Time is our most precious resource. To increase productivity, resources must be aligned to spend time where you can create the most value. Unfortunately, many of us waste time on activities that don’t maximize our potential; secondary work such as unnecessary meetings, filling out expense reports, or addressing repeat questions and concerns.
“Secondary work: work that’s only created because of your process.”
- Dr. Karl Blanks, founder of Conversion Rate Experts
Sales professionals often waste time trying to sell to people who aren’t ready or motivated to convert and blame marketing for poor quality leads. Conversely, marketing blames sales for not following up on the leads they worked hard to produce. This misalignment in the sales and marketing process creates secondary work for both teams.
Being busy does not equal being productive. Maximizing efficiency does not equal effectiveness. Charles Duhigg, author of Smarter Faster Better and The Power of Habit, provides the following definition of productivity:
“[Productivity is] helping people figure out how to achieve their goals with less waste and less anxiety and less stress and more opportunity to actually enjoy what they want to enjoy… But most importantly, what productivity really means, is: it means a different way of thinking.”
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) increases productivity by learning and applying resources where they will have the greatest impact in your process. It can help prioritize your leads, improve closing ratios, and increase time spent where it matters.
What is CRO?
A conversion is a desired action you want a person to take (i.e., a prospect calling your company to learn more). Online, the conversion rate is the number of those desired actions divided by the number of people who moved to the next step. CRO is about improving that ratio by increasing the number of people taking action.
“Conversion rate optimization is finding why visitors aren’t converting and fixing it.”
CRO improves your return on investment by capitalizing on the people already on your website. So rather than paying for more traffic to get more conversions, you convert more of the traffic you already have, which reduces your cost per acquisition—this means any budget invested to acquire traffic after optimization will receive a better return.
G5 has developed a user-centric CRO framework, D-LITE, to help analyze websites for conversion opportunities:
- Deliver relevance: Match, then exceed, user expectations.
- Lessen friction: Reduce user anxiety by simplifying their process.
- Improve clarity: Ensure messaging is clear, concise, and valuable.
- Trigger action: Motivate conversion. Remove distraction.
- Experiment: Learn, test, and optimize for your users.
In the offline world, CRO can be applied to any process that strives to maximize productivity. Anthony Mullen, founder of The Advanced Sales Summit, shares the following example of the impact of improving close ratios in his post Is Flawed Thinking Hurting Your Occupancy?:
Mullen shows that even with fewer tours, sales professionals can close more leads if they optimize their close ratios (move-ins divided by tours) by having more time for “professional selling.”
What if sales professionals’ time could be optimized because leads were knocking down the door to move in? It’s possible, but requires becoming obsessed with your idealresidents to attract similar prospects.
How can CRO help prioritize leads?
Prioritization is part of how most people determine what to work on, including your sales team in how they process leads, yet this might just mean working the most recent vs. the most qualified. Your conversion optimization plan, from websites to email marketing campaigns, should build in the concept of prioritization. Designing a user experience more in-line with attracting the leads who will be of higher value (aka more qualified), will reduce your sales cycle.
Mullen, who has more than 30 years experience in the senior housing and care industry, shared his perspective regarding sales people in the industry:
“Many dismiss web leads to only work with the “hottest” leads. If they’re not willing to engage via phone or in person—they’re not good leads.”
To optimize your process, it’s crucial to focus on more than just the bottom of the funnel.
Prioritizing leads can be a challenge because it requires saying “no” to less ideal opportunities. Less valuable leads consume resources and impede your ability to focus on the ones that matter.
The most valuable leads are the ones that align with the characteristics of your ideal residents—which help craft your target personas. This requires that sales and marketing work together to define qualification criteria by researching ideal residents, their concerns, motivations, and why they (or the decision makers) chose your community over the competition.
To differentiate yourself from the competition, you must get into your residents’ minds.
No amount of marketing speak can sound as authentic to like-minded prospects as the words that come from the mouths of happy residents.
After both sales and marketing define and agree upon the criteria of who will be targeted (your persona), work together with them to map the unique conversion journey for each persona. Outline the steps your prospects take, from asking friends to visiting your website, before they become a resident. Enquire Solutions provides the following example of a prospect journey in their 2015 Year in Review Senior Living Sales and Marketing Benchmarking Report:
Next is the most important part of this process: for each step in their prospect journey, brainstorm answers to the following:
- What are their most pressing questions at this stage of their decision process?
