If you’re marketing your business online or offline, you know the value of a conversion from those tactics. First, it’s critical to create a lead management process for your business so that you can track and measure your lead generation activities. Then, once you have a conversion – like a phone call, email, or completed contact form – it’s important to have a process in place to manage those new prospects and convince them to do business with you. Follow these lead handling best practices to make sure you are effectively responding to new business leads.

Expedite Response Times

When you receive a lead such as a voicemail, email, or contact form submission, it’s important to follow up with the lead right away if you want to convert them into a sale. According to a study from InsideSales.com, after the first hour of a consumer contacting you, the chances of reaching a new lead are reduced by 10 times. That’s why it’s extremely important to minimize lead response times, or you may risk your potential customer turning to a competitor instead. Often, the business that responds to a lead first is the one that will win the business. So, set a policy within your business for responding to sales leads to be a priority, and set very clear requirements for the amount of time you expect inquiries to be responded to, such as within one hour or before the next business day. Whatever process you choose, communicate it clearly with all employees who respond to leads, and hold them accountable for that expectation by having them record or log response times.

Ask the Right Questions to Qualify the Lead

In order to properly qualify a sales lead, you need to ask the right questions, whether you are gathering information via a Web form or a phone call. For example, you need to know if the prospect is actively considering your products and services, or if are they just beginning their research. Questions like, “What is your budget?” “How can we help you with [problem]?” and “How soon are you looking to buy [product or service]?” will help you determine if they are in fact ready to buy from you or whether to keep them interested with a lead-nurturing program. Plus, they will help you keep track of the lead in your lead management process.  Asking the right questions will help you better understand the customer’s needs and wants, ultimately helping you close the sale.

Handle Calls with Care

You may already be recording phone calls to your business as a way to track incoming leads. But, did you know this can also provide you with feedback about your team’s call handling skills? Using call recordings to review and train employees how to handle leads when they are on the phone can be critical to your lead management process. Are your employees answering the phone or responding to voicemails in a timely fashion? Are they being cordial and respectful to the callers? In addition to providing great customer service, you should also make sure employees are answering questions completely, providing factual information about your products and services, and, most importantly, closing the sale.  For instance, providing a prospect with options like “Would you prefer a 2:00 or 3:00 appointment on Thursday?” or “Would you like the silver package or the gold package?” will help your employees turn the prospect into a customer while they are on the phone with them.

Nurture Leads That Aren’t Sales-Ready

Not every sales lead you capture will be ready to buy from you, especially after their initial contact with you. But, you can nurture these leads with informational content from your business in the form of email marketing. You can provide a mix of informational content your business has created, and content you have curated from other sites, such as links to articles or blog posts, do-it-yourself tutorials, maintenance tips, and other basic education related to your products and services to keep interested prospects engaged with your business. For instance, if you are a heating and air conditioning business, you could send an email that provides tips on keeping electricity costs down during the summer months. For “warm” leads, you could send them more promotional content about your products and services, like a discount or coupon, or follow up with a phone call to answer any questions they may have.

In addition to effectively handling new sales leads, it’s important to funnel them into a lead management strategy so you can keep track of where they are in the buying process and measure the effectiveness of your marketing tactics.

What tactics are you using to effectively handle leads and convert them into customers for your business? How do these best practices fit in to your business’ lead management process?