The data on responsive engagement of leads indicates that fast responses dramatically improve contact rates, and this translates into the qualification rate.
The contact rate is defined as a meaningful conversation with the prospective customer that initiates a conversation leading to the qualification of an opportunity. Improved qualification rate translates into dramatically improved sales results.
Fast response is only half the battle, however.
What if you do get the buyer on the phone in 5 minutes? What the sales rep says and does when they connect with the buyer will set the tone for the ongoing buyer-seller engagement.
Preparing a sales rep to engage buyers within minutes of receiving an inbound sales lead and to respond in writing within minutes after closing the call is a non-trivial task requiring the right infrastructure, expertise, investment, training, and time.
Fast sales follow up is an investment that firms must make if they are going to survive and grow profitably in a world controlled by buyers, and where B2B salespeople are becoming marginalized as part-time facilitators of a buying process.
Imagine this scenario: Company A has invested in inbound marketing infrastructure. It generates hundreds of leads per week and its sales team engages and follows up in real-time and within 5 minutes of the lead coming in. Company B has not invested in the same infrastructure and its leads are scored, sorted, and allocated for sales reps to call the following day if they are deemed sales-ready.
Even if Company B gets the same amount of leads as Company A, without the process and infrastructure of company A, it lacks the ability to quickly follow up and will initiate far fewer sales opportunities than Company A. As a result, it will close significantly less business and its customer acquisition cost will be higher.
Put Yourself in the Buyer’s Shoes
Now, let’s examine the view from the buyer’s perspective. The buyer downloads an ebook from Company A and a whitepaper from Company B a few minutes apart as they research a new idea.
They get a call from a Company A rep within 5 minutes of being on the website, thanking them for visiting. The rep is trained to inquire if they need any help, offer more resources, and send a written follow-up with next steps and a call-to-action. They tell the buyer they will send an email in a few minutes and ask the buyer to check spam traps if they don’t get it. Their email arrives in the buyer’s inbox within 10 minutes of the call ending.
Company B, on the other hand, delivers the lead into the salesperson’s new leads queue the next day, and the rep begins to call the list of leads and tries to make contact with the buyer. It pays to make 7 attempts to get a buyer on the phone even when they opted in, and it may take 7 or more attempts by Rep B to contact a lead.
Rep B will send an email while trying to get the buyer on the phone. Unfortunately, the buyer does not take phone calls from vendors, so the rep leaves a voicemail that gets deleted after the buyer listens to the first few words.
The buyer either does not receive the email, as it spam's out, or if it does make it into their inbox, it will likely be deleted along with dozens of other sales solicitations in their inbox each morning.
Meanwhile, prospective buyers advance at their own pace through their buying process and receive a relevant stream of supportive content and insight from Company A, with whom they’ve had a conversation and who understands some of their goals, issues, priorities, and where they are in their buying process.
Shortly after, they receive a programmed set of canned emails from Company B without context or relevance.
When the buyer reaches the point where they are nearly ready to buy, they will reach out to both Company A and Company B and find Company C to make up the numbers. At this stage of proceedings, Company A has 3x more influence, mindshare, and, hopefully, trust, and is likely to win the deal 76% of the time. If Company B does a miracle job in the last mile of the sales process, it will win in only 24% of opportunities. Company C has been invited to make up the numbers and has little chance of winning, (beware the urgent RFP with a short fuse).
Responsiveness is Essential to Thrive (and Survive)
The above scenario may be extreme, but even if it’s half-right, then survival is at stake. Latecomers and laggards in adopting responsive sales engagement practices will struggle to remain viable and profitable.
Is it time to reimagine selling as a means of facilitating a buying process and to unify and retool sales and marketing to achieve that end, or should we stick to tried and true methods? It won’t be easy either way.
By sticking to what you know, it will get increasingly difficult to engage, qualify, and win new business.
By rebooting your sales and marketing efforts, you will be faced with the change, uncertainty, and stress of having to learn new methods and tools and implement new technologies. But, with change comes growth, learning, and renewed competitive muscle.
Mark Gibson is the founder of Advanced Marketing Concepts and Vice President of WittyParrot, a disruptive content distribution platform for responsive sales enablement. He is an experienced sales and marketing consultant, author and entrepreneur, with more than 30 years of international sales, marketing, and consulting success.