Leads are the lifeblood of any business, and considerable inventiveness goes into generating them, organizing them and exploiting them. Often, improvements in lead conversion of as little as one-quarter of one percentage point are celebrated.
Yet, for all this effort, most businesses and lead management training programs ignore a huge area of potential improvement — online leads.
Most businesses pay little attention to online inquiries from potential customers and online mailing list sign-ups, responding on average about 48 hours after they are first made aware. The study with these numbers has been published on Forbes, Harvard Business Review and Inc. It came by its results by making sales inquiries to 10,000 different companies, and finding out how long it took for responses to appear. Only half of all leads in most cases even got a response, delayed or otherwise. When these businesses do call back, they usually give up after the first attempt.
According to digital marketing major NowBlitz.com, there is tremendous potential for improvement. All businesses need to do is to focus.
Why haven’t businesses been doing more?
One reason often quoted by businesses for their lack of responsiveness to online leads is a lack of resources. Marketers and businesses feel that there tend to be simply too many leads to work on, many of them from people who have no intention of buying.
In truth, though, most businesses simply aren’t serious about Internet leads, and establish no process or timeline that would indicate focus on them. Salespeople simply aren’t told what to do.
It’s easy to commit your sales team to following up online leads, though — you simply need to establish a set process for salespeople to deal with, and a set timeline. Each sales team member needs to know what exactly to do.
An online lead follow-up system could look like this:
- When an online inquiry comes in, an automated email should go out within minutes. It should promise a response by the end of the business day.
- A specific salesperson should be tasked with pursuing it within the time stipulated.
- The salesperson should establish contact over email or phone, asking in a non-pressuring way what the business can do to earn the caller’s custom.
- If a lead doesn’t appear to respond over the first phone call, there should be another one within a week with offer to help with the purchase decision, and another one six months later. It isn’t reasonable to write a lead off very soon.
The mistakes to avoid in the follow-up process
- Make sure that your follow-up is not generic. It needs to be personalized, and to address inquirers by name.
- Prior to reaching out to each inquirer, the salesperson in charge needs to do some research on them. Any extra information available can help.
- When an inquirer is reached out to, it to go on the CRM there’s never any confusion about who is in charge and how far along they are. The appearance that a company isn’t in touch with itself can be bad for its image.
- If possible, salespeople establishing contact should do no more than one hour after the first inquiry. A Harvard Business Review study indicates that making contact more than an hour after an inquiry reduces chances of success.
Most of the rules to do with online lead generation are common sense ones. This means that it is difficult to do lead follow-ups right. All it takes is a sincere approach.
Phillip Olden has a career in marketing and likes to share his ideas on selling in a digital age and other topics with an online audience. He writes for several marketing and B2B websites.