Warning: There’s a Hot Prospect Cooling Off in Your In-Box

By Heather Baldwin

If someone were to tell you they have a need for your product, have already set aside money in the budget for it and plan to make a vendor decision this quarter, would you pursue the prospect or not? It’s a trick question because while the scenario might seem to be every sales rep’s dream, the reality is that many companies don’t pursue these hot prospects. Instead, they get filed away in a box, lost on a computer system or fall through the gap between marketing and sales. In many cases, simply fixing these cracks in the sales cycle “may yield enough new business to fill the pipeline and meet even the most ambitious quotas,” says Josh Stailey, chief strategy officer at The Pursuit Group, a company that helps B2B enterprises turn more leads into sales.

Don’t believe it? Consider this: The Pursuit Group recently helped a client identify potential vendors for an enterprisewide CRM system. They narrowed the list to four top suppliers and then conducted an extended visit with each of them at an industry trade show. Afterward, two of the suppliers failed to follow up at all, one despite repeated requests. Even more surprising is the client was a high-profile company with a mid-six-figure budget for the new CRM system.

This lack of vendor responsiveness isn’t an isolated incident. One Pursuit Group customer spent six figures on a promotional campaign that generated more than 1,500 responses. Yet it could document contact with just 37 of the customers who responded. Stailey recalls another organization that put on a series of road shows in large cities to showcase their latest products for customers and prospects. Each show generated several hundred inquires for follow up. “The client volunteered that he had the cards from their latest show in a box under his desk…all 650 interested customers and prospects. By then, the show was four months past,” says Stailey.

Failure to follow up on the opportunities already generated by a company’s existing marketing and business development programs is pervasive. Several recent studies have found that as many as 80% of leads generated by marketing programs are never followed up on by sales. So if you’re wondering how to make your numbers this quarter, the fact is you probably have enough hot prospects already in your system – and a timely response to their inquiries might be enough to set you far apart from the competition. Here are some tips to help you find those hot prospects and ensure new ones don’t fall through the same cracks in the system.

1. Dissect the various stages of your sales cycle. “You probably will find more than you bargained for – and a lot of new ways to get quick results with a relatively small investment,” says Stailey. For example, Stailey often finds companies haven’t clearly differentiated between a lead and a sales-ready lead. So salespeople spend time with prospects who aren’t ready to buy and then drop them – with no system in place to catch these leads later when they are ready to buy.

2. When you do find big cracks in the system, find out why they exist before you do anything about them. “Rushing resources in to fill the crack might just open a new crack somewhere else,” Stailey cautions. “There’s a good chance your front-line salespeople already know something you don’t about this point in the sales cycle. Learn from them before you change anything.”

3. Bring marketing and sales together for a heart-to-heart talk. It might be painful, but you should be able to fix a range of problems. Some of the most common include the fact that sales doesn’t know when marketing is launching a new campaign until it’s too late and marketing doesn’t know how sales uses (or doesn’t use) their sales support tools or what they really need to sell more effectively.

Want more ideas? Visit www.thepursuitgroup.com.