Most leads don’t turn into sales right away. Maybe the prospect decided to buy a competitor’s product. Maybe the need changed. Or the purchase was put off. Maybe the specs and timing weren’t fully defined when the inquiry came your way.
When a sale doesn’t come through or a lead is not super-hot, what do you do? Some companies toss all those leads aside and start over, generating new leads. What a waste! CCC recommends a different approach.
Think of leads as seeds. They’re full of potential, but seeds need help and encouragement to grow. So do leads.
When someone reaches out to you — by visiting your website, requesting a white paper, commenting on a blog post or whatever — that person has taken the first step in establishing a relationship with your company. The next move is up to you. Why not provide some help and encouragement?
Step One: Acknowledging the contact
The first, most important thing to do is acknowledge the contact. That lets prospects know you heard them and they’re important to you. You’d be amazed at how often this step is ignored. It’s a shame because it’s so simple.
If someone requests information, send it right away with a thank you. If someone comments on your blog, respond. If someone shares your content online, thank them. Of course you can have computer programs do some of this, but personalize where you can.
Step Two: Qualifying the inquiries
As we discussed in an earlier post, inquiries should be qualified and ranked using a system that makes sense for your company. After eliminating competitors and spammers, you’ll be left with a list of people who might buy from you.
There will be some leads that defy qualification because they won’t respond. So be it. We suggest you throw them in the hopper as unqualified and give them as much attention as you would your lowest priority leads.
Step Three: Organizing your leads
This step will take some time and thought at the outset. Your goal is to create a system that sorts leads by two parameters:
1. The types of follow-up information they should receive from you
2. How often they should hear from you
You’ll need to review a large number of leads to analyze what products, product categories, issues and types of information interest your inquirers. Look at your sales process for insights on timing. This will help you set the intervals between future messages. And of course, how “hot” a lead is should affect how often they hear from you.
Set up your system, sort your leads into the categories and try it to see how it works. Tweak as needed. The simpler the system, the better.
Step Four: Following up
You’ll want to automate as much of the follow-up process as possible. There are systems that will send your emails, offers and e-newsletters per your schedule and then track prospect response.
How you send stuff is important, but what you send is critical, too. We suggest your follow-up be relevant and educational. (Relevant so it won’t be ignored. Educational so it’s valued as helpful.)
Different seeds need different care, and the same is true of leads. If someone ordered a white paper on xyz widgets, sending information on that same product makes sense. You could send case histories about xyz widgets, as well, and how-to information on getting the best performance from these products.
Educational, helpful information is especially valued right now, so emphasize education over promotion. It highlights your expertise which is a very good thing.
Step Five: Nurturing over time
(Even dormant seeds can sprout.)
Unlike seeds that germinate, grow and die in an established pattern, leads are unpredictable. Some sprout into sales right away, while others lie dormant.
Our recommendation? When a lead turns into a customer, make sure they’re carefully tended. For those who seem dormant, keep following up. Email is cheap, and you never know when a need will come up. Ongoing nurturing will put your company in a strong sales position.
Creative Communications Consultants, Inc. (CCC) is a business-to-business marketing communications agency. We specialize in providing strategic marketing communications thinking to marketers of industrial and commercial products who target B2B audiences.