Outside of a nice fat commission check, a signed purchase order, or getting your customer to put pen to paper/email to your inbox, a sales lead is to me, the hottest component of the sales cycle.
But many salespeople don’t take their sales leads and the process of converting them seriously enough.
When you receive a lead, you have a person who has demonstrated an interest in your products and/or your services — they may not end up being buyers…initially, but nevertheless at the very least, you will have a name and contact details that you never had before.
A business is only as strong as its customer base and you must take every opportunity to build it.
I came from a sales lead generating background and I used to travel around the UK to knock on peoples doors in the evenings to try and find people who were interested in re-modeling their houses and as part of a crack lead generation team of four, our leads had the most success in terms of converting into sales.
We didn’t know it at the time, but the salespeople would fight to get hold of any leads that our team had generated, simply because they knew they were high quality.
After working for this company, I left with another member of the team and began my entrepreneurial journey by starting up my own direct marketing company, doing the same but now I was free to sell those leads to a wide variety of customers and at a much higher price than the hourly rate I was paid working for my previous employer.
So I am very passionate about sales lead generation and the importance of making sure the process is right and that the conversion rate to sales is optimal.
Take a look at this article in HUFFPOST.
My sales lead conversion philosophy
I actually try to find every reason that I can to disqualify or “blow out” the prospect right from the first interaction and I know this sounds like madness…but trust me, there is a method to it!
Let me explain:
It’s not that I will actively try to talk the person out of buying the product or service I am selling, but it’s more of a mental state that I adopt when I begin the process.
In my recruiting and staffing services days, I was taught a strategy very early in my career, that involved the direct marketing of candidates to companies, regardless of whether they had any vacancies for those candidates.
I sought to work with the top twenty percent of specialist talent in my industry and my mission was to drive that talent to the right companies that could best use, develop and challenge their skills.
It was a win-win for both parties and on many occasions, companies would create openings in their organization simply because they didn’t want to lose the best people to their competitors and I have applied the twenty percent concept in everything I do in sales…particularly when converting leads.
The top twenty percent of your sales leads will be the ones most motivated to buy.
It doesn’t mean you ignore the eight percent because as I have said, they will simply go into your sales funnel as either people who will buy at a later date, people who are going to sit on the fence for a while, and of course, those who will never buy from you.
But for me, I focus on the people who I know are motivated to buy right now, or in the near future as a priority and I will spend more time with those leads to set them up perfectly for the “close.”
If you have read anything I have written about closing the sales, then you will know that I detest the word and concept of closing, rather I prefer to have people who are motivated to buy from me.
There is a serious difference!
Related: “How to become a good salesman.”
Sales lead: The first interaction
It doesn’t matter whether you are in a face-to-face or online selling situation, your first interaction or “touchpoint” with your potential customer is the most critical one.
You must start as you mean to go on and that means ensuring that you get your entire sales and marketing message through to your prospect quickly, effortlessly, and seamlessly.
I’ve seen and heard som many salespeople babble on incessantly about their company, themselves, and trying to work through a standardized pitch to handle all leads, that at worst, serves to drive the customer to the competition.
It’s exactly the same online and I cringe when I look back at some of the experiences I have had when I am simply trying to obtain some information which if all goes well, will result in me handing over my hard-earned cash…but it doesn’t all work out that way.
Let me give you a real example:
I saw a Facebook ad that really caught my interest and I quickly searched the company for any bad reviews and found none, so I picked up my phone and dialed the number on the advert.
The guy answered and I briefly explained my interest and he told me to go back to the advert, click the link to the website, and answer the set of questions that would appear.
I was so shocked by the whole experience that I told him I would, hung up and never looked at the advert again!
Unbelievable and to think, I was trying to potentially give him some money.
Maybe it’s a generation thing because I have come from the old-school of sales, where every lead is like gold dust, but I have also worked through the early stages of Internet marketing and have seen how we are in my opinion, losing the “human touch,” when it comes down to real selling.
So, my golden rule for handling leads is to get on the phone to your prospect as quickly as possible and if you can’t speak to the person because they have not provided a number, draft a personalized email to explain what I am going to talk about next.
My 3-step lead handling formula
I love to keep things focussed and simple — looking back over my career and it didn’t matter if I was trying to get leads on the doorsteps of people’s homes or handling the first interaction of what would turn out to be a multi-million dollar deal, I always followed the same procedure as a framework:
- Establish the current situation.
- Establish the urgency.
- Explain specifically how you can help.
It’s a simple process that I still use and teach to this day, so let’s go a little deeper into each component.
Establish the current situation
You need to make sure you fully understand where your prospect is right now and that means asking a series of questions that will be relevant to your industry.
Let’s take the real estate industry as an example and you have launched a campaign that generates leads for people who are looking to rent an apartment.
