The Senseless Death of a Sales Lead

The Senseless Death of a Sales Lead

Sales leads are perishable commodities. From our national survey of kitchen and bath dealers, we also know that the number one concern on dealers’ minds is lead generation. Nobody is disputing on either the brand or dealer side. So why is this such a difficult issue to resolve? Brands are invested in sending sales leads to dealers.

So why do so many sales leads suffer a senseless demise, expiring before dealers can take advantage of them?

It isn’t because brands aren’t generating leads. It’s because brands fail to adequately define leads, or sales and marketing fail to communicate, or systems lack the ability to quickly deliver leads. The end result is the same: Leads die.

Consumers don’t care. At worst, they write off brands. At best, they buy other brands. It’s a lose-lose scenario for everyone.

Let’s start with a definition of a sales lead. The one I use is simple: A consumer that has expressed an interest in a product or service–an interest. They don’t necessarily have the means to buy, and they may not be ready to talk to a brand or dealer. But they are interested.

Brands and dealers often get this wrong. They assume that interest is an indicator that the consumer is ready to purchase. I view leads on a continuum, from mildly curious to ready to buy. The right response to a lead depends on where the consumer is on that continuum.

Let’s look at two examples:

A customer who is curious may fill out a contact form and provide an email address and name, but will probably lose interest if they have to give a phone number. The fastest way to pour cold water on a new relationship is to be too needy, too quickly. Make the information available to them and give them an opportunity to make the next move. Direct them to a showroom, or other relevant content.

Customers with more urgent needs may pick up the phone and call, and they may provide a phone number. They may expect the automated response, but they will also expect a person to follow up. Ideally the first automated response will have two things; the name of the person who will be calling and the timeframe in which they will respond.

But, for both types of leads there are two traps that brands often fall into.

Death by bureaucracy

We all have good intentions. But intentions are only as good as the processes that follow from them. We’ve all read web site copy that says, someone will be in touch with you within ______ hours. And we’ve all been let down by that promise.

Intentions may have been good, but human-designed processes fail. Perhaps sales leads have to be routed through a sales manager who is prone to deliberate about who should receive them. Or there’s turnover of marketing automation staff, and no one notices that leads are being captured, and held hostage by the system. Or perhaps the flow of leads ceases while dealer territories are being realigned.

Whatever the reason, consumers go elsewhere.

Death by zip code

Speaking of dealer territories, this is one of the worst criteria for distributing leads. Sending consumers to a terrible dealer, simply because it is the closest dealer, is like lighting leads on fire. If the closest dealer fails to follow up or provides a terrible experience, their reputation suffers. And so does the brand’s.

Bad service taints everyone who is responsible.

Three ways to avoid killing leads

So what are brands to do? Here are our three top tips:

  1. Eliminate bureaucracy. Create a simple path between leads and the people responsible for following up. And recognize that an acceptable timeframe for response for corporate marketing and sales is not the same as the real-time world of responding to leads. When the lead is submitted, the clock is ticking. Every minute you wait you lose the chance of converting the lead to a sale.
  2. Send leads to dealers based on merit, not geography. Often, responsiveness, product availability and other criteria matter more to consumers than the proximity of dealers. That’s not fair? Remember, coffee is for closers.
  3. Prequalify leads. Rather than treating all leads as equal, ask prospects questions that will tell you how to respond. Here, it’s important to listen. Give prospects what they want, with an opportunity to ask for more. They will find that unsubscribe button pretty quickly if you start blowing up their in inbox.

Leads don’t have to die untimely deaths. The solution isn’t radical; it’s reminding yourself that consumers are in control, and it’s in your best interest to quickly send them to the dealer best capable of addressing their specific interests. Do that, and leads will not only flourish, they’ll turn into sales.