Your company’s efforts at lead generation will achieve a better return in sales if you understand the nature of each lead and respond to it appropriately.

Three aspects of a lead can help determine how you should respond:

  1. Knowing how a lead prefers to engage with and communicate with you
  2. Evaluating the type of lead and its importance
  3. Responding within the appropriate timeframe

Give Leads the Response They Deserve

Your company’s efforts at lead generation will achieve a better return in sales if you understand the nature of each lead and respond to it appropriately.

Two aspects of a lead can help determine how you should respond:

  1. Knowing how a lead prefers to engage with and communicate with you
  2. Evaluating the type of lead and its importance

The other factor in the mix is speed of response. A hot lead can turn into a sale that same day — or be lost to a competitor. Studies have shown that speed of response is the single most important element in converting a lead to a sale when the prospect is actively engaged in the buying process. Speed also reflects positively on your organization and your company’s brand: if you respond quickly, clearly you have your act together.

How and When to Engage

How to engage with a lead is often a matter of following the communication channel established by your prospect and responding with the specific information requested.

A phone call inquiry begets a return phone call. A prospect who sends in a tear-off card from a direct mail piece should receive the information promised in the offer.

Today, of course, many leads come to suppliers over the Internet, from your own Web site or from other sites such as GlobalSpec. Engineers and technical buyers who contact you online or send you an e-mail inquiry likely expect an e-mail in return.

With e-mail or Web leads, your prospects are on Internet time and expect a quick response to their inquiry. However, this doesn’t mean you should always immediately pick up the phone and call to ask for an order. Responding quickly does not mean responding aggressively.

Sometimes the appropriate response is more subtle. Evaluating the type of lead and its importance will help you craft an appropriate and timely response.

Lead Evaluation

Let’s face it: some leads are junk while others are super-qualified and ready to buy. The reality is most fall somewhere in the middle and require investigation to either further qualify or move them towards a sale.

Therefore, you need to recognize a hot lead who is ready to buy and waiting to hear from you versus a lead who needs to be educated over time and does not want to be pressured. If you don’t recognize the difference you might respond inappropriately or send the wrong information. You might be too aggressive and scare off a prospect making an initial inquiry, while the hot lead, feeling ignored, buys from a competitor. You’ll likely lose both as potential customers because you did not have the proper lead response.

A good example of the hot lead is a request for quotation (RFQ). This person is ready to buy and requires an immediate and specific response, including pricing and terms, to help close the sale. If you send this prospect a general catalog of your products and services as a fulfillment piece, you’ll likely lose them.

On the other hand, a lead from someone who has registered and printed technical specifications or a product data sheet from your Web site or on GlobalSpec may still be in the information-gathering phase of their purchase process. This person, although very much a qualified lead, may require a period of nurturing to further determine their needs, budget and timeframe for making a purchase decision. They may be interested in information about your company as well as the specific product they inquired about.

The appropriate response to this type of lead would be for a sales person to open a dialog and further qualify the prospect by asking such questions as:

  • What is the timeframe of your project?
  •  What state of the project are you in? (early design phase, nearing production, etc.)
  • Is there a budget? Who controls it?
  • What is the application for this product? How will it be used?
  • Are there other products that can meet their needs as well?
  • Who else are they talking to (competitors)?
  • What problem are they trying to solve with the product they are looking for?

More Ideas for Responding to Leads

GlobalSpec has published a white paper specifically for suppliers to help them respond to and manage leads. It offers a five-step process for managing and increasing leads, including Step 2: Access, Evaluate and Respond to Leads.

To find out more, you can download your copy of  “Best Practices for Managing and Increasing Leads” in its entirety.

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