Trousers, Lead Generation Forms, and a Lack of Foreplay

I’ve written about good and bad sales experiences in the past.

Whether they’re selling a pair of shoes or a complex business consultancy service, a good sales person will take time to understand their customer’s needs and stress the benefits of the product to those needs.  As a rule, a good sales person will get better results and be much more successful than a bad one.  More importantly, a good sales person will also create happier customers and benefit in the longer term.

Good sales is not just about process and an interplay between the buyer and seller.  Sure, there’s a sharing of information on both sides that communicates the needs and allows the right features to be emphasised.    But, perhaps more importantly, there’s a process of rapport building that sits at the heart of the relationship.  I might still buy something from a guy I didn’t like because that thing may have met my needs, but at the same time, I’ll also buy a big chunk of resentment, and I’ll think twice about where I go next time.

Mostly, a negative sales experience comes from that lack of rapport.

Imagine if you will a trip to a store to buy a pair of trousers: During your visit to the shop, you’ll want to look at a few different pairs, maybe check out some different colours and styles, and perhaps try a few pairs on.  If you’re lucky, there’ll be a shop assistant on hand who can give you a bit of feedback, ask when you’re planning to wear the trousers and maybe suggest a shirt that would go well with them.

Now imagine a trip to a shop where before you’ve even had a chance to look at what’s on offer, you’ve got someone standing next to you with a pair of trousers in one hand, and the card machine in the other.

Unless you’re a bit of a weirdo, you’re going to find the second experience a bit pushy, and probably walk out empty handed.  You haven’t been given the chance to build a relationship, just had an option forced upon you.  Regardless of whether the trousers are the best trousers on the planet, and perfectly cut to your delightful derriere, it’s unlikely that you’ll buy them.

Lead Generation Forms:  You’re Doing Them Wrong

This kind of forced to the point of sale is something that seems to becoming more of a feature of websites.  Increasingly, I’m seeing a lead capture form at the top of the page.  Before I even scroll down the page to find out what’s unique about a business, I’m being asked to fill in my details and make an enquiry.

Too Soon.

What’s especially perverse about this is that in most cases, the content that follows the form is exceptionally rich, providing me everything I need or could want to know about the business, or service that is being offered.  Swathes of beautifully written text, video, and carefully constructed bullet point lists of features and benefits that should act as foreplay, but are presented as an afterthought to the main course of GETTING THE LEAD.

I know, from looking at time spent on particular pages that users aren’t bothering to scroll through the content or watch the videos.  Why would they?  The content is essentially redundant.   I’m being asked to show interest in the service before I know whether it’s:

  • What I need
  • What I want

The above the fold lead generation form is the online equivalent of the pushy salesman.

It’s also probably something that will ultimately deliver fairly crappy leads that are characterised by lower conversion rates because they’re not so well informed.

What’s interesting is that in the majority sites I’ve looked at which are using above the fold lead generation forms, the bulk of conversions come from a traditional contact page.


The counter argument to this is, of course, that making it as easy as possible for potential customers to register their interest is THE RIGHT THING TO DO.  I agree – up to a point, however I think what’s more important is that understanding the point at which the prospect is ready to commit to the next phase of the relationship.

Laying out a web page probably has more in common with a nightclub seduction that most people would admit to.

  • You make eye contact
  • You introduce yourself with a few carefully chosen lines that show you in your best light
  • You buy a drink or give another incentive
  • You ask a few questions and give a few answers
  • Eventually, if things are going well, you ask for a phone number.

If all you do is walk over and ask for a phone number, more often than not you’ll get a slap, and if you get lucky, it’s unlikely that you’re getting in with someone your parents would approve of.