Sales leads are something that every business is in search of more of but what are you going to do with them once you have them? Once you have figured out the correct way of approach into the companies you want to call and have created call lists through a variety of sources and business activities you are faced with the question of how best to turn these leads into sales. Generally speaking, I do not recommend purchasing leads outright because I do not consider a customer truly interested and engaged unless it is by virtue of your own sales and marketing efforts.
The primary purpose of marketing is to create interested prospects who can then be guided along the sales process by your sales team. This is why the lead generation function in some enterprises falls under the domain of marketing and not sales. On the other hand, many sales folks – such as myself! - take pride and joy in the heavy lifting of prospecting and cold calling thus negating the need for a marketing effort beyond a standard website and marketing brochures to educate prospects and build credibility (additional lead-generating marketing activities such as trade show and online webcasts are always welcome!). Regardless of how you categorize or produce sales leads you are now faced with 4 tasks: i) lead management, ii) lead qualification and iii) lead progression.
Most companies use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution like Salesforce.com or Infusionsoft in order to manage leads on a day to day basis (there are also plenty of free CRM tools available for you to research!). If you are just starting out then a spreadsheet format may suffice and in either case you might benefit from using a sales lead sheet to help you organize discussions. The main point of lead management is organizing your sales leads so that you know what conversations are taking place and what the next steps are for every one of your leads. With this knowledge you can then actively work on “hot” leads and close out or defer “cold” ones for later.
Studies show that a major misstep that a lot of sales and marketing organizations – and individuals! - make is failing to follow up in a timely fashion. If a prospect is a good fit for your business but cannot buy now then it is your job to stay in touch with them and nuture a relationship with them for a later sales (hence the term "relationship marketing"!). One way of doing this is through an automated email marketing campaign. Another invaluable bit of wisdom is knowing where to concentrate your efforts. You should focus your marketing on those companies and demographics that produce the most leads. As well, you should have a system of scoring leads so that you know which ones to work with in order to produce most sales.
I have written extensively about qualification and this is something that plays a part in both creating as well as managing leads. In fact, you will continue to qualify your customers all the way up to a sale. Think about it: if your customer hesitates at any point in the sales process, won't you want to find out why? Therefore, you will ask qualifying questions in order to bring their concerns to light so that you can address them. One way of looking at sales is that all you are doing is removing obstacles to a purchase. From this perspective, the way you overcome these obstacles is first to uncover them through qualification and then agree with your customer about a way to resolve them and move forward.
There is a basic difference that can be outlined between qualified and unqualified leads which once again starts with customer interest. I would define a lead as a prospect who is interested in what you have to offer. At this point, it is your job to qualify this lead from a personal, professional and organizational perspective in order to find out what drives them and whether or not they are a good fit for your business (for example, they may simply have the wrong environment for your specific solution!). Once you have qualified the lead as possessing a majority of the VBANT criteria you are then in a position to work on progressing your customer through your sales process.
If you have a well-defined sales process in place then your sales and marketing program really does become a numbers game. Business cannot be “hit or miss” or a matter of luck and what you are striving for is a definitive system of creating and progressing sales leads that is predictable. As long as you and your sales team is sufficiently personable and professional moving leads through your marketing “funnel” should be just like any other process that you manage in your business. At each step of the way, you should know what to expect and what to do and say in order to take your customer that one next step forward towards a purchase.
If the way to discover sales obstacles and objections is through questions and qualification then the way to overcome these is through forging agreements with your customer at each step of the sales process. The way to create agreements with your customer is by using ”if / then” statements which are crucial for overcoming objections as well as setting next steps. For example, when you chat with a customer for the first time, you might say, “If you are happy at the end of this initial discussion then we can set up a time to give your team a product demonstration.” In overcoming objections, you can ask a question along the lines of, “If I can show you why that will not be a problem then will you be happy to sign off on this [or go to the next step]?” Your customer will then either agree with you or reveal another concern or objection which you should handle exactly the same way.
Do you have insights, strategies or stories about cold calling and lead generation to share with other readers? Perhaps you have a cold calling script or technique that works well or maybe you just want to let off some steam about RUDE people who hang up! Send in your thoughts in as much detail as you like to create a page in this section.