Here are several excerpts from an excellent article by David Tabor, CRM Tips: Don’t Let Leads Die Prematurely:
Most leads are declared dead too early. Many a sales rep will give up on a lead after a couple of e-mails or phone calls. All too often, reps don’t even go that far, declaring leads as unqualified without even having a conversation with the individuals. The irony here is that the reps will scream for more leads after having preemptively dropped 70 percent or more of the leads that were presented to them.
But database marketers know better, and have the measurements to prove that more than half the revenue flow can come from leads that are more than 9 months old. Of the leads that are rejected by Sales, industry data shows that 60 to 80 percent of them will buy something from somebody within the next year. Unfortunately, if your CRM system effectively throws away “dead” leads, those purchases will be going to your competitors.
Why does this occur?
In many markets, prospects have a very long inquiry and research phase that precedes their actual purchase cycle by many months.
The solution is to treat every lead as the beginning (or update) of a customer relationship. Leads shouldn’t be treated as a one-shot go/no-go on your company. Use your CRM system’s campaigns feature, Website cookies, and deduping software to put all of a lead’s touchpoints and responses in a unified lead (or contact) record. Use lead scoring features to help reps prioritize which leads the reps pay attention to, and make sure that the algorithms account for explicit (profile) scores, implicit (behavioral) scores, and decay (time-sensitive) factors.
Perhaps most important, set up a database flag (using record types, queues, ownership, or other CRM mechanism) for the “dead” leads. This is the core of your remarketing database, which drives the ongoing lead-nurturing process.
Lead-nurturing systems are typically separate from the CRM system but the two must be tightly integrated. The remarketing database is invisible to the sales team, but will continue to generate new responses from leads that are over a year old. The moment a lead takes new action indicating serious interest (e.g., registering for a trial account), the lead scoring system instantly bumps him/her up to active lead status that is visible to the sales reps.
Of course, the reps may rapidly disqualify the lead again — that’s their prerogative. But the CRM system needs to be set up to keep the relationship going essentially forever. Forever here is defined as “until their contact information is no longer valid” or “until they unsubscribe.” If your lead-nurturing information is sufficiently interesting and relevant to the audience, you’ll have a surprisingly few unsubscribes.
This article has talked about the need to attend to leads over long periods. That’s where lead-gen profitability comes from. But there is a twin challenge: responding quickly enough to leads before they go cold. It is almost impossible to be too quick in responding to a lead, and recent studies by Professor James Oldroyd of MIT indicate that lead response rates drop dramatically within minutes of a Web registration. Providing a professional response to a lead in near real time really sets companies apart. Statistics show that a prospect’s attention moves on to other things very soon, and the vast majority of Web site visitors will have no recollection of a company within 48 hours of visiting its site.
So it’s imperative that leads make it into the CRM system and that a drip marketing sequence starts the same day. This requires important changes in lead cleansing, deduping, and importing processes, plus setting up SLAs between the marketing events, marketing, telesales, and sales teams (including reports that show SLA metrics). Even if no sales rep has time to get back to a lead for 3 days, a relevant and informative series of “drip” emails (that pretend to come from a pre-sales person) keep the lead informed and motivated so they don’t go cold.