What is the Best Way to Follow Up with a Sales Lead?

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Email.

The best way to follow up with a sales lead is with email. Follow up email campaigns can be automated, set to send out different messages over a period of time after someone enters the sales funnel. These emails can promote discounted offers, contain whitepapers or other marketing collateral, include links to schedule a meeting or take some preferred action.

Email is the best way to follow up with sales leads because it is inexpensive and easy to set up. And the ROI on email marketing is still higher than any other marketing channel available.

Direct Mail.

The best way to follow up with a sales lead is with direct mail. A physical mailing gets the point across way better than an email can, and that’s because it is more impactful to hold something in your hand.

Direct mail also benefits from its seeming decline. Email has become so easy, and so commonplace, and a direct mailing really helps you stand out from the crowd.

You can send a postcard or letter, a pamphlet or flyer. You can send a coupon, or a sign up form, or something that better highlights the benefits of your product vs. the competition.

SMS.

The best way to follow up with a sales lead is a text message. A text message cuts right through the clutter and gets seen – immediately in most cases. Unlike direct mail, it’s instant and cheap. And unlike email, its unique and unlikely to get missed or ignored.

With a text message, you can send a link to important pages on your website, limited time offers, or a reminder to call you back at a certain time.

Phone Call.

The best way to follow up with a sales lead is with a phone call. Outbound dialing campaigns can connect you directly with the prospective customer in a way that is more personal than any message. Through a simple conversation, you are able to showcase all of the benefits of your service and find out what the lead is looking for in a product.

Unlike other channels, the likelihood of closing a deal once you get someone on the phone is much higher. And there are thousands of skilled sales men and women out there who can sell to anyone over the phone.

The Truth Is…

There is no single best way to follow up with a sales lead.

Okay, you got me. But this isn’t just a post about all the different ways to follow up with someone in your funnel. Nor is this one of those, “it depends” answers.

The most successful sales and marketing teams use a combination of some or all of the above channels, and continue to fine tune their messaging on each one over time.

There are a wide variety of consumers out there, and each is likely to respond to different sales channels and techniques slightly differently. By incorporating a number of different outreach methods into your follow up strategy, you cast the widest possible net.

When You Follow Up Matters

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In marketing, there are a few instances when it is critical that you follow up with someone. The clearest example is when you have an interested prospect, or sales lead.

Companies acquire, develop, or build leads in a number of ways. Perhaps it is someone who filled out a form on your website, or someone on a list that you purchased, or someone referred to you by an existing customer.

No matter how you get the lead, the follow up is key to making the sale. And when you follow up is almost as important as how you follow up.

When you follow up matters for two key reasons.

First, it is important not to wait so long that the person no longer cares, or does not remember why you are following up in the first place. In some cases, you may be competing with other salespeople/companies to make the sale and reaching out too late will cost you the business.

Second, it is important that you meet a prospect’s expectations in the sales process to give them a positive impression of your brand. A prospect is likely to judge the quality of the product or service they are considering on the quality of the sales experience.

There are three general categories we can put sales follow-ups into. You should decide which one makes the most sense for you.

  1. Immediate. The immediate follow up bucket is for all those times when speed matters. In many cases, the quicker you reach someone, the more likely it is that you will make the sale. This is especially true when multiple businesses are competing for that same customer.
     
  2. Specified time. This is true whenever there was previous contact or communication that indicated a specific time for follow up. Whether you spoke to this prospect already and agree to call back later, or they expressed a desire to be contacted on a specific date, the “when” in this equation is very obvious.
     
  3. After action. In some number of cases, the follow up should happen after giving the prospect enough time to do something you’ve asked. For example, you may have sent them some literature on the product they requested. It does not make sense to follow up right away, given that they would not have had time to read through the information yet.

When you follow up matters if you want to get the sale. We use timing to set expectations. It is important to understand who your potential customer is and what they need from you so that you can determine how and when to reach out.

How You Follow Up Matters

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There are a lot of different business situations that require an appropriate follow up:

  • Following up with a potential employer after an interview
  • Following up with your team after a meeting
  • Following up with a sales lead who has expressed interest
  • Following up with a potential partner after a conversation

Surely there are more. But that is enough to illustrate the point.

No matter what the reason for the follow up, it’s the execution we want to focus our attention on here. Because how you follow up matters just as much as whether or not you follow up.

First, it is important to clearly define the goal, the reason you are following up and the desired outcome. For example, if you are following up with a sales lead who has expressed interest, your desired outcome is ultimately to convert them into a paying customer. But the goal of the initial follow up may simply be to gauge their interest, or set up a meeting, or establish a rapport.

