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Lead Follow Up Best Practises

best practices in sales negotiations

richardsonsalestraining19 July 2013Blog

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Lead nurturing and lead follow up are crucial steps in content marketing – from strategy to process to the overall programme.

Organisations are spending significant dollars to develop content with the hopes of building awareness, strengthening thought leadership and driving leads. Here are some critical do’s and don’ts for becoming more efficient and effective in your lead nurturing and follow-up strategy. And, who knows, you may even better align marketing and sales along the way.

Lead Follow Up Best Practises

1) Do Develop Simple Lead Criteria – Too often marketing is accused of not providing good leads and sales is accused of not following up on leads. Both sides need to work together to develop criteria for a lead follow up process. It doesn’t matter whether you break leads into Marketing Qualified Leads or Sales Qualified Leads, both need easily identifiable criteria. Some companies even develop a formalised Service Level Agreement between marketing and sales on this point. Others have developed robust and complicated lead-scoring practises, automated and manual, but it’s best to not over-complicate things. Decide on five or six simple and clear points that link back to your organisation strategy. It could be as easy as: company size, audience size, title of the lead, lead location, existing client or a one-off verses growth opportunity.

2) Do Personalise Your Lead Follow Up Email – With the growth of marketing automation, it’s easy to fall back on just creating workflow and automatic responses for prospects who click an email link or download a document. Personally, I receive far too many follow-up messages that never reference what I downloaded or requested. Email has become so pervasive that generic responses are almost worse than no response at all, as they provide no value, incentive or compelling reason to respond. Here, for example is what to avoid, I get these kinds of generic, nondescript follow-up emails regularly “I hope you received my previous email. Let me know if you have any questions or require any further information. If you feel I should talk to someone else in your organisation in regards to this, I would appreciate it if you forward this email to the right person.”

3) Do Connect with Your Lead – Social media is a great way to connect with a lead. See if the person is on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn. If they are on LinkedIn, look to see what groups they belong to and see if they’ve commented on any specific issues or blogs.

4) Do Research Your Lead – In addition to social media sites, do a Web search on your lead. Then tie the information you find back to the lead follow up. This extra step shows you’re taking the time to connect, and that you’re no auto-responder.

5) Do a Multi-Channel Follow-up Communication Plan - If you can, use various spoken and written approaches. I suggest email, phone and voicemail for sure, but it’s also worth mixing in connecting or linking on social media sites, as previously mentioned. One word of warning: make your online presence known; don’t be a stalker.

6) Do Test, Test, Test and Track – Each target market and potential buyer is different, and they will respond differently in a given market or territory. Test different ways to respond for each segment. Just make sure you track the effectiveness of the responses to see which ones work best in which circumstance.

7) Do Update the CRM– One of the most important things anyone can do during the lead follow up and nurture process is update the CRM. Seems like an easy enough task, but one that is not done on a consistent-enough basis.  Way too often I have heard about multiple resources following up with the same leads because no data was updated.

Lead Follow Up Don’ts

1) Don’t Over Follow Up – This point bucks the conventional wisdom.  “They” say it can take up to seven to 12 contacts to close out a lead. IMHO, if someone hasn’t replied after four or five touches, move on. Just do the math. Let’s say a C-level executive has 20 people calling on her/him, and each follows up 10 times, on average. That is 200 pieces of communication. Even if you’re personalising the communication down to the name of her dog, and providing great insight and data along the way if she’s not ready to buy what you’re selling, you’re spinning your wheels – and potentially wearing out your welcome. I had someone call five times and send five emails over just eight business days; that is a lot of time spent on a non-qualified lead. Ideally, according to your multi-channel communication plan, you would send a follow-up email, call and leave a message and connect on LinkedIn. Then try one or more follow-up emails and, if you must, one more call. If there’s no response, it’s time to move on.  But even when you stop contacting them, there should be a longer-term nurturing plan in place, so send a goodbye message before walking away. In many cases, I was able to get a response from my goodbye.

2) Don’t Pounce on Responses – Try not to pounce on leads immediately (keyword: immediately). Give them some time to breathe. Think about how many times you have gone into a retail store and within 30 seconds someone asks if they can help you before you have had any time to look around. But don’t wait too long to respond. According to the Harvard Business Review, companies that contact potential customers within an hour of receiving queries are nearly seven times as likely to have meaningful conversations with key decision makers as firms that contact prospects even an hour later.  You definitely want to be speedy in your response; just don’t pounce.

3) Don’t Deviate from Your Lead Criteria – It’s easy to stretch your lead criteria occasionally, especially when a lead looks OK at first glance, the pipeline is a little low or the quarter is light. However, try to maintain discipline regarding lead criteria. Good follow up takes a lot of time, and you want to try to alleviate wild-goose chases.

4) Don’t Product Pitch – This relates to the “Do” suggestion on personalising the follow up. Too often I get emails that don’t acknowledge or relate to my interests; they just jump right into a company or product overview. Follow-up communications have to have some sort of hook in them that reference why you are following up.

5) Don’t Send Out the Same Follow-up Email as the Initial Campaign – You would be surprised how many follow-up emails are exactly the same as the initial campaign, with just a few changed words. That’s plain lazy.

6) Don’t Just Leave a Phone Message to Call You Back – Two things sales people do consistently is leave me messages without explaining who they are or why it’s important for me to call them back. Here’s a perfect example of a message left the other day:

“Hi Mr. Brado (My name is Brodo), this is Mike from XYZ Company, please call me back at 555-1212.”

Huh? I had no idea who he was, what he wanted, or why I should call him back. There is not one bit of value to me in that message.

7) Don’t Mess up your Email Response Code– This may seem a no-brainer, but 20% to 25% of the follow-up email responses I get have incorrect codes for a merge. Here are two examples I got in the same email:

“Dear {Add first name} Jim,” and “As a director or vice president of marketing, you are certainly aware…”

The title was the exact field I put on the online form.

8) Don’t Send out Duplicate Responses – Many marketing automation tools have de-duping capabilities to knock out duplicate responses. On occasion, I will fill out forms as Jim Brodo or James Brodo and receive the same response from different sales people. The only thing I changed was my first name, but the company did not knock out similar emails or last name. Word to the wise: Make sure your marketing automation tool has de-duping capability.

Good lead nurturing and follow up will help fill your sales pipeline. Set and stick with simple lead criteria. Personalise each message, and use a multi-channel communication approach to ensure all your bases are touched.

Following these do’s and don’ts should make your lead nurturing and follow up more efficient and effective, earning a good return on your investment in content marketing.

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