Building a funnel of good, qualified, sales-ready leads isn’t easy. Even when you identify good leads, converting them into sales takes effort.  We have found that having a disciplined process is the most effective approach.

Too often, leads generated from marketing may not always be good leads for sales to follow up on.  Even when sales receive quality leads, we find that sales don’t always approach the prospect in a way that will move the prospect through the sales funnel effectively.

In this article, we outline a 7-step approach to converting a new lead, and show how and when sales should follow up on marketing leads, and how to try to sell to the prospect from the very first contact.

1: Act fast

Time is of the essence when a new lead comes in. If someone has enquired about your services, the chances are that they have a pressing need for them now, or are seriously considering them in order to scale up their business. If your firm is not prompt to respond, this interest may cool off altogether, or the person may simply turn to one of your competitors if they have not done so already.

Either way, that person’s experience of your firm needs to be one of prompt professionalism right from the outset, and the first job is to make it clear to that prospect that you want and are keen to win their business.

2: Qualify

Naturally not every lead that comes in will be suitable for the services you provide, or for sales to convert. It’s important to establish an efficient and effective way of qualifying leads to ensure that your sales team doesn’t spend time on the wrong type of lead.

An effective way to do this is to categorize your leads into the different stages of the sales cycle so you can effectively communicate to them based on the maturity of the sales cycle – you wouldn’t give pricing to a prospect at the beginning of the sales cycle, just as you wouldn’t provide basic product information to a prospect ready to buy.  Dividing leads into Marketing-Qualified Leads (MQL) and Sales-Qualified Leads (SQL) is a simple way of doing this and will lead to much higher conversion rates.

An MQL is someone that has downloaded some of your content such as a whitepaper or an e-book to gather information and find out what you have to offer. Research has shown that a prospect will engage with 11.4 pieces of content to do their research prior to making a purchase.

So at this stage, it’s best not to over-sell to these leads as it may be off-putting; instead simply nurture them by providing regular information, and suggestions, as to further reading that, maybe interesting based on what they have already downloaded. 

SQLs are the people to focus on more direct sales approaches. By definition, an SQL has already initiated contact with your firm and now wishes for further contact and specifics on your service options and pricing discussions.

3: Structure of your sales team

Converting leads is a crucial part of an effective sales strategy, and each team member’s responsibility should be made very clear to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Do you have a more junior sales person focused on qualifying inbound leads? Or do you expect your more senior reps to qualify leads for leads that fall inside their assigned domain? There are pros and cons to both models, but it’s crucial to establish roles in order to ensure effective lead qualification.

4: Persist

You don’t always get through to a potential prospect at the first time of asking, even if they have requested contact or a demonstration of your services. But people are busy, and even if you don’t get through to a lead at the first few times of asking, it’s still worth trying to establish contact.

Try to call them at different times of the day, and build more ways of connecting with them such as offering to add them to your newsletter, or requesting a connection on LinkedIn. It’s not about bombarding them with too much information, but you want your communications to speak to your value proposition and differentiators.  At this stage you want your brand to stick in their mind to maximize the chances that they will convert when they are ready to buy.

5: Shift the focus

Rather than trying to share as much information about your services at the early stages of the sales process, select some key pain points that your firm can solve for them. Do this based on your experience with prospects with the same job role, seniority and business segment. In simple terms, this shifts the focus from being about your firm and the services you provide to the prospect and how you can help them solve their pain points and achieve their objectives.

6: Listen to the prospect’s feedback

Do not focus rigidly on a pre-prepared sales pitch when speaking with prospects. As with the previous point, this makes the whole conversation about your firm, and not about the prospect’s needs. Let your prospect speak, and listen carefully to what they have to say.

In addition to making the prospect feel as though your firm has time to listen to their needs, it’s a great way to pick up information about their pain points and problems. From this, you can then tailor your proposition based on their specific needs rather than hitting them with a cookie-cutter, generic proposal.

7: Use the data

Data is a goldmine for understanding how your firm can convert leads, and how it can improve. Continuing to Improve and refine your lead process with historical data should be an ongoing part of your processes.

A good CRM system enables you to keep track of how many leads are coming in at different stages of the funnel, and the conversion rates (how many of them actually become paying customers). By creating dashboards to clearly analyze which parts of your lead handling processes are effective, and which need further fine-tuning.

Discuss the data from your lead dashboard in your sales team meetings and gather suggestions for converting leads at different stages of the sales funnel.  It’s also important to review with the sales team what’s worked and what hasn’t – develop your own best practices and implement them continuously

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