Turn Prospects into Customers

April 30th, 2010 by | Print


This is post 9 of 10 in a series discussing the essential steps for launching a successful, sustainable solopreneur business. If you missed the disclaimer post, it is helpful if you take a minute to read it before going forward. Here’s the link to the post.

So far I’ve covered the following sequential steps:

1. Define Your UVP and Prime Prospects

2. Perform Your Market Research

3. Create Your Business Plan

4. Square Away Your Finances

5. License, Permits, Certifications and Legal Structures

6. Develop Your Products

7. Set Up Shop

8. Launch Your Marketing Campaigns

Now is the time to turn your prospects into paying customers. If you are at this step and you’re wondering “Who can I get as a customer?” then you need to go back and take another look through steps 1, 2, 3 and 8.

Let’s start with the premise that you are going after “good” prospects. What defines a “good” prospect? The answer to that will vary depending upon your business and your business model. I define a good prospect as someone that is truly wants or is in need of the products and services I’m offering and is more than just a paycheck. I wrote a piece, “Defining a ‘Good’ Prospect” in my last series that further details a “good” prospect.

There is the danger at this early stage for you to stray from your plan and chase after anyone willing to give you money. While a plan is a living document and you should test the waters around your focus, don’t stray too far from your core competencies. You can quickly find yourself chasing your tail, wasting time and money chasing business instead of attracting and capturing it.

Once you’ve zeroed in on your prime prospects, take these points into consideration for converting them into customers:

1. Get in front of them frequently.
Statistics indicate, in most cases, you will need to “touch” a prospect 5 – 8 times before they warm to the idea of buying from you. And it may take them another 10 – 12 “touches” before they actually buy. Yes, these numbers can vary by industry, but don’t frustrate yourself with the goal of selling all customers on the first interaction. Yes, you want to move the prospect forward to a sale, but nobody likes a pushy, desperate salesperson.

“Touching” a prospect can include ads, emails, phone calls, face-to-face meetings, articles, blog posts, samples … anything where the prospect gets a better sense of who you are, what you offer and if you deliver on your promises.

2. Ask the right questions.
Effective selling requires more questions and less statements. “But, wait Doug, I sell online and I don’t actually speak to the customer …” you say. You have other opportunities to question your customers. This will usually happen in your market research, your marketing campaigns and on your site guiding prospects to a sale.

Did you do any surveys ahead of time? Are you polling people on the Internet and on your site? Did you research to see if other businesses performed surveys and polls of your target market? Do you participate in any forums where your prospects ask questions?

By asking the right questions, you can determine if you can meet the prospects’ needs instead of wasting time, you can determine the best solution you have to offer to meet their needs and you can guide them to a sale by taking control of conversation.

If you don’t know what questions to ask, I recommend you get a copy of “Asking Questions, Winning Sales” by Stephan Schiffman.

One basic rule to remember is if you find yourself making more “I” or “we” statements than asking “you” questions, you need to change up your focus and conversation. The only way to really know what your prospects want is to ask.

3. Be a good listener.
If you take the time to ask question, don’t waste your prospect’s time and your opportunity by not listening to their answers or dismissing them if you don’t like their responses. A prospect gives away (either directly or indirectly) their needs in their answers. Keep your ears open.

4. Give more value than what they’re paying for.
Although I believe this is always true regardless of how well known you are within the industry, this is especially true when you are just starting. You need to build momentum. You need to build a buzz within the industry. You need to start gathering customer testimonials and referrals.

Giving more doesn’t always need to cost more. It can include you giving discounts for a limited time or giving special bonus products and services as part of the bundle. However, it can include discounts on future products, PLR (Private Label Rights) products, insightful information you’ve created, discounts on joint venture partners’ products, and other items of value that cost you little to nothing.

The worst scenario to be in is to have to lower your price to close to nothing because that’s equivalent to the value your prospects believe you’re giving. If this is the case, take a look at your offer and your product or service. Are you not promoting your product in the right way? Could you bundle more of the low-cost, no-cost items mentioned above to make the deal more attractive? Did you create a valuable product or service to begin with according to your market research? Are you focusing on the right target market?

5. Ask for the business.
Don’t believe you have a product that will sell itself. I have been in sales, business management, ownership and consulting for a number of years and don’t know of many (if any) products that sell themselves … in the beginning unless it was a multi-national, branded corporation that spent millions on pre-sale marketing (think Apple and the iPod).

You may have a product that your market needs. Unless you’ve done a tremendous job in your pre-launch marketing to build up the buzz like major corporations do, you still have to ask for the business. Chances are that you are unknown to your market. It will take you hustling for sales, asking for the business and asking for testimonials before you may hook your market.

Asking for the business comes after you’ve asked your prospect the appropriate questions, zeroed in on their need, created a proposal matching their need laced with more value than they are paying for (creating an offer they will have a hard time refusing) … and then asking for the business.

This applies to selling online, too. You can still take a similar process as the face-to-face scenario with the copy on your site and the functionality you offer to let them feel in control of their buying decision with a call to action that they can’t refuse.

If after reading this post, you are still struggling with your sales, leave me a comment or drop me a line at thesologuide@gmail.com.

Last up in this series for successful, sustainable solopreneur businesses is, “Keep Customers Loyal”.

All the Best,

Doug Dolan
The Solopreneur’s Guide


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