We will now continue answering questions from our latest home improvement webinar. If you haven’t done so already, make sure to read our last blog posting where we address more of the questions that were asked during the program.
Q: You mentioned “lead control”. How does that relate to giving salespeople the freedom to handle the lead in the best way because they are experienced to do so?
A: A reminder – if a lead is any inquiry coming into your business, it then has to be structured into an “appointment” (which usually requires scripting). A properly scripted “lead to appointment” has created information beneficial to the salesperson and anticipation on the part of the prospect.
Now let’s assume the lead is issued to the salesperson. Most efficient sales organizations have policies where salespeople are required to turn in their leads immediately after the presentation. Unsold leads were rehashed along with “no-sits”, often producing an increase of 12-14% of the volume extracted from the same leads.
Incidentally, in well managed sales organizations, once the lead is given to the salesperson as an appointment, the salesperson is not permitted to call and requalify the lead. If that process is elected, you will immediately determine a lower sit (presentation) rate. Some leads are easier to work than others, yet a good prospect, inefficiently handled is often categorized by the salesperson as a weak or poor lead. That constitutes a break down in the marketing to sales program and will usually lead to higher marketing costs. Leads retain dominant value for about 48 hours. While they are not dead after that, they lose the strength of the impulse which created the contact. When you receive a lead, act on it ASAP. Confirm that you are interested in it and don’t set conditions about whether it is worthy of a sales call. The chances are that you and your salespeople may need training on how to handle leads of this nature. Most of our clients confirm leads (irrespective of the source) within minutes. They have computers set to verify their interest in the prospect immediately. Any delay diminishes the prospect’s value in your eyes and it diminishes your value in theirs.
Q: How do the most successful companies handle lead intake and lead distribution to their salespeople?
A: Many confirm their leads within 5 minutes of their receipt (via email). Lead intake, confirmation and rehash personnel are rescripted and highly supervised. Salespeople are required to return a confirming sheet from all prospect contacts, enabling telephone follow-up in conformity with the “Do Not Call” laws. Sales managers frequent “ride-alongs” to observe and enforce methodology. In a recent survey, we were able to measure the success of the companies who had diversified lead development and strong controls in place. In most cases these controls produced an increase in sales. Many saw their 2009 sales exceeding those of 2008. Many also require a quota of self-generated leads by their salespeople to achieve monthly bonuses.
Q: We were inundated with questions regarding less qualified leads. Some requesting “information only”, others coming from 3rd party sources which had incurred delay on reception. While these leads require laborious techniques, they often bear fruit.
A: We call these “nebulous leads”. Nebulous meaning not clearly defined. These leads are frequently developed through “3rd party” sources who run elaborate promotions or lead development campaigns. When companies receive these leads and try to bring them to a point where a product and a price proposal can be presented, they experience a great level of frustration largely because their organization at all levels (1) call intake, (2) lead setting, (3) lead issuance is not on the same page and what follows is chaotic lead “mismanagement”.
Here is some thought on how to identify this kind of lead which was acquired by the means explained above. Individuals that we classify as “nebulous” are usually prospects who haven’t committed themselves – yet would be open to listen and look. The lead, once received, requires finessing beyond that of the prospect who says “give us a price” or “an estimate”. Nonetheless, this prospect is identifying themselves as a potential customer.
Add them to your database and continue to follow up with them on a semi-regular basis. However, here is the caution, follow up too often and you may risk them opting out of your marketing, but if you don’t follow up enough they may forget about you entirely. As such, you need to continually strive to achieve the perfect mix.
Q: We hear the word “prospect” “lead” and “inquiry” used interchangeably at many seminars. Are these all the same?
A: No, and here’s why. A prospect is someone who can use your product or service. If you have found a way to get someone to respond to your marketing devices thereby acknowledging their need, you have a prospect which you can identify for lead purposes. If they do not respond to your marketing devices or that of others they are nonetheless a prospect and will remain so until someone gets them to acknowledge their need and sells them.
Q: Doesn’t this kind of lead represent a real challenge for salespeople who have never had to use them before?
A: A prospect requesting an estimate, responding to direct mail or registering at your booth at a show may openly declare “need.” However, often the need may be deeply hidden in a prospect’s response for information, such as “send me some information”. To add complexity, the prospect may say “we’re not going to buy now.” This is complicated by the perception that the prospect hasn’t stated their need and the lead gets labeled as weak or poor.
The more sophisticated companies don’t try to force the “information only” lead upon the salesperson who had no respect for this kind of lead or doesn’t understand it. It still requires marketing skills to turn that into an issued appointment. One of our clients in a Midwestern city makes the following comment regarding this kind of lead after he developed a marketing technique with a series of “follow ups” which ultimately produced an issued lead (appointment).
“Most companies – don’t – or – won’t follow-up on an “information only” lead – we do. Over a period of 6 years we sold $1,900,000 business with leads such as these.”
Q: What techniques work the best with unsold or unissued leads?
A: In our experience, a system that uses scripting, which in turn encourages a prospect who, in the past, hasn’t seen the demonstration, to view it now. This process is called rehash.
Take an example of a prospect who received a presentation that wasn’t sold, but later agrees to have someone come to their home and review the original presentation and price proposal (in well-run companies this also includes sales which were cancelled or were credit rejected). Rehash requires a “refined” technique that starts with a scripted phone call that contains no risk or threat to the prospect – in fact, implies a “benefit”. This task is never allocated to the original salesperson. It is, for the most part, a call center issue made by a marketer, not a salesperson. The rehash lead is seldom, if ever, issued to the original salesperson (for obvious reasons). He/she didn’t’ sell it the first time and the no-sale or cancellation may have been created by a malfunction in the presentation.
All leads which do not turn into issued appointments or remain unsold, or those cancelled or credit rejected should be accumulated into a database. We call the use of this database to manufacture sales asset recovery. The company has an investment in these leads and any sale made from the database has very few costs related to “reissuance”. Most successful companies acquire 20% or more of their revenue annually from their database and their customer solicited referrals.
If we did not get to your question, please email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and someone will get back to you shortly – – and don’t forget, part two of this home improvement webinar series will be held on Decmeber 13th.