What is the difference between prospect and customer?
A prospect is a lead that appears to be a sale opportunity and is likely to become a new customer. To be considered a prospect, the person (or company) must have shown interest in a company’s product or service, and they must have been engaged by the sales team. This usually means the sales team has walked them through information, like product or service options and pricing, and is actively moving them through the sales pipeline in an effort to convert them into customers.
A customer is a person or group that is actively purchasing or paying for goods or services from a store or business. A customer is a former prospect that a salesperson has successfully converted.
How long does it take to convert prospects into customers?
The time it takes to convert a prospect into a customer is influenced by many factors. These include the type of product or service being sold, the prospect’s approval process, the technology that the sales team uses, and the current business environment.
If a prospect understands what they want and are ready to sign, the prospect-to-customer conversion can be quick. Converting prospects into customers can take anywhere from one to six months, however, it is possible — and increasingly more realistic — for this conversion to take longer. In fact, according to one study, 57% of B2B technology vendors reported that deal cycles became longer as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Examples of sales conversion strategies
If you’re confident that a prospect is likely to convert into a customer, it can be frustrating to have that possibility evaporate and have all your hard work fall through. To avoid delays or lost prospects, here are some sales conversion strategies to improve the prospect experience and turn prospects into customers:
1. Optimize based on your data.
Chances are that if you’re experiencing issues converting prospects, then so is someone else on your sales team. Rather than repeat this process endlessly, see if your data might offer a solution. Maybe the communication cadence was too frequent and has become a burden, or too infrequent and the prospect feels like they’re not a priority? Perhaps the process took too long and they lost interest? Or did the sales person skip a demonstration to save time, which led to confusion that affected closing the deal?
Whatever you’re searching for, look for patterns or commonly shared issues to identify possible improvements or solutions.
2. Use technology to improve conversion rates.
Whether it’s automating communication between prospects and the sales team, reducing the internal approval process, or customizing dashboards to analyze the performance of your sales process, adding a technology layer can help resolve common pitfalls and help sales teams do more with their prospect interactions.
For example, with a low-code automation solution, your sales team can:
- Quickly scale improvements to the sales cycle for better results.
- Nurture prospects with scheduled automated emails to maintain engagement.
- Connect with customer success teams to collaborate on conversion solutions.
- Automatically assign approvers and notify sales leads of immediate action items or concerns for faster sales cycles and problem resolution for prospects.
- Build and customize dashboards to gather real-time data based on sales cycle to gather and analyze conversion metrics.
How to convert more prospects into customers
1. Be realistic, and work with deadlines.
Set dates according to which you’ll pace your communication style. Also, set a “final” deadline to remove from your funnel prospects you haven’t heard back from. For example, define an automated e-mail to be sent 30 days after you haven’t heard from the customer: don’t forget to make yourself available whenever the customer feels like contacting you once again.
Being polite while at the same time remarking you will no longer get in touch usually gets the prospect’s attention. And in the chance it doesn’t, it will prevent you from wasting resources on a dead prospect.
2. If you want a response, ask a question.
Whenever you send a communication asking a question, it implies a reply is required from your prospect. Try saying something like, “It’s been (x) days since we last heard from you. Have you had a chance to go over the materials we sent? Is there any doubt or question I can help you with?”. This is a subtle but effective way to apply light pressure while also leaving the dialogue open to discover any questions or concerns the prospect might have that are stalling your deal.
3. Periodically follow-up (but don’t become a burden).
Most often than not, the previous time sending a simple follow-up e-mail or even taking a few minutes to call and ask the prospect for any additional questions will put them back into the purchase process.
Following up periodically is a very effective way to turn prospects into customers before they’ve gone cold, or even too much time passes, and they reach the “remove from funnel” deadline.
With Pipefy, you’ll be able to do just that by using e-mail templates with variables, such as the customer’s name, the date the prospect entered your pipeline, etc., to be sent every time a new prospect card is opened on your sales pipeline. You can also set up reminders for your sales staff to follow up on the phone a few days later, making yourself always available for answering doubts.
4. For frequently asked questions, have a FAQ section ready to share.
Putting together a FAQ section on your website with your most commonly asked questions is easy, won’t take a lot of time, and is likely to save you more than a few minutes always answering the same questions. Don’t forget to make this an easily accessible section on your webpage.
Don’t know where to start with your FAQ? Talk to your sales and customer service staff. They’re a valuable source of information when looking for those most frequently asked questions.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for a sale.
Considering here your prospects actually became prospects for showing interest in what you are offering, asking for the sale won’t hurt and won’t sound rude. Asking the customers if they’re ready to get started with the sales process is common sense, yet many people neglect to do it.
6. Offer incentives or discounts.
Gain your prospect’s interest by offering a discount or even throwing in a gift – it’s a very effective way to convert sales. It doesn’t even need to be something of great value or a substantial discount. Most people have that little itch and can’t help it when offered something for free.
7. Make your communication interesting.
Don’t let your e-mail marketing sound boring and unappealing. Mix in some icebreakers, and hook your prospect’s attention. Most of your prospects (as well as everyone else) are probably also being marketed to by your competitors, so you can’t be another one in the crowd, find ways to stand out!
Making your communication more than just your everyday overly promotional e-mail will make your brand stand out from the already overflowed e-mail inboxes. Produce relevant information, mix in facts, and curiosities about your business, product, and even your company. Saying fun, unexpected things are almost guaranteed to get your prospects to become customers, forgetting your competition.
Manage your sales pipeline with Pipefy
Pipefy’s sales pipeline template makes it easy to build and customize a step-by-step workflow to enhance your sales team’s focus and productivity. This template will guide your team through all the sale steps, from managing prospects, properly qualifying leads, and closing the deal. And with build-in real-time process analytics, your team can continuously analyze and improve the sales process to improve conversions.