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I read an interesting article today in Forbes magazine. It states that an astonishing 71% of incoming website leads are wasted.

71%?

Really? According to the research quoted in the article its true. Further in-house research conducted by InsideSales.com, the company quoted in the article, indicated that its only 27% of leads that were ever contacted.

And interestingly  if you want to qualify a lead or importantly, make an appointment, 8 – 9am and 4 – 5pm were the best times to do so. 1 -2pm the worst.

The most interesting data related to the speed with which the company responded to leads.

Its not how, its how fast

The odds of contacting the lead fall 10 times in the first hour, and the odds of qualifying the lead fall 6 times in the first hour. After 20 hours, every call your sales people make actually hurts your chances of contacting the lead.

The odds of contacting the lead are 100 times higher if you call within 5 minutes versus 30 minutes. The odds of qualifying a lead are 21 times higher, again in 5 minutes versus 30 minutes

It seems when called back immediately the sales person knows where the lead is, which helps. And when they call back immediately the company you have contacted are still on your mind. Both reasons drive effectiveness.

And of course, the WOW effect of calling people back minutes after they submit a lead can’t be under estimated.

Now I started to wonder how this sort of data applies to traditional incoming leads? If this data is about properly tracked leads that are recorded on website forms, what hope is there that a non computerised lead system, or a CRM that doesn’t work properly, will get a response quickly?

Traditional leads 

I regularly had to deal with sales people who had not called a lead back. It was not unusual to have to deal with complaints from potential clients that had waited a week or more. There are always great excuses as to why the sales person hasn’t called the client back, but I can’t help thinking it’s almost an unforgivable sin on the sellers part.

I could deal with a delay of a half a day maybe, if someone was tied up in meetings, but these days, with customers expectations being where they are then even that is pushing it.

How many of your sales people leave it a day or more to get back to your leads? Or if you are a sales person, how many times have you left leads wither yourself? It’s far to often, and much more prevalent than you might think.

At the very least an incoming lead should have an immediate call to thank the client for the interest and gain a few more details – In other words, qualify the lead before its gets to the sales person. Its basic customer service surely?

How would you feel as a potential client of a business if they took a day or more to get back to you? Rightly annoyed I suspect. I have a lot of sympathy for sales people, given how hard their jobs can be. But that sympathy wears thin when you find out they aren’t calling leads back.

Even the most obviously useless lead deserves the common courtesy of a prompt call back. Even if it is just to tell them that they can’t afford your businesses product or service.

A true story (It happened to me) 

If you think I am exaggerating this issue, check this out. True story.

Recently, I’ve been looking at new cars. A company car I’ve discovered, is not something that most car sales people are interested in dealing with.

In the last 2 months I have contacted 3 main dealers. BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. A few years back I had precisely the same experience with a Jaguar dealer.

Audi were excellent. I called in on a Sunday and as was promised, was called back Monday morning and I have since had a number of test drives in various cars as they helped me find the right car. Thanks here due to Gareth at Cardiff Audi.

Mercedes were a different story. The same Sunday visit, and promise to call me back the next day was proved to be unreliable as days went by without a call.

I finally gave in and called them, already annoyed, only to have a receptionist (who was lovely) bat me back and forth on the telephone as she obviously tried to put me through to a sales person.

Who does the selling anyway?

Three times she returned to me off hold, when I was expecting the sales person, to ask another qualifying question. The first ‘Is it a company car or personal car’ the second ‘can you chose who you buy it off?’ the third ‘when are you looking to buy?’ are all sensible qualifying questions. Ones I would have comfortably answered had they been asked in conversation with the sales person.

But when its the poor receptionist doing the asking, and obviously at the behest of the sales person the other end of the phone, it’s a little much.

Especially when an immediate call back was promised and once again days went by without a peep. Shocking service.

Eventually, after a call to the marketing director, a lovely helpful lady called me and sorted the test drive out. She was great, but honestly, was it too little too late?

And BMW? They still haven’t come back to me! Especially annoying as I have driven 3 BMWs in the last 12 years.

The lesson

So make sure you know that your sales people are getting back to your incoming leads, and getting back quickly.

The upshot of all that research we spoke about was that it makes good business sense to call a customer straight back and deal with their enquiry immediately.

Who have thunk it?

What do you think? Do you have horror stories of waiting for that call back  Can you beat my 2 month wait for BMW? (Actually, Jaguar still havent called me back and that was 4 years ago!)

If you are a sales person what do you think? How do you handle incoming leads? Let me know in the comments, or send me an email on [email protected]

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