Implement lead generation “management” techniques for handling hot, warm, and cool leads
What happens when you have too many leads coming in? People typically say, “Well, that’s a great problem to have.” But the key word in that sentence is “problem.” Having tons of leads coming in can be overwhelming, even paralyzing, to the point you might not turn any of those leads into customers, simply because you don’t know where to begin or how to prioritize.
Never fear! This post will provide strategies for quickly identifying and handling hot and warm leads…and what to do with those “cool” leads that need more time to cook.
First, here’s how we define the following:
Hot leads: We’re talking about people who not only sound/act like your ideal customer, but also indicate that they’re ready to buy. Example: someone filling out a contact form on a design/build firm’s website, and she says she was referred by a friend who had used the firm in the past. She indicates that she’s planning to renovate her kitchen and she’s looking for a builder and she really likes the project portfolio and the renovation in her friend’s home. That’s definitely a hot lead because she indicates readiness, familiarity with the business, and the fact she’s contacting the firm based on a referral.
Warm leads: Many of these folks might seem like your ideal customer, based on the information you collect on your forms (more on this below), but something about the action they’ve taken on your website indicates they’re not ready to buy quite yet. For example, perhaps someone downloads your free checklist “20 things to look for in a design/build firm.” This person obviously has an interest in your design/build services, but given what she downloaded, she might be more in research mode. She could easily tip into the “hot lead” category, but she’s not quite there yet.
Cool leads: These leads are usually fairly easy to identify. The forms they fill out are incomplete or provide inaccurate info (e.g. typing in 555-5555 for a phone number). They might ask general questions or questions that “feel” like they’re fishing. That doesn’t mean that all of these leads should be dismissed. There’s bound to be a nugget or two within, meaning there’s probably a couple of people whom you can lead from these cool waters to warmer and, eventually, hotter ones. It’s how you do this that’s important. You don’t want to waste time on leads that aren’t going to materialize into anything.
OK, let’s talk strategy. You don’t want to ignore any lead that comes in, even the ones that look sketchy, because, let’s face it: you just never know, and you don’t want your business to be known for “they never got in touch with me.” The problem is, by contacting every lead that comes in, you might end up wasting time talking to tire kickers while a legitimate lead dials on. So how can you “touch” every lead, yet avoid wasting time? This is where auto-responders come in.
1. Remember this: Auto-responders are your friends. Every time someone submits a form on your site, the person should receive an automatic response. Different forms can trigger different responses, but the key is that EVERY lead will receive communication from you. So if someone fills out a form for a white paper, he or she might be at a different stage in the buying process than if the person submits a general contact form asking about pricing. The auto responder for the white paper might be as simple as a thank you, and it might include some links or a call-to-action for another offer. There’s no promise that a sales person will follow up (although it’s possible one might, based on the information the person provided in his or her form—more on this below). The person who submitted the contact form requesting pricing info should also receive an auto responder saying that his/her request has been received and that someone will be in touch shortly.
If every form has an auto responder, then every lead gets “touched” and YOU (and/or your sales team) can decide who will receive a follow up sales call. This puts you back in the driver’s seat and makes your organization look professional since everyone who reaches out to you is acknowledged and thanked.
2. Focus on the leads that match your ideal buyer persona. We wrote about how to create buyer personas in this post. Now, it’s time to put this information to good use. Your buyer persona serves as a detailed snap shot of your target audience members. So as leads come in, prioritize who gets called back first, based on who most closely matches your buyer personas. Yes, you might decide—based on the buyer persona—to contact someone who might otherwise be considered at the top of the “sales funnel” simply because he or she seems like your ideal customer and it’s worth starting the sales conversation with them now.
3. Make sure you’re asking the right kind of qualifying questions on your website forms. Sure, you don’t want to scare people away with long forms, but, at the same time, you want to get some information from people. Don’t squander this opportunity to learn more about the leads and to qualify them further. Are you looking for people in a certain location, in a certain industry, with a specific job title? Ask these questions. For example, say one of your premier products is in a price range that typically makes the product cost prohibitive to smaller companies. One of your qualifying questions on the form might be company size (and you can provide different ranges and have people select one). You’d focus on following up with the larger companies first.
4. Create different levels of lead nurturing for different types of leads. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous strategy. So, using the above example, people who indicate that they’re from a smaller company might be funneled into a lead nurturing campaign that speaks directly to them. Perhaps you have other product options that fall into a different price point, one that works with smaller businesses or the solo professional. You could create a series of emails that would educate people on these product offerings.
As for the leads you’re in touch with via phone? They should get nurturing emails too, ones that complement your efforts (so the emails should sound like they’re continuing the conversation that’s been happening off line). For these emails, consider offering high value resources, but also providing information that will show the person the benefit of working with your company: think case studies, testimonials, before and after pics/examples. Basically, offer “positive reinforcement” info: here’s what you can expect to experience when you choose us.
5. Have effective systems and processes in place for managing and following up on leads. Notice we said “systems.” We’re not here to endorse or dictate one form of CRM (customer relationship management) software over another. That’s something you and your organization can determine. The key is you need to have some sort of system in place, and it needs to be a system that the sales team is committed to using and keeping up to date. Depending on how your website is built and the CRM you use, you might be able to integrate the two, which can help streamline the process.
What sorts of lead generation management techniques do you find effective, especially during those times when you’re inundated? Share in the comments.