Follow Up

Sales Lead Management: Are You a Victim of Failure to Follow-Up?

I talk about the concept of stopping “revenue leakage” a lot, and one of the biggest causes of revenue leakage is when sales or marketing reps fail to follow-up (FTFU).  You spend a lot of time and money to generate inquiries and then see the effort wasted. Not only is this bad sales and marketing policy, it can be fatal to the success of your sales lead management program.

Although it was for a low-ticket service, a recent personal example illustrates the point. I was looking for new oil change service and went online to search for local options. Finding a local auto repair company with solid online reviews, I went to their “book an appointment” page and requested an early morning slot a few days later. The site acknowledged my request and said that I would be contacted with a confirmation.

Two days later, I still had not received a confirmation so I booked a slot with one of the shop’s competitors. You probably guessed it – that’s when I received a confirmation from the original company. A few hours too late and the sale was lost. Multiply that sale by a bunch of others and it impacts revenue and profits.

What Can B2B Marketers Learn from this Example?

When you wait over 48 hours to acknowledge a customer, this is a serious failure to follow-up, whether you are selling in a B2C or B2B environment. The difference is, the auto shop lost a $50-60 order (not counting follow-on revenue) while an  enterprise software company or some other high-ticket B2B supplier can lose a sale of tens or hundreds of thousands. The stakes are higher but the principles are the same.

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So what are the lessons of this example and how do they apply to B2B marketers who are selling more expensive products and services?  Here are several:

  • Always follow-up promptly. In the B2B world 3-8 percent of responders may be in an active buying cycle. You need to engage with these people quickly – otherwise your competition will surely do so.
  • Don’t let your “busyness” stop you from following-up. The prospect doesn’t care how busy you are; he or she only cares about what they need and when they need it.
  • Quickly acknowledge the contact even when busy. If you are extremely busy, at least acknowledge the inquiry and set an appointment to talk in more depth at a later date. This may buy you some time while letting the prospect know you are not ignoring them.
  • Don’t prejudge prospects. I’ve seen sales managers tell their reps not to follow up on leads from an industry trade show because “those leads are always lousy”. This type of negative assumption is harmful because you never know about the quality lead you never bother to contact. This is also one of the reasons that I recommend that my clients put the lead qualification function in the marketing, not sales, department.
  • E-mail is an okay first contact. While a phone call is preferable, sometimes a quick personalized email is a good first step, even if that email is generated via auto-response.
  • Be consistent. Don’t practice optional behavior when it comes to sales lead management. Your follow-up strategy should be consistent and never subject to whatever else is happening in your business.

Fix Your FTFU Quickly!

I have seen companies as small as the auto shop I mentioned and as large as a billion dollar software company, waste lots of money spent on inbound lead campaigns due to a failure to follow-up promptly. Not all sales leads are precious but unless you know for sure that a particular lead is unqualified, you need to follow-up promptly. FTFU is a disease that can be deadly to the B2B marketer. Don’t catch it and if you do, re-read this post and cure your FTFU immediately.

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Christopher Ryan

Christopher Ryan has 25 years of marketing, technology, revenue growth experience. As both a marketing executive and services provider, Chris has created and executed numerous programs that build market awareness, drive lead generation and increase revenue.
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6 comments

  • Nancy Reed July 28, 2010   Reply →

    As with your other insightful articles Chris, this one rings true! All of us are busy, including prospects for our products…At the very moment they responded to an advertisement or demonstration they were in the zone and ripe for making a possible buying decision. Timing is critical. Prospects move on quickly to the next pressing issue and you don’t want your product or advertisement to become as memorable as yesterday’s lunch.

    Trade Shows are a good example of having lots of hot leads in hand, which require immediate follow-up. I have personally seen great leads go dead because marketing or sales teams were too busy to get to them once the show was over…A business sin.

  • Sales Leads July 28, 2010   Reply →

    Yes this is true. Some companies spend good amount of money and time to generate leads but failure to follow up. Specially when it comes to B2B industry. There are heavy competition with similar vendor. If they are not responding within an hour. There are chances of losing the lead.

  • cryan July 28, 2010   Reply →

    Nancy, your point about how timing is critical is correct. The shelf life of a B2B sales lead can be as short as 2 or 3 days. After that, the prospect may have decided to purchase elsewhere or may not even remember responding to you in the first place.

  • Sales leads August 30, 2010   Reply →

    While we are taking on the topic of Sales Lead Management | Great B2B Marketing, every one of the mailing list hosting companies that I am aware of actually post your subscribers an email requiring them to verify before they are added to the email list. Although you may think this is a headache which will cost you some subscribers (such as the ones that can’t be bothered to reply to the verification request), it is actually useful because it will help prevent cases where a person’s email is used to subscribe to a list without his permission. At least, you won’t be accused of spamming anyone.

  • Oracle Users List February 7, 2011   Reply →

    follow-up is a major thing to get more deals many companies are forget about follow the customers.. better follow them and give quick replay for them otherwise they will go for another option..

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