Does Your Selling Get In The Way Of Buying?

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Buying a new mailbox for my house gave me a new appreciation for why fitness and wellness businesses should tailor their sales process to their customer’s buying process, and not vice-versa.

Buying a mailbox is not simple. Do you need a surface mount, curbside or rural mailbox? Locking, vandal-resistant, extra-large capacity? Contemporary, traditional, cedar, polymer, aluminum? Tiny budget or big budget? Bolted into concrete, in-ground post, or a no-dig installation system? And don’t forget street numbers (one side, both sides, or on the post?), mailbox flower planters, in-box illumination, decorative magnets and more.

Most of us will only buy one or two mailboxes in a lifetime. We’re not experts, and we probably don’t know any experts. So we’re dependent on vendors to help us decide.

Same thing’s true in health and wellness, right?

You and your staff are totally confident when it comes to health and wellness. But your prospective customers view it as complicated, full of conflicting information, and often expensive with a high risk of disappointment.

So health and wellness businesses that make it easy to buy will thrive. Those that don’t will wonder why it always seems so hard.

Here’s what I learned from mailbox suppliers about tailoring your sales process to your customer’s buying process:

1. No digging to find the right products and services

I looked at about two dozen different websites. I picked one that listed mailboxes clearly on their homepage. On other sites, I had to figure out which category they had stuck mailboxes in — yard art? outdoor living?

What this means: your printed marketing materials and website should clearly lay out your major product and service categories. Use descriptive straightforward terms that help your potential customer immediately assess whether this is what they’re looking for.

Buying shouldn’t feel like a scavenger hunt. We saw a business recently that placed sales information about nutritional supplements in their wellness coaching marketing materials. That’s probably the last place anyone would look for it. Another firm listed personal training in three different places. Potential clients had to read all three sections to get the full picture. Far better to consolidate all the info into a single personal training section.

2. A prominently featured buyer’s guide

Out of all the sites I visited, only this one featured a buyers guide — and it was right at the top of the main Mailboxes page. Only these folks actually explained all of the different factors to consider. One of the things that had kept me from buying on other sites was that I couldn’t figure out what kind of post to get.

What this means: you and your staff are experts in healthy living. Your potential customers aren’t. Your marketing materials should help educate them on making a smart decision. For example: consider a guide to “How To Choose A Personal Trainer”. Or a guide on “Safely Becoming Physically Active.”

3. An easy-to-spot low-price guarantee

Smart — because one of the reasons I visited so many sites was to find the best price. Once I saw that guarantee, I felt a lot less urgency to keep comparison-shopping on price. Did they really have the lowest price? I don’t know, because once I saw the guarantee I assumed they probably wouldn’t make that promise unless they could live up to it.

What this means: If potential customers view your services as easily interchangeable with similar services provided by someone else, they’ll probably emphasize price in their purchasing decision. Your goal is to dissuade them from continuing to look for the lowest price.

You’ve got two basic strategies in this situation. A low-price guarantee can work especially well for products like energy bars and national-brand apparel. Most consumers won’t actually invoke the guarantee — but simply seeing it reassures them that you’re probably not overpricing.

For services, it’s often more effectively to spell out what sets your programs or services apart from those of others. For example, you might choose to market a weight management program led by a registered dietitian as “medically-based.” That helps justify a higher price.

4. Prominent link to an extended warranty offer

Great idea — because once somebody starts digging for more info, it’s even likelier that they’re going to buy from someone. So reducing their fear of making a bad decision is really important at this point in the process.

Some mailboxes are really expensive. You could easily spend $1000 by the time you add all the bells and whistles. At that point you start wondering, “What if it rusts? What if it leaks? I’ll be out all this money and then what will I do?”

Plus, many online mailbox companies won’t accept returns — at all. So it’s really important to reassure the buyer that they’re protected if there’s an unexpected issue.

What this means: Think about the questions and concerns your potential customers raise — and think about WHEN they ask those questions. Then build in easy ways for them to get that information at the appropriate point in the buying process.

For example, if the first thing most people say is that they’ve tried other diets and nothing ever works, you should create a marketing document that identifies the top ten reasons people say other diets didn’t work, and explains why your program is different for each of those ten points. Since your prospects usually mention that first, make that information available very early in the sales process.

On the other hand, if the only time people ask about refunds is right before they give you their credit card number, that’s the right time to mention your guarantee: “If you feel that this program isn’t working for you for any reason at all during the first month, we’ll refund everything you’ve paid us, no questions asked.”

