Defining Your Current Lead Conversion Process
Once you’ve identified who is responsible for fielding your leads and establishing the conversation with the prospect, the next step is to identify the rest of the process. In this respect, each organization is different, with different organizational structures, departments, personnel, needs, budgets, abilities, etc. In this respect, it is difficult to recommend too many specifics. Nonetheless, we can provide some generalities that will save you time and effort, from-experience and lessons-learned wisdom.
Document Current Lead Flow – Whiteboard all incoming leads, first identifying all Lead Origins (not just from the website, but from all sources, phone, walk-ins, email, etc). Outline how all leads are fielded, to whom they are initially routed, assigned, and document the trail. If you use a CRM or Lead Management solutions (ACT, Salesforce.com, SugarCRM, homespun system), make sure to include the paths leads take within the system itself.
- Phone inquiries – Are calls being logged? If they are sales inquiries are they just stuffed into vmail when no sales rep is available? Is any scrubbing being done to make sure the caller is being routed to the proper place?
- General Vmail Boxes – Who is checking on these? Where are they being logged
- Web Forms – identify all forms on your current site – check to see what email(s) these are currently routed to, respectively – you would be stunned to know how often our clients realize that the email addresses their forms are being shipped to no longer exist.
- Non-personnel emails – for instance, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com – who is receiving those? What are they doing with them?
Mr. Yuck Exercise – While on a job out in Denver, we were white-boarding a client’s current lead management process, tracking down all lead sources, mapping all interactions between people and software solutions (such as ACT, disparate spreadsheets existing on this person’s computer and that person’s computer, etc.), following each lead path, from inception to ongoing management. What we found was astounding: the amount of leads that lived and died in the System, having been ignored, allowed to rot, moved from spreadsheet to spreadsheet, and ultimately neglected in the long-run was simply amazing.
For each lead that followed some path that haphazardly led to someone who actually followed-up, there were 3 or 4 leads that didn’t stand a chance at all. That is, there were process dead-ends everywhere, where personnel upstream had followed the loosely-identified and oft-illogical lead management “processes” only to be lost downstream. On the image of the white board, the frowns indicate lead path dead-ends. Totally unacceptable. Our dearly-departed James decided that this exercise of identifying failures and dead-ends in the current lead management processes, would forever be known as the Mr. Yuck Exercise. If you are unfamiliar with “Mr. Yuck,” go ahead and Google him.
eLead Conversion Strategy Musts
Maximizing the sales conversion percentage of your existing stream of Internet leads should always be the first step in implementing a successful eLead Conversion Strategy.
Imagine your website as an online retail store or reception area. Treat your visitors in the same manner and with the same regard you would have for them if they came physically into your place of business, and you will do just fine.
Rapid Response – There is perhaps nothing as impactful as a rapid response to web inquires received through your site. Even today, we are stunned by companies (and their salespeople) who on the one hand complain about the difficult sales environment they face, yet on the other hand allow website leads to rot in their email for days and sometimes weeks on end. For instance, even those businesses that have benefitted immensely from the web sometimes do an appalling job of fielding web-borne leads. We are speaking specifically about real eEstate companies and their agents, as well as auto dealerships. It is far better to disallow visitors from submitting their contact info and questions than to ignore their inquiries. What does it say about an organization when a consumer goes to the trouble of contacting them only to be ignored? How likely is that consumer to interact with the organization again? Forward-thinking firms who are serious about the Goal respond within hours, rather than days or weeks. The best of them respond within minutes. Yes, we said minutes. Why is this so? Well, let’s say a lead comes in via your website–it is a safe bet that person is shopping for a reason. They are not only primed, they are ready to start a conversation . . . and one presumably not having to do with the weather. If you want to really impress your prospective customers (or even existing ones), contact them immediately. The closer you can get to catching them while they are still on your site, the better.
So make sure you respond to all leads in a timely manner. This has to be an organizational expectation–if possible, a mandate. The more quickly you respond, the more likely you will be to convert your leads into sales. We encourage you to move incrementally towards the final goal. And in the case of lead follow-up, a solid goal is to eventually follow-up with each and every lead within a maximum of 30 minutes, even at peak times.
Always assume the prospect IS also shopping your competitors’ sites. And always assume your competitors ARE following up with their Internet leads in a timely manner.
