Salespeople don’t get too many chances. They have to make them. Lead generation is usually a concerted effort between departments—from operations to marketing, to the whole sales organization.
What happens once leads come in, however, is entirely a sales matter.
And in sales, impressions carry heavy weight. This is the reason why lead response management is a crucial component of any sales machine.
In this post, I will discuss best practices in lead response management that you can cross-check with your current setup.
Is your operation in line with these best practices?
Speed – Lead Response Management Best Practices
Make it about seconds
Lead response is all about time. The quicker you are, the better.
Measure your response times in seconds and minutes, not hours and days. Don’t even consider scheduling first touches beyond a couple of hours. This forces your team to respond to leads quicker. Consider responses beyond a couple of hours in the red zone, something that’s detrimental to your team but could be done if it’s the only option.
See this is a problem of many companies.
In a study of 2,241 U.S. companies, 37 percent responded to leads within an hour while 16 percent responded within 24 hours. Twenty-four percent took more than a day while 23 percent didn’t respond at all. The average response rate among the companies audited was 42 hours. Although the sample size is small, the findings are so dramatical time-wise that it begs companies to take a long hard look at the response times.
The moment leads opt-in, they’re at their highest interest level in your service or product. It’s a fact—the closer your response time is to the moment of opt-in, the better chances you have of moving the lead along your sales funnel.
Set up a notification system for incoming leads
How would you respond to leads quickly if you don’t even know when they come in?
Set up a lead alerts system. Salesforce and other full-suite CRM solutions provide this option, just make sure that you have alerts set up for different channels that leads come from.
For example, if you’re using content as lead magnets like newsletter subscriptions, webinars and ebooks, make sure that you have lead alerts set up for each one of these. Salesforce has a way to alert you of new leads including all info that they’ve tracked for the contact.
Why is this important?
The first touch gets more effective as it is personalized. Every bit of information helps. The time they opted in, the device they opted in from, the reason they opted in, what part of the funnel the content or event they opted-in for is, and other pertinent information.
These alerts should be owned by the sales team. This is only possible if sales leaders ensure that sales leads are visible to sales reps as they come in. Sure, assigning channels to certain reps for exclusive touches is one way to manage lead responses. However, if the categories are not very targeted, there is a tendency to overlook new leads when reps are preoccupied catering to leads that came before.
Acknowledge leads as they come in
A busy sales floor is a manager’s dream. However, the tradeoff is that leads might come in when there’s no rep available to get them on a full call. There are also times when leads come in at the end of the workday. Depending on the situation, it may not be the best time to call.
Here’s a workaround to this that you could standardize in your team.
Depending on the channel the lead came from, determine a workflow that would send a personalized acknowledgment to the lead.
Email is the most convenient choice. However, that might not always be effective since people are constantly bombarded with emails. If your opt-in or lead magnet was able to extract information like a telephone number or a mobile phone number, consider giving a quick call or an SMS.
Another option is assigning a team or a person who would work after-hours to accommodate leads that come in at the tail-end of the normal shift.
Metrics – Lead Response Management Best Practices
Answer this: What is a lead?
In sales, the meanings of terms might not be standard across departments. They can even be different for different people within teams.
This is a problem.
There has to be an effort to pin down and standardize the way your team defines metrics to make sure you track, take note and analyze data the same way.
At the foundation of every lead management effort is a solid, unified definition of what a lead is.
Sales and marketing teams may have differing views when it comes to what a qualified lead is. There is reason for the confusion, though.
Say, some sales departments only consider visitors or contacts that have expressed intent as leads. Everyone who responds to marketing material might be considered a lead by a marketing department.
Since the two departments work closely especially at the beginning of the sales process, sales and marketing departments must work together and be transparent about what they consider leads.
The key is setting clear lead criteria to qualify contacts. Where did the contact come from? What’s their location? Is this their first time visiting?
Keeping a close eye on these number allow you to use data to improve and polish your team’s definition of leads.
