You could say sales leads are a lot like nuts. Often, after a little tree shaking, they fall out of the tree and right into your lap. But cracking them, well, that’s entirely up to you. And to use a common phrase, some nuts are tougher to crack than others, but experts say it’s worth trying to crack all of them.
“Follow up on all leads and sales will surge. Simple but true,” says James Obermayer of Villa Park, Calif., executive director of the Sales Lead Management Association. “Salespeople fail to follow up on
between 75 percent and 90 percent of all leads. The only way to get the total yield from inquiries is to follow up on 100 percent of them.”
And don’t fall into the mistake of prejudging inquiries based on their source, he adds. “All sources are equal, so follow up everything equally, based on the inquirers’ stated need.” Jim Cecil, chairman of the Nurture Institute, a marketing agency in Woodbridge, N.J., agrees wholeheartedly. “Realize that every
lead is a unique opportunity that always requires different approaches.
Appreciate any referral as an opportunity, an introduction with vast unknown potential, demanding acute relationship-nurturing skills. “And accept that a phone inquiry is also an opportunity that may yield permission to further educate and assist and needs instant action and persistent follow-up.”
That persistent follow-up could pay off handsomely, as Obermayer says that 45 percent of all inquirers will buy something within 12 months. “So you want to nurture the prospect over time and deliver the information they need to make a decision when they want to buy.”
Obermayer adds that properly managing sales leads is the only true tool to measure marketing’s successful contribution to sales. “Stop the sales lead leakage. Hunt down and count every inquiry,” he says.
1. Create a system. Jay Hidalgo, CEO of the Annuitas Group, a sales consulting company in Grand Rapids, Mich., says a system for managing leads can boost sales by 50 percent in a year.
He offers four ways to launch such a system.
- Audit the way you handle leads to find and document problems and how they impact your bottom line.
- Develop and document the best solutions for each problem.
- Implement the solutions you expect will give the best potential impact first and then measure the effectiveness of all changes.
- Where possible, automate the process.
Experts say a key element in any system is a database that can capture any and all leads that come in.
M.H. “Mac” McIntosh, a sales consultant in North Kingstown, R.I., says databases are vital and that advisors should work to make resources available (such as data-entry staff or outside services) so that information can be entered correctly and quickly.
Sales consultants also recommend you make sure your prospect database is set up to record the sources of leads and how they come to you (phone call, e-mail, friend referral, web, business-reply card, etc.), so that you can evaluate which programs are working best for you.