Your small business is doing a great job of generating new leads. That’s great, but it’s how you handle those leads once you get them that determines whether they convert to sales or not. Here are some mistakes you might be making with your leads—and what you should be doing instead.
- Don’t let leads go too long without followup. Often the deciding factor in which company a customer buys from is not brand, familiarity or even price, but simply which business gets back to them the fastest. Think about it: When a customer with a flooded bathroom needs a plumber in a hurry, do they have time to shop around? All too often, though, small businesses let urgent phone calls go to voice mail or don’t answer emails until a day or two later.
- Do delegate someone to respond to leads within 60 minutes (better yet, 30 minutes). The first hour after a prospect contacts your business is the “golden hour” when they are most likely to be responsive to you. And with today’s technology, responding within that time frame shouldn’t be hard to do. Have customer emails or phone calls routed to a specific email address or phone number; then make sure you always have someone covering those sources so that emails or calls are answered immediately.
- Don’t rely on a haphazard system for capturing lead information. Have you ever spent an hour searching for an email from a hot prospect and been unable to find it? Or lost a scrap paper or business card with the contact info for what could become a big customer? Without systems, leads will fall through the cracks.
- Do invest in a CRM system. This enables you to capture leads’ contact information and track the results of your follow-up. The person who responds to the leads initially (see above) should start the process of putting these leads into the system; then salespeople who follow up will have all the info they need at their fingertips.
- Don’t forget about qualifying information to help you sort lukewarm leads from hot prospects. Ideally, you want as much information as you can gather about a prospect before you follow up. For instance, knowing someone’s time frame to purchase, budget and role as decision-maker will help your salespeople use the best approach to contacting them. But many small businesses don’t have anything but a name and email or phone number to go on.
- Do determine what information you need about prospects and how best to get it. If you sell B2B, you might want to know a prospect’s job title or industry. If you sell B2C you might want to know a consumer’s budget for a purchase or whether they’re planning to buy in the next month or six months down the road. You can create online forms to capture this information on your website in exchange for something the prospect wants (like an ebook or a tip sheet). Or, you can get it during followup and enter it into your CRM.
- Don’t approach all leads the same way. If you don’t distinguish between where leads are in the sale cycle, such as those that are ready to buy, those that have already bought and are ready to buy again, or those that will require a long sales cycle and a lot of hand-holding, you’ll lose track of when to follow up and you’ll miss out on opportunities.
- Do categorize your leads and organize them by their stage in the buying process. This way you can set reminders in your CRM system so you contact leads at the appropriate time and provide prospects with the type of information and guidance most relevant to their stage in the buying process.
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