Sales leads are the lifeblood of any growing business. In the good ‘ol days… they came from networking at a conference, meeting visitors at your trade show booth and cold calling. Today, they come from hosting webinars, leveraging LinkedIn connections and creating downloadable gated content.
But here’s the problem (today and back then)… the vast majority of those sales leads are never followed-up on. It doesn’t matter if the guilty party is a full-time sales rep or a part-time seller-doer… this is where the sales process breaks down. Happens all the time! I don’t know if it’s because the sale rep gets lazy, gets distracted or gets busy.
More often than not, though, they just give up too soon. We see it happen again and again… a sales prospect attends one of your webinars; afterward, a sales rep follows-up to try to schedule an initial call. When the prospect doesn’t respond, the sales rep is WAY too quick to concede, “Ah, they’re not interested.” It’s easier to give up than to keep following-up.
Defining a Sales Lead
When you read through information from the big marketing & sales tech providers, they provide very clear definitions regarding sales leads: there are MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads), SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads), Lead Scoring (a numerical way of rating sales leads) and much more. And that’s all well and good, but the vast majority of small firms don’t have that technology. They need a simpler process instead:
First, does the sales lead fit the ‘right’ buyer persona?
- Do they work for the right kind of company?
- Do they work for the right size company?
- Do they have the right title?
- Do they work in the right industry?
Then, assuming they pass the persona test, have they shown interest in what you do? Consider this…
- If someone has just one interaction with your firm (e.g. they attend one webinar), they’re not a ‘sales lead,’ they’re just a ‘name.’
- However, once they have multiple interactions (e.g. attend a couple of webinars and download an eBook), then go ahead and move them to the ‘sales lead’ category. By their actions, they are showing you that they have some genuine interest in what you’re doing. Further, what they interact act with (the topics of the webinars or the title of the eBook) will tell you what they’re interested in and can give you a reason to follow-up. Note: the more interactions, the better.
- The one-touch exception is the potential buyer who reaches out to you and says “I’d like to learn more about what you do – please contact me!” THAT kind of sales lead goes to the top of the pile.
What the Numbers Say
Take a look at the stats below. I don’t know the source, so I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the data, but the concept is absolutely on point… we almost never follow-up enough to see the opportunity through to its final conclusion. Or as this chart suggests… 10% of salespeople make 90% of the sales, simply because they are persistent with their follow-up efforts.
To ensure that you aren’t a victim of giving up too soon, you need to create a true lead follow-up system to ensure that every sales lead is followed-up on in a consistent manner, that no opportunities fall through the cracks and that you stay with it until a decision is reached – that the sales lead will take a meeting with you or not.
Sadly, there are no “silver bullet” game plans here… every firm’s products, market awareness, reputation, industries or markets served, buyer personas, etc. are all different – and you’ll need to work on this and learn from it over time – but you do need a starting outline for your follow-up activities.
First, look at the communication tools you have at your fingertips… emails, phone calls, Zoom calls, social media, snail mail, etc. The idea is to create a plan that leverages those to stay top-of-mind with the prospect. It might look something like this:
- Day 0: the prospect is categorized as a ‘lead’ because of multiple interactions; make sure their status is updated in your CRM; all of the following steps can be set-up in the CRM, as well.
- Day 1: do some preliminary research on this sales lead – check out their website and look them up on LinkedIn (this simple step is skipped by far too many salespeople).
- Day 2: send an introductory email, acknowledging their interest/interactions and asking for a brief, exploratory phone call.
- Day 5: If no response, send a second email.
- Day 7: Invite them to connect on LinkedIn (whether they do this or not has no impact on this follow-up process).
- Day 8: If no response, reach out by phone.
- Day 10: If no response, send an email with a link to an article or other resource; don’t even reference the ‘sales’ process.
- Day 12: If no response, send another email.
- Day 14: If no response, send a post card in the mail.
- Day 18: If no response, reach out by phone.
- Day 21: (3 weeks of trying): If no response, send a ‘final email.’
I’m using the above example as a way to help illustrate the concept of an on-going follow-up process. You’ll need to find the right communication tools coupled with the right message at the right cadence that works for your firm and that resonates with your potential buyers. Hint: You won’t get it perfect on your first try. But you know what? Any system you implement will be light years better than no follow-up at all.
Keep this in mind… not all sales leads that you follow-up with will become clients… but I guarantee that the sales leads you don’t follow-up with will never become clients!
Good luck and good selling.