Answer: They Contact You!
Accelerated Sales Process
When first setting up social media accounts it’s easy to assume that the sales process will
proceed at a familiar pace, one that typically begins when a prospect responds to your outbound message and then contacts you for more information.
However it’s important to recognize that with more touch points prospects can move surprisingly quickly through the purchase funnel and arrive ready to buy at their first contact with you.
Although it's the first time you've heard from a them, a prospect may have been reading the back and forth on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, etc, and have moved themselves into the decision-making phase without any contact with their company of interest.
Increased Presence Implies Increased Availability
There are two important takeaways here. The first is that it's important to keep up with online correspondence in order to give prospective customers information they need to move themselves (and the people following the conversations but not participating) along the buying process.
And it's essential that you update your social media tools frequently and reply quickly to Tweets and Facebook and blog inquiries and comments. There are a lot of abandoned websites out there and if they don’t see activity on your sites they might think you are one of them. And these ready-to-buy prospects are only one click away from a competitor.
The second way to prepare is to be ready when they do contact you. For traditional marketers first rolling out new channels like Facebook, Twitter and blogs it's important to remember that with increased access and communication abilities comes an increased expectation of availability by prospects.
Are You Ready to Take the Call?
To the person on a street corner checking their smart phone or pondering a set of options at their desktop Facebook, Twitter and Yelp are tools that they call upon for instant information. And if you check out, they may reach out to you to start a conversation. At this point they expect you to be ready and waiting.
It almost like setting up kiosks in cyberspace. If someone comes across your kiosk -- or seeks it out -- they expect someone to be there waiting to interact with them.
Big Buy Signal
It is a HUGE buy signal when a prospective customer with access to lots of information contacts you. It’s likely they are far along the purchase funnel because websites and review sites have satisfied their earliest questions and helped them form opinions. If you’ve been selected be ready to answer the call and close the deal.
Consider the Following Research Findings…
Nearly two-thirds [66%!] of businesses…aren't responsive to an immediate consumer request for service. That's the major finding of a  survey of 5,000 local businesses, conducted in April in the Los Angeles area by FastCall411.
[Market Research firm] Synovate found that four out of five Americans regard “immediate availability” by phone as an “important” or the “most important” factor when selecting a local service provider.