Most people who are actively shopping for what you offer will buy it within a couple months to a couple years — the question is, will they buy it from YOU?

I don’t have the research at hand, but I recall a study done on people who attended local home and garden shows.

The study tracked people who gave their name and contact information to various vendors at the shows.  (And I believe they ensured these were quality leads by not having the request tied to any giveaway or other promotion that would cause a mixed motivation to give the info.)

This third-party company collected all that lead information, for the purpose of doing follow up Q&A phone calls.  They called each person who’d given their information to a vendor at set intervals: maybe 30 days, 3 months, 6 months, 12 months,  and 18 months.

And they asked a simple question: “You had spoken with a company that provided PRODUCT/SERVICE XYZ, have you made a purchase of any PRODUCT/SERVICE XYZ since then?”

So, let’s say you talked to a window installer.  You gave your name and phone number to them.

You’d get a call at 30 days, 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, and 18 months, asking if you’d bought windows for your home since the home and garden show.

What they found was that of the people who were serious enough prospects to give their information to the vendor, less than 20% had bought within 30 days, but well over 50% had bought within 18 months!

But frequently, they’d bought from someone other than the original vendor, and had often forgotten that the original vendor even existed or that they gave their contact information to them!

The implications of this are staggering…

No matter what it is you offer, if you’re dealing with real leads for your product or service, it’s likely a large percentage of them will become buyers of either your or a competitor’s product or service within the next couple years.  But the majority of them are not ready to buy yet.

So what’s the solution?  Well, first off you should know that classic sales techniques like “Always Be Closing” and the like are NOT the solution here.

Even if you move one of these leads to a purchase fast, they could easily end up dissatisfied with the process, and spread bad will and bad reviews about you and your company.

They want to buy, but they don’t want to be sold to.

Which means you have to be consultative.  You have to be there to help them make a buying decision, when they’re ready to make it.  And sometimes that means being very persistent.

The #1 roadblock to closing the sale…

Is that even if you have the right product for the right person, you’re connecting with them at the wrong time.

It’s the wrong time in their life.  It’s the wrong season.  It’s the wrong time in their purchasing process.  It’s the wrong time for them financially.  It’s the wrong time in terms of how much the problem is impacting their life.  It’s the wrong time in the project.

This is a remarkably simple problem to solve, but one that the vast majority of the vendors in the study above failed on, and that most sales people are miserable at overcoming.

The secret to overcoming this roadblock is a consistent, persistent follow-up system.

As soon as they become a lead, you need to be there to answer their questions, and help the minority for whom it is the right time to make their purchase.

Then, for the majority who were interested but not ready yet, you need to keep coming back.  And coming back.  And coming back.

When I sold one-to-one, my favorite pattern was to increment my follow-ups: 1 day, 2 days, 3 days, 4 days, 5 days, 6 days, 1 week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks.  And I kept prospects on a 3 week repeat until they bought or told me they weren’t in the market anymore.  If they responded favorably indicating the purchase was moving forward, I became more proactive by starting the increments over at the beginning.

Every contact was more about helping them, answering questions, and making sure they were getting the right solution than it was about closing the sale.  In other words, even though my goal was to make the sale, my posture was towards helping them make a buying decision.

I did this selling $30,000 IT training solutions, and I’d get orders seemingly “out of the blue” that only came after the 15th follow-up finally got the order through purchasing.  If I’d have stopped at 30 or even 60 or 90 days, I’d have never made the sale.  But kind, consistent persistence made me and my company huge sales we likely would have missed without this.

A pile of additional roadblocks…

All of that said, it’s not enough to simply be persistent with your sales follow-up.

Eliminate a few letters from the word persistent, and you’re left with the word “pest.”

You have to bring more to the table than frequent contacts if you want to build goodwill and actually have the customer or client feel like you’re helping them make the buying decision that favors you.

Most of that falls under the category of:

“Answer EVERY question, concern, or objection standing in the way of them making a buying decision.”

Here’s a quick brainstormed list of important questions, concerns, and objections you want to make sure you answer.

Questions:

— Why should I, your prospective customer, choose to do business with you over every other option available to me in the market, including buying from a competitor, solving this myself, or doing nothing at all?

— What are the important buying criteria I should use to evaluate products in this market, or solutions to this problem?

— Is this really a big enough issue in my life at the present that I need to take action now?

Concerns:

— I don’t know if you really understand my problem well enough that I can be confident your solution is a fit.

— I’m not sure this is the right solution for me, versus other options.

— I’m not sure this will really be the solution I need.

— I’m not sure this will work for me.

— I’m not sure how this will fit in my current context.

— I don’t know if I’m going to get my desired ROI from this purchase.

— I need to make sure my spouse, partner, boss, or other stakeholder is on board.

Objections:

— You don’t have FEATURE XYZ.

— Your price is too high.

— I don’t believe that this will really solve my problem.

— I’ve tried other solutions and they didn’t work, so why should I believe yours will?

… and so on, and so on.  Given an afternoon, and especially a group of smart sales people, I could come up with a ton more universal questions, concerns, and objections.  Plus, your product or service has its own unique set of questions, concerns, and objections that are unique to it.  You will be well-served by brainstorming ALL of them, and making sure you know them all going forward.

But then the question arises: Where do you answer or address these?

The short answer to that is:  Everywhere relevant.  In your initial educational materials.  As “by the way” attachments on or excuses for future follow-up.  On-demand at the customer’s request.

The better job you do understanding and addressing all the questions, concerns, and objections, the more effective you’ll be in every customer communication.  Plus, you can build the answers to these into many of the tools you use in either marketing or selling, so you have the BEST way to answer them built into your process.

The road from lead to customer is already there…

There is an agreement in the world of business that, for the most part, you don’t raise your hand and become a lead or contact for a particular business if you don’t have at least a passing interest in what they offer.

This means that every customer who takes that step is willing to walk down that road a little further.

If they hit a roadblock that you don’t clear out of the way for them, they’re going to turn off and take another road.

But if you eliminate those roadblocks to the best of your ability, and give them encouragement along the road as they go, there’s a high likelihood they’ll stay on YOUR road and become YOUR customer…

Making this an easy road to travel is a true breakthrough.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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