Without a clearly defined goal, you don’t know how to follow up. Recognize that there are any number of ways to follow up. Of course, there are the standard methods – an email or a phone call from a salesperson, using the example above. But what about a text message? Or an automated email sequence? Or a robocall? Or a handwritten letter?

Once you define the goal, it is important to consider your audience. Who you are following up with will help you determine the most likely way to get their attention. For example, a hiring manager that you met with doesn’t want you to call them. And the CEO of a company you are trying to do business with won’t likely pay attention to an automated email.

Design your follow up process for the person you are following up with.

Finally, once you choose the most appropriate follow up method for your goal and your audience, you should test to ensure that you’re correct. What is the success rate of your chosen method? Now try something else with a few people and see if that works better or worse?

Testing is a great way to optimize your follow up process over time anyway. And so you should use it as a check against your gut.

Lead Scoring Explained

If your organization relies on generating leads and then turning those leads into paying customers, you could likely benefit from lead scoring.

The top reasons companies give for not investing in lead scoring:

  1. It doesn’t work (you’re not doing it right)
  2. We follow up with all leads so scoring won’t do anything (see #3)
  3. Don’t know what it is

Lead scoring, in principle, is actually quite easy. You assign a score to every lead that tells you how likely that lead will become a paying customer. Then you use the score to adjust how you follow up and who you follow up with.

The goal with any lead scoring program is to focus your time and money on converting those most likely to convert without wasting money on the rest. You should be able to increase your conversion rate and lower your cost per conversion. You may also learn more about your lead sources so that your lead generation efforts can improve with time.

To get started, you will need to create a lead scoring model. There are third-party companies out there that can help you with this, or you can task a data scientist on your team. The model will be based on historical data – all your leads and customers. The person building the model will use the data to figure who factors impact the likelihood that someone converts from a lead to a customer.

Some of those factors might be:

  1. Demographic data – gender, age, locations
  2. Company information – position, industry, company size
  3. Past behavior – purchases, website visits, email opens

Once the model is built, you will be able to assign scores to new leads as they come in.

A model might assign leads a score from 1-5, with 1 being the most likely to become a paying customer. You might follow up with your 1’s first, 2’s second, etc. You might follow up with 1’s differently than 2’s, with phone vs. mail or email.

After you implement the model, you will continually test it to make sure it’s working correctly. You should be able to accurately predict the conversion rates for each score. Then you can adapt your follow up process to improve upon them.

Most models will need regular maintenance to keep them up to date. Having the person who built it look at it again every 6 or 12 months is usually recommended.

Bottom line: a well-crafted lead scoring model which impacts how leads get followed up should help you grow your sales.

What to Automate

Marketing automation is key to success in today’s digital landscape. By automating your marketing processes, you are able to do more with less, gaining more consistency in your marketing efforts and allowing you to scale up your company’s growth.

Around now most marketers and small business owners are shaking their heads yes. You agree, but don’t know where to start. You’re asking, “what should I automate?”

It’s not enough to decide to automate your marketing efforts. You need to know what to prioritize, what gets automated and what does not, what will have the most impact.

Here’s where your marketing automation process should start:

  1. Lead Nurturing – if your company is in the lead generation business, then your lead nurturing program is ripe for automation. An email campaign can be planned, with different emails going out at different times after someone becomes a lead. Physical mail and outbound phone calls can also be added to the follow up process at points strategically identified to increase sales.
     
  2. User Onboarding – new customers should be treated as an important audience, one you want to stay in touch with and make sure they get the best service possible. And so an onboarding campaign for anyone that signs up for your service or purchases your product for the first time is crucial. Create a series of actions that happen automatically after a new customer is identified.
     
  3. Content Marketing – to automate your content marketing is to develop an editorial calendar and program a consistent approach to broadcasting and publishing your content to various social outlets. New content can be written and added to a queue, scheduled to be published at a predetermined time. That then triggers an email to your subscribers, a post on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.
     
  4. Remarketing – retargeting, now more commonly referred to as remarketing, is a simple marketing automation technique aimed at converting more prospects into customers. When people visit your site and don’t convert, you can target them with specific ads as they browse other sites.
     
  5. Cross Sells/Up Sells – automate your marketing efforts to existing customers in order to keep them coming back for more. Emails and physical mailings with special offers on products you think they would be interested in based on their purchase history can be personalized, even while it all happens behind the scenes.