How to Lose An Online Sales Lead by Poor Service Offline

Customer serviceBooks have been written about it and a veritable army of advisors is touting the strategies to lure potential customers to your online storefront. That’s the first part of the equation.

What do you do when it’s time to go offline and make the sale?

First Impressions Count

More than ever shoppers are surfing the web for the products and services they need and often that’s where they will make the purchase. But many businesses need to close the sale in a face-to-face meeting with the prospective buyer.

That was the situation for me this past week when I was looking for a broker for a high-ticket item I wanted to sell. I visited the websites of several companies with sterling reputations, and also got referrals from friends.

I narrowed it down to two companies and made appointments with their brokers. The first company sent two individuals. The duo bragged about their team of seven experts who would assist in the sale.

After the initial pleasantries, one of them asked, “so do you want to sell this?” Duh. Isn’t that why we’re having this meeting? Then I asked what he thought the price range might be. “Well, we’d have to check what comparable pieces have sold for recently.” Hmmm. Isn’t that something they should have done before our meeting?

After a little more chit chat they left with the promise they would get back to me quickly. The next morning I met with the second company’s representative. She sat down and we got right to business. She pulled out a bulging folder with background on her company. It also included images and recent sales prices for comparable pieces.

She advised me about strategies for selling the piece and the demographics of the potential market. She was able to answer all my questions.

After she left, I compared their presentations and it was an easy decision to make about whom I would l choose to represent me.

Lack of Follow Through

Three days went by and at 11:35 pm on the third day, I received an email from the first company’s broker who told me, “I’ve been really slammed with work with this week. I’ll get back to you tomorrow with comparably priced pieces and a projected price range for yours.”

What happened to that team of seven experts who could provide all that sterling service? I politely responded that I would be working with the other broker.

This is a valuable lesson learned. We can’t rely on our online presence to make the sale for us. You can have the best-looking website in the world and even superior products. But what is your plan for following up when you get a warm lead?

What is the prospect expecting? If you’re not sure, ask. Anticipate the questions you’ll be asked and the information needed to answer those questions.

Don’t be seduced by your website traffic and activity on social media sites. Not every product or service sells itself. You’ve still got to the old-fashioned work of anticipating a customer’s needs and responding on a timely basis. Otherwise, why are you wasting your time online?

Leave a Reply


  1. You bring up a great point Jeannette. Follow-up has always been the bain of people in sales and even small business owners who sell. What I always wonder is – if the pre-sales service is THAT bad, how will it be once a commit? Isn’t that when the love affair is supposed to being? For me, how the follow-up is handled is almost certainly (of course there are exceptions) a telltale sign.

    • Pat — I love your equating committing to a sale to a love affair. I do believe that when you’re selling a personal service the chemistry needs to be right.

  2. Great example of how follow up offline can ruin sales, Jeannette. Can’t help wondering if the first company is profitable? If they are, it certainly isn’t because of the team that you met.

    • Catarina — ironically, they are part of a successful national company that opened an office in New York a few years ago and are still trying to make their mark. Our visit wasn’t the way to do it.

  3. Following up is necessary in many businesses, including freelancing. Sometimes when people are busy, they say they’ll get back to you, and nine out of ten times they don’t, because they simply forget! However, a gentle reminder is what they need, and when they get it, they are more likely to give themselves a facepalm and then take action!

      • Yes, this is true, too! It’s probably the nicest way of saying “no” that there is. (Luckily, I’ve not run into this problem yet; I’ve always gotten responses in a timely manner.)

  4. Hi Jeannette,

    Your examples show clearly what to do and what not to do. The one thing that stuck in my mind is not only the importance of follow up, but the first company made the process complicated and wasted your time. They also wasted their time and lost the sale. Anticipating customer questions, do the work upfront to me embraces simplicity and when you think about it uses good old fashion common sense.

    • Susan — Yes, it’s common sense that if I asked for a meeting about selling something they wouldn’t ask me what I wanted to do when they got there!

  5. Follow-up matters so much. Unfortunately, last summer we decided to go with the moving company that impressed us the most in that area. Needless to say, it turned out to be a nightmare, but we expected so much based on everything that preceded the move.

  6. I hear you and your concerns. Follow up on an inquiry is one of the most important things to me. It is also my pet peeve when I reach out to a service online or other wise and I hear nothing. The worst yet is when I get an auto response with “we will be in touch shortly” and nothing happens. To often I will not use that service because of that. My thought is, if they are this way now, what would happen if I contract their services.

  7. I don’t know if here is a correlation, but whenever I get two guys guys trying to sell me something, service, a product or even a political perspective things go wrong. It’s almost as if they start buzzing off of each other. It reminds me a bit of that old Saturday Night Live skit with Hans and Franz, “We’re going to pump you up!” The only problem is that they pump themselves up and then deflate just as fast because they oversell. I guess that’s the whole problem with relying solely on websites to make your decisions. They are a show, a promise at best, they cannot deliver service.