Sales Lead Follow Up: How to Respond Faster and More Effectively

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How can you improve lead follow up? Understand the data behind your sales. Here are core steps to start taking today. Develop and optimize a sales cadence. Minimize time not spent selling. Set expectations and communicate results. Leverage technology to facilitate better selling.

It’s a jungle out there for both you and your potential buyers. Consider these insane stats:

  • Emails sent and received in 2017 were estimated to reach 269 billion by year-end and reach 319.6 billion in 2021.
  • SMS text messages reached 781 billion per month as of June 2017.
  • Robocalls, even though illegal in many cases, rose to 30.5 billion in 2017.

Top that off with legitimate phone calls, tons of social media messages, online ads, and other forms of communication, digital distractions, meetings, coworker interruptions, and the hectic pace of just life in general.

With all these things going on in a typical day, having a quick and effective lead follow up process can be challenging. Actually connecting with a lead makes selling even more daunting.

If you continue to approach your potential customers with the same old contact methods from ten years ago — even five years ago — your competitors will leave your sales team in the dust. Today’s selling takes persistence, speed, and an omnichannel approach to connecting with buyers.

Let’s review some ways you can improve your sales development reps’ (SDRs) lead follow up to increase positive sales outcomes.

If you continue to approach your potential customers with the same old contact methods from ten years ago -- even five years ago -- your competitors will leave your sales team in the dust. #SalesEngagement Click To Tweet

First, Let’s Look at the Data

The Sales Engagement Best Practices: a Study of 130,000,000 Sales Interactions conducted by the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa sheds light on critical areas of sales follow up and busts some commonly held sales myths.

  • Don’t focus on “the perfect time” to engage. Engage every day throughout the day. Telfer found that all business days and business times have a similar response ratio from leads.
  • Attempt to increase call duration through quality conversations. Telfer’s findings suggest that for every minute increase in call duration, odds of success with a lead increase 6x.
  • Respond to leads quickly, but not too quickly. Don’t believe the hype about the need to call within the first five minutes. You need to reach out to your lead within the first ten-to-60 minutes to be the most effective. Too fast, and you’re creepy. Too slow, and you look like you don’t care.
  • Be persistent. You need to make between five and 12 follow-up attempts to close a sale.
  • Focus on quality engagement and don’t rely on volume alone. Still believe that making more calls delivers more sales? Well, that’s just plain BS, by which I mean “bad salesmanship,” of course. The best performers make 50-to-60 strategic calls per day.

Apply the Findings to Your Sales Process

Now that you know what successful sales reps are doing, it’s time to apply those lessons to your own sales process to improve your lead response time. Here are a few critical places to start.

Develop and Optimize Your Sales Cadence

The right sales cadence contact elements should come together to help you meet your prospects where they spend their time and prefer to be contacted. You may not always know their preferences. You do, however, know just how clogged each channel can be. Develop a cadence that combines the right touch points for your audience. Include phone calls, voicemail, and email. Experiment with social selling, website chat, and other messaging apps. When you cover a variety of channels, you increase your odds of connecting.

Mixing it up with your touch points isn’t enough on its own. You also need to refine your sales cadence timing and frequency. Using the findings from the Telfer study, you should focus on creating a front-loaded sales cadence to deliver a strong presence up front.

Minimize Time Not Dedicated to Selling

As a sales leader, find ways to remove some of the administrative burdens and office distractions. Every moment you can free your SDRs from meetings or admin tasks, you give them more time to respond to important inbound leads. You provide more freedom to plan for and make those 50-to-60 strategic contacts per day. You grant them the opportunity to spend more quality time engaging to move the lead closer to a sale.

Set Expectations and Communicate Results

If you take the time to create an optimized sales cadence, you will have a foundation to work from when it comes to setting and communicating expectations. However, it’s not enough to simply create a sales cadence and walk away. You have to ensure your team knows that the cadence isn’t just mere suggestion or idea to use if they like. The sales cadence you formulate should be used as a best practice.

Outline your expectations and measure your team’s ability to meet the required follow-up time for new leads, follow-up frequency, and other procedures you put in place. Let your team know that you will be monitoring adherence to procedures. Share success stories — especially if these are new procedures — to let the team see how well the process can work.

Leverage Technology to Facilitate Better Selling

There are several solutions that your team should have access to if you want to improve your lead follow up process. Here are a few to consider adding:

  • Social selling software — with the right social selling software, your SDRs can quickly research prospects to gain insights that will help them either connect via social or have a warmer conversation over the phone.
  • Social listening tools — programs that aggregate conversations based on keywords or other criteria help sales reps quickly identify opportunities for connecting with potential buyers.
  • Marketing automation software — data captured in marketing automation software can be useful to sales reps before they make an initial or follow-up call. Reps can see pages the contact has visited, content downloaded, videos watched, and more. This behavior tracking information can help SDRs have more focused, personalized conversations leading to more effective time on the phone.
  • Sales engagement software — sales engagement platforms bridge the gap between marketing automation and traditional CRM by empowering the individual rep to easily and quickly engage with the next-best lead based on data captured via marketing automation and guided by criteria-based, automated workflows.
#CRM alone is not enough to take selling to the next level when it comes to efficiency and effectiveness. #SDRs need to engage with prospects and leads. #SalesEngagement Click To Tweet

What about CRM? CRM has its place in the enterprise. After all, it’s your customer relationship management software. Crucial historical data is captured for future review by a variety of departments, including sales. However, CRM alone is not enough to take selling to the next level when it comes to efficiency and effectiveness. Sales development reps need to engage with prospects and leads.

Your team needs a queue-based sales engagement platform that maximizes your deal flow and automates your sales cadence. Solutions like VanillaSoft keep your sales team busy and focused on engagement and revenue growth thanks to:

Guided Selling Tools:

  • Scripting
  • Automated lead routing
  • Sales cadence management
  • Lead and sales tracking

Integrated Communications Tools:

  • Email
  • Phone /VoIP
  • Auto-dialing
  • SMS text
  • Call recording
  • Group conferencing

Content Management:

  • Content or document library
  • Templates that allow personalization

Remember, it’s a jungle out there for you and your buyers. You’re both faced with an onslaught of information. You’ve got to change up your approach. That means removing distractions and antiquated tasks, delegating admin tasks to assistants, meeting leads where and how they want to be reached, and leveraging technology to improve your productivity.


Darryl Praill

Darryl Praill, Chief Marketing Officer of VanillaSoft, is a high-tech marketing executive with over 25 years’ experience spanning startups, re-starts, consolidations, acquisitions, divestments and IPO’s. He has been widely quoted in the media including television, press, and trade publications. He is a guest lecturer, public speaker, and radio personality and has been featured in numerous podcasts, case studies, and best-selling books.

Praill is a former recipient of the coveted Forty Under 40 Award, and has held senior executive roles in leading companies including Sybase, Cognos (now IBM), webPLAN (now Kinaxis), and CML Emergency Services (now AIRBUS). He has raised over $50 million in venture funding across multiple organizations and consulted with world-class corporations including Salesforce, SAP, and Nielsen. He is a Computer Science graduate from Sheridan College.

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