Sales Lead Management: Are You a Victim of FTFU (Failure to Follow-Up)?


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This post involves one of my pet peeves in marketing: the tendency of marketers to spend money and time to generate inquiries and then fail to follow-up (FTFU) on these inquiries.  This failure can be fatal to the success of your sales lead management program.

Although it was for a low-ticket service, a recent personal example illustrates the point.  I was looking for a guitar teacher to help take me to the next level.  I jam with some very good musicians but I endeavor to be the one others’ emulate, not the one who emulates others.  At any rate, I found what appeared to be a very qualified teacher at the Black Rose Acoustic Society website.  I emailed this gentleman (we’ll call him Justin) and told him that I was ready to schedule a lesson to try him out, and if satisfied, was looking for a teacher for the next six months.

Two days later, I still had not heard from Justin and so I emailed my second choice. We’ll call this guy Paul.  Within half an hour, Paul sent me an email with all the details I needed.  We then had a quick phone conversation, agreed to his hourly rate and scheduled the first appointment.  Justin called an hour later, apologized for taking so long to get back to me (he said he was busy), and seemed surprised that I had already hired someone else.

So what are the lessons of this example and how do they apply to B2B marketers who are selling more expensive products and services?  Here are several:

  • Always follow-up promptly.  In the B2B world 3-8 percent of responders may be in an active buying cycle.  You need to engage with these people quickly – otherwise your competition will surely do so.  This is why, in my case, Paul got the business and Justin did not. 
  • Don’t let your “busyness” stop you from following-up.  The prospect doesn’t care how busy you are; he or she only cares about what they need and when they need it.
  • If you are extremely busy, at least acknowledge the inquiry and set an appointment to talk in more depth at a later date.  This may buy you some time while letting the prospect know you are not ignoring them.
  • While a phone call is preferable, sometimes a quick personalized email is a good first step, even if that email is generated via auto-response.
  • Don’t practice optional behavior when it comes to sales lead management.  Your follow-up strategy should be completely consistent and never subject to whatever else is happening in your business.

I have seen companies as small as an individual guitar teacher and as large as a billion dollar multinational software company, totally waste the money spent on their inbound leads due to a failure to follow-up promptly.  Not all sales leads are precious but unless you know for sure that a particular lead is unqualified, you need to follow-up promptly.  FTFU is a disease that can be deadly to the B2B marketer. Don’t catch it and if you do, re-read this post and cure your FTFU immediately.

Christopher Ryan

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Christopher Ryan
Christopher Ryan is CEO of Fusion Marketing Partners, a B2B marketing consulting firm and interim/fractional CMO. He blogs at Great B2B Marketing and you can follow him at Google+. Chris has 25 years of marketing, technology, and senior management experience. As a marketing executive and services provider, Chris has created and executed numerous programs that build market awareness, drive lead generation and increase revenue.


  1. So what are some good techniques to avoid the FTFU trap?

    I think we’re all sometimes guilty of failing to follow-up. It’s ironic that we spend so much time and effort to get the lead and then things break down with a timely follow-up.

  2. Myron,

    Agree with you completely. Most companies are indeed occasionally guilty of a failure to follow up. However, if this becomes the norm, this can be extremely damaging to marketing and sales results.

  3. Most company senior management doesn’t know about their FTFU issue. The salespeople go silently about their work, making bad choices because no one has taught them territory management. No one has given them Business Rules which say all inquiries must be followed-up. Salesd managers want to make quota but don’t realize thier salespeople are flushing opporunties down the toilet. Marketing might have to prove the ROI if follow-up is high enough. This isn’t a small probelm, its a billion (x10 issue)in lost sales opportunties and wasted marketing spending.

  4. Jim,

    Your comments are right on target. And I like the analogy you used of flushing opportunities down the toilet, because this is exactly what is happening. Failure to follow up is a serious revenue-draining problem for both large and small companies and as you suggest, senior management is often completely unaware. In this case, ignorance is not bliss.


  5. I was so happy to see this article as an independent contractor working out of a low population area it seemed to me that perhaps I had been red-lined but after some followup I discovered that almost no one gets calls or e mails back…well maybe Bill Gates. And certainly not in a timely manner. Is this a factor of too much contact through e mail and social networking that some inquiries get slighted? Rudeness? or just not having a desire or the training to followup? Recently I tried to hire a contractor that had been recommended and after two calls five days apart and no response I hired someone else. Well the contractor then called 12 days after my initial message and said the original message had not been passed on to him by the office. Well whatever the reason they lost the job. I receive hundreds of e mails everyday on several business sites and try to follow up with at least a short, “will get back to you” if not the complete answer. I need to make the sale.

  6. Mary, thank you so much for adding to the discussion. What you are describing is exactly what James Obermayer described as “flushing opportunities down the toilet.” You have had the failure to follow-up experience with contractors, I have had it with guitar instructors, virtually everyone has had their own version of FTFU. Whether it is caused by incompetence, rudeness or poor systems, FTFU leads to buyer frustration and seller lost business. Many CEOs would be shocked to discover that their expensive leads are not being contacted in a timely manner.

    Chris Ryan

  7. General email blasts and direct mail pieces may be important components of your marketing strategy, but more personal, informal communications can be an extremely effective way to build relationships and generate repeat sales.


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