Keys to Lead Follow-Up
Making the most of every business opportunity
Sales, the lifeblood of all business, depend entirely on a good pipeline of qualified leads. Many dental laboratories spend considerable amounts of money on sales and marketing to generate new business. Dental conventions, lunch and learn seminars, direct mail, social media, website traffic, referrals, and a host of other marketing channels may all provide a good source of “interested parties” or leads. Every one of these leads has the potential to become a customer and ultimately one that contributes revenue year after year. Laboratory owners must note, however, that one of the main factors that can get in the way of transforming inbound sales leads into loyal customers is proper follow-up.
How many times have you called a company or sent a request for information on a product or service and never got a response? What about the times you have left your business card with a sales person at a dental convention and never received a follow-up call?
Following up on a sales lead seems like a simple process, so what is the problem? And what can be done to convert more sales leads into customers? Lead follow-up is a process, not an event. This article will cover some keys to remember when you want to improve your success rate in lead conversion and ultimately increase your sales ratio.
Most Leads Are Not Followed Up
In various industries, research on sales estimate that 40% to 50% of all inbound sales leads are never followed up.1 While the source of the lead is important in the follow-up process, it is interesting that companies are missing a huge potential profit by not following up regardless of the source. Of course, no one likes to hear “No” or “Sorry, I am not interested,” but if a call is never made, sales people may never know what they have missed.
Speed is Critical
You have heard the phrase “Time is of the essence,” and in sales lead follow-up that is certainly true. Regarding follow-ups on online leads, an article in the Harvard Business Review reported that companies who try to contact potential customers within an hour are seven times more likely to have meaningful conversations than companies who try to make contact an hour or more later.2 The report also stated that only 37% of companies respond within one hour.2 A speedy response to all leads is critical to the follow-up success. A good rule of thumb is to follow-up within twenty-four hours or sooner.
Qualify, Disqualify, Sort, and Rank Your Leads
Experience shows that not every lead will become a customer. Some leads are just those looking for some information, while others are truly interested in purchasing services or products. Only by qualifying or disqualifying will you find out which one is which. The overall goal is to make sales from leads that are qualified. This is a process where, through a series of questions, you find out if the interest is sincere or if are they are just window-shopping.
Is the person a qualified decision maker? Do they have needs and wants that fit your product or service? When might they make a decision? Can they afford your products or services? These are all important questions you will need answered before making a sales attempt.
You may also want to rank the lead as hot, warm, or cold, or use a number system to make sure the best leads are put in order of importance into your follow-up system.
Use a Multi-Touch Approach
Many leads may not become customers with the first contact, and statistics show that it takes an average of seven touches, or “tickles,” to convert a lead to a customer.3 It can be a daunting task to keep everything sorted and the use of CRM (customer relationship management) software will be a valuable tool to do so. Once you have sorted your leads and put them into your CRM system, use a variety marketing channels to keep in contact. This might be newsletters, e-blasts, or a series of direct mail follow-up letters. If possible, a face-to-face meeting can be invaluable in securing sales. Be sure to track the source of all leads to help you in your future marketing efforts.
Keys to Lead Follow-Up
Remember that you owe it to your company, potential customers, and your reputation to have a proper follow-up process. You should always plan ahead, have a good process, and be persistent. By doing so, you will build a formidable sales team destined for great success.
1. Paul A. The Essential Elements of Effective Sales Lead Follow-up. Zero-Time Selling Blog. Updated 2012. Accessed March 1, 2013. Available at: http://www.zerotimeselling.com/essential-sales-lead-follow-up/.
2. Oldroyd JB, McElheran K, Elkington D. The Short Life of Online Sales Leads. Harvard Business Review. Updated March, 2011. Accessed March 1, 2013. Available at: http://hbr.org/2011/03/the-short-life-of-online-sales-leads.
3. The Lead Nurturing 5 & 10. Act-On Software. Updated 2012. Accessed March 1, 2013. Available at: http://www.act-on.com/resources/whitepapers/lead-nurturing-5-and-10.
Bill Neal, CDT is the founder of AMG Creative, Inc. in Fort Collins, CO.