Romancing prospects

Romancing prospects

For some reason people forget that the digital realm is really not that much different to the physical world when it comes to commerce. It's the same mistake sellers have made for decades, thinking that radio was different, or TV was different. The internet is no different.

Yes, the channel's idiosyncrasies affects the way you craft your message, but the truth that continually gets forgotten is that when all is said and done, you're still trying to influence flesh and blood human beings. A prospect will buy a washing machine for the same reasons, regardless of whether they saw the product in a store, on a TV ad or in an online shop. Their motivations don't change.

The internet promised to revolutionise how comprehensively we could sell products and services, but somewhere along the line we once again forgot that the endgame is to convince a human being that their life will be better after purchase.

The simplest way I can explain this issue is to pose the following question: If you visited a whitegoods store searching for a washing machine, and the salesperson came up to you and said "You should buy this one, it's white" how many of you would be persuaded? If you desperately needed a washing machine you'd probably still buy, but the salesperson would have had nothing to do with the decision. The issue is that 'hot' buyers are a fraction of the total number of prospects. The majority of people looking for a washing machine fall into the warm category (looking but not yet ready to commit) or cold (don't think they need a washing machine - though cold can change to warm pretty swiftly, sometimes as the result of learning something they previously didn't know). History tells us "It's white" isn't going to be nearly enough to sway warm or cold prospects.

My point is that the majority of websites are a digital version of the "It's white" sales pitch. They put the product in front of the prospect, but not much else. They're not particularly persuasive or educational. They're really just 'phoning it in' and haven't done what all good marketers should - which is to put yourself in the shoes of the buyer.

This is where the idea of 'romancing the buyer' comes from. You need to think of the sale not as a transactional, quick exercise, but rather as the development of a relationship. We all know that buyers move through various stages on the way to commitment - so why do we expect we can get them to leap over several stages in a heartbeat and whip out their credit card. It seldom happens, and certainly almost never happens for the vast majority of businesses that are selling more complex or expensive products, or are selling services that are long term and not easily discounted or condensed into a simply '50% off sale' type promotion.

You need to think about how many different ways you can engage the buyer. What can you offer that will give them a taste of what you do? How can you demonstrate your ethics and reliability? How can you demonstrate how you're different to the competition and guarantee the outcome you promise? Think hard on how you can 'romance' the prospect over several stages/interactions. A good sale isn't a speedy transaction. In fact most fast transactions lead to lower margin work. The best sales are the ones that take some time. Where the prospect is wooed and brought to a level of interest where price is no longer the biggest factor. Take this approach and your strike rate will improve, as will the quality of the work you win. Every business needs a different formula, so you'll need to experiment, but a good starting place is understanding that a good sale takes time, and you need to hold the prospect's hand every step of the way.

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