Recently I flew to Raleigh, NC for a very brief business trip. As soon as I got back to Seattle, I checked my conversion charts between Delta (the airline I flew) and Alaska (the airline I normally fly) and saw that I didn’t get the credit for the miles.
Now normal people probably wouldn’t check that the miles were showing up in their account. They probably wouldn’t follow up with the airline either. However, I’m not normal people. I care about miles. In fact, I sign up for Credit Cards every few months just for the airline miles. I’m saving my Alaska miles for a unique flight to Tanzania. And as of a few weeks ago, I was just a few thousand miles shy of status for 2017.
Long story short, after a few emails and calls, I got the miles credited to my account. But this only happened because I reached out and I insisted that the airline give me the miles.
Imagine, however, if your livelihood depended on following up with people. Yep, I am talking to Marketers and Salespeople. What’s crazy is that I’ve found that many marketers and salespeople simply aren’t doing legwork required to follow up with and close leads!
In my line of work, I get to work with the marketing and sales teams at many different companies. And let me tell you – here’s what separates the best from the rest: the ability to follow up.
I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve seen this situation: many businesses are simply doing nothing with the on the hundreds of great leads in their database who are waiting to receive a call.
I hate to break it to you, but leads don’t close themselves.
There’s a part of us that wants to believe that leads will simply come to us. The benefits of inbound marketing have been preached far and wide – maybe inbound sales could work too? Ultimately, I think it’s because we hate the idea of picking up the phone and potentially getting rejected. Many of us don’t even want to pick up the phone to order a pizza, let alone ask people out on a date, and we’re just as reluctant to use the phone to close some business.
But the problem is that in a B2B world, business, although often initiated over the internet, rarely closes over text-based communication. It takes conversations for someone to understand why they need your product. The price point is too high that the buyer has to their due diligence, which involves talking to a human being. We have to pick up the phone and develop a relationship with the person on the other end to actually make a sale.
The data proves this point. 93% of leads respond on the 6th contact from a salesperson. Organizations that deploy Sales Development Reps can increase the conversion rate to opportunity from lead by 40%. We know these things, we just haven’t made this person-to-person contact a priority. Part of the problem has to do with the fact that Marketing and Sales teams often aren’t working towards the same goals. Part of the problem has to do with a lack of repeatable process. Here are some actions I recommend for teams looking to increase closing rates on leads.
Shake Hands between Marketing and Sales
Quick, run out and get a meeting between your marketing and sales leaders. Write a quick SLA (Service Level Agreement) to get Marketing and Sales on the same page on what type of lead should be passed off to sales, how sales will follow up with these leads, and what to do with leads that sales aren’t able to close. With an SLA, Marketing and Sales are able to focus on the achieving the same goal – closing leads – rather than pointing fingers at each other about why leads haven’t closed.
Build a Process – And Run it Every Time
Once Sales gets those leads, they have to do something with them. They should follow up with leads in a timely fashion and put every lead through the same process. Without a repeatable process, there is no way to hone in on what’s working and what isn’t.
Considering the following scenario at company A. At this company, the marketing and sales team have gotten together and agreed on the definition of a “sales-ready” lead. The marketing team has agreed to pass over 1000 sales ready leads to sales reps every month. But the sales team has not committed itself to a process. Instead, the sales reps are cherry-picking which leads they follow up with. And as expected, they’re complaining that leads aren’t good enough and it’s too hard to make contacts with these leads.
A process ensures that you keep one part of the lead generation equation constant, so you could start to drill down into what’s truly impacting lead quality. Instead of letting sales people pick and choose their own leads, have the process itself qualify your leads.
This process has to be centered around three things:
- Context – Why are you following up with this lead? Whether you’re asking someone to read an e-book, sign up for a webinar, or get on the phone with a sales person, make sure to tell that person why you’re reaching out quickly, and what they can expect to gain by spending time with you. Be sure to ask the lead only for what’s reasonable, based on the stage they’re at in the buying process – don’t try to sell them the whole meal deal on the first email.
- Content – Whether you will have your SDR team or Account Executives reach out to leads, content is key to your success. In this case, content simply means a useful offer that’s the appropriate next step for the lead. A product trial is content, but it can be packaged up as a way for the lead to learn something new that would be beneficial to them. When a rep reaches out to a marketing qualified lead, make sure to send them relevant information that helps move the lead closer to a purchase decision. Typically at this stage, the buyer needs more product-specific content, content that proves their is a positive ROI and content that helps them build a business case to get the budget needed to purchase your product (i.e. training videos, customer case studies).
- Persistence – You won’t make contact with most of your leads with the first touch. Based on research from TeleNet and Ovation Sales Group, your process should have no less than 8 individual touches to it over time.
Once you’ve built your process, it’s okay if it doesn’t work as well as you had expected. In fact, that’s exactly what you want. Find the pieces that do work and tweak the ones that don’t. For example, if every lead goes through the same process, but leads from referrals close at double the rate of leads from your content syndication program, that’s a good indicator that your content syndication program leads aren’t as warm or ready for a sales conversation. Now, you can put your content syndication program leads into an email nurture program, qualify them through engagement before passing them directly to sales. Meanwhile, you may create a new referral program to get even more leads from referrals.
If you are in B2B Sales or Marketing, you need to build your team a process, make sure everyone understands why it’s set up that way and have them adhere to it consistently. A process provides the starting point for gathering the data you need to make tweaks or improvements to your lead generation machine.
Evaluate Lead Quality. Evaluate Your Process.
Life is such that not everyone will like or agree with your process. As one of my college professors always said about our dreaded “reading reviews”: “You can hate the process, but you’ll love the results.” Data is the one tool you’ll need to figure out whether your new process is leading to the results you want.
To close more leads, make sure to consistently measure the quality of leads from different sources. That means tracking leads by each acquisition source (i.e. webinars, pricing requests, trials, events, etc.), measuring funnel velocity of the leads by source, contact rates and conversion rates into Sales Accepted Leads, Opportunities, and Closed Won deals. From there, you can identify under-performing lead sources and change the process for following-up with these leads.
But hold on, I just got upgraded to First Class – gotta run.