Let’s face the hard truth: In sales, you are standing all by yourself on a lonely island. At the end of the day, achieving your quota is totally up to you. You have to decide how you are going to allocate your time to the various avenues available to you to achieve this. If you are provided leads but complain that you don’t have enough prospects, then you need to reexamine your follow-up process.
Here are four essential strategies that any salesperson can easily employ to be the first with the answers, stand out from the competition, and maximize the conversion of inbound sales leads into orders.
1) Follow-up on 100% of inbound sales leads.
In my book Zero-Time Selling, I described how every sales lead is like a scratch-off lottery ticket. You don’t know what you have until you scratch the wax off the face of it. How many people buy a lottery ticket and then wait until the next day to see if they have a winner? None. Your sales leads should be treated the same way.
What this means is that every sales lead needs to be followed up. Make sure that all inbound sales leads are entered into your customer relationship management (CRM) system as soon as they are received and that each one is assigned to a salesperson for immediate follow-up. Use your CRM system daily to check and make sure that 100% of your sales leads are being followed up.
2) Follow up all leads in less than 60 minutes.
How much time should it take to follow up a lead? Less than you think. Research cited in the Harvard Business Review states that you are seven times more likely to qualify a lead if the follow-up occurs in less than an hour. Think how many more prospects will move into your pipeline if you respond to 100% of your leads in an hour or less.
Leads have a short shelf life. Every minute that follow-up is delayed, the value of that lead drops. And if your competitors swoop in to provide the prospect with answers while you’re sitting on your hands, then you are suddenly fighting for second place.
I worked with one client to streamline its sales lead follow-up process to reduce response time to inbound sales leads from 24 hours to 30 minutes. The immediate result was more qualified prospects in their pipeline. The medium-term result was a doubling of their sales with the same number of salespeople.
3) Provide complete answers quickly.
A sales lead is nothing more than a question. Being responsive to prospects means that you are providing complete answers to their questions in the least time possible. The best way to do this is to position your deepest product knowledge closest to the customer. It’s not enough to be the first to respond. You must also be the first to answer the customer’s questions. The first seller to respond to an inbound sales lead with the complete answer in zero time will build trust and credibility, dramatically increasing the chances of winning the order.
4) Measure, improve, and measure again.
You must continually work to improve your sales lead follow-up process. As the old saying goes, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” So keep it simple to start with and measure the following:
How many sales leads do you receive each week?
How long does it take to respond to each sales lead? (That’s the time between when the lead is received and when a salesperson talks to the prospect for the first time.)
What percentage of your inbound sales leads are converted into qualified prospects?
What percentage of your inbound sales leads are converted into orders?
Set goals for these metrics, and then check each month to see whether you are achieving them. If you are, set more aggressive goals and fine-tune each element of your lead follow-up process to achieve the new goal. If you aren’t meeting your goals, examine each element of your process in detail, and implement steps you can take to improve it. Then check your performance again in a month, and set even more aggressive but achievable goals.