Businesses spend a sizable portion of their revenue to acquire new customer leads through all kinds of marketing strategies. Sometimes, when leads come to a business via phone or email they are not handled efficiently or professionally. But how can they ensure that when they do get a lead it’s handled well and lands a new customer? Here are some tactics to try to increase your close rate with the leads you receive.

1. Create The Right Approach To Leads And Train Employees

It’s critical for the business to make a positive first impression when the prospective customer first contacts you. This is where staff training can really make a difference. Not only should you train staff on how to respond to incoming calls, but also on face-to-face interactions. Exhibiting a high level of enthusiasm and professionalism can help the customer feel welcome.

Also important is teaching the art of listening to the customer’s needs and pain points asking qualifying questions throughout the process. For example, a custom cabinetmaker will have a standard set of questions necessary just to create a quote. Additionally, you want to train staff on moving customers to a close and identifying potential upsell opportunities with special offers. For example, a residential painter may provide an estimate for a kitchen repainting and mention a three room special to encourage the customer to spend more while they are already onsite. Another key tactic to move towards close after providing an estimate is to ask “What day would you like our painter to arrive next week?”

Further, recognizing when customers are not a fit for your business and addressing this quickly can save time and effort. Instead of just telling the customer you don’t provide what they are looking for, tell them about other providers that do. Helping a customer can go a long way in generating positive word of mouth as well potential referral business – even if you don’t get the sale.

2. Answer The Phone Promptly

For incoming calls to your business, it’s critical to always have a live person available to answer the phone immediately. If the size of your business does not allow for a dedicated person, consider either forwarding calls to your cell phone or an answering service so that the customer always gets a live person. If you must use an answering machine, make sure to do your best to return calls the same business day, ideally within the hour of when the message was left to ensure the lead doesn’t go directly to a competitor.

3. Contact Leads Immediately

When a consumer has self-identified their interest in your products and services by submitting an online contact form, email, etc., they are typically close to a purchase and are looking to compare alternatives. It’s critical for you to reach out to the prospective customer as soon as possible to answer any questions they may have and make sure you stay top of mind. Today’s smart phone technology ensures email and contact form submissions are always available wherever you are so you can readily call incoming leads via your cell phone. Often, the first business to respond to the lead can secure a customer’s business.

4. Follow Up Via Email

After a phone call with a prospective customer, always follow up via email with details of the discussion, an estimate if requested, next steps and how to contact you when the customer is ready to purchase. Always include links to your website and social media outlets in your business emails. While the customer may not be ready for a purchase now, they can learn more about your business by following you on Facebook, Twitter or possibly reading your blog.

5. Create A System To Track Leads And Customers

It’s important to capture customer emails for every potential prospect and existing customers as part of generating leads. Even a simple Excel spreadsheet tracking the lead name, address, phone number, email and lead source can help you manage this data. Depending on the size of your business, you may want to invest in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application to track detailed records about current, past and prospective customers. By capturing emails, you can develop a lead nurture system for your entire customer database. While some prospects may not be a fit now, you never know when they or someone they know may need your services in the future. You can send a short and compelling email monthly with promotions and helpful tips, to stay top of mind to prospects. Additionally, this is a great opportunity to re-engage with past customers.

6. Measure And Evaluate Results

In order to evaluate any incoming lead system efforts, measurement is a necessity. Reviewing lead sources on a weekly or monthly basis can help you better understand which marketing tactics are having the highest impact on lead generation. Evaluate how your staff is responding to incoming calls and emails by measuring average time to respond. Lastly, understand your ratio of incoming leads to close ratio. Ask yourself how you can increase the close ratio and shorten the sales cycle by asking the right questions up front and responding to customer inquiries throughout the sales process.

What other best practices do you leverage to increase the likelihood of turning a lead into a customer? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Author: Mike Merrill leads the content marketing team at ReachLocal and writes about technology, social media, personal branding and his love of bacon. He speaks regularly on social media and leads the Social Media Club of Dallas.