Converting online leads to sales


So you’ve launched your website. Now you’re getting visitors and starting to get enquiries. So how do you convert those to sales?

The first thing you need to do is respond. More than that, you need to respond fast. People see the internet as a quick way to access information – it’s a convenience thing. That also means their attention span is shorter than if they were visiting a shop, so you need to act fast.

A study by Dr. James Oldroyd, a former research fellow at MIT, examined more than 1 million online leads from 38 companies. He found that the odds of converting an online lead are just about zero unless you contact them within five minutes.

That means you need to have an effective process for following up online leads. Many firms treat online leads like traditional leads. For example, a survey found that the average lead response time is 31 hours. That timeframe might be OK for traditional leads, but not for online leads. You need to think of an online lead in the same way as an inbound phone call or a face-to-face customer.

So here are 4 golden rules:

1: The Hamburger stand Rule. Imagine you owned a hamburger stand and a customer walked up to the counter. He’s been thinking about burgers all day. He can smell them cooking. Would you take his information and say, “We’ll get back to you within 24 hours with your burger”?

No! The buyer is right in front of you. He’s ready to buy right now, he knows about your product and wants one right now. So… you’d make the sale!

Think of an online lead as if they’re standing in front of you ready to buy. If you make them wait, they might have moved on to something else. Or stepped away from their desk. Or found someone else who’s already sold them what they’re looking for.

2; You have 2 ears and 1 mouth – use them in that proportion. Show an interest in the customer. Find out what they are looking for and what need they are expecting it to meet. That way you can explain how your product or service meets that need. It saves you time because you don’t have to explain all the features. It also boosts your customer’s ego and gives them confidence because you show they were right to contact you. Finally, it helps to open up the conversation to uncover other needs that you may be able to help with.

3; Make sure your business can deliver fast. By this I don’t just mean delivery in 24 hours. I mean that the person who is talking to the customer should have all the tools they need to make the sale. If they need to arrange an appointment for example, have an online diary. Then they can immediately book an appointment for the nearest representative to go out. If they need to arrange installation, make sure they can do it without having to call the customer back.

4; You also need to make sure you are measuring and rewarding the right things. For online leads, the speed of response and any follow up activity is key. You will need to make sure that anyone who handles online leads has a response time target. You may also want to consider building that into any sales bonuses.

Finally, think about how to respond to an online query. Many people talk about using the customer’s channel of choice. You might think that, if the customer has e-mailed you, you should e-mail them back. Research has shown that isn’t always the case. In B2C sales a phone call works just as well as an email, and in B2B sales the phone is the best channel to use. Email follow-up is only about half as effective as phone follow up. An email followed by a phone call gets even fewer responses. The most effective strategy is to follow up first with a phone call, and then by email.


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