How to Avoid “Missed Connections” in the Buying Cycle

Most people know about Craigslist “Missed Connections:” you’ve met someone interesting but didn’t follow up or exchange contact information, so you cast a line into the World Wide Web in the hopes of getting a second chance with that special someone.

The problem? The odds are largely against you, since it all depends on that other person actually finding your ad.

What does this have to do with the industrial buying cycle? Well, in the supply chain, as in your personal relationships, nobody wants to be just another “missed connection.” If you’re lucky enough to find that ideal prospect out of the millions out there, make sure you’re ready to take the next step before they walk out the door.

Recently, we discovered our own treasure trove of (nearly) “Missed Connections” when we dug into our email marketing analytics. We decided to take a look at the handful of people who opted out of a recent email blast. One of these opt-outs actually passed along our email to some co-workers before unsubscribing, and one of them turned out to be our “Missed Connection!” He opened the email, visited our website about a half-dozen times in three days, and browsed our products extensively. Without checking those email metrics, we never would have known.

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Thanks to email tracking, we had basic contact info for this person: name, email, and company name. But we were still unsure how to start the conversation – how do you reach out to someone you’ve never met without seeming…creepy? After careful consideration, we’ve come up with the following steps to initiate a sales process without being pushy.

  1. Set up some analytics. If you’re not tracking who receives your emails and what actions they’re taking, you’re missing out on leads. Having the ability to track this information lets you be more proactive and efficient in the sales process, rather than going after unqualified leads.
  2. Add identified leads and prospects to your email list. The fact that they’ve visited your website and clicked around shows that they are interested in your company and offerings.
  3. Get social. Connecting with potential prospects on Twitter is an unobtrusive way to start the conversation. Just be mindful of coming on too strong – it’s not the place for a hard sales pitch. Start by replying to their posts and retweeting their updates and see where that takes you.
  4. Follow up. Starting the conversation is sometimes the hardest part of making a sale, but it isn’t the only step. Once you understand your prospects’ needs and “style,” you can feel out each individual circumstance to determine how to reach them - sending a direct message (not a public post) on Twitter or LinkedIn, putting together a quick email pitch, or calling directly.

By staying connected across these different avenues, you’re giving leads and prospects every opportunity to reach out to you and request a quote or learn more about your company. The key is to find out who they are, where they are, and how to reach them. It takes some investigating, but with the right tools the effort pays off.

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