- What concerns might the prospect have that would prevent her from progressing to the next step?
- What internal motivations might she have that would make her want to take action?
Once you’ve identified these questions, decide how to find answers from internal knowledge and most importantly, directly from your prospects and customers. . To best answer these prospect needs, you will need more and more targeted content published and distributed. Consider both traditional media and online content that will address the prospect’s concerns and increase their motivation.
It’s important to measure the impact of each resource based on lead volume and conversion rate. For example, paying someone to pump out mediocre blog posts for the sake of “fresh content” may not be as valuable as investing in quality photography or a video tour of your community. Test and invest appropriately—you get what you pay for.
The purpose is to become a trusted advisor for your audience. Be transparent and provide as much content on your website and other digital touchpoints to reduce time spent addressing common questions and concerns in person (or on the phone). Transparency can also reduce the likelihood of prospects converting with online directories or internet listing services (ILSs). A prospect might visit your website in search of pricing, for example, but since she can’t find it, converts at an ILS that later sells her information back to you at a higher cost.
Real Life Example
To understand what a prospect experiences through their journey, we tested how expectations can be missed. At A Place for Mom, we were attracted to the call to action for “GET PRICING” for a community and provided answers to their questions. Once met with a new call to action for “GET FREE INFO,” assuming I’d now see pricing.
Instead of the promised “FREE INFO,” I received a confirmation screen with the call to action “View Your Options in Colorado Springs.” BUT I ALREADY DID THAT! Where is my “FREE” pricing information, and why are they encouraging me to look at the competition?!
Side note: I still haven’t received any follow-up with pricing information. Perhaps it went to my spam folder? Regardless, like most people, I never check that.
This scenario doesn’t benefit a user or the community—especially if the user is encouraged to keep searching the competition. As a user, I would give up at that point due to a poor experience.
As with everything CRO, measure and track all of your efforts so you can analyze if they’re improving your overall objective. For more on analyzing data, see Beginner’s Guide to Analytics in Digital Marketing.
How can CRO improve close ratios?
Now that each step in the process is outlined and connected by clearly defined links, measure the cost per lead, the number of actions completed, and the conversion rate for each action. Remember, conversion rate is calculated as the number of actions divided by the number of people who moved to the next step.
You can identify bottlenecks by observing where conversion rates are lower than preferred; then consider what steps would be constrained if you had to quadruple productivity in the next six months.
For example, if the primary bottleneck is due to poor close ratios from a lack of “professional selling” time, analyze the cause and brainstorm creative solutions with as many people as possible. Leverage the power of those outside your team to involve different disciplines in the company. Others may be able to contribute perspectives you hadn’t considered or provide resources to lessen the constraints. At the very least, everyone is on the same page about the need to fix the problem and aware of its effect on the company.
Start the brainstorming session by asking questions such as:
- Is there someone or something creating secondary work for sales people that reduces their time spent selling?
- If so, how can we rearrange resources to reduce it?
- What are the common concerns of prospects who don’t convert by the time they reach this step?
- How can we reduce time spent with prospects not quite ready to convert?
- What are the common motivations of prospects who do convert?
- What tools could we use to increase their motivation while addressing their concerns?
- Current resident testimonials/references?
- Demo videos that answer most sales questions?
- Comparative matrix against the competition?
It’s not only important but crucial to identify and fix bottlenecks, because the flow rate of the entire process equals the flow rate of those constraints.
“To maximize throughput, freeing up the bottleneck isn’t just the most important thing. It’s the only important thing.”
- Dr. Karl Blanks, Why Some of Your Projects Take Ten Times Too Long
Enhance All Seven P’s with D-LITE
Some sales and marketing professionals are responsible for all seven P’s: product, price, process, promotion, place, people, and physical evidence. The good news is that each “P” can benefit from D-LITE:
D: Deliver relevance: Match, then exceed, user expectations.
1. Product: Successful companies discover customer needs and desires, then develop a product to meet their expectations.
- Example: Interview your ideal residents and their families to understand the perceived value your community delivers. Leverage strengths while also identifying areas of weakness to develop solutions to better suit their expectations.
