Is your website a funnel for new business, or a fortress that keeps ‘pesky’ customers at bay? Does your site function as a gatekeeper to qualify prospects, or like an armed guard who deters anyone from getting past the front door?
A good website represents you in the internet marketplace and helps prospects determine whether you have what they need and are someone with whom they would like to do business. You may even use the site to discourage prospects that won’t be a good fit, especially if you’ve chosen to work only with your ideal customers and have plenty of new business and a strong referral stream.
But what happens when a qualified prospects decides to go to the next step, and wants to interact personally with you?
Maybe a motivated prospect has already checked out your competition and decided that you’re the one for them. They want to judge how the two of you will hit it off, not from what’s on your site, but from what you’re really like one-on-one. It’s the next step toward landing this prospect as a client, assuming and you—and the prospect—agree that the two of you would work well together. Here’s where a lot of companies falter. At this point, a great website isn’t enough. The future of your relationship with this prospect—and his/her decision whether or not to become a client—rests on how you respond.
For some business owners, it’s daunting to realize that their ability to show interest and be a good listener, to be receptive and use good people skills is even more important at this stage than their credentials. See, the prospect has already checked out your credentials by this point and probably asked around about your reputation, too. Now it comes down to compatibility. And the truth is, most customers would trade a little bit of expertise in exchange for a good working relationship and the sense that you ‘get’ them and their needs.
Here’s where your website can get in the way. When someone calls and asks questions, do you automatically steer them to the site? You may think you’re being efficient, but you’re really telling them that you can’t be bothered with personal interaction. Regardless of what the person claims is the reason for calling, the real reason he or she picked up a phone and bothered to call was to get a sense of who you are as a human being in order to know whether or not working with you would be a good fit or not.
If you hide behind your website, at best the prospect will consider you disinterested, maybe standoffish, or not personable. That kind of first impression can be a deal-killer. The website has done its job presenting basic information and funneling a qualified prospect to your phone. Now it’s time for you to pick up the ball and get it into the end zone by making a personal connection with the prospect. While someone might be willing to order an inexpensive product online without human interaction, when it comes to high-ticket products and expertise-driven services like consulting, rapport is as important as credentials—perhaps even more so!
In my experience, I find that business owners who use their websites as fortresses are uncomfortable closing the deal. They don’t think they’re good at making the sale, or maybe they hate the whole idea of selling. They want to build a website that takes care of everything, like their own personal Amazon, and focus on the aspects of their business they like best. Unfortunately, very few businesses outside of basic retail operate that way.