Your first step is to introduce yourself, your company and after qualifying that they are interested in relation to the advert you have just run, to simply ask them to explain their current situation.
You are looking to find out simple and basic information as to what led them to the position to respond to your advert.
Have they been searching for a long time?
Have they worked with a realtor before?
What apartments have they already viewed?
The next part of this stage is to ask the following question:
“What exactly are you looking for and please be specific as to the detail, plus I need to know if there are any ‘deal breakers’ upfront and that means any information that you know that may potentially be detrimental to any deal.”
In our real estate example, that will be the type of apartment that they are ideally looking for..or the closest apartment they can get in relation to the desire.
It will also involve the apartments that they are not interested in, under any circumstances, plus the factors that would stop any deal in its tracks — an example being that they would only consider an apartment with a communal swimming pool and it would be a deal-breaker if there was not!
Finally, we have the tricky question — you have to ask if there is any reason that your prospect knows of that would not allow a deal to go through and in this example, you are talking about their previous situation — have they have any eviction actions, or is their credit not up to standard, or have they been convicted of any felonies?
This is the part where you will have instant feedback as to the amount of trust you have built with your prospect during the call…but the information is essential.
Now, I am just scratching the surface here as you can imagine — the nature and number of questions are dependent on your industry, but you get the idea, but you absolutely must get the full picture of how the person got to the position that they are in now.
It will set the scene for the next stage.
Establish the urgency
This is where you are going to find out how “real” the need is and you have to be aware that not all of your needs will be genuine!
Over the course of my career, I have handled thousands and thousands of leads and some have come from disingenuous sources — competitors being the main ones, simply trying to fish for information and then you have the “window shoppers,” the people who are just testing the water, but will not make a decision to buy…and the last group is the people who really have no intention to buy.
You may ask the question that if someone doesn’t have the intention to buy, then why even respond to the advert?
Well, your guess is as good as mine, but in the business world, I have met so many people who are what I term “bar dreamers” and they will be happy to hand out advice left, right, and center to all and sundry when it comes down to starting a business, or even how to run one, but they will never take the step.
I guess it falls into the category of “ego.”
But nevertheless, you have to go through the leads and in a very nice and professional way, determine which category the lead fits into.
It will require a lot of practice and ultimately, your instinct.
Because you have invested the time to get the background information relating to the current situation, you will have built a picture in your mind, that will allow you to validate the question of urgency.
I really cannot tell you any more than this in a blog post, but I can tell you to think like a detective and question everything.
At the end of the day, you will be devoting your time and energy probably on a contingency basis, so you need to know that the other party is serious.
Explain specifically how you can help
Here is where you get to produce your best sales pitch, but don’t go overboard — you need to explain three key points:
- What you do and what you can do for your prospect.
- Why you are different.
- What it costs your prospect.
Let’s go back to our real estate example and answer each point specifically and although I am going to give you a script, you must learn to create your own, but within the framework of what I am saying:
“As a realtor, I am your eyes and ears of the market and I will seriously reduce the amount of time you spend trying to find your apartment and also I am going to be able to provide you inside information, that you will not find if you are not working in the industry. I am also connected at the highest executive levels to the owners and management companies in the apartment world.”
“I am different because, in an ever-increasing age of technology and automation, I am passionate about retaining the human touch and I will always take your call and respond to your questions personally and in real-time.”
“It costs you absolutely nothing because we are paid by the apartment companies…so you get a free service which ultimately saves you time and money — I am also aware of all of the deals that you don’t know and will probably never hear about.”
Again, these are simple statements that I am using for illustrative purposes and I don’t expect you to copy them, just to take in the sentiment of what I am saying, but use your own imagination and be creative…within the framework of course!
How to finish the conversation
You have worked through the steps and now you have to draw matters to a conclusion.
Here, you need to understand the value of your time and be extremely careful not to waste any of it.
This is not like a formal sales pitch or presentation, where you already have the interest and you have to convince or influence your audience to buy from you…so you have to condense the same, into a much shorter version to find out if they are simply going to take the first step.
I would always tell the truth to each and every prospect — I would explain that I only work with a handful of prospects and where I know that I can definitely produce the results for them.
In order to do so, I need to establish that they are motivated, ready to take action, and have been totally candid with me regarding their needs, desires, and any problems that may de-rail the deal.
Leads are gold dust and the more you treat them as such, the more sales success you will have.
It doesn’t matter what industry you are in or how the lead is generated, you absolutely must treat each lead as the hottest component of the sales cycle.
But…it is critical to adopt the mental state of trying to disqualify each and every lead to hunt down the top twenty percent.
You will not lose business in this way, rather you will conclude more deals as well as building the foundation for a strong sales pipeline for the future.
Make sure that you follow the framework I have suggested above, or use it to devise your own…but you must have a structure when it comes to converting leads into sales, as well as your ability to use your instinct.
Last modified: May 26, 2021