Even if business is going great, you can always use more leads. Unfortunately, just getting the leads isn’t always enough. You also need to keep them engaged, and nurture them through the funnel. What is a lead who doesn’t end up making a purchase? Just another useless name in your database. We’ve spoken about lead nurturing before, and today we’re going to cover some lead follow-up best practices to help you keep your leads engaged.
What is Lead Follow-Up?
No matter how successful your lead generation efforts are – if those leads don’t convert, then it’s all in vain. Unfortunately, that happens more often than not – often because of poor follow-up and nurturing practices. Those two concepts, lead nurturing and follow-up, are similar but not the same. They are both focussed on a prospect’s needs as they travel through the funnel.
Lead nurturing is designed to help you build a relationship with a prospect, and gain their trust by responding to their expectations and concerns.
Follow-up is all about keeping in contact with your leads after their first exposure to your brand. Follow-up is all about staying top-of-mind and making sure they don’t forget about you. This can be done through phone calls, emails or social media.
For both of these things, you need to learn about your prospects’ problems and needs, as well as their communication preferences and their personality in general. This means that lead follow-up isn’t the easiest of tasks. It requires time and dedication, but it remains an essential part of your sales strategy. Without following these lead follow-up best practices, you’ll probably end up missing a significant portion of your potential sales.
Why Proper Lead Follow-Up is Important
As we’ve already mentioned, consistently following up with your leads is key to improving the ROI of your lead generation efforts. This is important to remember, especially when you consider that most sales people give up on a lead after following up with them only once or twice.
With timely follow-up, you’re able to more easily guide prospects through the sales funnel. You can link them to informative articles and blog posts during the awareness stage, or send through case studies and benchmark reports when they’re nearing their final decision.
Consistently following up with leads allows them to feel appreciated. This, in turn, builds stronger and more lasting relationships. Additionally, every follow-up with a prospect teaches you something new about them. This information is crucial for tailoring your strategy, and engaging with them – and prospects similar to them – more effectively in future.
Lead Follow-Up Worst Practices (is that a thing?)
Before we get into the dos of lead follow-up, let’s get into the don’ts.
One of the absolute worst practices of lead follow-up is making use of outdated follow-up sequences. They usually look a little something like this:
- Signing them up to a drip feed of informative content, hoping that something will resonate with them
- Trying to stay on their radar by sending through educational content
- Trying to hook them with biased calls to action.
Especially when working with B2B clients, this kind of follow-up sequence is, more often than not, doomed to failure. While educating, engaging and staying on a prospects radar are all good things, you’re definitely not the only company on their radar. You’re also not the only one educating them and engaging with them.
So what can you do?
Start a conversation.
Lately, prospects are starting to respond less and less to targeted calls to action. They are becoming desensitised to biased forms of copywriting. The goal is to start a neutral conversation, with a message that provokes some thought about their current challenges without trying to sell them on your solution.
Especially if your business has a long sales cycle, the earlier you get into a conversation the better. If you start speaking to prospects early on in the relationship, you’re allowing yourself to gain more information. You also position yourself as a guide, which adds value.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.
Lead Follow-Up Best Practices for B2B
Hopefully it’s become clear that you need to implement an effective lead follow-up strategy. To help you build that strategy, we’ve laid out a few lead follow-up best practices to help you achieve your goals.
Follow-Up Through Multiple Channels
There are an endless number of ways you can follow up with your leads – an endless variety of options. You can phone them, email them, meet up with them at industry events, or even text them. You can even make use of social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook to stay in touch.
If they’re posting about you or interacting with your posts, you can respond to their comments, like their posts or even send them a direct message. When following up with social media, just make sure you’re sticking to the platforms they’re active on. It won’t help anybody if they’re interacting with your posts on Facebook and you send them a DM on Twitter.
Another important thing to remember is not to encroach on their personal lives. Even if they’re interacting with your business on Facebook and Instagram, don’t start ‘liking’ their family photos.
While this is a list of best practices, there is no best practice for the ideal time or method for contacting a prospect. Each one has their own communication preferences, times they’re most active and channels they frequent. While some prospects may prefer to discuss business over the phone, others will be more comfortable with email. Still others might actually prefer LinkedIn direct messages.
Your follow-up strategy will need to be personalised to each of the prospects you’re reaching out to.
