The biggest challenge sales people face when prospecting is getting prospects to engage long enough to convert that connection into an appointment, opportunity to gather additional qualifying information, or an immediate sales conversation. This is why I believe in a Balanced Prospecting Methodology that leverages all prospecting channels including telephone, email, social, text, in-person, networking, referrals, and, increasingly, chat to connect with prospects.
Chat is a powerful and rarely discussed channel that has the potential to be incredibly effective for engaging what are often your hottest leads. Chat operates as both a passive channel through which prospects engage you with questions and a proactive channel through which you approach and engage prospects who are exploring a page or information resource on your website.
Engage Prospects Early in the Buying Process
To gain a competitive advantage it is critical that you connect with and engage buyers early. A person who is reading an article on your website, watching a video, or downloading a resource is there because of some level of interest in your product, a trigger event that has disrupted status quo, a problem they wish to solve, or an impending buying window. In other words, highly qualified, hot prospects. Proactive chat, used effectively, connects you with these prospects in the early discovery phases of the buying process.
We know that buyers are doing far more research on their own these days. Some stats (though disputed by many experts) state that buyers are at least 70% of the way through the sales process before they contact a salesperson. Therein lies the problem. If you wait until the prospect is 70% of the way through the process to contact you your probability of closing the sales goes down exponentially.
However, when you engage prospects that are moving into the buying process ahead of your competitors, you gain a decided competitive advantage because you have the opportunity to develop a relationship and influence and shape buying decisions. While your competitors sit around waiting for the prospect to call, you are in the driver’s seat accelerating the deal through the pipeline.
Chat is a Powerful Component of the New Sales Arsenal
Generational shifts and advances in chat technology have moved chat from cutting edge to a powerful part of the new sales arsenal. One of my clients recently accelerated from $0 in sales via chat to a million dollars a month in revenue through the chat channel in less than two years.
Many of the chat tools on the market today (one of my favorites is Zopim) provide detailed, real time, insight into what your prospect is reading or downloading, how they arrived to a page, and how long they’ve been there, and their behaviour while they are there. Powerful outbound prospecting tools like Tellwise go a step further and “pull” prospects onto chat enabled pages from prospecting emails called “smart messages.”
Leveraged correctly proactive chat, like text messaging, streamlines and accelerates communication. Used incorrectly it can be intrusive, impersonal, and damage the prospect’s experience while on your site.
7 Steps to Engaging Prospects with Proactive Chat
- Be patient: When a prospect hits your site the easiest, fastest way to chase them off is to immediately open a chat window and start talking at them. Instead you need to be patient. Give them time to get absorbed in the content.
- Soft Approach: When you open the chat window you have one shot to pull your prospect in and get them to engage. Mere seconds. If you approach them in an intrusive or blunt way they will at best ignore you and at worst bounce off of your site.
- Hook Them: Engagement is the name of the game. You need to hook them with an easy, but not cheesy, open-ended question that draws them into a conversation.
- Humanize the Experience: What you say and how you say it matters. Chat is one dimensional communication. Unlike verbal or visual communication all you have are words. Nuance and meaning are gleaned from sentence structure, word choice, punctuation, and letter case. You don’t want to sound like a robot. Ask relevant questions based on how they are interacting with your site and key words they are using for search. Choose empathetic words that humanize the experience of communicating with you.
- Ask Provocative Questions: Once you have your prospect engaged ask deeper, more provocative questions. Get them talking to learn about their situation and gather qualifying information.
- Provoke Curiosity: Curiosity is powerful. When you have additional insight, information, and resources that might help your prospect with their problem or situation they will be more likely to move to the next step with you. You must become adept at provoking curiosity by bridging from their problem to your additional insight within the context of your conversation.
- Convert: Your ultimate goal is to convert the chat engagement into an immediate sales conversation or a phone, web-conference, or in-person appointment. Therefore you must ask for the next step. If you fail to ask you won’t get and rarely will the prospect do your job for you.
Finally, measure, measure, measure. Chat is a powerful tool and to perfect it you need to define your conversion funnel and relentlessly measure every step. Then analyse your data and make micro-adjustments until you’ve got a proactive engagement formula that maximizes the number of conversations you are able to create and the number and quality of conversions you make.
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