How do I lead an online customer to the sale?

Most of us have asked. You aren’t alone.

Sales are the essential wheels and cogs that keep a store running. It can be difficult to make a profit from an online lead. To get sales, you have to advertise. This is risky business because it creates a reputation for your store. It’s up to you to make that reputation good, not horrible beyond all imagining.

Have you heard the saying about leading a horse to water? You can bring him to the riverbed, but you can’t force him to drink. This concept can be applied to many different things – especially sales. Just as a horse must make his own decision to drink, your customer must be allowed to choose his product. Believe it or not, there is etiquette involved with advertising.

It’s all about choice. How do you make your customers choose your store? Consider these two tips as you lead an online customer to a sale.

Offer Good Information

Your online lead probably came across your site by typing a keyword or phrase into their favorite search engine. When they find you, they aren’t willing to whip out their wallets right away. There’s a natural human skepticism that must be dispelled before any purchases are made. Customers want to make the best decision possible, and that means they want to learn more about you.

Once you have a potential customer, how do you get them to buy from you without being too pushy? That happy-medium is hard to reach. You have to appeal to your customer without scaring them away with spammy behavior or desperate advertising.

First, let them do their research. Give them the information they want, and present it in a visually appealing way. Not everyone is ready to make a purchase the moment they find your store or website. They probably won’t want your “free trial” right away, and special offers won’t appeal to them unless they know you’re product is reliable. If you give your customers valuable information, they will feel better about buying from you. Instead of dumping spammy offers into their mailbox, take the time to offer customers something of value.

Start with what problems your product can fix, or customer testimonials. It’s always nice to cover the “what I can do for you” section first, and then move on to credibility.

All that said, there’s no reason you should avoid offering a free trial, or a special discount – just don’t do it so loudly. If a customer really wants what you have to offer, they will look for it. Most first-time customers are doing their research before comparing products. Be eager with your advertising, but not desperate.

Tip: Offer a free guide or checklist to help them evaluate your store in comparison to others.

Talk to Your Customers

Communication is crucial in every situation. It’s especially reassuring for the new prospects that visit your site. Once you have a way to contact these visitors (perhaps you have their email or they left a comment on your blog), start talking! Don’t start spamming them to death, but try to genuinely communicate.

Try email marketing. Message them on Facebook, or whichever social media network is available. Use whatever you can to get a conversation going between you and your customer – it will inspire loyalty if you treat them like a human being (and help solve their customer service or product issues).

Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are good places to start conversations and share new products. Having an email on your website that customers can contact is essential, and a blog is a great platform to offer information about your store and products.

Whichever method you choose, don’t flood them with automated replies. Yes, there are a few automated messages that are convenient, but we all like to talk to real people, not machines. We don’t want automation, we want a real response. Think about calling customer service to get your cell phone fixed (which I had to do this past week). The moment that plastic, too-cheerful voice comes on the line, it’s tempting to hang up. It’s even worse when you get someone who’s grumpy or needs a cup of coffee. . . .

There’s something about speaking with a real person that makes the experience more pleasant. First, you get real-time answers for your questions. Second, a representative actually understands you. It isn’t necessary to dial one for English, and then slowly move through the chain of events to get an answer. The point is this: Human communication is important to us. Your customer wants to talk to a real person, not an automated message.

Make a Sale

So, how do you turn an online lead into a paying customer? First, you let them offer them information. Second, you communicate. Once you have the carrots all in a line, your lead will decide whether or not they want to make a purchase. A nurturing process is better than dragging a customer to your store and showing him thousands of advertisements. Those flashy offers and ads may just chase them off. Present valuable information to help customers make their decision.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. You can advertise to your leads and customers, but you can’t make them pay. Offer a choice, and present your information well. Treat your prospects with care, and they will trust your store.

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