The purpose of a lead follow-up system is to make sales: but what if your lead follow-up system is costing you sales? Preposterous as it sounds, it’s not all that uncommon for a company’s systems to be so greatly flawed that they do more harm than good. Are you sure your lead follow-up system is working as intended? Here are five keys to look for — (all in a football theme, in honor of the new season).
1. All Chalkboard, No Turf
Lots of coaches can draw brilliant plays on the chalkboard, but that’s no guarantee of success. Be wary of relying too heavily on reports and automated systems to monitor and manage your lead follow-up system. Effective lead follow-up management requires sales managers to get their hands dirty, specifically:
- Working with reps making follow-up calls in the field;
- Listening to reps handle lead follow-up on the phone; and,
- Interviewing prospects that converted into customers and ones that didn’t, for feedback on the sales experience.
Then, and only then, can sales leadership evaluate how truly effective their system is — and perhaps more important, figure out how to improve it.
2. Fumbling the Snap
The first point of contact a prospect encounters can easily make or break the entire follow-up effort, just as in football, a fumbled snap usually leads to a bad or even disastrous outcome. With this in mind, pay careful attention to two things:
- How switchboard operators or whomever the prospect initially talks to on a phone inquiry are fielding the calls; and,
- How form submissions are handled: e.g., do prospects get an immediate confirmation email acknowledging receipt and thanking them for their inquiry?
In our extensive experience managing online lead generation campaigns for all kinds of businesses, we have seen many examples of great potential leads being squandered because of shortcomings in both areas. The good news is, these problems are easily fixed — all you have to do is identify them.
3. Overly Complicated Playbook
Just as football players can only absorb and master so many plays, the sales team can only process so many steps and procedures in a sales follow-up system. Companies with sophisticated CRM platforms often err by attempting to use all 50,000 available features of the platform, rather than focusing on the 10 or 20 that actually matter to their business.
Every organisation has people who can’t wait to go overboard on every piece of technology that comes their way. More often than not, the role of the sales manager or sales director is to be a technology gatekeeper; to keep online platforms from growing out of control, not to create steps and extra work that slow down and confuse the entire lead follow-up procedure.
4. Making Left Tackles Play Wide Receiver
A football coach can diagram a brilliant downfield pass play: how do you think it will work if the receiver is a 350-pound left tackle? The same holds true for lead follow-up. Companies have to have the right talent in the right spots to make lead follow-up effective. At a high level, watch for two flaws:
- Having under-qualified people such as sales trainees or marketing interns handle initial follow-up communication. Even in the early stages of follow-up, an organisation must demonstrate credibility and competence.
- Having overburdened people handle follow-up. For instance, companies are tempted to have their top reps handle all of the top leads, but if those reps are so busy follow-up is delayed days or weeks, the leads will fizzle out.
5. No Opponent Scouting
So far, everything we’ve talked about is internal — with the important exception of interviewing actual prospects. If a lead follow-up system is too internally focused, it becomes a sitting duck for savvy competitors. Thus, just as a football team sends scouts to learn how to capitalize on the opposition’s weaknesses and defend against their strengths, a first-rate sales organization will learn how competitors handle leads and shape their follow-up systems accordingly.
For example, if your top competitor sends a 20-page, professional presentation binder to a client, and you’re sending a thank-you postcard, you may have quite a bit of work ahead of you to level the field. On the other hand, if top competitors have a clunky online inquiry form, you can make yours a winner and start grabbing some of their leads.
Oh Yes: Don’t Forget to Keep Score!
A final bonus tip: Don’t forget to keep score! Lead follow-up is not a no-pad practice or a scrimmage; it’s the real thing. For football teams, success is easy to measure, because it’s all about wins and losses. The same holds true for lead follow-up systems. If you know how many leads are being converted into customers, you know your wins and losses — and therefore whether your lead follow-up team is improving, getting worse and getting the job done.