Responding to Online Inquiries to Increase Conversion Rates
Ok, so you've listed your business with multiple websites and associations. You've added contact forms to your websites and blogs. You've even setup Facebook and LinkedIn online profiles. And then it starts happening. You actually begin to get inquires for your services! So what do you do now? After all the time and money you've spent on your marketing and prospecting efforts it all comes down to this:
There are many facets to lead conversion, in this installment we're going to discuss the initial response to online inquiries and the intended goals of that response which is to not be disqualified based on our response and to secure a face to face appointment to discuss the clients needs, expectations, and how your unique service can solve their needs to get hired!
When it comes to online inquiries the first thing you need to know is the consumers expected follow-up time from submitting a contact form is less than 1 hour! But doesn't this make sense? Think about it. If you actually went into a store or called a restaurant, you would expect to be responded to in a matter of minutes, right? So we need to think of our websites and online inquiries in the same fashion. As a store front, online. Speed is the name of the game when it comes to lead follow up. Especially online, where options and competitors are limitless. Following up in less than 1 hour will give you more than a good chance of securing that appointment!
What does that quick follow-up look like? It can be at a minimum an auto-responder letting the contact know that their inquiry was received and that you will be in contact with them at a certain time /day. You may even want to include some additional information that was unavailable publicly on your website to review while they wait for your call.
The next step can be either a phone call or email (online). Both approaches have positives and negatives so lets look at each one;
Phone Follow Up:
If the consumer has indicated it's OK to call, than a call can be a great way to go. On the phone you can be much more personable, and ask more questions of the customers needs, you can get to building the relationship faster. The challenge to phone calling is you need to know basic scripts and dialogues for objection handling, be able to maintain control of the conversation and be able to close for the appointment. If you are not able to handle these things you may find yourself being disqualified before being able to really show the prospect what your all about. What can typically happen is you call a prospect, they do all the question asking (usually about price) and based on your answers they disqualify you. They'll say something like "Thank you for the information, we'll be in touch if we want to meet" So for a successful call, make sure you've got some scripts and dialogues internalized and a plan for the call to gain the appointment for a face to face. One idea is to prepare a list of questions you'll be asking to uncover some initial needs, and prepare responses to disqualifying questions, like price, to delay discussion until the face to face meeting. Stay away from the price discussion until the personal appointment.
Email Follow Up:
Responding by email to an online inquiry seems the more natural response given the way the initial contact came to you (online). It allows you to use controlled, consistent responses, which over time you'll adapt and change to increase the effectiveness (conversion rate). Email responses can typically happen faster than a phone call, since they can be automated, and you can always send email responses to after-hour inquires instead of waiting for the next day to call. What's important here, is to provide the prospect with indication that your interested in setting up an appointment to meet with them to "discuss their needs and expectations, and how you work to satisfy those needs" (remember it's always about them). Always provide 2 meeting times and a location along with a simple "homework" assignment to get them thinking more about whats important to them (you will use the "homework" assignment in the appointment to gain control of the conversation and move the process along).
If they've asked specific questions in the email just say you'll be covering all those questions in your consultation when you meet. Remember, specific questions asked in an initial contact are typically used to disqualify you. If they push for answers before meeting you'll need to explain that each clients needs are different and only by meeting and asking lots of great questions will you be able to provide a final answer. If you are continually pushed to provide an answer to a question (price usually) before meeting, it is likely the customer is merely price shopping. You'll need to decide if thats business you want and can work with. Usually saying something like "My fee is typically less than $XXXX" or "our fee is customized based on each clients needs and expectations" is enough to satisfy their price question and get them to agree to an appointment.
The downside to email response is that it they can be less personable, they can be trapped in spam filters and never be seen, and its easier for a prospect to just say "no" by simply never responding to your initial response to their inquiry. This is why a well crafted email response that is both personable and compelling will take some time for you to develop.
Remember the goal is to secure the appointment so you can be face to face to show your value as a professional, find out all about their needs and how your services are a perfect match.
We'll discuss having a high powered, compelling and though provoking initial consultation to help you increase your chances of being hired in future installments.
About the Author:
Ron Carpenito - Cofounder, WeddingPhotoUSA
With a passion for weddings and the web and over 20 years of experience in the wedding industry, Ron and wife Deb enjoy connecting brides to wedding professionals, writing & sharing about the latest trends in weddings and photography and growing their clients business.