Lead Nurturing and Lead Scoring – A Critical Link

On a recent guest post at the Bridge Group’s blog, author Henry Bruce brings up some research by Marketing Sherpa that states that 75% of all sales leads generated are going to buy at some point in the next 18-24 months.

Think about that for a minute.

A. Only 1 in 4 leads is ever totally non-productive. They may not convert now, or in the time frame the rep wants, but contrary to popular belief, it’s relatively rare for a sales lead to be total garbage. 75% of the active leads in our CRM systems RIGHT NOW are going to buy a product or service in our sector from somebody, somewhere in the next two years. So why not from you/me/us, if we’re the right fit?

B. It also seems to indicate that the need to intelligently score leads is now more critical than ever to prevent waste. 18-24 months is a long time, and no sales rep in their right mind is going to try and keep a prospect “on the hook” for a year-and-a-half. If they’re not buying now, stop wasting effort, the thought process goes, and use a long-term lead nurturing strategy.

But if they can’t make contact quickly, sales reps are far too willing to consign leads to the “nurturing” bucket (which all too often is perceived as a garbage can, rather than an opportunity generator).

You can’t qualify someone you can’t contact, obviously, but one of the big reasons reps aren’t “making contact” is because they aren’t responding fast enough, and they’re not persistent enough.

As Sales 2.0 Network’s Donal Daly states, there’s only 2 reasons you ever lose a sale—because you weren’t supposed to be there in the first place (meaning your solution was never the right “fit” to begin with), or you got outsold. You got outworked, out-thought, out-presented, out-collateraled, outsmarted.

Immediate lead response technologies and techniques can be a key component in avoiding both. If you respond immediately to leads (as in minutes, not hours or days), you’re massively more likely to make contact with the inquiry. Your ability to set an appointment and start a viable needs analysis increases, and happens in a shorter time frame. Bottom line, immediate and persistent response means you’re much more likely to know right off the bat whether you’re supposed to be there at all.

Furthermore, for qualified “hot” leads, particularly leads coming off the Web, the faster you make contact the stronger your chance to make a good, valid first impression—an impression that is much more likely to carry over into the 18-24 month nurturing cycle if they’re not buying now. CSO Insights states that 40-50% of all sales go to the vendor who makes first contact. Don’t just get there, get there first, and get there by phone, not just email. MIT research shows a phone call should be the FIRST contact attempt, not the second, third, or fourth.

If you lose a sale because you simply weren’t supposed to be there, it’s always better to do it early rather than late. And if you lose a sale because you’ve been outsold, why let it be because you didn’t seize the opportunity when you had it? Even if a prospect isn’t buying until potentially two years down the road, the opportunity to make a first impression only happens once.

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