At times, it can be difficult to know what the shelf life of an inbound marketing lead is. When do you give that lead a call, and when do you leave him or her alone to digest the information they already have? The short answer is, as with so many other things, it depends. Depends on what, though? Let’s find out.
Look at Your Sales Funnel
Top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, and bottom of the funnel leads all have different purchasing timelines, so knowing when to follow up – and when to back away – is critical.(Side note: if you’re not sure what a sales funnel is,here’s a good explanation.) Here are a few rules of thumb for your different types of leads.
Top of the funnel leads (ToFu for short) are people who have subscribed to your blog, signed up for a newsletter, or downloaded an e-book. They need handling with kid gloves. They may not be interested in talking about an actual salesperson just yet – they’re in the information-gathering stages of their decision-making journey and need to know the company they’re investigating is trustworthy and has expertise in the matter. These leads do best with education-focused communication via email – and very tentative phone communications within 30 days of their inquiries. Companies benefit from having lead nurturing schedules for these top-of-the-funnel leads that ensures communication every 15 to 30 days, to educate the prospect, demonstrate their quality, and keep the company in the prospect’s mind. At this point, focus on educational subject matter that helps the prospect with their job or personal life in some way. Avoid the “hard sell” – it will likely do more harm than good at this point.
Middle of the funnel leads (MoFu) are interested in more product-focused content. They’re attending webinars and looking at specific service or product descriptions as they narrow their research, but they haven’t requested to talk to sales yet. These leads also need to be handled with care – they’re still investigating, just honing in on what they want and what will meet their needs. For them, companies will want to follow up to inquire if they’re interested in discussing business within a couple days of the prospect downloading information or attending a webinar. After two or three days, a gentle sales rep needs to call, thank the prospect for downloading or attending, and ask for feedback to see if the prospect wants to discuss any possible transactions further, or would rather continue their investigation on their own.
Bottom of the funnel leads are ready and waiting to talk to sales! They have requested a consultation or demonstration, and want to talk about buying the company’s products or services. These leads want to talk to you, so a fast response is crucial. Inquiries like this need a response within 24 hours – even better, in fact, is responding in 60 minutes or less. Their timeline is short – and so is their patience. They want to talk, and it is important to get that relationship off on the right foot so they feel like the company is responsive to their needs. The customer doesn’t want to chase after a sales rep. If they don’t get a response to their inquiry, they’ll go knock on the door of your nearest competitor instead.
Not All Leads Are Equal
Each of the people considering your company are coming from different situations and have different sets of needs. Because of this, a “one size fits all” sales process won’t work. By customizing your sales follow-up based on the different parts of the sales funnel that your prospects are in, you will be better poised to connect appropriately with your prospects and more effectively lead them into converting into customers.