Even though you probably do it hundreds of times a day without thinking, following up on leads is a delicate process. So many things can go wrong during lead follow-up.
You don’t want to contact a lead too often, but you don’t want them to think you forgot about them. You don’t want to oversell your product, but you need to communicate why you think it’s better than all the other products on the market. You don’t want to to be pushy about closing a deal, but you have a monthly quota to meet.
Working in B2B sales adds an extra layer of complexity to the lead follow-up process. You’re not selling to an individual, you’re selling to an organization. And that organization has its own hierarchies and approval processes.
In such a complex process, there are a number of common mistakes you’re probably making. Those mistakes can result in missed sales opportunities, not meeting your quota, and angry prospects.
Luckily, most of these mistakes can easily be fixed by spending some time—and maybe a bit of money—tweaking your process.
I’ll go over these common mistakes and tell you how to correct them to make sure you’re getting the most out of every lead that comes to your sales team.
10 things you’re doing wrong in your B2B lead follow-up process
I’ve ordered these common mistakes from the beginning of the sales process (first contact) to the end (closing the deal or calling it quits).
1. You’re not following up quickly enough
In this age of instant service and gratification, the rule of thumb is to follow up on a lead within five minutes of receiving it.
And the rewards go to those with quick follow-up skills.
Nearly half of all sales are made by the person who gets in touch with a lead first.
Unfortunately, a five minute follow-up time isn’t always realistic. You might be in the middle of another call when a lead comes in. If you’re serving international customers in different time zones, you might even be asleep when your leads are coming through.
The numbers don’t lie, though. If you want to make your sales, you need to get in touch with your prospects as quickly as possible.
SOLVE THE PROBLEM: You can’t sit by your phone monitoring leads every second, but you can invest in marketing automation software, which can send personalized, automated emails to your leads whenever they come in.
These emails should include information on next steps to either get in touch with you or purchase your product.
2. Your calls have no purpose
Before you pick up the phone or draft an email, you should always know the exact reason you’re getting in touch with a prospect.
You’re not their mom. You don’t get to call “just to check in.”
While your mom checking in on you shows you that she cares, a salesperson calling to check in does nothing to provide value to your prospects. When following up with a lead, you should always have a real reason to call and take up some of their limited time.
SOLVE THE PROBLEM: Fixing this issue can be as easy as starting every call or email with a statement such as, “The reason I’m getting in touch today is…”
But first you have to make sure you have a reason to call.
To be as specific as possible when talking to a prospect, you should always take detailed notes. You can store these notes in a CRM so that your sales and marketing team members can refer back to them as necessary.
Be sure to reference previous conversations and pertinent details to jog your prospect’s memory and further justify your call.
3. You’re not repeating yourself enough
Your prospect is likely getting multiple calls from multiple companies with products very similar to yours. If you don’t make your product stand out, you might not close the deal.
One way to make a prospect remember your product or service is by repeatedly reminding them of the business value your company can provide.
So how do you remind your prospect that your product is the best one out there without being really annoying?
SOLVE THE PROBLEM: You should find ways to remind your client of all the amazing things your product can do during your call. But after your call, you should also send a summary email that repeats all the main points of your call for your prospect.
This has the added benefit of helping you make sense of the notes you took during the call to capitalize on tip number two.
4. You’re working the prospect, not their company
For smaller businesses, getting one person who supports your deal could be enough. But if you’re selling to larger organizations, you need to build relationships with multiple people. You also need to understand how decisions get made within that organization.
Creating a personal working relationship with every person on a large decision-making team in the span of time it will take you to close a deal is nearly impossible.
SOLVE THE PROBLEM: Focus on the overall needs of a company. You can still bond with Prospect Bob about the fact that you both like golf, but you also need to make it clear to Bob how your product or service will improve not only his work environment, but the environment of all his team members.
Especially when pitching to larger organizations, you should also focus on the level of service your company can provide post-sale. There might be hundreds of companies selling a similar product, but if your company can help a new customer through tricky implementation and adoption periods, that could go a long way in selling your product.
5. You’re following up too often or not enough
On the one hand, you want to get in touch with a lead as soon as possible, which could mean calling multiple times in a short period of time. On the other hand, you don’t want a prospect to feel like you’re calling too often.
While many salespeople give up on a lead after one call, the numbers don’t support that practice.
If you call a prospect three times, you have an 81% chance of getting in touch with them. Calling six times gives you a 93% chance.
How do you hit the sweet spot of calling often enough that you’re likely to get in touch with a prospect but not so often that you’re annoying them?
SOLVE THE PROBLEM: This problem is fairly easy to solve. Create a follow-up schedule and adhere to it.
This schedule can differ based on where your leads are located, the type of product you sell, or even the season in which you’re calling.
To create a schedule that works for you, go through your sales data to find what’s already working for you and your team members.
How many touches does it typically take just to get a response from a prospect? Does a phone call and voicemail work best, or has your team found more success with one phone call, no voicemails, and several emails?
Whatever your data shows, create a follow-up schedule that’s realistic for your team and stick to it. If you’ve already invested in marketing automation software, you can use that tool to ensure that you’re at least emailing prospects on a regular basis.
