Lead Follow-Up Success: Findings from the 2016 Sales Effectiveness Report

Sales leads are the lifeblood of any business – after all it’s tough to sell your product or service without having people to sell it to. So it’s important that businesses are working as effectively as possible to leverage their sales leads. But are they?

That’s the question we set out to answer in our 2016 Sales Effectiveness Report on Lead Follow-up. This year, we tested 538 companies across nine industries to see what happens when research meets the real world. Our commissioned researchers sent them direct, business-specific inquiries via email or web form, presenting as an interested shopper. Then for the next 30 days they tracked each company’s response time, response frequency, level of personalization, and ability to land in the inbox.

The results were both fascinating and alarming, and led to what we’re calling the 1, 2, 3s of Missed Opportunity:

1 out of 3: Our most shocking finding was that, for the second year in a row, one third of the companies we contacted did not respond at all. Zero. No response. A direct inquiry, a hot prospect asking to be contacted directly, was ignored by one out of three of the companies contacted!

2 out of 3: Almost as surprising was the fact that over two-thirds of the companies simply gave up trying to reach the shopper far too soon – after only two or fewer tries, when research demonstrates that the optimal number of communication attempts actually lies between five and eleven.

3 out of 3: Virtually all businesses have difficulty being consistently great at lead follow-up. Year-over-year, only five of the companies that received overall ‘A’ grades last year were able to repeat their performance this year. Many did well last year then poorly this one; others the opposite. It’s clearly hard to be good at lead follow-up all the time.

Take a look at a summary of the key findings
in the infographic below and download your
complimentary copy of the report here

So what does it take to be good? Understanding and exercising the most effective strategies for managing your critical inbound leads is pretty straightforward. The 1, 2, 3s above can be readily addressed by putting into practice the 4 Ps of effective lead follow-up: Promptness, Personalization, Persistence and Performance. Let me explain:

First, Promptness. Once a prospect has become apparent, the faster you respond, the better your chance of making a sale. According to InsideSales.com studies, even the difference between 5 minutes and 30 minutes can substantially impact your chance of contacting and qualifying a lead.

Next, Personalization The more elements of personalization you can include in an email, the more likely the recipient will open it and click through or respond—up to 137 percent more likely.

Are you Persistent? It’s simple: the more times you try, the more likely you are to make contact with a lead. Taking the time to follow up is worth it: a Yesware study confirms that continuing to reach out even all the way to an eighth attempt and beyond will generate a higher response rate.

Don’t discount Performance. If an email ends up in the junk folder—as does nearly half of business email—the rest of your efforts are in vain. Graphics-heavy, link-laden emails won’t get the job done.

Are you consistently practicing the 4Ps? Realistically, you might be a 1, 2, 3 and not even know it. And for many businesses, maximizing ROI on their hard-earned leads is just a perennial struggle. But the good news is there’s a better way. A look at the top performers in our study suggests key steps to optimizing inbound leads:

  1. Prioritize promptness: Even when top-rated companies didn’t meet best practice levels, their response time was more than 150 times faster than the survey average. Even a small increase in response time yields a higher contact and conversion rate, so any effort here will pay off.
  1. Don’t give up: The most consistent factor among top-rated companies was their persistence. Every single one of them hit the best practices target of 8 or more attempts at contact—and yet overall, persistence was the weakest category in our study. Many companies that find repeated follow-ups challenging are turning to automation to extend their resources and capture every possible opportunity.
  1. Make it personal: All of the top-rated companies used multiple elements of personalization in their email communication, and all but one of them received the top score for email performance. Here again, marketing automation tools and lead capture forms can make personalization simple. More sophisticated systems can go further, interpreting the details of the inquiry and mimicking a human response.

Take a look at all the findings in the complete 2016 Sales Effectiveness Report on Lead Follow-Up. Download your own copy to see which factors predict high or low performance and learn what steps to take to bring your company’s performance in line with best practices. And if you’d rather listen than read, join us for our webinar, “The Shocking Truth about Lead Follow-up” on Thursday, December 15 at 11am PT.

Inbound leads are far too valuable—and too expensive—to let languish. Our 2016 Sales Effectiveness Report on Lead Follow-up can help you find ways to maximize both your leads and your time.

After reading the report, please share your thoughts in the comments below!

P.S. If you’d like to have your own company’s lead follow-up assessed, please provide your information here. And be sure to subscribe to our blog to stay updated regarding future research on this topic.


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