Eric Wolfram's Writing, How To Sell -- Converting Leads from your Sales Pipeline

Converting Sales Leads -- Moving them down the pipeline

Some lessons I learn over and over before I finally understand. I've recently had a sudden increased level of comprehension of a reality about converting sales leads that I'd like to share. Maybe you can digest it or apply it to your gigs. I'll try and be brief...I know people might say "that's obvious" or "I know that" so I'll still be sufficiently repetitive to drive the point home because I also "thought I knew" and I even wrote about sales pipelines in the past...but, here I am saying: I guess I didn't know...

One of my sales books says: Don't try to close a lead over the phone or with email. The book advises: ALWAYS try to get face to face with people. This went contrary to my experience in the late 90s when I was able to close all sorts of big web site development leads without ever meeting people. So I resisted that advice.

Lately, however, I've been getting lots of leads generated from my web site and people call wanting video production and video editing services. After I qualify the lead (ie, try to make sure they're capable of becoming my customer, ie, have some money and are not crazy -- and only about 1 in 4 qualify, but that's another story) I would often try to close the lead with a proposal.

Between 30% and 50% of the video proposals I send out are accepted. After sending the proposal, I'm always left with the feeling that I've put time into this proposal, and I'm sending it to someone who only invested a phone call in the project and that they could use my proposal to educate themselves without ever becoming my customer. So my choice when writing the proposal is to be brief, which makes a lousy proposal, or to waste my time 50% of the time! Bad deal for me...

Well, I started going for the 'advance' all the time, which mean when someone calls, my goal is to get the lead to agree to do something smaller than agreeing to the proposal. There are all sorts of advances that can happen, but my advance is to ask the lead to meet with me. I have found that 95% of the people who are willing to get in a subway to meet me uptown here (at a near by starbucks) will close by the end of the meeting!

Even knowing all that, my instinct, when someone sends me an email saying "how much will you charge to edit my wedding video" is to tell them! This is WRONG. I have to break that habit. I repeat -- it's ALL wrong to answer their question. Don't offer to do their wedding video and don't give them a price range! Ask THEM for a range. Ask THEM for the meeting, here's how:

"You want a wedding video? Great...lets meet and talk about it, is Tuesday good or is Thursday better for you?"

I realize now, sending the proposal is a 'continue' -- which sucks for me. A 'continue' is basically giving them the chance to ignore me. Getting them to agree to meet is an 'advance, which is what I want. I want them to advance down my sales pipelines.

The people who get cold feet about the meeting are the leads who weren't going to close anyway. The people who are willing to meet, who are willing to do something, they are the leads who are ready to be my customer. Period. For larger clients, I will go meet them at their office, but only because they agree to spend the time with me.

I won't send them a proposal (anymore) unless they agree to meet with me or unless they will advance in some other way. Period. If they won't meet with me, they probably WON'T be my customer and I'm wasting time sending them proposals (I might send standard marketing stuff but nothing specific for their project.)

Now I realized that I've been trying to skip the 'advance' step in my sales pipelines too often.

So next time a lead comes across your desk asking you to do something, your goal is to ask THEM to do something! (Like a meeting.) Do NOT sell them on your services (save that for the meeting.) Believe me...this is saving me so much time and making me much more effective.

Of course, people buy stuff from me without ever meeting me -- like my book. Of course some video deals still close over the phone, especially when the lead is motivated, which is about 50% of the time. It's the other 50% who need the face to face time with me before they feel comfortable enough to move forward. When a lead calls, I don't know which 50% they're in, so I always ask for the meeting. I'm about twice as effective if they agree to advance with a meeting first.

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