5. Logical and helpful ordering process

When I picked the mailbox I wanted, the ordering process at the vendor I chose walked me through every single possible option — color, type of post, how many address panels, and much more. At each point I had all the info I needed to make a decision.

On other sites, they just showed pictures and links of related items. It was up to me to think of everything I’d need — post, mailbox, street numbers, etc. — and then figure out which models were compatible with the mailbox I wanted. And trust me, it wasn’t nearly as obvious as the mailbox pros thought it was!

What this means: Your buying process should proceed in a logical order and make it extremely simple for the prospect to make all the related buying decisions.

For example, if you’re enrolling people in a walking program, your enrollment process might cover:

  • which group they want to join
  • what size t-shirt they’d like
  • whether they’d like to buy a visor or cap
  • which pedometer they want to buy
  • whether they’d like to buy a heart rate monitor

You shouldn’t just hand them a leaflet of related stuff they can buy if they feel like it.

Your process — whether it’s face to face, over the phone, or online — should walk them through each decision, explaining the pros and cons and making it easy for them to take action. Plus, it’s an excellent way to upsell the customer without pressuring them.

6. Tools to help buyers decide

I waffled on mailbox color — black with bronze trim, or black with antique nickel trim.

Guess what? They had a tool that was available at exactly that point in the ordering process. It let me compare the appearance of two side-by-side mailboxes, each with a different trim color. How cool is that?

Other sites didn’t even show pictures of all the possible color combinations, much less make it easy to play around with different possibilities. I actually put off making a buying decision because I couldn’t picture the difference between the finishes.

What this means: some decisions are easy for consumers. Other decisions are “sticking points” — points at which people often waffle on what to decide. Waffling means a stalled sales process. Figure out exactly why they’re waffling. Then create marketing tools that help them think through those sticking points.

For example, if they get stuck on how to pay for your service, perhaps you should provide a tool that helps them identify small budget changes that will allow them to afford it. A checklist with ten ways to save $10/month so that they can afford a membership might be handy. One suggestion might be skipping Starbucks once/week.

If they hesitate to order online, provide info that addresses their concerns. For example, you could provide more detailed garment measurements so that they can order with confidence. Or include user reviews like Zappos (“This shoe ran a half-size small” or “Small rocks kept getting in these trail shoes because of the mesh insert”).

If the variety of product models confuses them, perhaps a side-by-side comparison of product features would help.

7. Fast response to questions — as promised

They said they respond to questions promptly and they did. My first question was answered within a few hours and included a helpful attachment showing certain dimensions. My second question was answered within a few minutes.

I emailed questions to a couple of other companies, and still haven’t heard back from them. I probably never will. I called another company, had to sit on hold for about 5 minutes, and then got someone who sounded like they’d never even heard of the mailbox I had questions about.

And interestingly, the questions I had for these other companies weren’t even issues when I finally bought the mailbox. The company I ended up selecting anticipated those questions and handled them very smoothly in the ordering process.

What this means: Actually, a couple of things.

First, don’t promise what you can’t, won’t, or don’t deliver. I called my local Life Time Fitness with a simple question over two years ago. They assured me that my question was very important to them and promised they’d call me right back. Hasn’t happened yet. If your marketing features claims of wonderful service, you better make sure that’s how your potential customers see it.

Second, immediately reply to inquiries from potential customers, regardless of whether they email or phone. If a prospect is standing right in front of you, I bet you answer their questions immediately, right? You wouldn’t dream of saying, “OK, we’ll get back to you within 48 hours on that.” And you certainly wouldn’t ask them to talk to a completely clueless employee.

Yet many wellness businesses routinely respond poorly to email and phone inquiries from potential buyers. They leave people on hold, take messages that are never returned, ignore emails, or direct their calls and emails to staffers completely lacking the know-how to actually answer their questions.

8. A buying experience that creates confidence

A buying experience that anticipates the customer’s questions and concerns is a buying process that builds confidence. The company that sold me my mailbox had clearly spent a lot of time thinking about how to make it simple for people to buy mailboxes. That convinced me that they were serious about providing good customer service start to finish. Other websites clearly just wanted me to buy the darn mailbox, no questions asked. Can you imagine trying to get help with any problems?

What this means: Many consumers are skeptical of products and services related to health and wellness. Over-the-top claims of amazing benefits have made them cynical. Yet a thoughtful buying process, tuned to their concerns and questions, can actually reverse this cynicism and replace it with confidence — at least in your company. That, in turn, feeds word of mouth like nothing else can.