2. Price: Your product is only worth what customers are willing to pay for it and should match the perceived customer-value.
- Example: Competing on price isn’t preferred, but if you can increase perceived value you’ll have an advantage. Understand how your pricing compares to competitors with similar qualities. Ask prospects who else they are considering and why, then analyze common responses. Help prospects do what they’re going to do anyway and do the leg work for them. Enhance your most valued qualities within a pricing grid contrasting common competitors.
- Bonus: Include this information on your website to save time on unqualified prospects and take leads back from online directories or ILSs.
L: Lessen friction: Reduce user anxiety by simplifying their process.
3. Process: Touchpoints along the purchase path should contribute to customers’ perceptions of the promised experience prior to purchase. Make this as smooth as possible.
- Example: Choosing a senior living community is already a tough, anxiety-ridden process. Be empathetic by making the customer journey as easy as possible. Undertake some covert ops to literally go through your website’s process as if you were a prospect to ensure what they have to go through is simple and straightforward—and reflects how you want to be perceived.
I: Improve clarity: Ensure messaging is clear, concise, and valued.
4. Promotion: Amplified, consistent messaging gives customers reason to want to purchase your product/service over the competition. Ensure this messaging is clear and concise.
Example: Messaging is more than copy on a website or words in a brochure. It expresses your brand’s value using all mediums of communication to entice and motivate both the left (rational) and right (irrational) sides of your audience’s brain. Evaluate whether your value proposition is truly unique and resonates quickly with those you’re trying to target by asking if it communicates:
- Who we are
- What we do
- Why we are better than the competition
T: Trigger action: Motivate conversion. Remove distraction.
5. Place: The place where customers buy a product/service must be appropriate and convenient. Keep them focused.
- Example: While most contracts probably have to be signed at your community for a prospect to become a resident, there are other places for conversions to occur along the way—on your website or on the phone. Wherever and whenever your prospects decide they’re ready to move to the next step of their process, help them do it. Provide the information they need, with clear next steps to their goal. Build value into the process to keep them motivated and wanting to move forward. Remember that if something isn’t motivation, then it’s likely distraction and probably a good idea to remove it.
6. People: Anyone who represents your brand influences customer perceptions and experience. Everyone can be a brand representative. Ensure consistency.
Example: Train and empower all employees, and representatives of your brand, to deliver the expected level of service at all times. Representatives include anyone who interacts with residents or prospects, so evaluating consistency is key.
- Scott Stratten, a reputation management guru, discusses in his keynote Alienate Customers, Dishearten Employees, and Drive Your Business Into the Ground – NMX Keynote 2014 how a furniture store hired a moving subcontractor that provided a bad experience to their customer. That customer then wrote a scathing review about the furniture store on Yelp. Even though the subcontractor was not technically affiliated, the company’s reputation suffered the consequences.
7. Physical Evidence: These are the tangible items that shape the physical representations of service (i.e., the actual community, brochures, photography, etc).
- Example: Put your best, most authentic foot forward. Help prospects understand what it would be like to live at your community with real photos and videos from your property. Don’t try to be something you’re not by using stock photos in the hope that prospects will actually believe those people actually live there.
E: Experiment: Learn, test, and optimize for your users.
It starts by gaining an intimate understanding of who you are targeting so you can optimize the process to meet their needs and your objectives. Just as important as discovering what works is identifying and removing what doesn’t. This requires trying something new, and learning and adjusting course as needed to discover what works best for your situation.
CRO is the process of identifying and fixing problems to maximize the productivity of any process.
It begins with tracking metrics relative to your objectives and shifting resources from what doesn’t work to what does. Invest the time to optimize your process by learning and addressing the needs and motivations of your prospects at each step of their journey.
Leverage the creativity of your team to brainstorm solutions to bottlenecks constraining the entire process.
Attract and nurture the right people to allow sales to leverage their specialized skillsets. Know when to close the door on unfit opportunities—and spend more time where it matters.
Time is our most precious resource. Optimize efforts to decide where you should spend it.
Nicole Mintiens, Data Analysis & Insights Manager at G5, will be presenting at the upcoming Advanced Sales & Marketing Summit, taking an evidence-based look at how to prioritize leads and gain customers with conversion rate optimization. For more information www.theadvancedsalesummit.com.