I’ve talked with dozens of women-owned businesses, and the very top pain point I hear is, “I’m trying to find new clients.” I hear from so many that they’re looking for more and more channels to find new people to “tell my offering”.
From what I hear, it sounds like the majority of the effort that’s put into a getting new customers is finding new groups or pages or listservs where they can post their offering. It sounds exhausting. And even worse, it doesn’t sound like it’s working.
When I dig a little deeper and ask about what makes up their sales process… I hear a lot of crickets. “I mean, I normally don’t hear back from anyone. And if I do, I get back to them when I can?”
If you are also finding yourself scratching your head… whether that’s because you don’t know what a sales process is, or it sounds like just another thing to do, I hope that I get your attention when I say, one of THE BIGGEST ways you can increase your profits — is to improve your sales process.
If you don’t have a sales process, even a simple one, I would advocate for you to not spend any time or money in getting new leads. Because if you don’t invest here, it’s going to be a very expensive, time-consuming, and frustrating process to land even one customer.
It’s pretty natural to want new leads, and think that they’ll magically whip out their pocketbook to purchase from us if we just find the right ones. But I bet you’re not seeing that, right?
Yeah, you’re not alone. On average (and across a broad range of industries) it takes about 8 touch points to close a customer. EIGHT!
And know what the most important touch point is? The first one…
That’s what we’re going to spend time on today. That very first touch point — and why it matters oh so much to your sales strategy.
To get started, let me tell you a story about my sister Shannon. She has two little boys, Mick and Liam (and they’re the most adorable, obviously). And when I was visiting her recently, I was struck by how much moms already know so much about how to manage their sales process.
Here’s how she inspired this example:
One of your kids is having difficulty with a toy they are playing with and asks (or demands) your attention.
If you’re anything like Shannon, she has a 6th sense to know that it’s not an emergency, and you don’t actually have to drop what you’re doing at that very moment.
So you say something along the lines of, “Sweetie, I’m so sorry you’re having a hard time. Give mommy three minutes and she’ll be right there to help you.”
In that normal daily interaction, you clearly communicated the following:
That your child’s request for help was heard;
That you will be there to care for them;
Though you can’t get to them at this very moment, they can expect you within a defined time period.
This simple snapshot from our daily lives as moms gives a blueprint for how you wow a lead from their very first contact with you. That’s what we want! Being responsive to prospects, caring for their needs and framing their expectations upfront is a simple, effective strategy to make your potential clients feel special.
“Okay, okay Kate… I hear that I have the skills, but why are you stuck on this first response? I’m juggling literally 100 things right now”.
I’m so glad you asked. Almost 80% of customers buy from the company that responds to their inquiry first. That’s staggering. 8 out of ten customers go to the person that was fast enough to get back to them.
Not only that, but…responding to a new lead within 5 minutes is literally 100 times more effective than replying within just 30 minutes. And 3,000 times more effective (!?) than replying in 5 hours or more.
You may not be a data geek like me, but you have an opportunity to increase your close rate by 3,000 times?!? That number is so big it almost sounds like it’s made up (it’s not).
What’s even crazier, is that 55% of companies take more than five days to respond. Five days?! That same study showed that 12% of companies didn’t respond at all.
Would you put your trust and hard-earned money into a business that can’t be bothered to respond to you for five days? Definitely not. You probably don’t even remember who they are at that point! You’ve already moved on to give your coin to someone who clearly wants to work with you.
So your goal here is clear: do your best to respond to customers as quickly as possible. That doesn’t mean that you have to be chained to your phone or computer 24/7 at the expense of your family and mental well-being. That defeats one of the biggest benefits of working from home!
I’ve curated my top 3 tips on ways you can increase your response times, build confidence in what you bring for expertise and reliability, and most of all, set yourself up to close more customers.
Photography by Nicole Mordecai
Make Leads Stand Out from The Clutter.
If your inbox is anything like mine, you’re getting tons of emails on a daily basis. How do you sort out what’s important and what’s not throughout the day?
There are some simple ways to make sure that your leads stand out so you can be sure to get to them quickly.
Get Text Notifications: Get text messages for each lead that comes in. Pepperlane profiles can do that easily by following these steps.
Setup Email Filters: Have a trigger setup for leads to go into their own special folder. Here's a quick tip on how to setup a **HOT LEADS** inbox in Gmail.
Have Social Media Notifications: If your social media accounts also serve as a way of generating leads, make sure you have a way to be notified if you’re getting direct messages for your business. Free tools such as Hootsuite can help you with this across all of your accounts. But, for a place to start, make sure your Messenger notifications are on (here are the steps to follow).
