How to Close Online Leads
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When somebody you are chasing finally gives you their attention, don’t mess it up.
Before I discuss how this applies online leads, I’d like to tell you a story. A while back, I used to cold call to get clients. This was in the prehistoric age before you could use the internet to get leads. I also used to bang two rocks together to make a fire so I could cook my food in those days. Well, there was this one man that I used to call all the time. He was a technology executive at a big firm. I called and called and never got through the secretary. One day, though, I called him on a Sunday at 7 PM. He happened to be working and he picked up the phone.
I was so stunned to actually have gotten through.
“Eeeeh, is this Mr. Jenkins?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, “Who is this?”
“Um, Sara Grillo.” (awkwardly)
“Oh, are you that Sara girl who keeps calling me? My secretary gives me the messages.”
“Yes, and I have something important to ask you?”
“Go ahead, but make it quick.”
Well, what happened after that isn’t worth saying. I totally blew it. I became tongue tied and choked and the pitch was as painful for me to make as for him to hear. Needless to say, I didn’t get the client and I never bothered him again out of embarrassment.
Getting a busy, successful person’s attention is 90% of the deal, but that 90% is something for which you don’t get paid. You only get paid when you close the deal.
Invest time hollering and hooting, but you need an airtight strategy for when you get some hits.
How online buyers are different
I know, you financial advisors get your leads through word of mouth and referrals. But this online business is an entirely different animal. There are a few things you have to realize about how online leads are different from in-person leads.
Here’s what to keep in mind. This is based on what I’ve seen advisors do wrong when handling online leads.
1. Recognize that online buyers are more informed
The prospect has done their research on you. That’s why you have to make sure your LinkedIn profile is top notch, your website isn’t too jargoned, etc. Assume that if they came to you online, your website was one stop along the way. So when you talk, don’t reiterate things you already say on your website and insult them.
The prospect has an idea of the product they want, and most often it’s not what they end up buying. In other words, what they think they want based upon the research they do is often not the right thing. So don’t just close the deal; go through consultative questioning first.
2. Know that they are talking to other people online
If they found you online, they found other people the same way. You’re not the only person to whom they’re talking. In fact, the way they found you is probably the same way they found other people that they are considering.
3. Do what you say you were going to do, or forget it
If you wrote a blog and the call to action was that you were going to send someone a copy of your book, for goodness sake then send them a copy of your book. At least an e-copy.
- Don’t email them and say that you’d like to talk to them first for 30 minutes and then you’ll send it if you think they’re a fit for your services.
- If you say you are going to send them you book, don’t send them an excerpt. Do what you said you were going to do and send the book.
Postage is too expensive to send to everyone, right? Wrong!
Remember that people inherently distrust the finance industry, and if you make any move that slightly resembles a bait-and-switch then you’re history.
4. Respond within two hours
The online buyer has different time preferences. And like I said in point #1, they’re talking to other people. Respond right away and get them on the phone right away. If they can talk five minutes after you get their email, then talk to them five minutes after you get their email.
There’s nothing that bothers me more than when I reach out to a company online and I want more information or I want to buy their product and I’m put off. I want it now. If I wanted it to take three hours then I would have gone to Target battled to find a parking space and waited in line.
Time is the enemy of the sales process. Online buyers are willing to move faster.
So move faster.
5. Don’t try to close the deal via email
Online buyers have by nature forgone the need, to some extent, to have to meet the person with whom they are doing business. If having an in-person relationship were their #1 requirement, then they wouldn’t look for an advisor online.
But don’t assume that they’re going to book an order over email. This is a mistake that I see advisors commit over and over again: making sales statements over email that come off as cheesy and make the buyer uncomfortable.
The buyer contacts you because he or she read your blog where you offer to send them a retirement readiness kit.
You email back:
Thanks for reading my blog. Here’s the kit attached. And please remember us here at XYZ Planning the next time a need for financial planning rolls around.
It sounds so “salesy,” doesn’t it?
Making a hard pitch via email violates the cardinal rule of selling: people are always impacted more by the tone of an email than by its content.
You have to take the relationship away from the internet and on to the phone lines in order to make them a buyer.
When you get an online lead, getting them on the phone is the objective of your response. The objective is not to get them to place an order.
6. Ask a question right away
When I say that you can’t close the deal over email, the question people naturally ask is how to get an online lead to talk to you via phone.
Here’s where it gets delicate.
You have to ask a question right away. But it can’t be a deal-killing question that violates trust. Examples:
- Where did you find us? This is so egotistical and it sounds like you’re just fishing for a way to get information from them. Instead of phrasing it this way, I suggest saying something like, “Oh, I see you are based in Houston. Did you recently read our piece in the Houston Times or was it perhaps a recently seminar at one of the city’s hospitals where I regularly speak? I ask that because I see you are a physician and many folks from your industry have found me that way. (establishes credibility without prying too much)
- Why did you contact me? This is too direct. You haven’t earned enough trust to ask this question yet.
- Are you in the market for an advisor? If so then I’d love to get a few minutes of your time and tell you about what I do.
Here are examples of great questions you can ask to engage the online buyer.
- Thanks for reading! Let me ask you, what is the #1 thing that resonated with you when you read my blog? (great open-ended question to get them talking)
- Here’s the copy of the book as promised. You may want to pay special attention to the retirement section or the 401k section. Which one do you feel would be more relevant to the questions you’re looking to answer?
- As per our offer, here’s our retirement checklist attached. If I may ask, what is the main topic you were looking for more information about: was it pre-, post-, or during-retirement financial issues? (always give them an option)
The information is what closes an online lead
An online buyer is closed when the seller imparts enough value in the form of information to resolve any doubts in the buyer’s mind.
Unlike in-person sales, there’s no handshake. You don’t get the chance to impress them by taking them out for a steak or a ride in your Porsche.
Advisors often complain to me that when they get online leads, they go nowhere because the people are just interested in using them for free information. If this is the result of your efforts then you are doing something wrong. It probably has to do with the questions you are asking the buyer not going deep enough to uncover what the real reason is that lead them to contact you for this information.
If your online efforts are coming up short, then send me an email or post on APViewpoint and I’ll see what I can tell you about how to raise your conversion rate.
Sara Grillo, CFA, is a top financial writer with a focus on marketing and branding for investment management, financial planning, and RIA firms. Prior to launching her own firm, she was a financial advisor and worked at Lehman Brothers. Sara graduated from Harvard with a degree in English literature and has an MBA from NYU Stern in Quantitative Finance.