First of all, this is not an issue of integrity
Salespeople are typically the people that you trust and with good reason. Most have a lot of integrity and treat their jobs very professionally. If it's not integrity, what is it?
A salesperson is typically a very honest, hardworking, conscientious employee. You can always count on your top people to hit sales target. In fact, these salespeople may be so good that you trust they are following up on all their leads effectively. Sorry. This is typically not true.
But, there's your opportunity. And it could mean big money.
The problem is a lead management issue. My personal experience working with many multi-channel B2B companies tells me that approximately 50% of all leads never receive proper follow up activity. In fact, most of this 50% are never contacted! How much more money would your business make if all leads were contacted the right amount of times. How many more closes?
Now, consider this; follow up activity is even lower if leads are not qualified before being sent to sales. Sales people need to feel it is worth their time to contact these businesses.
3 personal opinions based on experience - This knowledge is very key
1) The top sales rep is usually not the top lead converter. Typically, that individual has plenty of activity and will work the leads if there is time. There is rarely enough time to effectively follow up on new leads. The same goes with several other salespeople.
2) The top lead closer(s) may not be a sales leader in the top 20% of achievers vs sales target. How is this possible? The top sales people are typically well rounded individuals who have a disciplined and effective approach for the entire sales cycle. They are usually very effective with prospecting activity as well, which isn't necessary for a lead management program. The top sales people may not take the time to work these leads, since they have a successful process in place. Or, they may not possess the organizational or closing skills.
3) The top lead closer(s) is usually a very organized person or a strong closer; or both. Both is ideal, but rare. However, you can train a person to improve upon either of these skills. Organization and effort managing each good lead to a decision is the key. Closing is obviously a key.
If you consider my 3 points above...and you believe them, you may find the opportunity to convert one of your low producers into a top producing lead converter. I've done it many times. That's right, we've actually found low sales producers who are great at closing leads. They are typically very conscientious and organized individuals; like a customer service person with closing skills. In essence, we saved a marginal employee's job and turned them into a highly productive contributor. Good for all of us.
Sales people can be trained to close and they can be trained to become more organized with lead management.
Looking to sell more at a lower cost?
You can actually grow sales, while spending less money on lead generation.
Most B2B companies do not need to spend more money on lead generation. In fact, many companies can spend less money on lead generation, while closing more leads! It's not how many leads you acquire, it's all about identifying the leads with the best chance of closing and insuring that these leads get maximum effort.
Extra: Did you know that companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost. (Source: Forrester Research)*
You already have a lead management plan
If your business already has an effective lead management plan, then you most likely experienced a rapid and dramatic improvement in converting leads to sales, which showed up in your first year results. Your second year results also got a significant boost. You are probably scoring or nurturing leads and primarily sending qualified leads (from all channels) to the sales team, and developing an alternative channel contact plan for the less qualified or lower value leads. You also built a solid management and reporting plan that assigns accountability to every one of these potential sales and tracks that lead to a result. Perhaps you're even progressive enough to share relevant data with the marketing team to help improve overall company performance.
You don't have a lead management plan (yet)
If your business does not have an established lead management plan, get excited! You are one of many B2B companies with a great opportunity to increase sales, while lowering selling costs! The first year returns from an effective plan can contribute substantial sales and profit growth from this initiative. The second year can produce solid incremental contribution. By year 3, you can expect continued, but more nominal growth, as you are now chasing prior year results from in a more mature program.
Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars or Even Millions of Dollars
I've run a few sales and marketing departments with decent size advertising budgets and call centers and consulted with several others. My employers made 10's of millions of dollars in incremental sales from enhanced lead management programs. I currently have consulting clients who are realizing hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of dollars in income simply by installing one of my lead plans.
What to do
1. Audit your leads focusing on the most valuable ones - do you have a scoring system to rank the best types of leads sorted down to the least valuable leads? For example, quotes are usually top opportunities. So, are call in requests for information vs. email requests. If you already have a scoring system in place, that makes it simpler.
2. Audit your most valuable leads for adequate follow up. Were they contacted? If so, was there a presentation? Was there a decision? All leads should have a decision or final outcome. If you've never done this, you'll find lots of opportunity to boost your sales results with more effective follow up. So, cheers to that.
3. If you see room for improvement in your lead follow up, and you will; initiate a system that insures that your company's leads get the proper investment in follow up activity, starting with the most valuable leads. The most valuable leads typically get follow up by salespeople. Other leads may not be worth the many phone calls associated with initiating contact, so they might just receive mail and email, while others get email only.
4. Make this process a habit, or better yet; get some help by an expert to help you through it. This expert should know exactly how to put a program in place. That will insure fast realization of major incremental income for your company.
Good for small or large companies.
I've been a small business owner and a Fortune 1000 sales and marketing management executive. My personal experiences tell me that this strategy can have the same impact, proportionately, for a small business as it would have for a large company with a call center. Happy selling!