Lead management 101 revisited

By Jeff Scherer, associate partner, Callbutton LLC – I’ve been involved in lead management heavily for some time and continue to work with OEMs, dealers, CRM vendors, ad agencies, and lead providers on a daily basis. Each one of them has a particular desire for how, where, and what they want to do to generate leads. Most of these businesses have a formal process for gathering these leads and most have a way to get the interested prospect’s information to the right party who can take action.

Mechanically, and technically, that is a fairly uncomplicated process. Often the problem lies in the dealer’s lead process, or lack of one. Dealers who have been around awhile remember life before the Internet. (Some say, “Man, how DID we do it without the Web?” Others say “Man, how DO we do it?”)

Here are the steps you need to take to establish a fundamental lead response process. Let’s define a “lead” as any communication request from someone who wants something from your business. It does not matter at this level whether it’s an e-lead, phone call, postcard whatever. Your process should be to:

  1. RESPOND to the inquiry as quickly as possible. If the phone rings, do you answer it immediately? Probably. Do you quickly acknowledge every person who walks into your store? Hopefully. Why then would you let that e-lead wait until tomorrow – or longer – before you respond to it?
  2. Get them ON THE PHONE! You have a much better opportunity to qualify and build rapport on the phone than you do on the keyboard.

As part of my call tracking business, I have listened to thousands of phone calls. The best businesses ask for an appointment (or some commitment) 100 percent of the time (assuming it’s a qualified caller). In the marine dealer calls we’ve reviewed, we often hear the employee simply answering questions and then throwing in the casual “Ask for Jeff if you come by” before they hang up. Is that really asking for an appointment? Sadly, more often than not, the employee will not ask the caller ANY questions, let alone politely asking for their name. Generally, 99 percent of people are not going to purchase a high-ticket item without seeing it and touching it first (exceptions to my online sales friends). When I train boat dealers, I often tell them to stop trying to sell boats and start trying to sell appointments. No one has ever argued with my assertion that they are more likely to sell boats to people they actually see than those they don’t.

Almost every business today has fewer people to do more work. There is also typically a smaller budget allocated for sales and marketing folks to generate leads to make sales. (Remember the day when you had too many leads??) It is more critical today than ever that you make the most out of every single lead that you touch, try to drive them to the phone, and get them into your store. If you get a phone call, you are already at Step #2! These people did not call your store to order pizza (unless that IS your business). They called to start a dialogue, find an ally that will keep them from making the wrong choice, and to purchase something from your business. Be a resource instead of a salesperson. Your customers will appreciate it, and you’ll sell more.

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