6. You’re not using your customers’ preferred communication channels
Phone calls and emails are the bare minimum in modern sales efforts. And when you put in the bare minimum, you typically get the bare minimum back.
These days, it’s best practice to be accessible via every channel imaginable. Social media, discussion boards, blogs—you name it, you should be on it in case prospects are lying in wait there.
But you can’t be on every channel all the time. How do you pick the right ones for your leads?
SOLVE THE PROBLEM: This issue is really easy to solve, but it does involve getting at least one response from a lead, and then asking your prospect which channel they’re most likely to respond to.
If they’d rather text you to coordinate meetings, text them. If they’re more likely to respond to a phone call, ask what time is best.
You should still be available on multiple channels, but take advantage of the ones your leads have personally told you they prefer.
7. You don’t have a script
Maybe you think of yourself as a rebel salesman. You like to talk off the cuff, and you think you make more sales when you’re having a natural conversation.
I’m not here to argue about your conversation skills. But after your “naturally flowing” phone calls, how many times have you realized that you’ve left out a critical detail?
How do you make sure you’re hitting all the necessary points in your calls or emails?
SOLVE THE PROBLEM: Write a script and make email templates.
Your script doesn’t have to cover every word of every phone call. At the very least, you should have an outline of your most important points and the things you need to discuss during a call. The finer details of those points might differ with each incoming lead, but you’re likely saying relatively the same things to each prospect when it comes to the value of your product.
The same goes for emails. Outside of your summary emails detailing specific calls, you’re likely sending the same message to each of your leads.
Many CRMs allow you to create email templates to send to leads directly from the system, Gmail offers tools such as “canned responses,” and you can even draft emails you commonly send in a Word document, then copy and paste it into your email body.
This last item is the most important. Never end a call or send an email without saying what the next step is, whether it’s making time for the next call, an on-site visit, or scheduling a demo. Your prospect should never be unclear about what you need from them to keep the sales process going.
8. You’re not taking advantage of your marketing team
Prospects and leads like to see proof that your product can do what you say it can do. And I hate to break it to you, but fast-talking salespeople don’t have the best reputation for being the most honest people.
To back up what you’re saying, you need objective proof from unbiased sources that your product or service is worth it.
SOLVE THE PROBLEM: Create partnerships with marketing and other relevant teams to ensure that you have the content you need, such as case studies, customer testimonials, or market research, to close deals.
Working together to create tools such as buyer personas might be the first step in this process. Tell your marketing team what your prospects are asking for so they have a better idea of the content and support you might need to make your case.
9. You’re not tracking your numbers
I hate to break it to the salespeople out there who are just doing what feels right, but everything these days needs data to back it up.
If you’re using a tool such as a CRM, an email marketing system, or marketing automation to track your sales communication efforts, accessing metrics such as connect rates, average call times, lead response time, email open and response rates, click rates, and even heat maps only takes a minute.
SOLVE THE PROBLEM: Getting familiar with your performance metrics can help you determine what’s working and what’s not. As I mentioned, using a tool such as a CRM can help track these numbers automatically, but you can also manually record this data in a spreadsheet so you’ll have it on hand.
It’s not enough to know your numbers, though. You have to establish a check-in point for yourself where you evaluate your performance data and use it to see what you’re doing well and where there’s room for improvement.
For example, to keep track of how my blog posts perform, I pull data from Google Analytics once a week and do a deep dive into what I’m seeing once per month. This helps me establish new goals and re-evaluate old ones going into next month.
10. You’re not breaking up with your prospects
Sometimes you just know when a prospect isn’t going to work out. You’ve followed up a number of times with no promising results.
You might think that telling a lead you’re giving up on them is an awful idea, but you’re wrong. It’s not always a bad idea to tell a prospect you’re going to stop wasting their time.
SOLVE THE PROBLEM: If you’re hearing nothing from a prospect and you’ve tried to get in touch a reasonable number of times, it’s time to send a breakup email.
Here’s a draft straight from my email templates from the year I spent in B2B sales:
In my experience, sending this email to an unresponsive lead almost always got a response.
Half the time, they let me know that they weren’t in the market for our product at the time but that they’d get back in touch when they were. The other half of the time, they sent an apology for losing track of our conversation or let me know that they’d gotten sidetracked by an unexpected project and would love for me to follow up again when they were done.
Either way, this email is a good way to put the impetus of following up on your prospect and motivate them to let you know whether they’re interested in your product or not.
Check yourself before you wreck your prospects
Improving your lead follow-up process is a matter of having the right tools at your disposal. A lot of steps in your process can be made better simply by automating them with the right software.
Even if you’re not ready to invest in sales or marketing software, taking the time to evaluate your performance and create your own tools and aides, such as scripts, templates, and schedules, can go a long way in increasing your success with leads.
I’ve tried to create a comprehensive list of common follow-up mistakes, but I’m sure I’ve missed a few.
What are some tips and tricks you’ve used to improve your lead follow-up process? How did they impact your sales performance? Let me and your fellow salespeople know in the comments below or tell me about it on Twitter: @CapterraKelsie.
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