Understand and track key metrics
Most sales processes are highly subjective and the only way to streamline work and fine opportunities for growth is to diligently follow and track certain metrics to help improve salespeople, validate your sales strategy, and hold salespeople accountable.
Here are some metrics you must monitor:
Time elapsed before the first touch, preferably a live conversation, between someone from sales and the new lead
- Number of Contact Attempts
The number of first call attempts made out to new leads before getting a live person
Time elapsed before lead is qualified
- Qualification Rate by Lead Source
Number of qualified leads against number of total leads from a particular lead source
- Speed-To-First-Contact-Attempt versus Contact
Measures call efficiency and lead quality
- Speed-To-Contact versus Conversion
Measures the efficiency of the team as first contacts impact conversion
- Speed-To-Conversion versus Conversion
Measures the sales readiness of leads and the efficiency of the sales force
Where data makes you identify points of improvement, persistence feeds the process so you’d have data to analyze.
Your salesforce should understand the need to be rejection-proof and to treat every situation as an opportunity to add value.
It’s not an unusual situation. New salespeople and even vets sometimes consider cold calling or even first touches as spam. This is a losing attitude that no successful salesperson should have.
It’s important to instill confidence and competence in your sales force. All the more important is to enforce systems that will allow these traits to flourish.
Streamline persistence by standardizing follow-ups
Here’s the truth: It’s very, very seldom that you get the person you want to talk to in the first call. If they’re there, they might not be available for a more substantial call. Research shows that it takes seven attempts on the average before a rep gets a live person. Factor this in and add your vertical’s averages. From that, device a follow-up strategy your team can follow.
This practice solidifies persistence in your sales force. For both veteran and newcomer sales reps, the nagging idea that sales calls are interrupting a person’s day is a big issue. If you think you’re annoying prospects when you follow up, you have to review the way you understand and grasp your product’s value.
These days, the field is all about value. How do you compete? By understanding that you have the solution for your prospect’s problems and making sure you get your solution to them.
Personalize calling schedules
After a couple of follow-ups, it should be standard for reps to review the remaining calls on your follow-up strategy and tailor fit that to the prospect’s schedule.
Of course, in most cases you won’t have a solid, defined idea of when the prospect will be available for a call. But, small clues and even information from people who answer phones will help you decide what’s the best time to call and apply that to your follow-up tactics for a single prospect.
Nurture your leads
If you’ve been in business for the last twenty years, you’ve heard about the famous Bill Gates article Content is King. Well, he’s kinda right. Look everywhere on the net and even for businesses that operate offline—everyone wants to offer you “valuable” content. And this is important in sales precisely because of lead nurturing.
Lead nurturing, take from the name, is nurturing your prospects by providing them highly-targeted, valuable, and useful content that would contribute something positive in their professional lives and businesses. This builds up your brand as an authority in your field and instills brand preference toward you for the leads you are nurturing.
Develop content your prospects really need, now what you think they need
Creating content that is valuable to your prospects begins with knowing who they are, up to the minute details. Developing profiles of your target audience will help you generate content ideas. What are their daily pains in their professions? What are the questions they consistently ask? What is missing in the information that they get every day?
Here’s how lead nurturing looks like: You are in constant contact with a lead and you get ideas from your conversations as to what issues your prospect is facing. With the help of the sales enablement or marketing team, you have content that directly addresses a concern the prospect has. You take that content and send it to them with the intention of helping and not of selling.
This improves relationship with the prospect. This puts you as a subject matter expert in the eyes of your prospect (if the content is good).
Prioritize prospects over content
Sure, the marketing department or even the sales enablement team have created amazing content you’re meant to serve up to your prospects. The question now is, should you send content to everyone?
The answer is no.
The home run for lead nurturing is serving up content that moves prospects further into the sales process. It’s not about bombarding your list with all the stuff you publish. Intent and permission are both major keys.
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