One of the biggest challenges for many small business owners is getting enough new sales leads—you’re always marketing and networking and getting customer referrals and buying PPC ads and posting on social media, all in the hope of finding new prospective customers. But ironically enough, many small business owners discover that once they get new sales leads, they have an even bigger challenge: knowing what to do with the sales leads!
Too many small business owners see their hard-earned sales leads fall through the cracks, resulting in underperforming sales—because of a few simple mistakes and mishandlings. It’s not good enough to “get” new sales leads; once you’ve got them, you need to handle them with care and manage the sales leads properly to start building relationships and turning these “leads” into “customers.”
Here are a few simple strategies to better manage your inbound sales leads, starting from the first point of contact.
Create a Follow-Up Process
When your business gets a new inbound sales lead or sales inquiry—whether it’s from a customer finding your website and sending an email, or someone clicking on a PPC ad, or someone asking a question via Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter—what happens next? What happens when that new prospective customer contacts your business for the first time? For too many businesses, the answer is “nothing.” Lots of businesses don’t do a good enough job of following up with new sales leads.
Without a consistent process for tracking new sales leads and following up, your sales leads might fall through the cracks. Consider investing in a customer relationship management (CRM) system; there are great CRM tools available today for even the smallest businesses. Even a simple tracking spreadsheet can make a big difference at keeping your sales leads from falling off the radar.
Ask Pre-Qualifying Questions
Once you get on the phone with a new prospective customer, what happens during that first conversation? This is another point where your business needs a consistent process in place, to ask “pre-qualifying questions.” These are simple questions where you learn more about the prospective customer and find out more about their needs—why they’re calling, how much they know about your company, how soon they might be ready to buy, and what are the urgent “pain points” that are motivating them to make a purchase.
A few good examples of pre-qualifying questions include:
- How did you find out about our business, and why did you decide to contact us?
- Can you tell me more about your current business challenges and how we might help?
- Have you used a similar solution before, or are you currently using a competitor’s solution? And if so, how is it working?
- What sort of timeline do you have in mind for how soon you want to make a purchase decision?
Note that all of these questions are “open-ended” questions, not just “yes/no” questions. Ideally, you want to get the prospect to open up a bit and speak freely about their current challenges and pain points. This will give you better insights into how your solution/product/service can help improve the customer’s situation.
Prioritize and Sort Your Sales Leads
By asking pre-qualifying questions, you can help to identify and sort out the highest priority sales leads (the people who are best-informed and most urgently ready to buy) from the lower priority sales leads (the people who are just getting started with their research or who are perhaps not as eager to buy anytime soon).
This is important, because if you don’t sort your sales leads, you’ll get too many bad leads cluttering up your sales process—and this will cause you and your sales people to waste time and miss opportunities to capitalize on the good leads.
Based on the customers’ responses to the pre-qualifying questions, you can assign a simple lead ranking system—even if it’s as simple as rating the leads: “A, B, C” in order of priority. Keep track of your leads and work through them in order of priority, taking notes on conversations and following up as needed.
Converting sales leads into actual sales doesn’t just happen; it requires planning, focus, and attentive relationship management. It all starts with that first point of contact, and having good, consistent processes in place to learn more about your sales leads and start building sales relationships.
Author: Gregg Schwartz is the Director of Sales at Strategic Sales and Marketing, a B2B lead generation company based in Connecticut.