Too many companies’ search engine marketing strategies start and end with the goal of “getting found” by new customers. But a truly successful end-to-end lead generation strategy requires that you know what to do with these new inbound sales leads once they arrive. Unfortunately, many companies make the mistake of investing big money and lots of time in generating inbound sales leads from their search engine marketing, PPC ads, social media and other channels, only to end up seeing most of these leads fall through the cracks. The reason: inadequate lead qualification and follow-up!
According to stats cited by Hubspot, 79% of new marketing leads never convert to sales, and lack of lead nurturing is the biggest cause of this underperformance. Hubspot also found that 61% of B2B marketers send all new sales leads directly to the sales team, even though only 27% of those sales leads are actually qualified. When sales leads get passed along to the sales force without even the slightest bit of preliminary lead qualifying, opportunities get missed. That’s because new sales leads require some “tender loving care” – not every new sales lead is immediately ready to buy; many of them need to build trust with your organization, get their questions answered, and otherwise feel more comfortable and better informed before they’re ready to make a purchase.
Getting sales leads is the first part of the sales process, but it’s what you do with the new sales leads that really makes the biggest difference in your company’s sales success.
Here are a few tips on how to follow up and nurture your inbound sales leads to keep them from falling through the cracks:
1. Strengthen Your First Point of Contact
When a new sales lead contacts your company for the first time – whether by phone or via email or social media – what happens? Do you have a consistent process in place for intake of sales leads? Ideally, you should strengthen your first point of contact and ask a few pre-qualifying questions to new sales prospects – whether that means training your admin assistant who answers the phone to be able to ask a few questions of each sales lead (and take good notes in the CRM system), or asking each new email inquiry to fill out a short survey to learn more about their needs. There are ways to do this with automation or with the human element of employee training and customer service calls – but either way, you need to start by shoring up the first point of contact where sales leads arrive. A new sales inquiry is not like any other everyday phone call or email – it’s potential new revenue sitting in your inbox, and it needs to be handled with care and treated with importance.
2. Ask Pre-Qualifying Questions
When starting a conversation with a new inbound sales prospect, it’s important to ask a few pre-qualifying questions to learn more about the person’s needs and get a sense for how eager they are to buy. Ask open-ended questions so you can probe for “pain” – how urgently the customer wants to make a purchase decision based on their overall level of business challenges. For example, here are some pre-qualifying questions to ask your new inbound sales leads:
What made you decide to contact us?
What other companies/vendors/suppliers are you looking at?
Are you looking to replace an existing solution, or implement a new solution for the first time?
What business challenges are you dealing with at the moment, and how do you see our solution as being able to help?
How soon do you think you might want to make a purchase?
With just a few simple questions, you can start a conversation with the prospect that is focused on their business needs and challenges – and use this information to assess how “hot” or “cold” of a business lead each prospect really is.
3. Prioritize and Rank Sales Leads
Once you have a process in place for asking pre-qualifying questions, your team can begin to make well-informed estimates as to how high of a priority each sales lead is. For example, you can use a simple system of ranking your sales leads, such as “A,” “B” and “C,” with the “A” leads being highest priority for immediate follow-up, and the “C” leads requiring longer-term nurturing. This way you will have a rigorous, repeatable method for sorting and evaluating your sales leads – and you can focus your immediate attention on the sales leads who are most ready to buy, while shifting the others to a separate list for long-term lead nurturing and relationship-building before they’re ready to make a purchase decision.
Lead qualifying is an underrated skill, and not all companies have it. It’s great to get lots of new inbound sales leads, but without having a good process in place to evaluate, qualify and rank these sales leads, you run the risk of overwhelming your sales team with too much clutter and too many bad leads. This wastes time and distracts sales people from following up on the legitimate sales opportunities. Make sure you’re getting the most out of your investment in marketing and lead generation – your company is spending so much money on advertising and marketing to get these sales leads; don’t waste that money by ignoring the value of lead qualification and follow-up.