Turning a Cold Lead to a Buying Customer

“Companies and their brands need to reach out and speak directly to consumers, to honor their values, and to form meaningful relationships with them. They must become architects of community, consistently demonstrating the values that their customer community expects in exchange for their loyalty and purchases” – Simon Mainwaring

The success of any business now depends a lot on its customers, and the business and the referrals they provide. However, such referrals and leads do not always happen, creating a problem for a business because of lowered revenue and profits. It then becomes the responsibility of the business to generate cold leads and turn them into buying customers. We are not suggesting that this is easy in any manner, since customers now have so many option and shorter attention spans. They may take time to decide in favour of a company or may completely ignore it. There are some, who may express an interest in the offerings of the company – asking relevant questions and appearing keen on buying. However, post the initial interaction their attention seems to have diverted and their interest waned – they do not respond to any messages or calls from your company.

A cold lead is a prospective customer that the company may not have been in touch with previously and neither would they know too much about the company. A ‘cold lead’ is extremely tough to convert to a buying customer especially since these cold leads do not have the ‘support’ of an existing customer’s referral or testimony. In fact, getting in touch with them itself could prove to be a challenge. Anyone in business already knows that people easily believe existing customers with regard to a company and its products – the referrals, testimonies, and positive comments all add to the trust and dependability perception of a company. A cold lead has a lowered chance of becoming a buying customer since it lacks these positive aspects. In addition, being too persistent in trying to get a customer can sometimes backfire, blocking off at least one prospective customer for good.

Given that there is a possibility of turning a cold lead to a buying customer, a company can never give up on approaching business from this direction. However, as mentioned, it could be tough to get people to see your company’s abilities or trust it at the outset. Hence, it would be important that a company makes an in-depth check and completely understands the target customer. The products offered by your company must be useful to the ‘target’ immediately or at least in the near future. The person representing the target company must have the skills and decision-making power such that even a short clear presentation would land a company a buying customer from a simple cold lead. Without a clear understanding of who your company would like to target or for whom the products would be best suited, even the best products and the most impressive pitch would be of little use.

The best way to understand a target customer before a meeting, would be to find out whatever there would be to know about the prospective customer – things like the industry, their company’s needs, the products they offer, the vision and goals of the target company, and maybe even some information on the culture and the decision makers of the company. ‘Armed’ with such knowledge, a company would be in a better position to end up with a buying customer, since its interest and desire to understand the prospective customer would be apparent – making the target customer feel important even before actually buying. While this research may take time and effort, the returns would be worth all of it.

Despite best efforts and thorough research, there is always a possibility that the meeting with a cold lead would not turn result in a buying customer – this is a fact and something that every company must be ready to deal with. The mistake many companies make is to try converting the first meeting into a sale. This is a poor approach, which could put off the customer forever. Instead, a company that focuses on building trust, rapport, and dependability would be in a better position to turn a cold lead to a buying customer – albeit over time. It is important therefore for a company to keep its expectations low when meeting with a ‘cold lead’.

The fact is that only those companies that can offer value – in some form or the other and in every interaction, would at the outset be in a better position to be afforded meetings with ‘cold leads’. These apprehensive people would first want to know how the meeting would benefit them, and whether this value would be apparent after they became a buying customer. It is imperative for the company’s representative to be able to provide this clarity and assurance – cold leads rarely give a company another chance for a direct interaction and would divert their attention to other market players. People see value when the company and its products can address a need – a personal or business need or both. Even with a lot of research, it would be essential for a company to gain more knowledge about the prospect’s needs. This would be possible by asking right and relevant questions that would allow the prospective customer to articulate their needs – even those that they did not realize they had hitherto. Being able to ‘uncover’ these unknown and unfulfilled needs, would help a company to establish a rapport and connection right at the start – a sure way to gain a long-term buying customer.

The fact about customers, especially those that may still be apprehensive of a company’s abilities, is that they would need prodding and pushing even post a very successful first meeting with the company’s representatives. It becomes critical for a company therefore to agree on the next step / course of action before leaving the first meeting with the prospective customer. People may not always want to think about what they would do next, hence it would be good to provide workable suggestions – such as a follow up communication, an email with more information, another meeting at a mutually agreed time, and other such suggestions that would be easy to do and have value for the prospective customer. A very expensive mistake that a number of companies make is to leave out this important step, and a possible relationship falls through the cracks, lowering the chances of gaining a buying customer. The truth is that people talk – it is very possible that this prospective customer would mention the ‘failed’ interaction to others, negatively altering their perception of the company.

The process of making a buying customer out of a cold lead takes time, effort, and patience. It does not happen overnight and hence persistence and tenacity are key skills that business development, sales, and marketing professionals require. Once it has been established that a target prospect would benefit from the company and could add value to the company, ensure that you do not give up on this lead. Even if the messages, which follow this meeting, are not aimed at making a sale, it would be crucial to stay in touch and in the mind of the prospect, since the prospective customer would have several distractions and other market players vying for their attention. Consistent but wise follow up is essential and its importance cannot be undervalued.

A meeting with a cold lead is challenging for both the company and the ‘target’ since there is limited knowledge on both sides. However, if managed well, a cold lead could not only become a buying customer, but could generate several leads for your company in the future.

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