Dead Leads and Who Killed Them?

A major consideration in evaluating the worth of a home improvement lead is its lifespan.  To understand this phenomenon, let’s examine what created the lead in the first place.  While leads for many products and services come from prospects that recognize need and urgency, a high percentage also come from those who spontaneously respond to something they’ve seen or heard.  Therefore, most of those prospects acted on impulse.

Keep two things in mind.  First, lead costs continue to escalate, therefore it is important to develop leads at a lower cost and use them more effectively.  Secondly, you may consciously or unconsciously be killing leads which might otherwise become productive.  As the comic strip character Pogo states to his friends in the swamp: “We have found the enemy and it is us.”

Prior to giving some actual data on this lifespan, I want to be clear on defining the differences between two words that are often viewed as synonyms – – prospects and leads.

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.  You will notice the word want does not appear in this explanation.  There is more than a grammatical difference.  Someone may want to see your product or “get a price”, yet so far nothing has prompted them to respond.  Essentially, they have not been able to determine their need.

What is a lead?  The definition is often as simple as a prospect calling for an estimate, sending in a reply card, or approaching your booth at a show and asking someone to visit their home.  At other times, the lead is deeply hidden in a customer’s response for information, with phrases such as “Give me an idea of how they work” or “Send me some information or a brochure”.  To make this more complex, the prospect may make statements such as “We’re not going to buy now” or “Under no circumstances are we ready to do business”.  These leads become complicated because of the way in which we as humans interpret that language and then qualify in our own mind the value of the lead.

When salespeople raise the issue of good vs. bad leads, or marketers refer to qualified vs. unqualified, they are usually defining this by their value system.  The truth is that the difference between a good and a bad lead is usually the way it is handled by both lead intake and the salesperson.

I do not deny that some leads are easier to work than others; yet a good prospect inefficiently handled may turn up in the salesperson’s category as a weak or poor lead.  Which brings me to the issue of nebulous leads.  Successful marketers create this kind of lead by exhorting prospects to “use this sample”, “visit our website for…”, or “read this free information about…” The word nebulous by definition means “indefinite”.  This is a prospect who may need what you have to sell, but hasn’t yet identified a want. This type of “lead getting” brings the less committed prospect to the table.  While this prospect may not have identified your product as a need, this also means that you probably won’t have a lot of competition when you make your presentation.

Individuals responding to this technique are prospects for the product which lies behind the solicitation.  The lead, once received, requires finessing beyond that of the prospect who says “Give us a price” or “Give us an estimate”.  Nonetheless, this prospect is identifying themselves as a potential customer, because they are someone who needs or can use the products you sell.

Converting this nebulous lead to an appointment requires a scripted appointment setter and some adjustments in your sales methods.  In today’s economy, nebulous leads represent a great potential.  They can be the key to lowering your unnecessarily high lead costs.

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