The story of a lead: Amy.

Meet Amy. 

Amy’s a 55-year-old political consultant with a Texas accent and a big, boisterous laugh. She loves hiking, kickboxing, and her dog Bruce. She’s outgoing and sharp-witted, with a firm yet friendly demeanor that indicates she’ll happily engage in conversation, but you better not waste her time.

Right now, however, the most important thing to know about Amy is that she seems poised to buy something from your business.

Amy is a lead—and a highly qualified lead at that. Your sales team has already had several exchanges with her. We know what she’s interested in and we have a good sense of her budget. 

All that’s left to do is close the deal.

Should be easy, right?

Not so fast.

This is one of the most common customer acquisition challenges business owners run into—closing a sale that looks like it should be a sure thing. 

Be careful not to mistake a lead’s enthusiasm or friendly personality for readiness to make a purchase. And don’t assume their decision-making process aligns perfectly with your sales process. Just because Amy is where she is in our funnel doesn’t mean that she’s ultimately made the decision to move forward.

In fact, depending on Amy’s mindset at this point and experiences with the company thus far, she may be more challenging to convert than someone coming in with fewer expectations. Let’s break down why.

Does Amy understand her ROI?

Sales-qualified leads like Amy typically know what they need and who’s offering it. If you run an HVAC company, for example, someone like Amy may contact you because she needs a new furnace and is aware that your business can fulfill that need. 

The reason Amy hasn’t become a customer is that she doesn’t fully understand her return on investment. She knows what she needs and knows you’re selling it. But she doesn’t know why your product or service is her best, most reliable, and most cost-effective option.

This is what trips up so many business owners. Because Amy has expressed interest in the product or service offered, she feels like an easy sale. She seems excited over the phone. She’s asking a lot of questions. But then she says, “let me think about it,” and you’re chasing her for the next six months. 

You could say you’re… Chasing Amy.

How do we turn Amy into a customer?

To convert Amy, we need to demonstrate value. 

Countless business owners take this part for granted. They assume the value of their products or services is obvious, or they struggle to articulate it in terms that resonate with leads. After all, their skill is providing those products or services—not necessarily selling them.

Which is why, for someone like Amy, it’s often important to back up and demonstrate why you are the most valuable option. Amy might not be ready to buy just yet, but she’s ready to be convinced. 

In general, there are three questions every lead needs an answer to before they make a purchase:

  1. “Do I need this?”
  2. “If so, what’s the best way to get it? Can I do it myself?”
  3. “If I can’t do it myself, who’s the best vendor?”

Convincing Amy comes down to answering question 3. But we might have to return to questions 1 and 2 to make the company’s value as obvious as possible. Maybe it’s worth reminding Amy that she needs a furnace and that expert installation is her easiest, fastest, cheapest option. We have to ensure she sees everything she has to gain—and then make the case for our business.

Remember: sales is both a science and an art

The science is checking those three boxes. 

The art is getting Amy to be open to the conversation, and getting her to open up about what she needs. This is where conversational skills and personalities come into play. We know Amy appreciates when people are candid and honest, so we can be pretty direct with her. If she were shier or more evasive, we’d need to take a different approach.

There’s another factor to keep in mind here. Amy might not be the sole decision-maker. In a lot of cases, particularly B2B sales, there are other people to convince. Amy may be on board, but perhaps her CFO (or spouse) is the one who ultimately makes the purchasing decision. In that instance, Amy could be a “gatekeeper” , meaning we would need to convince her to give us access to the person who’s really in charge, or a decision influencer, who might need help in how to convince someone else to move forward. In either situation, it’s best if you ask some questions to make sure you fully understand the full scope of the decision-making process.

All of this is to say that every lead, no matter how warm or how far along they are in the process, has their own needs, realities, and expectations—which may or may not be obvious. Converting that lead into a customer means first identifying when they’re ready for the sale, and then—when they are ready—keeping an open mind, listening carefully, and centering value throughout the conversation.

In the next article in this series, we’ll look at a lead who’s not quite as far along as Amy, but whom we can start nurturing to eventually become a customer.

For more free tips, tricks, and tools for growing your business, check out Ruby’s Small Business Resource Hub.