to make the right classification 100% of the time.
When you pick up the phone you’re fulfilling the promise that your website made - fill in this form and we’ll respond. Keeping promises builds trust.
When you’re in classify mode you have to ask questions. Those questions prove that:
Aside: I feel so strongly about calling sales leads that I won’t take on a client if they’re not prepared to call.
We’ve learned the hard way that no matter how good we are at sending our clients sales leads, if they can’t turn those leads into sales they will cancel.
Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of calling. I often hear one or more of these objections:
I’ll address them in a little more detail below.
The faster you email the lower your chances of getting the sale.
Most people set their inbox to show the newest messages at the top.
Your super-fast email response gets buried under slower responses from other sites. Your future customer starts digesting the freshest email first. By the time they've read three or four slow replies they’ve made up their mind. Your fast reply gets deleted (unread).
But, this assumes that your email arrived safely. That is not always a given.
Email gets lost.
It’s easy to make a mistake when typing in an email address on an enquiry form. Especially if you’ve got fat fingers and a tiny mobile phone keyboard. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen @gamil.com typed when the person meant @gmail.com.
Your quote might get mis-labelled as spam.
Email services get flooded with spam. They use automated software to classify your email as genuine or spam. That software isn't perfect. An innocent link in your signature or an Excel attachment can make your fast response look like a message from a Nigerian prince who needs help moving money.
You think you’re delivering superior customer service. Your future customer thinks you’re ignoring her.
People want you to call.
It is true that nobody wants a cold call, but this is not a cold call. When you call in response to a web enquiry you’re a welcome adviser not a pushy salesman.
If someone has given you their phone number they’re expecting you to call. Obviously you’ll need to use your judgement if the lead comes in at midnight.
Phoning is efficient.
How long does it take to tell if someone isn't a good fit for your business?
- A few minutes on the phone
- or a chain of emails:
It may take a week's worth of messages to get to the point where you know that this person isn't a good fit for your business. That's inefficient.
But if you really want inefficiency -
- then drop the ball at the last minute because you're trying to save on phone calls.
You can't tell which enquiries will lead to business.
I’ve had people tell me that they don’t want to waste their time phoning tire kickers. That they can divine if someone is serious about buying from a few words in an enquiry form.
The worst I saw was from a client of mine in the motor trade. He was grumpy because few of the enquiries we sent his way turned into sales.
I dug into his response process. His workshop receptionist handled the enquiries. She was confident that she had the gut instinct to tell the difference between a buyer and a tire kicker.
She deleted all enquiries that matched her definition of a tire kicker:
That kept her workload down to deleting 30 emails and making one or two phone calls a day.
I'll leave you to imagine the conversation my client had with her. To give you some perspective on how unhappy he was, one sale would pay her monthly salary.
An eight-word enquiry turned into millions worth of sales.
A different client emailed one day to thank me for insisting he phone everyone who enquired.
He’d received an eight-word enquiry - "I’m looking for a water jet cutting machine".
Every instinct suggested that this was going to be fruitless. But he called back and spoke to a sparky young engineer from a mine in a neighbouring country.
The engineer had been sent to find someone who could supply a water jet cutting machine to the mine.
That eight-word email turned into my client's biggest sale in five years. The mine bought a second machine some months later. That relationship is still worth significant money from the sale of spares, consumables and training.
Hello, is that [first name]?
I'm calling because you filled in the contact form on our website www.[website].
I have a couple of questions about the [product or service] you're after. Is it a bad time?"
You’re going to get one of two responses:
- From ladies: "Wow, that was quick!"
- From men: "#%@#$ that was quick!"
Usually followd by "What website was that again?" because they copy pasted their enquiry into every site they could find.
Remember, this isn’t a sales call so don’t dive right into your used-car-salesman patter.
The purpose of this call is to find out what kind of enquiry it is - if the person you’re speaking to is:
You do this by asking questions. Be gentle about it though, this is a seduction, not an interrogation.
It’s faster to work out if someone isn't a good fit, than it is to work out if they are a good fit. (Getting rid of the wrong kind of enquiries leaves more time and attention to focus on the right ones.)
If you don’t mind, I’ll show you how I do this for my business, MarketingMotor.
MarketingMotor is an AdWords-based lead generation service. We build and manage Google AdWords campaigns to find sales leads for our clients.
AdWords and sales leads are very broad subjects so we get enquiries about all sorts of things related to AdWords and sales leads.
Over the years I’ve learned that clients who fit a certain profile are most likely to get good value from our service.
That profile is:
There are also some red flags:
There is nothing wrong with businesses that don't fit this profile. They're just not a good fit for us. Clients who fit the profile are most likely to be successful. And having successful clients makes my business successful.
I hate the phone. These are not comfortable calls for me.
I tend to get a bit nervous and babble on about the technical details of what we do. There is no place for that during a first contact call so I keep a list of opening questions next to my monitor. I decide which one I’m going to use before I make the call.
You’re welcome to copy the concept.
These questions are safe to ask early on in the conversation. Nobody is going to feel threatened if I ask about their business or the struggles they're having with AdWords. But, if I'd dived right in and asked how much money they had for an AdWords campaign it would make them anxious.
The questions are open-ended so they prompt the person I'm speaking with to start talking. With hem talking I'm able to stop myself diving into the technical details. Instead I ask questions to clarify what they’ve told me.
It doesn’t take long to find out if the person is not a good fit.
If they’re not a good fit I’ll say so. Something like "From what you’ve told me it sounds like we’re not the right choice for you."
Nearly everyone says something along the lines of "Thank you for your honesty."
If they are a good fit, or likely to become a good fit it’s time to work out where they are in the buying cycle. Are they in the early research stage, or are they waving their money at me?
If they are a good fit I’ll try and find out where they are in the buying process. I'll ask "When were you thinking of going ahead with this?" and "Why then?" to figure this out.
I’m going to stop talking about the rest of the call here because it’s moving from response to sales, and I don’t feel like I’m qualified to teach you how to sell.
This isn’t necessary for someone who is not a good fit. But, if they’re a good fit or likely to become a good fit you want to make sure that they have your contact details.
Pro tip: Start a fresh email instead of reply or forwarding the one that your website sends with enquiry.
Dear [first name].
I’m writing because you enquired about [the thing you sell] on our website [website].
I tried to call on [their phone number] but couldn’t get through. I’m pretty sure we can help you but I’ve got a couple of questions if you don’t mind.
When would be good for me to call you?
Best wishes etc
Copy my template if you like.
Get a someone else - a minion or lackey if you have one- to call on your behalf if you can. They don’t have to do everything you’d do on a call, it's just a holding call.
Hello, is that [first name]?
[minion’s name] here, I'm calling because you just filled out the contact form on our website www.[website].
[your name] asked me to call you because she’s not able to right now...
Send an email after the holding call.
Dear [first name].
Thanks for taking my call on behalf of [your name].
I’ve filled [your name] in on what we talked about and [he/she] will get back to you [when].
In the mean time, here is [name here] direct email and phone number.
Best wishes [minion’s name] on behalf of [your name] etc