When Good Leads Die Young

By Lain Chroust Ehmann

Why is it that even the best leads – the ones you are certain are going to pan out – often die unexpectedly? Everything starts out great, then you look away for a moment and when you turn back the life has gone out of it, leaving it floating belly-up at the top of the tank. The reason is that sales leads have a shelf life, says Al Davidson, president of lead generation company and market research firm Strategic Sales and Marketing. “A sales lead is perishable,” says Davidson. “It doesn’t last forever.” If you let them sit around too long without the proper care and attention, they’re going to whither and die.

Davidson says the problem is what he calls decision-maker fog, the state a prospect enters when a lead times out, which happens after about eight calendar days. If you are late in reaching a lead, you miss your window of opportunity. Decision-makers have so many other demands on their time that they don’t remember who you are or why you’re calling. Voice mail messages and emails aren’t enough. You have to establish contact and keep things moving forward to the next level before the fog sets in.

Part of the root cause is that sales targets – C-level and V-level decision-makers in particular – have dramatically changed the way they work, but salespeople haven’t kept pace, says Davidson. In today’s office there are close to a dozen different communications channels for each decision-maker, everything from multiple email addresses to multiple phone lines. But salespeople are still relying on the same old tools, mainly phone and traditional mail, to reach their prospects. As a result, says Davidson, “There’s a big information gap that’s affecting salespeople’s productivity. Contact rates are really, really failing.”

To circumvent decision-maker fog and reach targets in a timely manner, Davidson recommends salespeople learn to use technology correctly. He cautions, however, that there is a balance to strike. Over-messaging – leaving multiple messages on different communications channels – can be as detrimental as neglecting your prospect. Davidson recommends making multiple efforts to get in touch, but advises, “Stay below the radar. Don’t make a footprint, showing you were there.” For example, don’t leave a message every time you call. Then you can call back repeatedly without annoying your contact with 15 separate voice mails saying the same thing.

Another mistake salespeople make is treating an expired lead the same way they treat a fresh one, says Davidson. If a lead has timed out, “salespeople need to change their approach when following up on that lead,” he says. You need to bring decision-makers back to where the lead was generated and assume there will be no recognition that you’ve spoken or prequalified them before. “Remember, if the lead has timed out, you need to back up,” Davidson says. “When we actually reach decision-makers and run the same lead generation process, we find they rarely remember the first conversation.”

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