How leads are handled is vital to ensuring not just continuous revenue and the long-term success of a company, but also the harmonious working of sales and marketing teams!
A crucial step in the sales cycle, to get the best from lead follow-up efforts requires businesses to think tactically, plan ahead and, crucially, to get the most out of those people working together to achieve it.
If markers are tossing unqualified, unscrubbed leads through to the sales team then unwelcome time is going to be spent by sales teams qualifying or disqualifying these leads themselves, leading to resentment and inefficiency.
Working best practices, together with other variables like how leads are chosen, timing conversions, information and database management, messaging and tone of communication, and quality of contacts are key aspects to the lead follow-up process.
While at first follow-up might appear to be a simple and understandable strategy, companies continue to get lead follow-ups wrong in the modern B2B marketplace. Understandable, but unnecessary. Here are 10 of the most common mistakes to avoid in your lead follow-up strategy.
1. Picking and Choosing Leads
When choosing which leads to pursue, the temptation is to break them down into the following three categories:
Hot leads, or those leads that are ready now.
Warm leads, or those that will be ready soon.
Cold or bad leads, those that may never be ready.
Cherry picking the best leads can be problematic as it often results in warm leads becoming neglected. Warm leads still hold value and can be critical to long-term success.In theory, every lead should be worth pursuing if nurtured properly.
Focusing on the potential of leads is essential. Work with sales teams to create buyer personas to help guide marketing efforts, and begin to create detailed metrics about those leads, understand pain points and increase brand relevance.
Just like leads, your service or product will most likely evolve over time to better meet needs. Do not be afraid to constantly revisit and revise how leads are viewed as this will help you notice changes, developments, or different challenges over time.
2. Neglecting Your Database as it Changes and Evolves
To benefit from the strongest possible customer base companies must actively and systematically maintain and manage contacts.
Segment prospects into meaningful groups such as budget, purchasing authority, timeframe, and readiness to buy. This will enable your outreach to be streamlined and promote a higher return on investment (ROI).
Making databases more efficient will enable businesses to easily sort through and pull up leads as needed in a way that suits the customization of each lead follow-up campaign.
3. Driving Too Quickly for a Conversion
Creating a sense of urgency is fine, but rushing leads through for a sale before they are ready can often result in the most important aspect of lead follow-up being neglected; establishing a real, solid relationship with prospective clients.
The result is that businesses may lose that lead for the duration of their consumer journey. Each prospect will sit in a different stage of the consumer journey and as such will have different needs that should be accounted for, see point 5.
Initially, leads are often looking for information, an introduction or a chance to connect with a strategic partner. Score leads as a part of the follow-up process so that sales teams know when to act.
4. Bad Timing
Timing is everything. Understanding the optimal frequency and time of day to reach out to leads is crucial for yielding the best results.
Timely follow-ups enable businesses to better guide leads through the sales funnel, nurtured all the way with content in the form of blogs and articles as they progress from awareness to evaluation to the purchasing stage.
Consistency with follow-ups will also make your lead feel valued and help build stronger working relationships. Not to mention, every follow-up will teach you something new about that lead which can be used to align engagement more effectively.
Take a methodical approach to your lead follow-up efforts. Know your audience and pay attention to locations, time zones and useful third-party data.
For example, a study by MIT indicated that Wednesdays and Thursdays yielded increased email open rates and phone contact rates by up to 49%.
5. ‘Cookie Cutter’ Messaging
For lead follow-ups to be effective it is crucial to personalize campaigns for individual accounts and avoid derivative ‘cookie cutter’ messaging and blanket pitches.
Leads are looking to be engaged with smart campaigns that are centered around their best interests and which prioritizes their concerns, not fobbed off with cut-and-paste content.
To drive the success of campaigns, establish healthy expectations early on about what your business can do for theirs.
6. One Channel Communication
Phone calls, emails, WhatsApp group chats, SMS, industry events and social media are all valid channels through which to maintain engagement with leads and other potential clients. As marketers, find out which form of communication or platform is most convenient for your target audience and use it.
By utilizing multi-channel communication, before you know it webs of information begin flowing not just between leads but also the wider network. This is one of the reasons why it is always a great idea to provide shareable content, see our next point.
Less formal channels can allow companies to build a more natural rapport with clients. For example, SMS messaging has been proven to be highly successful in maintaining conversations with new contacts, providing for an increase of up to 112% in lead engagement from messages.
7. Not Sharing Content
Sharing content with potential buyers is integral to effective lead follow-up and nurturing. Types of shareable content include articles, blogs, case studies, multimedia, webinars and whitepapers.
Content is an asset that should be leveraged to garner more interest in your brand, build trust and demonstrate how your product or service can add value to a business.
Content also allows leads to become informed, and then to use this newfound knowledge to inform others, in effect helping to market your brand for you.
Companies often neglect to synchronize their marketing and sales teams, leaving a huge gap between the process of getting a lead and closing the sale.
Following up regularly to warm leads is important and requires both teams to align. By working together teams can effectively engage at the right time and with the correct content.
Schedule joint efforts and plan out communications with clients at all stages of the consumer journey to ensure efficiency and allow for better tracking of leads through the sales funnel.
9. Forgetting to Be Human
In the pursuit of sales, it is easy to forget that companies are mere legal entities and that the people that run them are the real prize.
It is important, therefore, to remember to be human in all aspects of your outreach, but particularly when following up with leads.
Stay humble and approachable. Use humor and language which is real and affective. Avoid repeating industry jargon that can sometimes reflect the impersonal. Helping leads to realize the person they are dealing with is an intelligent, thinking, caring person goes a long way.
Taking the time to relate to a lead is a great way to earn a positive impression, not just for your sales rep but for your entire company. Start building your reputation from the first contact and foster genuine connections and lasting trust.
10. Chasing Lost Causes
As important as it is to know when to chase a sales ready lead, it is equally important to know when to stop, or rather, when to use lack of contact to your advantage.
If after contacting a lead multiple times sales teams still do not get the desired reaction, then it might be time to break with that lead for now and focus on another. For this reason, it is imperative that marketing teams scrub leads for sales colleagues, as outlined in point 1.
It might be beneficial in such circumstances to use a closed-loop process to guarantee a certain outcome before moving on. For example, if you suspect a lead is going cold then present them with a choice of positive actions: take a short video call, provide an internal referral, or confirm a solid disqualification of your product or service.
Use these metrics to learn more about your lead and the circumstances of this rejection. If, as it tuns out, the lead is too busy or is already using a rival brand then the issue could simply be timing.
Perfecting lead follow-up is a constant process that requires good judgment, together with a solid understanding of the prospective client.
Showing genuine patience, addressing needs and concerns with relevant content, and contacting leads via their preferred method of communication provide solid foundations for any successful follow-up campaign.
Adopt a can-do attitude, and rarely dispose of leads for good. They are hard to come by and often the issue can be timing, rather than a stronger form of disqualification. Ensure marketing teams know this, have a clearly defined buyer persona, and have the responsibility of scrubbing leads before shifting them through to sales. This will make marketing teams more efficient, and sales will be happier.