How to Nurture e-Commerce Leads Without Being Too Pushy

By    Last updated December 05, 2016   Sales Funnel

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Customer relationships are fragile. Like planting a garden, you bury tons of seeds, water them with a little gift or attention, and hope they sprout.

 

Just as a tender seedling isn’t ready for the sun right away, potential customers may not be ready to buy your product. Yet.

 

Because we have something to sell, our first inclination is to make our first contact to potential customers a carefully constructed, hard hitting sales pitch, hoping our wonder speech melts them into a heaping pile of ready to buy right there on the spot. But unless you’re selling ice cream out of a truck on a hot summer’s day, this isn’t the response you usually get.

 

According to Robert Clay, only 2% of prospects will ever buy at the first meeting, which means that our first encounter with someone shouldn’t just be about you. You don’t propose marriage on the first date, and a customer will want to learn more about you before they trust you with their credit card information.

 

There is another way to stay in the top of mind of your prospects. Every sales pro should learn how to focus on the customers who are ready to buy while still giving your cold prospects the attention necessary to turn them into hot leads.

 

 

The difference between sales and marketing

 

Getting someone ready to be receptive to your sales pitch is better known as lead nurturing. Like the baby seedling that only gets a little sun each day before letting it exposing it to the harsh elements, lead nurturing prepares your prospects before hitting them with your pitch.

 

It’s critical to understand that getting a lead ready for your sales pitch involves smart marketing, not sales. Many times the terms are used interchangeably, but there is a difference.

 

Sales is the direct process in which the lead is invited to a transaction, the terms are negotiated, and the prospect either accepts or declines the terms. The sales process is initiated with the pitch.

 

Marketing happens long before sales is involved. According to CEB, buyers are usually 57% through the sales process before they decide to buy, meaning up to that point the marketing is what’s doing the work. Marketing involves determining who potential customers are, the tools for targeting these people, and developing a relationship with them until they are ready to enter into the sales process.

 

 

Why hard selling doesn’t work

 

According to Hubspot, customers have higher expectations of the buying process, including a larger degree of control and that they will engage sales when they’re ready. This means it’s important that sales stays in the background until they’re invited to the table. People are more savvy these days, and spend more time researching and talking to other customers before they are ready to talk to sales.

 

 

How to tell who’s hot and who’s not

 

It’s usually pretty easy to figure out who’s ready to buy and who’s not. People who want to buy or are almost ready to buy are:

 

  • asking about a very specific solution
  • ask about price
  • want further information and have questions

 

People who aren’t ready:

 

  • say they’re interested but don’t want to talk to you
  • don’t have a timeframe
  • are too busy to answer your questions

 

You should have a list of questions ready to qualify your prospects. If you cannot get answers to your questions, they go in your not ready category. The people who answer all your questions and meet your criteria above are the ones you should be actively communicating with to close a sale.

 

 

The tools you’ll need to love on your leads from a distance

 

mail love

 

 

All you need to get started is an email service provider like Mailchimp and a few pieces of content. If you can afford to use a marketing automation program like Hubspot or an automated email program like Drip, the whole system works without any effort on your part after you set it up.

 

Learn More: How to Build an Email List From Zero & Send Your First Newsletter: A MailChimp Tutorial To Rule Them All

 

If you can’t afford the heavier equipment, use Mailchimp (free for the first 2000 addresses) in conjunction with a program like Zapier to set up a timed release of nurturing emails.

 

Newsletters work well, too.

 

You don’t have to write an ebook or create a ton of information, sharing valuable content from others (who are not direct competitors) works too.

 

Having the following information on-hand to share with people is a good idea:

 

  • case studies
  • white papers
  • any other non-sales content

 

 

Creating a killer sequence

 

The hardest thing to understand about lead nurturing is that you should not have ANY sales messages in your email. No call to action, no invitation, no offers of any kind until the right time. They are savvy enough to understand that you are emailing them because you want to sell them something. Don’t blow it by reminding them of that.

 

The first thing you need to do is come up with an idea that will solve your prospect’s problem. Be careful in assuming that you know what their problems are and how you solve them. You’d be better off asking some of your current or past clients what problems you took care of for them.

 

Once you’ve identified your prospect’s pain points, use that information to create an email sequence that solves this problem for them. Don’t be afraid that you were going to solve their problems and they are going to go away. Helping your prospects solve their problems makes you a trusted ally, someone they can call on when they realize they can’t fix it themselves.

 

Now it’s time to come up with a frequency. Will you email once a week? Monthly? More is not always better, as daily or several times a day will trigger your customer to unsubscribe. The trick is to learn how often your customers are researching information about their problem. Your past and current customers are the key to finding this out.

 

The best way to start out your sequence is with a free download. Checklists, worksheets, ebooks and other tools are all great things to start out with. Your customer profile will provide the information necessary to figure out what works best.

 

When someone fills out a form requesting the information, this begins the email sequence. If you talk to a prospect in person or on the phone, you can tell them you’d like to send them some free information and get their email address and manually enter their information into your software.

 

 

The secrets of a high converting nurturing sequence

 

A good series of emails is based on customer behavior. If someone doesn’t open an email you send or download your information, send different emails than the person who opens everything and downloads or clicks through. Stop emailing if they don’t open a certain amount of emails.

 

We mentioned before that good sequences do not include any sales messages until the appropriate time.

 

When is the right time?

 

At the very end.

 

 

Sample Email Sequence

 

The following sample is a six-email sequence sent over 20 days which starts with a request for free information.

 

If you sell cosmetics, think beauty tips. Shoes? Free tips to extend the life of your sneakers. Whatever you choose, it needs to have value.

 

Immediately on Signup: Immediately send the information they requested.

 

3 Days After Signup: Resend a link to the freebie with information about who you are that highlights how you can help them.

 

7 Days After Signup: Content that relates directly to the problem you want to help people solve. Your email can be a simple hello with a link to an article in an industry publication that provides some answers.

 

12 Days After Signup: More answers to their questions.

 

17 Days After Signup: The “pre-pitch.” Include a case study of someone you’ve helped or a white paper. Customer testimonials (with pictures) are great ways to build trust.

 

20 Days After Signup: Now’s the time for the pitch. Let your lead know how you’d like to help them and what you can do different than the competition. Invite them to contact you or let them know you’ll be calling in a couple of days.

 
 

Don’t Stop Emailing. Ever.

 

Because people are so sensitive to advertising, buying cycles are longer than they used to be, and sales involvement is lower.

 

Even if you find people aren’t ready to buy after they go through your entire nurturing sequence, continue emailing them. A weekly or monthly newsletter with helpful information does the trick. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just something that keeps your name in their inbox so they don’t forget about you.

 

The most important thing is to not give up. The difference between success and failure is following up. It may take 10 tries before you get a response. By automating the process, you make it easier for you to focus on the people who are ready to buy without neglecting the ones who aren’t ready yet.

 

 

Keep Collecting Information

 

Once you have a healthy supply of customers, don’t forget to stay in touch. Encourage feedback, and get as much information about their buying habits as you can. Continue to develop your lead nurturing program to incorporate your growing body of knowledge about your customers and get more business.

 

Sharon McElwee

Sharon McElwee is a freelance writer that helps businesses grow through blogging, email marketing and social media. She loves working with creative freelancers and entrepreneurs.

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  • Permission marketing is indeed by far the most effective & efficient way to outreach a customer. Once you have the permission to talk with them, you can know them better and hence a more accurate solution to their problem. Nice write up Sharon!