Consumer Marketing: 4 communication tips for online salespeople from a customer perspective

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When you think about lead nurturing, your first instinct might be to throw it into the B2B marketing bucket. However, some consumer products require nurturing on the part of a salesperson too.

Consumers face many high-involvement purchases that require a helping hand in the buying process, such as cars, insurance policies and even services like home construction and child care. These typically aren’t impulse buys.

Take, for example, the auto industry. Once upon a time, you had to go to each dealership and wheel and deal to make a great purchase. Now, many shoppers start their hunt online. This leads to consumers having  to deal with “Internet salespeople.”

Today, for anyone in favor of researching their purchases, the Internet is the first stop. It was for me when I recently started researching different cars I might want to buy. Now keep in mind, I’m in my information search phase. This means, as you can see in John Dewey’s Customer Buying Process, I’m still a whole other step away from buying. 

 

I’m still several months out from actually purchasing. I just like to have my ducks in a row for when I’m ready to take the plunge. Let’s keep that in mind for the remainder of the post as we go through four tips to better communicate with customers during the lead nurturing process.

 

Tip #1. Segment your leads

All leads are not equal. The prospects that appear on your list are not all at the same point in the decision process. One simple way for you to estimate where they are in the process is based on where they came from.

Think about a prospect who entered your funnel through your site. Then, think about a customer who was added to your list through a third-party website. While they might end up on your email list next to each other, they are two very different people.

Those who enter through your site could already be in the evaluation stage, or they could be ready to purchase, having already completed Stages 2 and 3. Those entering through the third-party site, where their information is potentially being given to multiple companies, could be just feeling out the marketplace.

When I researched a specific car on TrueCar — an automotive pricing and information website — my information was sent to three different dealerships so I could see those dealers’ online offer price. It was interesting as someone in marketing to see the varying responses I received – more on that in the following tips.

But, I’m just one very specific example.

We can certainly leave it at assumptions and generalizations. However, no one knows your prospects better than you. Look back at data — whether that’s in a sophisticated CRM or basic Excel sheet.

Which prospects seem to move faster through the funnel? Which seem to drop out rather quickly? Can you see a pattern based on where they entered the funnel?

If so, segment prospects into groups as they come in. That way you’re able to better personalize the email you send to them.

 

Tip #2. Craft appropriate messaging to those segments

This part is tricky and addresses why having established segments can help you crack the code.

There are four essential levels of value propositions, and you need to consider all them when nurturing your leads.

We’ll use the car shopping example to demonstrate why each one may impact your prospects.

 

The primary value proposition

Chances are, you’re not alone in your marketplace. For car dealerships, major metropolitan areas probably offer more than one of the same dealership. For me, I have five Toyota dealerships within a 30-mile radius. If I go with a Toyota, I clearly have choices of who I work with.

Your primary value proposition should answer, “Why should your ideal prospect buy from you rather than any of your competitors?”

 

The prospect-level value proposition

By segmenting your list, you’re able to break the primary value prop down even further.

You’re now trying to answer the question, “Why should [PROSPECT A] buy from you rather than any of your competitors?”

Which parts of your overall value prop applies more to the needs of each segment?

If you know leads are coming from a third-party site like TrueCar, then you know your direct competition has their information too. However, with a little research, you can also know which of your competition is on the third-party site.

Knowing what they offer can help you narrow down your messaging. You say you have the lowest price, but if the other TrueCar dealers offer the same or very similar pricing? What else do you have to offer? Do you have an “only factor”? Something that helps you stand you apart, even in a crowded marketplace.

I really only had one of the five or so dealerships of two groups of auto makers attempt this. The standout factor was to give me the out-the-door price immediately — no hidden fees, undisclosed dealer add-ons, etc. This I truly appreciated, and it did help him stand out in my mind.

 

The product-level value proposition

Is your product the only solution to a customer need? Most likely it’s not, which is why the product-level value prop is important. You most likely have competition other than your competitors selling the same product. Using our car shopping example: Just because I’m looking for information on the Honda CR-V doesn’t mean I’m not using the same site to research the Mazda CX-5.

This is where I think all the dealerships assumed incorrectly. They were all set on selling me one very specific model. None thought to even gauge my interest in similar models they had, let alone assuming they needed to motivate me to buy from their maker.

Every salesperson gave me little value. They all pushed a specific car, gave me a price and encouraged me to come in for a test drive. That was it. This messaging was assuming that I was at the purchase stage.

I used TrueCar to see what the actual going prices where for a few different models with different makers. It helped me get past the MSRP vs. out-the-door (OTD) price discrepancies. It also helped me understand how much one model might cost against another for the same or very similar features.

Each of them lost an opportunity to sell me on their car over other models.

They didn’t answer the question, “Why should [Selena] buy this product rather than any other product?”

 

The process-level value proposition

“Why should [PROSPECT A] click this PPC ad rather than any other PPC ad?”

Or in the car example, open this email or engage with the Internet sales department rather than going straight to the dealership?

Why should prospects take each next step with you? It doesn’t end with getting their email address or getting them to respond back to your email. You have to constantly make the process easy and decrease friction and anxiety as much as possible.

 

Tip #3. Don’t overwhelm prospects

This might sound like a no-brainer, but there are offenders out there.

Just because you acquire an email address and a phone number doesn’t mean you should use both on top of each in the first go-around. If a voicemail goes unanswered, try a follow-up email the next day.

Keep in mind, for many consumers, handing over their phone number is a painful sacrifice when it comes to forms. Don’t make them regret their decision.

I had one overeager salesperson email me, call me and text me — all within 10 minutes. Really? I was totally turned off for two reasons:

First, that’s way too much in such a short time. Give me a chance to respond to your first point of contact before laying down a full-on attack.

Second, you texted me without permission. I’m not against business-to-consumer texting; I myself get text messages from two companies. What I am against is texting me without permission. If I opt-in, send away. If not, stick to the more widely accepted, and less personal, methods of communication.

Honestly, if I’m reaching out through the Internet, it means I would rather talk through email. Otherwise, I’d have picked up the phone or visited the store in-person.

 

Tip #4. Create a dialogue based on clarity, not persuasion

Email is not a one-way channel. That’s the beauty of it — where it holds great value to you as a salesperson. You have the opportunity to hear straight from your potential customers in response to your message. However, you have to listen to prospects when they take that step to engage with you.

It felt like almost every Internet salesperson was talking at me rather than to me.

It was, “Here’s a car I think you’ll like. Come and see it.” What if I hate red cars? What if leather is on my must-have list? Why aren’t you taking this opportunity to ask me my preferences? Talk to me, bring me into the conversation.

If I do engage in conversation with you, listen. If I email or call you back, you’ve earned one micro-yes from me. Don’t lose the momentum by trying to sell me something I don’t want.

In most industries, consumers have choices — sometimes only a few, sometimes hundreds. When purchasing expensive items, like a new car, consumers want it as close to their specifications as possible. If you’re not willing to help them find that perfect item, then the next guy or gal will.

Customers need someone who is willing to listen and wants to genuinely help.

 

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