Companies frequently fail to see the value of long-term sales lead management, and pursue short-term, hot leads that often fail to result in sales. As an entrepreneur, you need to ensure your sales team is approaching their role with foresight.
For a start, many leads are not followed up by sales, for legitimate reasons such as they are low-end or unfiltered prospects (companies from the wrong verticals, too small to be in the market, or students/consultants who responded to an offer). Or, non-intuitive reasons such as "I called three times and didn't get a callback." If the lead is hard to work, it is often dismissed.
If as an entrepreneur, you are looking at growth in Africa, this can be an issue: the sales process does take longer than anticipated, and your sales team can not ignore long-term leads or be seen as unhelpful in impacting the current period’s quota.
It has always been my belief that time frames on leads should be ignored and that long-term leads are more valuable than short-term leads.
In fact, in my experience long-term leads provide the opportunity to define, if not manage, the buying process. With these opportunities, the worst case is that you have a great chance at being short-listed, and in the best case you are invited to design the RFP.
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Sealing the deal
To secure a long-term lead requires an effective customer relationship management (CRM) strategy. A set of marketing strategies significantly increases the chance that a long-term lead can become a sale. Through many touches and much diligence, all of that lead nurturing will display marked results.
I can’t tell you the right CRM strategy for your business. Every market is different, and higher-level decision makers require more touches than lower-level decision makers for example.
What we do find does work is consistency.
Consistency in a measured formula adapted to suit specific needs. Earlier we make mention of the general response "I called three times and never heard back from them", what if you called the fourth time, and this call resulted in a big deal? What is that number? There is no answer, because the person on the other end of the line, is different from the next (their day may have been a stressful one, personal issues, or they may be delighted to have the conversation, in other words, don't expect the same result).
However, there needs to be some base formal when it comes to the CRM strategy. For example, I make repeat calls, on deals I am trying to secure every two weeks unless I get a resounding 'NO'.
Related: What kind of sales person are you?
In which case I may follow-up every three to six months, the reason being that over time things change, and the potential buyer might be ready to take your call.
We also repeat call secured deals to advise of new services which often leads to trusted new business. Each business will have its version of this strategy, but there needs to be a plan in place, especially when you are not the only sales person in your business.