Photography by Nicole Mordecai
2. Have an Automated Response Ready
So you get an inquiry that goes right to your **HOT LEADS** inbox. Hurray! But now what? You see the message, but don’t have time to sit and craft a response right then and there. Yikes!
Great news — you can have one drafted and ready to go!
Create a template ahead of time that achieves the same goals as the example of working with your pre-meltdown child—acknowledge the request, respond with warmth, and set a timeframe for when you can give them individual attention. While this approach doesn’t guarantee that you’ll land the prospect, it’s going to buy you some time. And time is everything when it comes to handling that first contact.
I’ve come up with few suggestions for your message that will work for a few different scenarios.
Approach 1 - Let’s Have a Quick Call!: Hi (Name)- It’s very nice to hear from you! Thank you very much for thinking of us. I appreciate your questions and want to be sure I better understand your needs. Would you mind if we spent just 10 minutes over the phone?
This approach works well if: You’re currently building traction for your business and don’t have a high volume of leads coming in. Each prospect is so important that it's worth it to spend a little more time with them on the front end.
Approach 2 - I’ll Be in Touch + Freebie!:
Hi (Name)- Thank you for writing in! I’m reviewing your request, and will get back in contact with you in the next 24 hours. In the meantime, I thought you might find interest in [compelling piece of content that you’ve created]. I look forward to connecting with you soon!
This approach works well if: You don’t have time to drop everything to respond, but you still want to reply quickly. Let's be real, that’s the reality for most of us. This message is effective because it sets expectations of when the prospect can expect to hear from you. They may still shop around, but it gives you a leg up from the 55% of companies that won’t respond for five or more days. That’s big.
Approach 3 - I’m out of office - Hello and thank you for your email! I’m currently out of the office until [date]. I’ll reply to your message promptly when I return. In case you require immediate assistance, please be in touch with [contact name] at [contact email] in my absence. Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season [or other reason for your message]!
This approach works well if: You are being loving to yourself and taking a break. And unplugging is a beautiful (and essential) thing! If you know that you’re going to be away for awhile, that’s perfectly okay. Just make sure you follow these guidelines before you take off!
Photography by Nicole Mordecai
3. Add a personal touch
Business is about building relationships, so think of each interaction as exactly that--a chance to make a lasting connection. Be your genuine, fantastic self and think about how you can assist your prospect in the immediate, as well as if (or when!) they convert into a customer.
It’s the small, extra touches that make the difference with your leads. Take some time to understand how you might be able to connect with them specifically. The goal here is to make it all about them- let them be in the spotlight! Highlight any personal details they mentioned in their first email, or you can mention mutual connections discovered from a quick search on social. I like use the person’s name more than once to show that I’m truly focused on them and that they matter to me.
Finding ways to personalize an email will help you stand out and provide a sneak peek into how you go above and beyond in your service. Pretty important, right? Yes, your speed in responding to a lead is critical, but spend an extra minute or two to make your message go the extra mile.
And last but not least...
Be SURE to follow-up.
Just because you hear crickets after your response does not mean that the lead is dead. Keep going! Remember, it’s normal to make multiple touches to get a response. As long as you focus on being helpful and your messages are relevant, you’re not nagging. Promise.
If you find that you're not getting a response from your last couple of emails, try this seven-word classic, “Are you still looking at getting [your service]?”. Short, sweet, and designed to get a reply. If you still get radio silence, you can feel more comfortable leaving the lead behind. You've done all you can do.
See? We did it! I’ve walked you through how you can maintain the flexibility you need in working from home while putting a simple sales process into motion to provide prompt responses to leads.
Take a deep breath! Don't feel overwhelmed about where to start. I’m here for you. Pick just one of the suggestions I talked about to move you forward.
Keep your goals small, clear, and focused. If you are better today than you were yesterday in your business, then you have reason to celebrate. We know that slow and steady wins the race, so aim for small improvements over time — they’ll add up to big results!
That’s why I’ll be writing more and more about simple (and low-budget!) ways for you to make strides in knowing what a sales process is and how you can constantly improve it. You are not alone in this journey! I’m here to help support you.
And if you want even more personalized tips on how to improve your sales processes, I have limited spots in my Close More Customers webinar. We’ll spend 30 minutes on identifying some quick wins to help you build momentum. I hope to see you there!
Kate Keough, COO
Loves building, helping build, and swinging for the fences. Former COO at Paint Nite, which claimed Inc's #2 spot with 36k% growth. She consults with a number of early stage startups in an advisory capacity. Oldest of 6 children who has always looked up to her mother.