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It’s a task so many professionals dread, yet it’s a critical aspect of running a sustainable business. You may think of following up with leads as a one-time event: you capture a sales lead, wait a day or two, and then give them a call. The end. In reality, following up with leads is a long-term process for those who do it successfully. It’s important to see lead follow-ups as a step in relationship building. You are not simply trying to squeeze money out of a potential customer; you’re in it for the long haul.
Here are a few pointers to navigate the delicate balance of following up with leads the right way.
Persevere your leads, don’t harass them
Especially for those who are new to sales, it can be terrifying to repeatedly follow up with leads. You may feel like you are bothering or irritating people and decreasing your chances of a sale. But the research doesn’t lie. Studies show that multiple follow-ups tend to generate more sales.
The magic number is debated, but one study found that five follow-ups is the norm before a sale takes place. Compare this to research that shows that 50 percent of professionals give up after just the first follow-up call or email. What we know doesn’t match what we do. So, if your business has struggled with closing the deal, persevering could help you stop leaving money on the table.
If perseverance is your issue, start brainstorming follow-up methods that don’t make you feel sleazy or pushy, because customers can sense dishonesty. In fact, honesty is what they desire most in a brand. Start convincing your leads in the same way you would convince a personal friend.
Always lead conversations with the value your product or service offers. This will help you skip the sleazy sales pitch and let the value speak for itself. In addition, if you hate following up repeatedly with leads, try to master the art of the first follow-up. If the first one goes swimmingly, you won’t have to waste time on any awkward calls in the future.
Timing is everything
Another hotly debated topic in the lead generation world is timing. You may feel as if you’re texting someone for a first date. Is it too soon? Do I seem desperate?
The Harvard Business Review came to some interesting conclusions on the topic of lead timing. Particularly, the difference lies in how you found your lead: digitally or face-to-face.
Their research found that the nature of today’s fast-paced digital environment decreased the lifespan of a digital lead. In other words, you need to contact online leads faster.
Again, Harvard found a gap between what we know and what we do:
“Although 37 percent responded to their lead within an hour, and 16 percent responded within one to 24 hours, 24 percent took more than 24 hours—and 23 percent of the companies never responded at all. “
They discovered that contacting these leads within one hour made companies seven times more likely to have a meaningful conversation with a decision-maker. Thus, when a digital lead makes itself known, get in touch promptly.
If it seems impossible to follow up this fast with a digital lead, consider implementing an auto-responder to get the ball rolling. You might also delegate this role to a personable and trusted staff person.
Set the parameters
If you want to harness a pattern of success and predictability with leads, it’s important to take the initiative and set parameters. Your lead will not direct the conversation – you must!
Setting parameters is all about giving structure to your call or email. When will you speak to them again? What should they do when they decide to progress to the next step of the buying process? What specific problems are they having that you will solve?
All of these little answers build a framework, which allows your lead to see that you are competent and professional. At the end of communication, your leads should feel certain rather than plagued with questions.
Treating lead generation like relationship building not only takes the edge off for you, it provides potential customers with what they need most to say yes: trust. They trust that you are communicating honestly, they know they can get in touch with you through the parameters you’ve set, and they don’t feel harassed. This process sets the stage for more conversions and more loyal, long-term customers for your business.