Leads are an integral part of any marketing and sales strategy. This issue is that it’s difficult for marketers to know which leads will convert successfully into customers. Sometimes “quality” leads can fizzle out and “suspect” leads can turn into big business.”
The best practices for lead follow up begin with a strategy. Maximizing the efficiency of the interaction and the potential of the transaction is at the core of this strategy. Your lead’s time is valuable. That said, there’s no such thing as the ideal lead, and all leads will need to be coached through the buying process to some degree. The trick is to get a quick handle on what your lead needs in order to successfully convert.
There are three basic elements you need to get right:
Timing: being fast to act, highly responsive and quick to spot the signs that a lead may be warming up
Regularity: keeping in regular contact with leads to nurture them along the sales process and keep yourself front of mind, then have sales step in to seal the deal
Relevance: only sending leads valuable, relevant and interesting information that they will want and need at any given stage of the buyer journey
A couple of extra points to bear in mind here:
- Leads will only buy when they’re ready
- The days of exerting relentless pressure on someone until they give in and sign on the dotted line are well and truly over. If you hit leads with the hard sell, then they’re unlikely to stick around, especially if they’re still in the early stages of the process.
- You’ll probably need to impress more than one person.
- The higher the price tag of the product and the longer the sales cycle, the more people that are likely to be involved in the decision making process. If your sales cycle is long then your key contacts may naturally come and go, so you need to be thinking more broadly about who you need to be seen by and how to impress them.
Here are seven tips for following up on leads effectively.
1. Strike while the iron is hot
In many cases, a lead is an asset that depreciates in value very, very rapidly. As such, it’s worth trying to respond to qualified leads as soon as humanly possible because your response time will often determine whether you close a sale or lose a sale you could have easily closed.
2. Read the lead
Common sense: it’s important to read a lead so that you know who you’re dealing with and what your opportunity may be. Fact: this doesn’t always happen. To avoid looking unprepared or lazy, it can help to create a checklist that your inbound marketers use as part of the lead follow-up process.
3. Have the right person respond
To make the most of a lead, ensure that the person best capable of following up on it is the person who responds. While new prospects may necessarily have to deal with several people throughout the sales cycle, it is often desirable to ensure that their first point of contact is someone they can start to build a rapport, if not a relationship, with.
4. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone
Thanks to technology, phone calls are more and more infrequent for many individuals, particularly younger members of the workforce. But the phone is still a powerful sales tool and if your lead contains a phone number, make a habit of picking up the phone and dialing it.
5. Get on the same page
When speaking with a prospect, walk before you run. Even if your lead came with a lot of detail, it’s important to confirm that you have a good understanding of what the prospect needs and haven’t made any assumptions that could unnecessarily limit your opportunity, or ruin it altogether.
6. Set expectations and time frames
In just about every aspect of sales and business, expectations are everything and it’s never too early to set them. If an initial conversation with a lead confirms that there’s an opportunity, take control. Once you’re on the same page with the customer and understand her needs, you should at a minimum lay out what you think the sales cycle will look like. This includes proposing dates for key milestones.
7. Always respond
Not all leads are created equal. Some, unfortunately, are less-than-desirable for a variety of reasons. But provided that the individual who submitted the lead is a real person, a response should always be provided. Not only can this help maintain your reputation in the marketplace, it could ensure that you’re kept in mind for future opportunities that may be a better fit.