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Online Leads Have a Shelf Life: Act Fast and Efficiently

Converting Online LeadsGenerating sales leads can be easy, but turning them into paying customers has become more complex over the past two decades. Prior to the advent of the World Wide Web, small businesses got most of their sales leads through phone book listings. If you’re old enough to remember looking through the Yellow Pages, you’ll probably recall that many companies added “AAA” to the front of their names to get higher alphabetical placement in the directory.

In many ways, search engines have now replaced the phone book when it comes to “letting your fingers do the walking.” But even if you’ve gotten the top spot on the search engine results, you need to take some quick action when you receive a lead to make sure that your prospective customer isn’t snapped up by the competition.

Here are three ways that small business website owners can increase their conversion of online leads:

  1. Be the first to respond when a prospect “knocks.” Because the convenience of the Internet allows shoppers to submit information requests to multiple websites within the span of a few minutes, the first business owner to call back or respond with an email is more likely to get the sale. Although it may sound a little quaint, a phone call is still a better response than an email, which can sometimes get caught up in a spam filter or just get ignored. And if you sell products or services nationwide or around the world, it pays to have sales professionals in place who can quickly respond to a lead as it comes in . . . not several hours later when a difference in time zone can be the deal breaker.
  2. Use creative solutions when you provide information to prospects. Besides following up with a phone call, you can email some details and links to your prospect or send him or her a PDF that outlines your service offerings. PDFs are a great marketing tool because they can be printed out and placed on a desk, stored in a file folder, or posted on a refrigerator for future reference. If you have samples that you can drop in the mail or drop off in person, the customer will have a tactile reminder of your business—along with your business card—which is worth far more than a dozen emails explaining why “beige” or “taupe” is the best color for an item.
  3. Follow up on every online lead—even if it doesn’t look promising at the outset. Some of the biggest names in business—and some of the richest people—don’t necessarily communicate well via the Internet. They may be very brief when giving out information, or they may be holding back until they’re sure that they’ve contacted the right company. Underestimating a sales lead can be a million-dollar mistake, and trashing “low quality” contacts without following up is a guaranteed way to waste money. If you want to know the value of your online leads, just forward them to your competitors. You’ll probably receive a few fruit baskets during the year in appreciation of the sales that you’ve generated for them.

Obviously, not every lead that comes from an online form is worth pursuing . . . and the general rule is that each home run is accompanied by quite a few strikeouts. Unfortunately, you can’t tell which leads are truly “worthless” unless you perform the due diligence in calling, emailing, or otherwise contacting the people who took the time to visit your website.

As every good salesperson knows, 10 people say “no” for every 1 who says “yes.” Online leads, however, have a far greater chance of converting than a cold call. Therefore, it pays to follow up on all leads in a timely manner, even if you ask your assistant to “vet” the calls before an experienced “closer” joins the conversation. As long as you’re the “first responder” to a prospect’s inquiry—and you deliver the right information—you’ll have a definite head start in the online marketing conversion game.


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