Tips and articles
Striking gold in those sales leads
Those stacks and stacks of advertising inquiries, trade show leads, web site visitors! Somewhere among them you can find gold legitimate sales prospects.
Have a plan
Before your promotion even runs, decide how to handle the resulting inquiries. Get input from field sales, distributors, trade show booth staff, and customer service. If you expect more inquiries than you can handle with your normal inside staff, consider lead management services and involve them in the process. If you wait until you are overwhelmed by thousands (hopefully) of inquiries, you will find yourself taking one of two actions: 1) Responding so late that the prospect has gone elsewhere or 2) Dumping everything in the trash can.
Pre-qualify the leads
Before your field sales personnel start knocking on doors and before your inside sales staff start soliciting orders, qualify all your inquiries. Train your trade show booth staff to ask the right questions to determine the prospect's interest: buying authority, product need, purchase timing, purchasing quantities. Web site forms and direct mail response mechanisms should solicit similar information.
Inquiries from trade publications typically involve more effort. Send the inquirer basic product information with a bounce back card to obtain the needed qualifying information. Or, follow-up by phone. Remember, an inquiry is not a sales lead or sales prospect until it has been qualified.
Rank the prospects
Based on the qualification information, rank the inquiries into A, B, and C categories. The A prospects are the hot leads, the ones that you have determined have a legitimate and timely need for your products and services. The B prospects typically are less likely to buy or their purchase time frame is further in the future. The C inquiries are those with little demonstrated need for your products and services; often they are simply literature collectors.
Start the follow-up sales contacts
Now you can begin the selling effort, concentrating on the A prospects first. The specific follow-up is dictated by your products and services, your sales methodology and organization, and the quality of your qualification process. You may use telemarketing, personal sales calls, or direct mailings. Here's where you get your sales organization, both inside and outside and distribution, into the process.
For the B prospects, you may want to simply make a more detailed mailing, then schedule phone or personal follow-ups for a later date.
What about those C inquiries? At best, you might add them to a general mailing list. More likely, you will probably discontinue any further follow-up.
Re-qualify and re-rank the prospects
B's can become A's and A's can become B's. You will want to re-rank them as necessary, making sure that you continue to cultivate those top prospects. At this stage, these inquiries should be treated as part of your normal sales procedures.
Track the results
Set up your follow-up system so that you can track the results of your efforts. Use the data to calculate and analyze your return on investment and to determine the effectiveness of your promotional and sales efforts.
With a proper inquiry follow-up system in place, you can identify legitimate sales prospects and turn those inquiries into sales.
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