Fixing the Funnel: Following Up on Sales Leads

by Thom Tracy

2 min read

While it’s great to have new, regular leads pouring into your small business as a result of your marketing efforts, these leads are worth nothing until they’re converted into actual customers. That’s why it’s critical for yourself or your sales staff to have a solid follow-up system in place to ensure that your business takes advantage of every opportunity to increase your customer base. Putting together a good marketing plan to generate new leads from a variety of possible sources is only part one of making your business successful. The next part is making the necessary effort to maximize conversions of leads into customers.

Understanding the Importance of Continual Follow-Up

Your plan for following up on leads isn’t adequate if it only extends as far as one contact. Studies show that only 2% of leads are converted into customers after only an initial follow-up contact. Not many more are added even by the third contact — about 5%. The hard truth of selling is that approximately 80% of all sales are made somewhere between the 5th and 12th contact.

The good news is that your business can benefit from simply being aware of this fact. With the knowledge firmly in mind that the likelihood of making a sale is relatively low until several follow-up contacts have been made, your sales staff can avoid wearing themselves out in frustration at not closing a sale on the first contact, and instead focus their early follow-up efforts on building relationships with potential customers. Building relationships makes it much easier to convert someone to a customer later on.

Key Elements of Good Follow-Up Strategy

There are several factors to keep in mind when designing your follow-up strategy. Make sure new leads are followed up in a very timely way. The last thing you want is to have so much time pass before following up that the person you’re contacting doesn’t even remember you or your business.

Since multiple follow-up contacts are likely going to be required in order to convert a potential customer into an actual customer, it’s a good idea to simply ask during the initial follow-up contact if it’s all right for you to periodically get back in touch. Most people will readily agree to such a modest request, but having their explicit permission helps to avoid the impression that your repeated contacts are an unwanted annoyance.

Have a schedule for regular follow-up contacts, and be sure to mark your next scheduled contact with a lead on your calendar. You may want to note studies show the best times to contact people are Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.

With the idea in mind of building relationships with potential customers, it’s important to offer sales prospects value during follow-up contacts. For example, if your business is home remodeling firm and your contact has mentioned they’re considering refinishing their floors, you might send along an article about best floor refinishing products. Value can also be created simply with an enjoyable conversation. If your prospect just enjoys talking with you, they’re much more likely to take your calls or read your emails.

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