In 2016, salespeople have more tools at their disposal than their predecessors ever did.
The advent of inbound marketing means that inbound leads are no longer a rarity. Social media provides a wealth of information about prospects. There are a multitude of sales training courses, sales enablement tools, and professional conferences available for the enterprising rep to attend or adopt.
And yet, only 33% of salespeople make quota, according to the TAS Group. What gives?
When you miss your number, it’s often human nature to point the finger at someone else.
Prospects weren’t picking up this month. Nobody wanted to talk to me. The leads just weren’t good.
All of these things could be true, at one time or another. But far more frequently, the fault doesn't lie with the leads -- it’s the way salespeople follow up that cause deals to disappear.
As you face a new year and a new quota, take care to avoid these six common follow-up mistakes errors.
6 Huge Mistakes Reps Make When Following Up With Sales Leads
1) Following up too slowly.
Research shows that salespeople are 100 times more likely to connect with an inbound lead if they follow up in the first five minutes than if they wait half an hour. No, you didn’t read that number wrong -- 100 times more likely.
It’s also logical that this should be. Your brand is top-of-mind for someone who’s just converted on a piece of content, but wait a day (or even just 30 minutes) and they may not even remember who you are.
2) Not providing value.
Salespeople have more information than ever before, but so do buyers. And it’s easier than ever for buyers to take their business elsewhere in the blink of an eye. So how can salespeople get prospects to talk to them?
Welcome to the age of Always Be Helping, where the most successful reps act like consultants -- not sellers. Buyers can easily compare pricing and feature lists themselves -- what they need is an expert to show them how all that data coalesces into a coherent solution for their business problems.
Make sure you’re providing value from day one. And this means real, objective value. If your prospect really isn’t a good fit, recommend a better solution and let them go, rather than forcing them into a purchase they’ll regret.
3) Not doing research.
You can’t provide value if you don’t understand your audience. While it’s perfectly fine to be ignorant of your prospect’s most serious business pain going into your first call, it’s amateur to fumble their job title, company size, or not know what they do.
This doesn’t mean you need a dossier on every lead you intend to call. Do just enough research so you have a sense of what your prospect cares about, then tailor your call to those needs.
4) Using scripts.
Let’s get one thing straight: A script is not the same thing as a template.
This distinction is crucial to understand. A script is something you repeat verbatim to every single prospect you touch. A template is a general, tried-and-true framework you personalize to each lead.
Templates aren’t going anywhere, and rightly so. The best salespeople use templates, and they save countless hours of valuable selling time as a result.
But reading -- and refusing to deviate from -- a prewritten script is never commendable. Not only will it be immediately clear to the savvy buyer, it’s also a wasted opportunity to provide specific value to the person on the other end of the phone.
5) Relying on a “just checking in” follow-up sequence.
So you didn’t call in the five-minute window and you couldn’t connect with your prospect. All hope isn’t lost -- 80% of sales require five or more follow-ups to close.
But all too often, salespeople resort to the “just checking in” method of following up. This might seem reasonable: After all, you haven’t done any discovery yet, so how are you expected to evolve your messaging?
You can’t be as specific as you’d like, but that doesn’t mean going to the other extreme and being incredibly generic. Instead, spend a few extra minutes on research so you can send content or suggestions based on what you can guess about your prospect’s situation -- they’ll be far more likely to respond if you prove that you’re not just interested in a sale.
6) Misaligning your pitch with your prospect’s buyer stage.
The buyer’s journey has three stages: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. Each of those stages represents a very different type of buyer activity and need. If your prospect converted on a top-of-the-funnel offer, it’s not the best time to offer a demo.
Always tailor the content you share and your advice to your buyer’s needs. At HubSpot, sales conversations run the gamut from education about inbound marketing to specific discussions about price and implementation because no two prospects have the same background, expertise, or needs.
The six mistakes above are serious, but the good news is they’re easy to correct. Often, salespeople make these mistakes because it’s harder and slower to take the time to correctly follow-up with leads.
But buyers will sniff you out a mile away, and they’ll take their business elsewhere. So live by this rule of thumb when designing a lead follow-up strategy: Build your sales process around the customer. Tailor every communication to their needs, wants, and requirements.
And the next time you're tempted to blame a bad month on crappy leads? You might take a look in the mirror before you resort to finger-pointing.
Originally published Jan 8, 2016 8:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017