This article originally appeared in the Sept. 2011 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions
As more and more people adopt the Internet as a standard method of communication, organizations are seeing Web-generated leads double or even triple. That’s good news. The problem arises when companies lack the capacity or strategy to effectively respond to increasing online lead intake.
The passage of time poses a real problem in the sales world. A couple quick ticks of the clock can mean the difference between acquiring a new customer or losing it to a competitor. This time crunch is further amplified on the Web, where users expect even greater immediacy. While it may not be uncommon for organizations to wait days to respond to Web-generated leads, it is certainly detrimental to their ability to qualify and convert those leads.
Observing the challenges faced by organizations ill-equipped for online lead overflow, InfoCision (News - Alert) recently developed a packaged solution to help companies quickly and effectively respond to web-generated leads. We learned a few key lessons while producing this service. These are things every organization should keep in mind when developing a progressive strategy to handle Web-generated leads:
Speed makes a difference: Step on the gas
This may seem obvious to anyone who’s ever worked in sales. But, for some reason, Web-generated leads just aren’t given the same weight as leads that come in over the phone or via referral. This can be a critical oversight. These days, a lot of people use the Internet to make initial contact with an organization. This is their first impression of the organization, and the speed of your response can make all the difference.
I’m not talking hours here; I’m talking minutes – maybe even seconds. By waiting a day or more to contact a Web-generated lead, you essentially negate your chances of ever qualifying or converting them. An Insidesales.com/MIT (News - Alert) Lead Response Management Study – which focused on the question, “When should companies call Web-generated leads for optimal contact and qualification ratios?”)— unearthed these eye-opening findings:
The odds of contacting a lead if called in 30 minutes,instead of 5 minutes, drop 100 times.
The odds of qualifying a lead if called in 30 minutes,instead of 5 minutes, drop 21 times.
Companies can’t afford to snooze on Web-generated leads. While you’re waiting to initiate contact, your lead is drifting over to your competitor’s website and giving them the chance to beat you to the punch. If you have the opportunity to make first contact, it’s imperative you take it. With Web-generated leads, speed carries an incredible advantage. Step on the gas.
First contact counts: Put knowledgeable people on the line
Despite the importance of a quick call (which I can’t emphasize enough), speed is not the only difference maker. As always, people matter. Even if you contact a lead instantly, it will only be effective if the right person makes the call. By “right” person, I mean someone who is knowledgeable about the specific program/service/product in which the individual is interested (which should be a standard question on any Web information request form) and the organization. Even if the person making the call is just the first contact and not the final destination, he should be able to answer initial questions and reinforce the lead’s interest in the organization and the product or service.
That means you need to make sure your lead responders – whether in-house or outsourced – are familiar with questions prospects are likely to ask, as well as information about specific programs or services. If possible, you should integrate a system to ensure Web-generated leads are swiftly routed to individuals with the greatest knowledge of the program, product or service of interest. Obviously, sales representatives are not always going to have the ability to make these initial calls – nor, necessarily, should they. Contacting and qualifying duties can eat up a lot of time. That’s time sales reps could better spend attending to qualified leads. Having knowledgeable people to make immediate contact and potentially qualify leads beforehand can allow your sales staff to focus solely on conversions.
Data is golden: Equip yourself to adapt and adjust
When setting up a web-generated lead response system, there is a great opportunity to incorporate a means of collecting and analyzing data to help streamline future lead-response interactions. Unfortunately, due to complexity and cost, many organizations fail to take this step – or they view it as an afterthought. The result is loss of an incredibly valuable asset: data. Collected data can be immediately beneficial, helping you create customized callback strategies for leads you can’t reach on the first attempt. Using “best time to call” information or intelligence from previous interactions, you can produce personalized follow-up plans to increase efficiency and make every dial count.
Ideally, you also want to have a system that lets you conveniently monitor your online lead intake in real time. This way, you can make sure your Web-generated lead response strategy is always working effectively and efficiently and, if not, you can make adjustments on the fly (like bringing in additional people at recognized peak periods). You also can use your collected data to identify: (1) who your Web-generated leads are (what they are interested in, how they differ from other leads); and (2) what questions they have or what offers appeal to them. In the long run, quality monitoring, reporting and analysis can play a key role in helping you optimize your lead-response strategy.
Opportunity knocks: Get ahead of the game
It’s always a good idea when implementing new services or capabilities to make them as future-proof as possible. Think multichannel. Explore the potential of your online lead response system – how can it integrate with other initiatives or campaigns: direct mail, email, even personalized URLS. Think about how you want to expand your acquisition efforts in the future, and how that will influence the communication needs of your potential customers. Devise your strategy accordingly.
The quantity of online leads you receive will only rise as more people integrate the Web as an everyday communication tool. If you are already experiencing a steady volume of Web-generated inquiries, don’t expect those numbers to diminish any time soon. Be ready to respond, and respond quickly. By having an effective strategy for contacting Web-generated leads with speed and efficiency, you can convert more leads and prepare yourself for a channel that will see more and more traffic moving into the future. Take the opportunity to get ahead of the game now while you still can.Rob Sine is Director of New Business Development at InfoCision Management Corporation. Reach him at Robert.Sine@InfoCision.com. In business since 1982, InfoCision is the second-largest privately held teleservices company and a leading provider of direct marketing solutions for Fortune 100 companies, nonprofit organizations and small businesses. Learn more about ACSELL, InfoCision’s turnkey, multichannel solution for responding to web-generated leads at www.RapidResponseRouting.com
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Edited by Stefania Viscusi