15.02.2022 - Aafke Smal

No lead left unfollowed – follow-up tips for SMBs

Ask any experienced sales professional about their key to a success and most of them will tell you roughly the same thing: it pays to be persistent (and we mean that literally).

At no point in the sales process is this persistence more key than during the ‘follow-up’ stage, where your chances of conversion actually increase with each engagement. To let the numbers do the talking, only 2% of overall conversions are secured when contacting a potential customer for the first time. Although this number grows to 10% by the fourth interaction, the vast majority of substantial sales are made long after the fourth interaction with a customer has taken place.

For many small or medium-sized businesses (SMBs), every inbound sales lead has the potential to become not only a new customer, but a loyal customer representing a dependable stream of repeat revenue year-on-year. One of the primary obstacles facing SMBs when it comes to converting sales is the task of lead follow-up. While lead follow-up can appear as a straightforward task, this stage is largely skipped by a stark number of companies. Industry sales research estimates that 40-50% of all inbound sales leads are never contacted for follow-up, and when they are, mistakes commonly occur that result in a missed opportunity to convert that lead into a customer for life.

Sound bleak? Don’t worry. There are simple yet effective follow-up techniques that every SMB can take to grow their prospect pipelines (and eventually sales) without increasing your team’s headcount. We’ve put together our top 3 tips to ensure you’re maximizing your conversion rate during the ever-essential follow-up stage at all times.

1 – Follow up with 100% of leads, and do it quickly

Think of every lead like a scratch-and-win lottery ticket with multiple games or winning opportunities, where your chances of winning decrease until the first ‘scratch’ has been made. You’d never wait days or weeks to see if you’d won. You’d scratch the first box right away, and failing a first-try win, you’d continue scratching until every opportunity to win has been exhausted (if you’re lucky, you’ll finish by collecting your prize).

The same approach goes for outreach to potential customers. Rather than waiting to see if they’re a winner (or in this case, a converted sale), you’re better off to make that ‘first scratch’ right away. And if the first window doesn’t convert, you persist until every opportunity has been exhausted. In both cases, you don’t wait and you definitely don’t give up.

2 – Be even quicker than you think you should be

So how much time should you wait before following up with a lead? Less than you think. According to a study published in The Harvard Business Review, companies that contacted potential customers within 1 hour of receiving an incoming query were nearly 7 times more likely to have meaningful conversations with key decision makers than those who waited just 1 hour longer.

Every minute that you wait to follow up with a lead is an extra minute of ‘advantage overtime’ for your competitor. The first company to respond to their (often mass) query sets the precedent for costs and timeliness of service, which leaves the slower companies fighting for second place.

The direct, API-configured delivery of hot leads allows you to streamline your sales processes and capture qualified prospects on the spot, before they ‘cool’ off. Think about it like paying more money for a hot meal, and then waiting to eat it until it’s cold – not exactly a great case for money well spent.

3 – Measure, improve, repeat

Like all elements of the sales process, your follow-up approach should be in a constant state of evolution and improvement. It’s very difficult to improve what you don’t measure, so make sure to keep tabs on your output by periodically revisiting the following questions:

  • How many sales leads are we receiving each week?
  • How long are we taking to respond to each lead?
  • What percentage of leads are being converted into qualified prospects?
  • What percentage of leads are being converted into customers?

Set goals for each of these metrics, then revisit your numbers monthly to measure your achievements. If you’re meeting your targets, set more aggressive goals and continue fine-tuning each element as you go along, continuing to track your process each month.

At AffilyAds, we see firsthand the vast conversion difference between clients who follow up quickly and thoroughly and those who don’t. It’s a simple step that may seem obvious, yet a largely missed opportunity that deserves much more importance and attention than it currently receives.

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