What Your Sales Team Can Learn from the Fortune 100


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If you compete with the Fortune 100 for new business, the odds may be in your favor.

Fortune 100 companies have the highest revenues in America, and they are often regarded as examples to follow for business best practices. But what if I told you that the sales team of a Fortune 100 company won’t even bother to return your call a third of the time?

Velocify recently wrapped up a secret shopper exercise with 62* companies in the Fortune 100 – filling out online lead forms and evaluating how quickly each company responded by phone and email, how many contact attempts they made and at what intervals. What we found was that an alarming one-third of online buyers didn’t receive a phone call, another third received no response by email, and a shocking 12 percent received no response of any kind from the Fortune 100.

These figures are even more surprising when you look at the amount of money U.S.-based businesses allocate toward digital marketing, a large portion of which helps companies generate online leads. According to Gartner, digital marketing budgets totaled 2.5 percent of company revenue on average in 2013, or $25 million for every $1 billion in revenue. That’s more than $191 billion spent on digital marketing by this group last year.

As companies continue to look for every possible edge to drive increased revenue, it is surprising to see how much is spent to generate leads and how little is spent to optimize response to and conversion of those leads.

In previous industry and Velocify research, we found the highest correlation to conversion around the following disciplines: (1) Respond fast by phone and email, and (2) Persist in follow-up appropriately (and likely more than your sales organization is attempting today). Let’s walk through each component of what we call the Ultimate Contact Strategy and see how these Fortune 100 companies fared against best practices.

1. Respond Fast
In our Fortune 100 study, the average wait time for a phone call in response to a submitted online sales contact form was an astounding 3.5 days among the 62 Fortune 100 companies included in the study. Imagine going to your dry cleaners to drop off clothes and seeing a sign that said, “We’ll be back in 3.5 days.” You would most certainly not come back in 3.5 days – or probably ever for that matter – happy to take your business down the street.

What’s more, previous Velocify research has found that attempting to contact a lead by phone within one minute of a web inquiry submission increases the likelihood of that lead converting into a paying customer by 391 percent.

While the average email response time of the Fortune 100 was faster than response by phone, with nearly 35 percent of leads receiving an email response in under an hour, there is still considerable room for improvement with a process that is so easily automated and requires little effort to establish.

2. Persist Appropriately (More)
Among the Fortune 100, only 10 percent of leads received close to the optimal number of follow-up calls, which previous Velocify research has found to be between five and seven attempts.

As a potential customer of a Fortune 100 company, how does it feel to be completely ignored? Well, it doesn’t make you feel warm and fuzzy about the brand, that’s for sure. Unfortunately, if you give these companies the benefit of the doubt and fill in their online contact form again, you’ll likely experience the same thing. We entered quite a few leads at different times on each site. The companies that ignored these inquiries were consistent in their policy of complete apathy to a potential customer’s wish to be contacted.

Sadly, our study of the Fortune 100 confirms what our previous secret shopper research of many other smaller companies has found. Most companies give up after just one or two contact attempts to a potential customer. This means there is considerable opportunity for sales reps to continue to persist after other competitors have stopped trying, as statistically only about half of the number of sales deals that are closed are with leads that were contactable on the first or second phone call.

The good news is that if you are a salesperson or manage a company that relies on its sales team to close business (I think that’s most companies, right?), then you can probably run circles around your competitors, even behemoths like the Fortune 100, by simply following a consistent, optimized contact strategy. Call quickly, be appropriately persistent with your leads and eventually there may even be a spot on the Fortune 100 for you. Apparently some of the current Fortune 100 don’t want theirs!

The full Fortune 100 study is available for download on our website at www.velocify.com/F100. Individual reports of the companies studied are available to representatives of those companies by request.

* The remaining 38 didn’t have a web form on their site to get in contact with them. Pretty surprising in itself in this day and age when everything starts on the Internet.

Nick Hedges
Nick Hedges is a 15 year veteran of the Internet and SaaS industries, has spent the last five years helping organizations accelerate sales performance, and is currently President and CEO at Velocify. Nick is a Fulbright Scholar, holds an MBA with Distinction from Harvard and a bachelor's from Manchester University.


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