In our previous blog we gave you a brief overview of the world of leads and prospects (if you missed it, you can find it here). Now, in this blog, we’re going to share with you some best practice tips for taking a ‘hot lead’ and nudging it towards a sale (and, ideally, an ongoing customer). We’re not trying to imply that these are the only ways of going about this, but we know they work for us, so there’s a high likelihood they’ll work for you.
As we mentioned in our last blog, this part of the process is (and needs to be) handled by our clients’. It’s your business, you’re the experts in your profession and you’re the people who need to be in there once a two way conversation starts, to build (what we all hope are) long term relationships.
Following up Hot Leads
OK. We’ve generated you a hot lead. This person/organisation is interested. Now it’s over to you 😊
The response from the prospective client might be something along the lines of:
This is actually something I’m currently looking into, can we arrange a call for next week?
From this point, all that needs to be done is for a call to be arranged, where you can listen, be positive, sell, and close (or at the very least, agree a verbal contract on the next steps). However, if you’re not a natural salesperson, I’ve come to realise this part – the part where you go from winning the opportunity to have a chat, to actually having the chat – is not as simple for everyone as it might be for someone who is naturally skilled in sales.
The first mistake I’ve noticed that can inhibit arranging the call is by overcomplicating things. When someone reacts positively about the proposal of having a chat, you want to keep it simple. Not so simple that you show no emotion, or come across as rude, but, equally, you don’t need to go into an essay or ask too many questions.
You don’t need to try and sell. You just need to get the meeting in their diary. We’ve already done the research before reaching out to them, so we/you should know whether they’re a good fit for what you offer. You can find out more when you speak with them.
Here’s an example of the kind of emails we’ve seen that are overly inquisitive. This can be off-putting to a prospective client when arranging the first call/meeting:
Thanks for getting back to me, and it’s great to hear you’re interested in XXX. May I ask how long have you been considering replacing your existing XXX? Are you considering any other options at the moment?
To help me to prepare for the call, would it be possible to confirm the following?:
Regarding a time to meet, how might next Thursday work for you?
Also, would you like me to include anyone else in the invite?
On the other side of the coin, we don’t want to be too simple, and come across as cold, rude, uninterested, or unaccommodating –here’s an example of this kind of email:
Thanks for getting back to me.
How about next XXX at XXX, or XXX at XXX?
Let’s remember one thing here – We’re selling to them. Not the other way around.
We need them to feel excited about potentially working with us. We need them to feel enthusiasm from us, we need to demonstrate we’re flexible around them, and that we respect that they probably have a busy schedule (expecting them to shoehorn in a convenient time for us doesn’t really cut it).
At the same time, we don’t want to run the risk of not offering enough options so that booking a meeting turns into a game of ping pong. That’s why offering options of when to meet at an early stage can help, as you can firm up a date/time quicker.
Yes, there are online calendars you can share like Calendly that make the process simpler (for you). However, this requires several steps to be taken by them, and in my experience can make the prospect feel like it’s a bit of a cop out from us/you.
Furthermore, our own testing has shown we get a higher rate of meetings confirmed our way when compared with using Calendly. Yes, that requires more effort, and that’s not to say we don’t recognise the benefits of Calendly, or similar products – we do. They’re great to use in an established relationship (internally, or with clients), and they’re great to have built into a website (when a prospect has searched for you and wants to find out more). But, when you reach out cold to propose a meeting and you get a positive reply, to then go back with a Calendly link doesn’t (IMO) really make them feel like much effort is being played on our/your part.
When we reply to a lead, we find that going with something like this works exceptionally well:
Great to hear back from you. I’d love to arrange a call, how might one of the below days/times work for you:
Monday 31st – XX, XX, or XX
Tuesday 1st – XX, XX, or XX
Wednesday 3rd – XX, XX or XX
If there’s a good time in there, let me know and I’ll send a meeting invite over. If not, and there’s a better slot the following week, just say when and I’ll be delighted to get something arranged.
Looking forward to catching up soon,
More often than not, when we use an email format similar to the above, we get the call arranged. However, we know that isn’t always the case for our clients when sending emails similar to the other examples we’ve just shared.
Whilst the majority of the time we will get the meeting arranged, it’s true, sometimes we don’t hear back. And, that’s ok. We understand how busy people can be, and we know we will not be at the top of their priority list. Remember, this is the difference between outbound lead generation and inbound. With outbound, we’re contacting them, so it’s more about sales techniques and not giving up. Whereas with inbound, initially it’s more about marketing. They’ve made an intent to search for something, not the other way around.
We have a strategy in place that means if we don’t hear back, we follow it up. I used to think this was the norm. Then, recently I took a phone call from a client who said to me:
“Ben, I’m really happy with the leads we got last week, but one of them didn’t get back to me when I replied and proposed dates/times to meet”
Whilst, for me, as a sales person that was no surprise, it was for them. And, as far as they were concerned, before we spoke further, that lead was dead in the water. This conversation is actually one of the reasons I wanted to share how we manage these processes (however simple and small they might seem), as it seemed like we might be able to help a few people out here.
If we don’t get a reply to our reply – the one where we propose some dates/times to meet – then we follow up with something like this:
Hope you’re well.
Apologies for reaching back out before you’ve come back to me. I know how busy it can get, so thought it worth following up, as you mentioned you’d like to arrange a call/meeting.
I’d be delighted to put something in the diary, so I was just wondering if there might be a good time for you over the next week or so?
Looking forward to hopefully speaking soon,
With something like the above, we get a high response rate. In fact, by going through the above two stages we book over 96% of meetings. Which shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, as let’s not forget, they’d already replied and said they’d like a call/meeting.
So, that covers us on the ‘hot leads’ and in the future we’ll be writing about how we manage those initial calls. We’ll also be sharing with you our experience and feedback around CRMs, which, for us, are an essential part of managing an outbound sales strategy.
Hopefully this has given you some ideas (and maybe a bit more confidence) in the area of converting the precious resource of ‘hot leads’ into the even more precious resource of new customers. These are simply guidelines. You might find that as you develop your skills in this area you introduce tweaks which fit better with you/your company and may lead to greater success as you build your new biz pipeline.
In our third and final part of this blog series (Got a Lead, What Next?) we’ll be covering how we manage what we call ‘Positive Engagement Leads’ – the types of responses you get where prospective clients reply to your initial outreach with a positive interest, but an added note, that says something along the lines of ‘just now’s not the right time’.