A sales lead is a precious commodity in today’s economy. With more than 27 million small businesses in the United States and a growth rate in 2010 of 565,000 new startups each month, the competition is fierce and becoming fiercer.
So how do you maintain your competitive edge against the onslaught of circling sharks hungry to slice into what may be your already razor-thin market share? Own every lead that comes your way.
After all, they’re yours to lose! Whether it’s a phone call, email, website form submission, or patron who walks through your business door, be aware that customers shop around to find the best service provider. Make sure they know it’s you.
To help you maintain a competitive edge, here are seven surefire tips to help you navigate your leads to success:
Answer the phone. How much business have you lost by not answering your phone? Chances are it’s more than you think. A recent analysis of our customers’ calls shows that 17% of callers hang up while the phone is still ringing or if it is reaching voice mail. Not answering the phone? That’s the easiest way to lose a customer!
Consider this: Hire an answering service to provide backup coverage during your lunch, peak, and off hours.
- Reply to voice mail as quickly as possible. Are you frustrated when you call a business during regular hours and reach voice mail? Callers to your business feel the same way if they have to leave you a message. If you do have voice mail, check it regularly and respond immediately. A prompt response conveys reliability to the customer and gives you a better chance of servicing that customer before they select your competitor.
- Don’t give up on phone tag. Recently, a neighbor of mine had trouble firming up service from a patio contractor. After a few rounds of phone tag, the contractor became unresponsive. What did my neighbor do next? She reached out to a different contractor who built her patio. The story doesn’t end there. A month later, while her new patio was being built, the first contractor finally called back only to find that they lost the $5,000 job to their competitor. Companies should work hard to earn their customers’ business—not the other way around!
Be competitive. Are you offering the same product or service as your competitors, with little to no differentiation? If so, you can’t afford to price yourself out of the market. If you’re charging $60 for a ride to the airport and your competitors are charging $50, plan on losing business. As businesses, we don’t typically prefer to seek out price shoppers or bargain hunters, but we do have to be cognizant of what the market will bear.
Consider this: Routinely check to see what your competitors are offering, including any specials. If your competitors are promoting a 15% off coupon, your 10% discount will not be compelling.
- Be a consultant. Sometimes what your customer wants isn’t really what they need. Always ask questions and be solution-oriented. Is the customer inquiring about wood windows when vinyl may suit them better? Explain the benefits of an alternative, and retain a customer you may have otherwise lost.
- Track your leads. Assign leads to your sales staff, and create a process for tracking their progress. Follow up with your team to ensure that they’re taking full advantage of every new sales opportunity. Whether you create your own system or use third-party software, having a process to track leads to fruition will increase your success rate. It’s a great way to keep tabs on the productivity of your staff and increase revenue.
- Provide good customer service. Be respectful, polite, and pleasant with your prospects. Do what you say you’re going to do. If you have a scheduled appointment, show up on time. If you are going to provide a written proposal by the close of business, follow through. Doing what you say you are going to do goes a long way to building trust with a customer.
Today’s new businesses are savvy and aggressive—and gunning after your customers. It is a wonder, then, why we continue to see businesses that don’t pick up the phone, are late responding to voice mail, or neglect to follow up with prospects. Be better than your competition, and treat each sales lead like the golden nugget it is. Your business is counting on you!
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