We live in an age of instant gratification brought to us by the wonders of technology. When you have a question, you Google it, and find pages full of answers. If you want a new book, you download it onto your e-reader in a couple of clicks. And if you’d like to communicate with a friend on the other side of the globe, you don’t use snail mail and wait a couple of weeks for a response, you chat on Skype or share your latest happenings and photos on Facebook and email.
Because people are getting more of what they want when they want it, they now expect it—in both their personal and business lives. That means when someone fills out a form on a website, they are likely to be hot in pursuit of information to solve a problem. Thus, businesses can no longer respond to leads at their convenience. They need to prequalify the lead instantly and respond within minutes. You want to be ahead of the competition and before the prospect moves on to their next priority.
Time is of the Essence
In fact, the Lead Response Management Study set out to find out when it was best to follow up on leads in order to maximize qualification rates. They discovered that if you call within 5 minutes, you’re more likely to reach and qualify the lead.
The stunning stats: If you call a lead within 5 minutes of receiving it, you are 100 times more likely to reach them than if you wait 30 minutes later and 21 times more likely to qualify the lead.
So, when it comes to contacting and qualifying your leads, time is of the essence. So response management is the key to success. Think about it—what if you were able to increase your contact ratio by 100 times? And what if you were about to qualify 21 times as many leads? Do the math: How much would that affect your business’ revenues?
The Response Time Gap
Based on the data, it’s clear the prospect is hoping for a response within minutes. And how are companies responding? According to a 2013 study by InsideSales.com, the average response time is…drum roll please…a whopping 40 hours and 56 minutes.
It’s clear that while many companies are heavily invested in generating leads on the Internet, they but are not responding at the required Internet speed.
Why not? Perhaps they don’t understand the urgency to get in touch. Maybe they’re letting their internal practices dictate response times rather than market needs. Perhaps they’ve always retrieved leads from their customer relationship management (CRM) systems’ databases daily and continue to do so.
Best Practices for Real Time Response
Now you know what you need to do to increase your qualified leads, but how do you get from where you are today to getting back to leads within 5 minutes?
1. Invest in Marketing Automation that Enables Real-Time Response
If marketing and sales leaders truly understood the money they were leaving on the table by operating as if they were still operating in the 20th century, they’d surely be investing in a marketing automation platform that enables real-time response, such as Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot, or Act-On. These solutions can do the pre-qualification work for you.
When a Web visitor signs up for content or a demo on your website, the automation platform asks them to answer a series of questions that enable you to separate hot leads from casual researchers. Essentially, it prequalifies the leads, scores them, and puts prospects who are eager to sign on the dotted line at the top of the pile.
2. Define a Qualified Lead
The automation software, of course, needs some human intelligence on what you consider to be a qualified lead. So marketing and sales should work together to define this. This means agreeing on the prospect’s Budget, Authority level, Need, and Timeframe to buy, otherwise known as BANT criteria.
Once you understand what you’re looking for in a lead, you can develop questions for your marketing automation tool to ask when capturing the lead.
Since some of the answers to these questions may be sensitive, you may not be able to ask them directly.
• Ferreting Out Budgets
People might be reluctant to enter their project budget in an online form. However, if you ask them to categorize their company revenues into a broad bucket in a multiple choice question, they will likely feel more comfortable checking one of the boxes. By knowing the company revenues, it’s easier to determine if your solutions or products might be affordable for them.
• Asking About Authority
You might not want to ask Web visitors if they have the authority to purchase your solution, but you can ask their title, which gives you a feel for the level of authority they might have. Also, ask if they are at the headquarters or a branch facility. Staff at headquarters may have a greater ability to buy.
• Discerning Need
To understand their need, ask what industry they’re in. Your product likely fits better into some industries than others. Or ask them their biggest challenge and provide a drop-down list of challenges faced by clients.
Finally, you can be direct with the timeframe. Simply ask when they are likely to purchase a solution for this problem.
3. Integrate Marketing Automation with CRM
Now you have the answers to questions that help filter out the leads that should receive first priority. The next step is to funnel them to your inside sales people or outsourced telemarketing team immediately. That means you need to integrate your marketing automation system with your CRM system so the information flows seamlessly to those who can take action.
4. Staff the Phones
Your processes and systems are now ready to assist you in responding to leads. But you still need people. You don’t want leads to fall through the cracks because the phones aren’t manned. Staff up internally, or outsource the task to a reputable teleservices company.
5. Set the Rules
Finally, create a policy that dictates how quickly a representative must attempt to contact those prospects. Measure your response times as well as your results.
By prioritizing your qualified leads and using marketing automation tools to feed online inquiries into your CRM system, you can dramatically reduce response times and increase conversions from leads to sales. You’ll be focused on engaged, interested prospects who you have contacted before they’ve moved on to other vendors or other projects.