Mar 30, 2020

Make sure your salesforce doesn’t let leads fall by the wayside

Paul Clapham examines ways to make sure your sales force doesn't let leads fall by the wayside

It has to be the ultimate salesman’s sin – wasting a lead. There are a dozen and one excuses for why it happens, but none are convincing.

What is the point of a company spending serious money enabling a salesman to get in front of a customer if he doesn’t or can’t do his part of the deal?

If the salesman can’t turn a bona fide lead into an appointment, you’ve got the wrong salesman. Tell him to write his CV. If you are generating more leads than you can handle, either stop generating or recruit another salesman (I’d suggest the latter). How good is the quality of leads you are generating? Salesmen will always say it’s poor. Sometimes they are right. Check it yourself.

Here are some horror stories from personal experience and hopefully the solution. In my first job after university there was a guy in London whose territory generated more leads than he could possibly handle. So he sold about half of them to his predecessor who had gone selfemployed. Needless to say the sales manager knew nothing about this cosy arrangement.

That was management oversight. It should have been picked up by some simple systems and very early.

Similar but different, in the same company one salesman received in one month as many leads as I had in almost the whole of the previous year. Luxury, I hear you shout. Actually, no. He picked off the lowhanging fruit and left the rest to rot.

That too was a management failure. He was relatively inexperienced and anyone could have recognised that he was destined to struggle with a glut of riches. Investing a small amount of time and money in back-up would have enabled him to do a good job for the rotting fruit.

Then there was the guy working in a company where he had to find his own leads, which was new to him. He was actually a top class salesman, but C minus at lead generation. He left early on. How come he didn’t explain the problem to his line manager - he needed some training? How come his line manager didn’t recommend it? OK there might have been some pride getting in the way – this was an experienced person. But this has got silly fail written all over it.

I would define a lead as a name and contact details provided by the person in question. I’d like it to be specific to a product or service if possible. A telephone directory is not and never was ten thousand sales leads. You may have asked for this lead, classically a referral (which, I confess, I have always been lousy at asking for).

Is someone giving you their business card a lead? It might be. If the contact says ‘call me’ or similar, it’s definitely a lead. If not, I suggest you’ve got some work in hand to turn it into a lead. Polish up the charm and get on the phone. Short and sweet is the way to go. “Hello Mark, it’s Paul Clapham. We met at the Okey Cokey launch on Tuesday. I’d like half an hour to tell you what we do. Can I suggest a beer on Monday”. You’ll get your share of knockbacks but a decent number of yeses, too.

I have heard of sales managers who rationed out leads to their team. I understand the logic in not being wasteful but boy does it tell the salesman how lowly he is thought of. I believe that the enthusiasts for this approach are now called ‘former sales managers’.

A lead is still a lead until the prospect says no. Convincing salesmen of that is hard work even when you show them all the relevant stats, some of which are eye-popping. There is no doubt that salesmen give up too soon and go on to the bright and shiny new lead. If you can change that piece of commercial culture, you are onto a winner.

Before the salesman writes an email or picks up the phone he should research this new prospect on the web. Start by filleting his website and follow up by reading his social media posts. Anyone who does that will be a mile ahead of the salesman who doesn’t and it’s a mark of politeness – it says, “I value the opportunity to meet” and, as we all know, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. It is also conceivable that within one of those social media posts lies a screamingly loud buying signal.

Finally, when the salesman gets in front of the client or is talking on the phone or emailing he may be tempted to build his pitch around statistics. It looks professional doesn’t it? The problem is, it’s ineffective. Over 60 per cent of people remember a story and a little over five per cent remember a statistic.

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