Even so, some may not ever respond, despite all your best efforts. They might have chosen to go with another business, or they’re still undecided. Though you shouldn’t abandon leads too soon, knowing when to cut your losses is important. Intent data and lead scoring can be extremely helpful in this case.
Emailing isn’t Enough. Give Them a Call
Much business nowadays is conducted over email. Email is a great tool for following up with multiple leads at once.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t still a place for phone calls. In fact, lead follow-up best practice is to make use of both, along with a bit of social media interaction. By combining these methods, you’ll notice much higher response rates than if you had used only one channel.
Ideally, you should email a contact first, confirming that they are indeed a worthwhile lead, and begin the nurturing process. Phone calls can be used for deeper engagement. With a phone call, you have the prospects’ complete attention. Unfortunately, there is a chance that may choose to just not take your call at all, or cut you off before you can begin your spiel. If they don’t answer, you can always leave a voicemail, and hope that they don’t try to call you back when you’re not available.
While emails can be read and responded to at any time, there is always a chance that they could get lost in a prospects’ inbox. Especially in a B2B environment, inboxes are busy places. If your prospect is having an extremely busy day, there’s always a chance that your carefully crafted email could end up in the trash.
Use Sales Cadences
Sales cadences are an effective strategy for streamlining your follow-up efforts. Defining contact methods, frequency and timing, the system allows you to organise a follow-up timeline. While you don’t have to contact people every day, your touch points should include social media, emails and phone calls, as we’ve already discussed.
An example of this would be:
First day: You send an email
Third day: You make a phone call and follow up with email
Fifth day: You follow up on LinkedIn
Your sales cycle will determine the length of your sales cadence, while it’s structure will be dependent on the size of your sales team, the target company profile and your budget, etc.
Sales cadences have many advantages. They create structure and order for your follow-up strategy, and they allow repeatable results. Once your sales cadence is established, tracking and optimising your sales process becomes much easier.
Perhaps your prospects respond better to emails early on and to calls later in the follow up process. Use this knowledge to fine tune your sales cadence and process.
Have Something Meaningful To Say
The things you say during follow-up are crucial. Avoid contacting a prospect just to check in. You have to offer something meaningful.
Consider competitive sheets that show why your brand is superior. Or a piece of educational content, like a white paper, eBook or an interesting webinar that may be related to an action they’ve already taken.
Be there for your prospects. Offer them a fresh perspective on how to manage their pain points. Provide supportive information and useful advice.
Make sure you are prepared for any questions they may have. Always provide thorough answers to strengthen reliability and build trust. Don’t be afraid to take a question you can’t answer offline and follow-up later. Giving them the right answer later versus the wrong answer now is a surefire way to damage your relationship with the prospect.
All in all, lead follow-up isn’t as difficult as it is heavy on time and resources. So do your best to make things easier for your sales teams. Organize customer relationship training and invest in CRM apps to effectively manage lead interactions.
When a lead expresses interest in your products or services, do you follow up with them immediately? If so, how?
Maybe they are not ready to buy right now, because they still have to think about it. Are you reminding them consistently about your company?
The extent to which you successfully convert a lead depends on how you follow up with them. In other words, the major obstacle that stands between you and a successfully converted prospect is the task of following up with them.
Though it seems painfully obvious that you should follow up with your leads, studies actually show that nearly 50% of leads aren’t followed up. That represents a huge wasted opportunity. Even worse, a huge waste of money, because chances are that those leads came from a paid campaign.
The leads that you don’t follow up with will probably end up buying from a competitor.
Make sure that that’s not happening by implementing the following follow-up best practices:
- Make use of a CRM system to check on and follow up with every single one of your leads.
- Be responsive to all of your prospects by providing answers to their questions.
- Make sure you’re following up fast, because businesses who get in touch with their prospects within an hour of receiving the query are seven times more likely to convert their leads. This is according to the Harvard Business Review
- Automate any part of your follow-up process that you can. While you won’t be able to automate your one-on-one calls, you can still automate other things. Things like your lead nurturing email campaigns and your call scheduling.
There are also a few tools that can make the follow-up process simpler and more effective:
- FollowUp.cc to schedule your follow ups
- Olark to follow up with prospects while they browse your site
- Survicate to follow up with surveys
- Whoisvisiting to follow up with unknown website visitors
Try adding some of these lead follow-up best practices to your processes and see what kind of results you get. Remember, not every tip will work for every business. These tips can provide a good foundation to build your own personalised lead nurturing strategy, but above all, you should experiment, and see what works best for your business.