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Solve the Mystery of Lost Leads

grading and value-adding process before distribution, based on specific sales criteria. A good lead filtering and processing system should:

  • Save sales time and money by screening out non-actionable leads before distribution.
  • Determine how hot the lead is. Grade or score leads based on purchasing timeframe, a specific source, budget and/or other parameters so salespeople will know the best way to respond and prioritize.
  • Add valuable information by appending data to the lead from your internal database or external sources like Dun & Bradstreet, which can provide details such as company size, Web site address, corporate structure, credit history, industry, revenue and executive names.
  • Engage the prospect and salesperson simultaneously, demonstrating to the prospect that you are committed to help solve their problems.
  • Ensure the source of the lead is recorded, so all communications and follow-up include the context of the inquiry. This will increase the prospect's comfort level, as well as give the salesperson important clues for handling the prospect.

    Engage prospects with a positive early impression.
    Since timely response is critical, ensure all prospects receive the information they need at the beginning. Whether the prospect first contacts you by phone, online or in person, email is a good way to make sure prospects receive a fast and helpful response.

    By engaging the prospect early and effectively, you may even encourage a slight interest to spark into a warmer lead. When you provide relevant, useful information, you demonstrate value, keep prospects engaged and improve your close rates. You should set up a customized, automated system for email follow-up that confirms and thanks the prospect in a professional, friendly format that specifies the context of the request. For example, if your email mentions, "Thank you for requesting our 'Solving the Mystery of Lost Leads' whitepaper," you're giving the prospect a higher comfort level by reminding them why they contacted your company.

    The follow-up should also offer valuable information tools to help with their buying decision, such as a whitepaper download, e-newsletter subscription and online seminars. And finally, any follow-up should provide the name and contact information of their local or otherwise assigned salesperson. Again, this increases the prospect's comfort level since they have been introduced to the person who will call, in addition to giving them an easy way to make contact themselves.

    Get salespeople on the case with fast lead distribution.
    To keep the lead trail warm, salespeople need to be engaged immediately so they can follow up as quickly as possible. You can encourage salespeople to get involved fast by giving them all the information and easy-to-use tools they need to work the case.

    A lead distributed to salespeople should include most, if not all, of the following information:

    • Prospect contact details – Who should the salesperson contact?
    • Lead source – What marketing program did this lead come from?
    • Lead temperature or grade – How important is this lead?
    • Any detail provided by the prospect and specifics on their request – What did the prospect see, what did they say to a telesalesperson, what did they fill out on a web site?
    • Any action already taken, such as literature sent or additional offers extended – What has already been done for this prospect?
    • Instructions on what the salesperson should do next and what resources are available – What should be the salesperson's next step?
    • An easy way to report on the sales action and value of the lead. – What action was taken, what is the potential sale value, how much business has been closed from this lead?

    The second half of this article, in our Dec. 25, 2006, issue, will focus on holding your sales force accountable for following up on leads, as well as analyzing your company's performance.

    Greg Wilkinson is the co-founder of GrowthPoint Inc., a marketing and business consulting company that combines marketing campaign generation, project management, lead management and nurture programs to deliver returns on marketing investments. To contact Wilkinson, email info@growthpoint-inc.com, go to http://www.growthpoint-inc.com/, or call 248-467-6680.

    Many companies are routinely losing sales leads they spent thousands and millions of dollars to acquire. To track leads effectively, you must adopt practices that give each player in the process the answers and tools they need to take action. According to the American Marketing Association, up to 80 percent of leads you pass to sales fall through the cracks.

    First of a two-part series

    Imagine if 80 percent of your company's inventory vanished without a trace. You can bet the inventory and operations managers would be looking for new jobs. And if the problem continued for long, everyone in the company would be joining them.

    Yet many companies are routinely losing sales leads they spent thousands and millions of dollars to acquire. Marketing managers seldom have the information they need to understand what happens to the leads they generate or what value they have created. On the other hand, salespeople scratch their heads and wonder why they're sent weeks-old leads for prospects who aren't interested in buying.

    Too often, the CEO looks at the sales and marketing budget and just sees a black hole that sucks in money and resources with little hope of improving return.

    Creating a closed-loop" system that tracks leads from the original source through the entire sales process has become the holy grail of both sales and marketing departments. Many believe such a goal is unattainable without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on complex software that takes years of painful implementation.

    Others have been burned when even those Herculean efforts fail because salespeople refuse to use the complex and difficult system.

    What does it take to crack the case of missing leads? Your strategy must focus on adopting best practices for lead management that give each player in the process – marketer, salesperson and prospect – the fast, relevant answers and easy-to-use tools they need to take action. No secrets. No mystery. Just more sales by giving everyone the answers they need now.

    Here are the steps to make that happen.

    Keep leads fresh with immediate attention.
    "75 percent of companies still do not have an effective process for dispersing and managing leads. Most of those that do have not integrated that process with their sales force's opportunity management system," says Bob Schmonsees, author of "Escaping the Black Hole: Minimizing the Damage from the Sales-Marketing Disconnect."

    Just as a good investigator works fast to keep good leads from getting cold, you need to treat your leads like valuable clues that will lead to sales. Leads need timely attention and easy action tools at all levels, at every step.

    Prospects need immediate acknowledgement and relevant information that helps them make decisions and take action. Salespeople need to receive leads immediately, along with information on the prospect, lead source and quality, plus tools for following up fast. Marketers need timely, accurate answers on campaign performance so they can make smart decisions on strategy and spending.

    Plug the leaks with smart, centralized lead processing.
    The first and most critical step to plugging the leaks is to collect leads from multiple sources into a centralized system that provides value and assistance to prospects, as well as your sales and marketing team.

    A process must be created that gathers all leads from trade shows, Web inquiries, referrals and demand generation activities such as email, direct mail, telemarketing, advertising and search engine marketing. By providing real-time response and making it easier to gather important qualifying information from prospects, the Internet can be a powerful tool in helping organizations overcome lead management challenges.

    As leads flow into your centralized system, they should automatically pass through a filtering,

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