Is Your Lead Management System a Lead Destruction System?

Are you inadvertently losing inbound leads because of your internal systems and organizational structure? Is your attempt to control lead management to your various channel members so rigid and formalized that leads are not being managed in a timely and efficient manner? Does everyone in the organization know how important an inquiry or a lead is to the organization? Does everyone know what they should do if they are approached by a potential customer?

Here are some real -life “horror stories that demonstrate that several organizations have some significant work to do in their management of inbound leads.

Scenario 1: A sales representative calls the President of a $10M company that he knows very well and does business with and leaves a voice mail that says “Hi John this is XXX calling from XYZ company. Based on our conversation last week I have a client that I believe could use your services. Before I put him in touch with you or one of your representatives I need to ask you one specific technical question to ensure there is a good fit. Would you please call me back or have one of your subordinates call me? I think this could be a significant revenue opportunity for your firm.”

There was no response. Did the CEO not think it was his job to respond (he was promoted from being Vice President of Sales)? Did he delegate it to someone else who failed to respond? Were other factors involved? If you’re like us you might be wondering what did the sales representative do. He did nothing. He did not follow-up with the CEO because he didn’t want to jeopardize his existing relationship or future business. Whether that was a prudent decision is a topic for another blog but the point is there was no response from a company representative to a potential lead with significant revenue.

Scenario 2: The sales representative had a LinkedIn connection and good working relationship with the New Business Development Director of a mid-sized firm we will call ACME. He sent an e-mail that read “Hi XXX: I may have a client for you but need to ask you a few questions. Can we setup a brief call?”

There was no response to the e-mail so the sales representative verified in another way that it was a good lead for ACME. Because of the lack of response from ACME he referred his client to a competitor of ACME’s who closed a deal for $100,000. At a 50% gross margin, this was a large opportunity loss for ACME.

Scenario 3: A prospect called into the company and was transferred to an inside sales representative. She talked to the prospect, answered some basic questions and told the prospect he would have a company manager contact her. The manager wanted to get this local sales representative on the call so he contacted him first to ascertain his availability. It took four days before the prospect was called back. The prospect decided to seek another vendor that was more timely and responsive. The lost opportunity was for $25,000-$50,000 but the lifetime sales loss is much higher.

Scenario 4: This is a variation of Scenario 3. A prospect (vice president) called into a company asking for some specific information and for a sales representative to contact him. He was given to an inside sales representative who talked to the prospect, answered some basic questions and, during the conversation, he checked the CRM for the name of the outside sales representative in whose territory she was located. After the call, he followed the company’s internal protocol. He sent the lead to his manager for approval for dispersion to the sales representative. He was given approval by his manager but reminded that the lead had to go first to the region manager who managed the sales representative. He did so. The region manager was traveling and inadvertently lost the lead. Over a month went by before it was realized that no one had gotten back to the prospect. After several e-mails to the vice president (prospect) from different company personnel they realized the vice president wasn’t going to respond. The moment had been lost. Although the vice president represented a small division and a small sales opportunity for the company he is part of a $1B dollar organization. The opportunity cost that was lost is huge.

Parting Thoughts

Lead generation is tough. Organizations spend an inordinate amount of money and effort to generate leads for their sales force. As an example, they use social media, blogs, white papers, podcasts, webcasts, videos, advertising, news releases, trade shows and other activities. Organizations would be wise to review how inbound leads are being handled within their organization. The process must be timely, seamless and flawless. Organizations might be surprised to find there are some significant gaps. Prospects have no patience for delays in getting back to them. They have alternatives and are not afraid to exercise them.

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