02.29.20165 min read

The Tipping Point: Turning a Lead into a Sale

by Lee W. Frederiksen

Good news: Your prospect has a problem. You’ve nurtured this particular lead carefully, educating the prospective client through various forms of content. You’ve even had tentative conversations with a contact at the business. Now they need outside help, and they’re reaching out to several trusted service providers, including you.  

Sounds good, right? The story’s not over yet; you’re not done closing the sale. A few variables are going to determine whether you or your competitor wins the day, and Hinge research of over 1,300 professional services buyers and sellers has found that this variable—the characteristic that “tips the scale”—is often more consistent and predictable than you might imagine. Businesses that understand this are closing sales and growing faster.

So what exactly tips the scale? And who is going to win this deal? For the answers, we’re going to have to take a step back.

Getting in the running

First, it’s important to emphasize that customers’ priorities aren’t static. They will differ somewhat from buyer to buyer and situation to situation, as you might expect. Just as importantly, a given firm’s priorities are going to change over the course of their search for a service provider. What matters to them at the beginning of the process won’t necessarily be top of mind toward the end. And though priorities may vary somewhat from business to business, there are clear patterns.

For example, let’s take a look at the selection criteria that matter most to buyers, as well as what sellers think matters most to them. These are the criteria that put a seller in the running in the first place. In other words, early stage priorities.

At the selection stage, a good reputation is the most essential criteria—and sellers recognize its importance on the whole. Cost is the second most important factor, though not nearly as crucial as sellers believe it to be. Good fit and shared values are nearly as important to buyers as cost, but this goes widely unrecognized by sellers. You can see how these disparities in buyer and seller perspective might impact the effectiveness of sellers’ messaging. Cost is important to address at this stage, but if a firm places too much emphasis on it, they may neglect to speak to qualities that are as, or more, important. Effective, genuinely educational content marketing that helps your audience and shares your firm’s personality can help build your credibility, boost your reputation, and share your spin on the industry.

But what about qualities that can disqualify you?

Don’t get ruled out

As a buyer narrows the field of potential service providers, they’re going to look for characteristics that might rule out a given candidate. As with selection criteria, we’ve identified some clear trends: A reputation for, or past experience of, broken promises is the most dangerous characteristic a provider can have, but at this stage, it is also important not to seem like every other competitor.

Again, cost matters—you can get disqualified based on price—but note how dramatically sellers overestimate its importance. Ironically, by deploying cost-centric messaging, a business can end up sounding just like everyone else, missing a crucial opportunity to differentiate themselves. At this stage, if your business has communicated its unique value proposition effectively and cultivated a reputation for follow-through, it is well positioned to move on to the final stage of competition.

Tipping the scale

It’s down to the final contenders. You’ve done everything right. So what matters now?

Most sellers think expertise and experience are the elements that will push them over the top, but your business takes a more nuanced view, and that is why you will win. Expertise and experience are important, but reputation is the characteristic that communicates those qualities, and a relationship with the prospective client cultivates a sense of trust and familiarity that can make all the difference.

Notably, cost is pretty far down the list at this point, meaning all the effort sellers put into cost-based messaging earlier may have been for naught. Using content to cultivate and bolster your reputation for expertise and using lead nurturing strategies to build a reputation even before an engagement, your business has given itself the crucial advantages it needs to win. In fact, this strategy is strong enough that it can even give you an upset victory, unseating a business banking primarily on its relationship with prospects.

Congratulations! You’ve tipped the scales and finished closing the sale, but of course this isn’t the end of the story. In fact, it’s just the beginning of a new one.

Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D., is Managing Partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge is a leader in rebranding firms to help them grow faster and maximize value.

green paper airplane

Did you like this article? Get articles like this delivered weekly to your inbox, gratis.

close button

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter!

5 Reasons to Subscribe:

1. Weekly tips to dominate sales and marketing

At our core, we're focused on helping you become a sales and marketing machine. We tap into the genius of the best salesfolks and marketers out there to give you daily tips to grow your leads, make more sales, and keep more customers.

2. Expert small business resources that cost you zero dollars

Want to go deep? We have you covered with free guides, webinars, and tools on a range of topics from marketing automation, CRM, and digital marketing to building sales and marketing strategies from the ground up. All for free. All for you.

3. We're focused 100 percent on small business success

We exist for one reason: helping small businesses succeed. We give you the ideas and insights you need to blow the competition out of the water. We serve business owners who are hungry to put in the hard work to grow their business and own the market.

4. We do the work for you

Running a small business is a 110 percent endeavor. You don't have time to surf Internet for the best small business insights and ideas out there. We'll do that for you with the best original content from our team and from industry experts and small business owners.

5. But wait, there's more!

Small business success means more than just sales and marketing, so we also hit on a range of topics to help your small business thrive, including personal and business growth, customer service, and business management.

6. Righteous GIFs

OK, we said five reasons, but we like to overdeliver...and GIFs. We really like GIFs. You're bound to see some righteous ones.

GIF of Ferris Bueler principal's assistant

P.S. We'll never give out your information. We'll only use it to send you awesome content and resources, if you're cool with that.