Updated: May 5
Every company needs leads to make sales. However, some companies do far better than others in converting leads to paying customers. A difference in close rate of 10%, 20%, or 50% has a huge impact on your total sales - so obviously you should do everything possible to improve your close rate.
So what can you do that makes a real difference - what separates the wheat from the chaff? There are a few key things most successful sales organizations do to maximize their chances of success with every lead they come across.
First off -
They Respond to Leads in 5 Minutes or Less
According to Vendasta, taking more than 5 minutes to respond to lead led to an 80% decrease in the odds of qualifying a lead. That’s huge. If you’re taking a day to respond to your leads your missing out on 80 PERCENT of your potential business. Imagine what you could do with 5 times more closed deals?
You might be thinking, “that’s great Caleb but we’re busy - we don’t have time to respond that quickly!” First off, you always have time if it’s the difference between making way more sales with the same amount of leads. Second off, you need a rapid lead response strategy. Depending on the nature of your leads you could:
Implement live chat
With live chat, your lead interactions are by nature live. You’re not responding in 5 minutes or less, you’re responding instantaneously. However, you’ll need a team member dedicated to managing the chat - there’s no point in having live chat if there’s no one for leads to chat with.
Create notifications for salespeople
Most CRMs have the ability to send email or push notifications as soon as a lead is added. If your leads are coming in the form of form fills on your website or Facebook lead ads, they can be automatically added to your CRM and your sales team can be notified.
Automate email responses
In some cases, such as website form fills, you can automatically send an email for scheduling or information purposes. Services like MailChimp and Constant Contact make it easy and affordable. However, I still recommend calling the lead within 5 minutes as well.
Be the First to Respond
A full 50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first, based on research by Text Request. It’s just one more reason to respond to quickly as possible. You’re probably not the only game in town, so your prospective customers are very likely reaching out to a few different businesses in your industry. If you’re calling them a week after their inquiry, you’re screwed.
Plus, leads reach out for a reason. They saw something on your website or heard something from a friend that impressed them enough to take action. Reach out while you and your company are still fresh in their minds.
Have a Plan
So many salespeople call leads without any idea of how they want the conversation to go. They just know they want to close the deal. That’s dumb.
You need to think about sales as a journey you’re leading a prospect on. Good leaders have maps. There’s nothing wrong with a call track to reference, as long as you don’t sound like a robot. If you do use a call track, try to plan for the most common eventualities and objections, and don’t be too obsessed with following the track if the conversation takes any interesting turns.
So what does your plan need to entail? Well, why are you calling? What information does the prospect need to determine whether you have the right solution for their needs? What questions do you need answered to continue the sales process? This leads me to my next point -
Look for BANT
Qualifying or disqualifying leads will save you so much time and hassle in the long run. BANT is an easy mnemonic for lead qualification. It stands for Budget Authority Need Timeline. With these four questions answered, you’ll know whether a lead is the right fit for your business.
Does the individual or company have a budget for your solution? Are they looking to pay once or engage in a subscription service? Don’t be scared to ask for this info. If you’re nervous, keep it basic and say something simple and direct like “have you thought about your budget for this project?”
This applies moreso to B2B than B2C sales. Are you talking to a decision-maker, or are you talking to an assistant who’s gathering information for a decision-maker? If you don’t have a decision-maker on the phone, find out how to get in touch with them so you can speak with someone who can actually progress the deal.
Does this person or company need your solution? Contrary to popular belief, selling at all costs is not the best strategy. Selling something to someone who doesn’t need it is going to lead to resentment, bad reviews, and bad word-of-mouth. Business at its best is about solving people’s problems, not extracting as much money as possible from them regardless of their needs.
Is the prospect still in research mode for an upcoming project, or are they trying to solve an urgent problem? If they aren’t ready to take action for 6 months or more, I’d put them on an email nurture list and set a reminder to follow up closer to their start date. Especially for salespeople who operate in quarterly or even monthly cycles, spending a lot of time on someone who won’t convert anytime soon is a waste.
Find BANT early and save yourself some time and energy.
Take Advantage of Marketing Assets
Chances are your leads found you thanks your marketing team. They have spent a ton of time and energy creating videos, ads, blog posts, white papers, infographics, and more. The sales team can leverage this wide variety of assets to inform and educate prospects on your solution. You could send them a case study that’s similar to their own case, client testimonials, or maybe a video of your product in action. That way, they don’t just have to take your word for it - prospects can see for themselves that your product or service can solve their problem.
This is something that can improve over time as sales interacts with more leads and lets marketing know what kind of sticking points and objections prospects have. Imagine if you could send your prospects written or video refutations of every objection they might have? It’d make a real difference to your close rate.
Create a Follow Up Cadence
According to a 2014 report by InsideSales.com, the average number of attempts to contact a lead was… one. ONE!? In fact, 47% of the 9,738 companies they tested didn’t respond even once! How the hell are these people even in business? This is terrible news, but also great news for you. Your competition gives up almost immediately, if they even try at all. A little bit of persistence is going to give you a major competitive edge. Most sales trainers agree, it takes on average 7+ touches (emails, calls, LinkedIn messages, etc) to make a sale. In my opinion, you don’t give up on a lead until you’ve logged at least 8 interactions in your CRM, and plenty of people do 12 or more. Anything before that is leaving money on the table.
With that in mind, it’s important to think about how you follow up and plan these touches. I like to do the following:
Immediately call them
Then send an email either recapping the call (if they answered) or requesting a meeting (if they didn’t)
Send a LinkedIn message (if it’s B2B) referencing your email
Call again and leave a voicemail
Email them with relevant info to their situation - case studies, videos, etc.
Call, leave a voicemail
Email or LinkedIn message with more information
Call and leave a final voicemail
At this point, they have 3 calls, 3 emails, and 2 LinkedIn messages from you. At the very least, they know who you are and how you can help. Often people respond at this point just because their impressed (or sometimes annoyed) by your tenacity.
Let’s go over it one more time:
You need to find a way to respond in 5 minutes or less, while you’re still at the top of the prospect’s mind. This is doubly important because the first vendor to reach out is most likely to make the sale.
You need to go into the call with a plan, and be ready with marketing assets to help them make a decision. In that call or another early call, you should look for BANT to verify that the lead is qualified and avoid wasting time on someone who will never buy.
And if they don’t answer or aren’t ready to make a decision? You need to continue to reach out at least 7 more times and make sure the lead is completely aware of who you are and what you have to offer.
Inside sales isn’t easy, even with a good inflow of quality leads. However, with the tactics I discussed here you can get ahead of your competition and start closing more deals… and making more money!