Thorough Follow-Up - Follow-up on the phone. If the prospect has submitted a phone number, they anticipate receiving a call-back. Auto-responders have their place, but quick-response follow-up phone calls increase sales conversion rates exponentially. If calling a prospect is not possible, a well-crafted, “personalized” email (that make clear to the prospect that their inquiry has been read by and responded to an actual human being) can be an effective fall-back. Nonetheless, email alone is NOT optimal. What you are looking to do is to establish a conversation with the prospect about what he/she is looking for. A timely phone call should be seen as a golden opportunity to increase market share. Nothing is more impressive to a prospect than receiving a phone call within minutes of an inquiry. This is especially true if you are in the service industry. Think about what it conveys. Do you let prospective clients spend more than an hour in voicemail (“voicejail”)? Probably not. Do you let them wander around your place of business without trying to help them? Probably not.
FIFO vs LIFO – A very important point here is that there is a very strong positive correlation between time of inquiry, response, and the probability of consummating a sale. And while most professionals have an intuitive grasp that this is so, many are tempted to treat leads in a FIFO (first in first out) operational manner. On the one hand this makes sense: If one thinks of a line at a service counter, it would be disastrous to say, “Can I help the last person in line, please?” But let’s say weeks have passed by since anyone checked your sales inbox. We would recommend attacking the most recent first. And this has everything to do with how “fresh” the lead is – because the “fresher” the lead, the more likely it is that a conversation will be established and a sale take place.
Responsibility & Accountability – Make sure all of the leads that originate from your site are sent to a responsible party that will treat each lead with the care, as well as the respect, each prospective customer deserves. Yes, it is commonplace for people to hate when additional responsibilities are assigned to them–or being held accountable for activities that were theirs to begin with but that they never before had to answer for. Nevertheless, it is crucial for someone or “someones” to “own” the leads that come through the web. Primarily, the reason has to do with making sure each lead is followed-up with in a rapid manner. Assigning ownership to someone, somewhere within the organization is a good first step. Without doing so, your leads will be lost in the haze of “other responsibilities” or treated like hot potatoes. And no one wins any deals with that sort of approach.
Round-Robin vs. Dedicated Lead Management – In high-volume and low-volume lead environments, the tendency is to default to a round-robin approach, assigning leads alternatively to Salesperson X, and then Salesperson Y, and so forth and so on. There is often enormous pressure to make sure salespeople are treated “fairly” in this respect. Even so, there are many reasons why the round-robin approach may not be the best approach to fielding leads. First and foremost, some salespeople are better than others. To make matters even more complicated, some average face-to-face salespeople do a brilliant job following up on eLeads, while some ace salespeople are terrible when it comes to fielding eLeads. Some can write well, while others cannot.
Some are lazier than others. Some have technophobia while others are technophiles. Some shop primarily online themselves, while others avoid the web like the plague. Point is, don’t assume what you observe in your salespeople with traditional leads will translate verbatim as it relates to web prospects. And, in the end analysis, keeping the Goal front and center means that you want your best – and only your best – on each and every lead. Remember: the lead has provided their info. Moreover, they found you online and thought enough to inquire via your site.
But there is perhaps a more important thing to take into account when deciding whether a round-robin approach is the best approach, and this has primarily to do with learning curves. Specifically, if we assume two firms, one with a round-robin approach of 10 salespeople and one with a dedicated eLead Management professional. If we assume all 11 of them are identical in abilities and resources, the pay-off will be realized sooner by the firm with the dedicated eLead Management professional. The reason is that the dedicated eLead professional will be on a steeper learning curve, fielding more leads over X amount of time than any of the salespeople belonging to the group of 10. If, for instance, each firm is fielding the same amount of incoming leads, the eLead Pro will have 10 times the experience than any one of the 10 salespeople over the same span of time.
So, where possible, one person–or, depending on the size of the firm, one dedicated eLead Department–should be charged with first contact follow-up with all eLeads. Even if it is a matter of just scrubbing the leads as they come in, gleaning more information, setting an appointment for a salesperson, et cetera, dedicated specialists are the best way to go.
Quality Control - Use “secret-shopper” techniques to ensure that leads submitted via your site (whether sent to sales agents or to an Internet lead desk manager) are being handled quickly, thoroughly, and properly.
How to Verify Delivery of Submitted Consumer Information (lead flow) – This is a simple process to undertake. Pretend you are a visitor to your site. Fill out your forms, sign up for newsletters, request a quote (or whatever applies). S ee what transpires. Did you get a confirmation message that your inquiry has been sent? Did the confirmation message clearly state next steps or what the consumer can expect now that they have shown an interest? Did you receive an automated confirmation via email (auto-responder)? Did the auto-responder email make sense? Does it clearly state when someone will be following up with you? Did it include a link back to your site, a phone number, an address, special promotions, correct personnel information?
On the other side of the equation is whether or not the inquiry was routed to the appropriate party within your organization. To whom is it supposed to go? Is that person still with your company? Do you even know who is supposed to receive the leads or how the site is currently configured in terms of who or how notification takes place? If not, it is time to ask your web master or IT folks.