Management - Turn Leads Into Sales

A Blueprint For Establishing A Strategic Approach

LeadsA blueprint for establishing a strategic approach.

Not having luck in turning your leads into sales? There may be a pretty simple explanation. "The reason leads fizzle is maybe they weren't a good fit in the first place," says Brian Carroll, executive director of revenue optimization at MECLABS and author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale. "Not everyone who fills out a Web form or a slip at a trade show is a lead; these are simply inquiries."

Here's how you can be sure that your leads truly are leads – and how you can persuade these prospects to do business with you.

Develop a Universal Lead Definition (ULD)
In order to get the most out of their leads, Dan McDade, founder of PointClear and author of The Truth About Leads, says distributors must determine what the word lead means to them.

"The very first thing I recommend people do is, if they have a sales and marketing group, sit down with that group and come to a common definition of a lead, or what's sometimes referred to as a universal lead definition," he says. "I think the biggest problem is that companies don't agree on that – marketing has one definition, sales has another – and that allows for a lot of leakage."

Natalie Davis, director of inbound marketing for IMPACT Branding & Design LLC, says business owners can obtain a ULD for their companies by identifying their target markets. "For instance, in a B-to-B setting, you might ask yourself: How many employees does my ideal lead have, how much revenue do they make per year, and what type of industry am I going after?" she says.

Davis says her company answered these questions in determining its own target market, and then worked them into the form questions for its online "landing pages," also known as lead capture pages. "This way, if a lead comes into the system that fits our exact target, we can contact them sooner and try to set up an appointment," she says.

Make an Impressive First Impression
When you're ready to make contact with companies that fit your ULD, McDade highly recommends getting to know something about them before making that initial call.

"If you can establish common ground with an individual – and that might be based on being members of a common group, having gone to the same school or having similar interests – it's a lot easier to establish a dialogue with somebody than it is to just go in cold and kind of touting your product," he says.

McDade says a treasure trove of information about your leads can be obtained through the Internet and social media. "Follow the person's blog or the company's blog, and learn something specific about the company that's relevant as opposed to just going in and sounding like everybody else," he says. "Also, if you go to someone's LinkedIn profile and you find out that you happen to be linked with a common individual, you might even ask for that individual to make an introduction for you so you have a warmer introduction."

LeadsDavis recommends learning about the company, rather than talking about yourself, during that first call. "Rather than pitching our services, we typically spend our entire initial meeting simply learning about the client's business and their goals to find out if there even is a fit between our companies," she says. "After all, we can't tell if we can genuinely help someone until we know their background."

Practice Persistence & Tenacity
Even if you learn that a lead has a need that you may able to fulfill, there's a good chance that you won't earn their business if you aren't persistent. "Some sales reps give up too soon," McDade says. "They might make a couple of calls, and if they don't hear back, they assume the person wasn't interested. But it might take as many as ten touches – that might be three to five dials, three voicemails and three e-mails – to effectively position your company."

Case in point: In August, someone on McDade's sales team practiced that persistence, and was rewarded. "The customer said, ‘I get calls all the time, but your persistence, your professionalism, and the information that you left for me in the voicemail and follow-up e-mail was of interest. Can you help?'" he says.

For all leads, McDade suggests making a call (and leaving a voicemail, if necessary) followed by an e-mail, resting a couple of days, and then doing it all over again. "What you'll find is that 20% to 30% of the companies that you never would've gotten through to just by using the telephone will either refer you to somebody else or open the door to having a conversation in the future," he says. "And that's just through leveraging every touch to be more effective in the long run as opposed to just making a bunch of phone calls and hitting dead ends.

"So, the use of carefully constructed voicemails – not just, ‘Hey, this is Dan, get back to me when you can,' but a 30- to 40-second sales pitch followed by an e-mail – will substantially increase the number of conversations that you have."

Provide Useful Info
Carroll says demonstrating that you have the interest of your lead's company in mind will also open the door to additional conversations – especially with those decision-makers who aren't interested in doing business with you just yet.

"Have a fallback strategy where, when you talk to someone and you know there's a fit, have something valuable that you can share with them and that you can e-mail over," he says. "Rather than e-mailing them a brochure, it can be an article, like the top ten things to consider in choosing your next promotional item. So, you're sharing something that would be valuable to that person, even if they never bought from you."

Since only 5% to 10% of your leads will have an interest in what you're selling at that particular time, Carroll says this is the best way to get them to remember you when they're ready to buy. "Most people are not going to be ready to buy when you speak to them, and they're not going to be ready to meet with you at that very moment," he says, "so you can build your list by providing them with valuable information."

Develop Protocols for Objections
Carroll suggests distributors comprise a list of questions and concerns that previous customers shared, and have responses to those concerns ready when they call upon leads.

"If you're stuck on ideas, look at your most recent sales and write out the questions they had at the beginning and late stages of the buying process while working with you," he says. "Then, develop a frequently asked questions or objection sheet so you can have that in front of you until that becomes internalized. Sometimes, these are the tools you need in order to have more engaging conversations."

When facing objections from leads, McDade recommends implementing an old-school strategy. "This is really old-fashioned but it still works. It used to be referred to as the feel-felt-found method of overcoming objections: ‘I understand exactly how you feel; when I was talking to XYZ Company they felt the same way initially, but what they found was …,'" he says.

"And then, you're able to transition into something that's unique about your company and why you should be at least considered. There are reasons why these things worked and why they work today."