When it comes to sales leads, many organizations make the mistake of treating every individual or business that contacts them as genuine opportunities and then expend significant time and resources trying to convert them into a sale.
Given this approach, it’s not surprising that the vast majority of “leads” fail to go anywhere.
As your own sales team will likely tell you, not all leads are created equal. While some prospects might be interested in purchasing immediately, others are just trolling for information on your products or services (which may arm them with valuable knowledge when reaching out to your competitors) and some are simply a bad fit with your business.
Taking time to assess the quality of leads and refining a strategy for pursuing the most promising ones will save you time and money in the long run. Here are five tips to help avoid chasing the wrong sales leads in the future:
1. Create an ideal “buyer persona.” You may have a general idea about what constitutes the ideal customer for your business—but if you and your sales team lack an in-depth understanding of this person or company, considerable time will be wasted with the wrong leads. Put together a detailed “buyer persona,” so that you can focus more quickly on the leads worth pursuing. By taking time to develop your buyer persona, you will have a deeper understanding not just of who your ideal customer is, but what they need.
2. Weed out lukewarm leads by getting to know them. Prospects who contact your business in order to solicit some free advice are generally unlikely to actually buy from you. While it’s always a good policy to be friendly with such lukewarm prospects, refrain from handing out abundant free advice. Instead, in your preliminary conversation, get to know the person a little better and then determine whether it’s worthwhile to pursue the lead any further.
3. Ask open-ended questions to qualify leads. Subjecting prospects to a series of yes-or-no questions won’t produce the kind of information needed to accurately assess the likelihood of a sale. Particularly in the B2B realm, it’s vital to eliminate prospects who come to you with unrealistic demands or want more features than they’re interested in paying for.
Have “a process in place to ask lead qualifying questions upfront” so you can “sort and rank your sales leads based on which ones are the best priority and fit,” advises sales expert Gregg Schwartz. Otherwise, you will “end up with a lot of clutter and noise,” as well as an increasingly frustrated sales team.
4. Nurture leads to separate the wheat from the chaff. Occasionally, a bad sales lead can—with proper nurturing—blossom into a good sales lead. The vast majority of prospects aren’t willing or able to buy on the first call; to expect differently is a costly misconception on the part of sales reps.
This is where marketing can collaborate closely with sales to separate the wheat from the chaff. Employ nurturing techniques such as ongoing content marketing and other outreach efforts to demonstrate to the prospect the kind of value your business offers them, while abstaining from making the hard sell. It will become clear over time whether or not there’s a good fit waiting to be exploited.
5. Follow up ASAP. How many valuable opportunities are lost because your sales team neglected to follow up promptly with a new lead? With so many online inquiries receiving an initial automated reply, it’s altogether possible that good leads will slip through the cracks due to inattention. Look for ways to refine the process so that sales leads are contacted quickly (within 24 hours if possible) so the best prospects don’t get lost in the shuffle.
By regarding each lead as a potential customer, rather than just a “contact,” your team will be more focused on avoiding the wrong leads. Converting qualified leads into buying customers will keep the team highly motivated and working hard on future sales opportunities as well.