More leads aren’t the answer to generating more revenue

by ExecuTrain on June 24, 2012

Today’s economy is tough, with buyers holding onto cash and taking more time to make purchasing decisions. This naturally creates anxiety in businesses that are trying to sell products and services. Most often, their response is to populate the pipeline with more leads in the hope that some will turn into sales. After all, this approach seems logical, since more leads equal more opportunities, right?

Unfortunately, the opposite often turns out to be true. Flooding sales reps with more leads — especially low-quality ones — can actually make the problem worse.

The Problem with Too Many Leads
Today’s leaner-looking sales numbers are fueling a growing interest in high-volume lead generation practices. But this most often just results in a lot of marketing dollars being wasted. In the end, what you get is simply a large pile of poor-quality leads that fail to provide ROI.

To this end, a 2009 CSO Insights survey reported that senior sales executives rate just 35 percent of leads as “good” or “excellent,” and 65 percent as “average” or “poor.” And only 26 percent of sales executives surveyed were satisfied with the quality of leads received.

It might be disconcerting to know that today sales organizations do not follow up on 79 percent of leads. The reason? Perceived poor quality.

Here are a few ways to increase the quality of your leads:

Practice Lead Nurturing
Businesses naturally want short-term leads, because they feel a need for immediate results. In the search for the quick close, however, some of the most promising leads can get lost.

By nurturing quality leads over time, companies can forge deeper relationships that ultimately translate to business. Nurturing longer-term leads is especially important now, as prospects are stretching the buy cycle and making purchasing decisions more slowly.

Segment to Find Higher-Value Prospects
If you’re going to capitalize on leads with the most sales potential while reducing the time spent on weak leads, properly identifying them through segmentation is key. Because some market segments respond better than others, it makes sense to identify those segments and market to them specifically.

Initial segmentation requires basic research to weed out the prospects that really aren’t a match for your offering, and to group others into related categories you’ll want to target in similar ways. Most companies find it helpful to group leads by industry, annual revenue, employee headcount or similar characteristics. You can then test these groups to determine the highest responders.

Additional segmentation into short- and long-term prospects should come as you begin making contact. As part of this, it is important to interpret “I’m not interested” to mean “I’m not interested at this time.”

Any lead that fits your criteria for a high-value prospect, even those who claim not to be interested, should be kept in the prospecting loop. You never know when changing circumstances may transform “I’m not interested” to “let’s talk.”

Use Multiple Touches and Multiple Media
Just as you don’t want to abandon leads that claim not to be interested, you shouldn’t abandon leads that don’t respond to initial contact attempts.

In an age of communications overload, it can take 10 to 12 touches to identify whether a prospect is sales-ready. To further increase your chances of reaching promising leads, employ some mixture of media — quality outbound calls, voice mail messages, email and direct mail — to touch prospects repeatedly over time.

Multitouch, multimedia campaigns work because they build familiarity with busy decision-makers and increase the potential of impacting them at a time when their need for a solution is high. They also increase the chance of dovetailing into a prospect’s communications preferences, as some are more email oriented, others more voice mail oriented and still others more receptive to traditional direct mail or live conversation.

ExecuTrain of Kentucky offers a comprehensive, research-based sales training program, Solution Selling®. For more information on this powerful program, call us: 859.271.0296 (Lexington) or 502.429.6444 (Louisville) or contact us here.

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