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Best Practices for Creating an Effective Lead Follow-Up Strategy

Lead Follow-UpLead Follow-Up
min read
August 21, 2023

As a small business owner or salesperson (or something in between!), it’s important to understand the value and importance of lead generation. But just generating leads isn’t enough. What do you do once you’ve acquired a lead? And, more importantly, once you’ve acquired that lead, what can you do to actually convert it into a sale?

The answer? You can follow up.

Following up with leads plays a critical role in turning your leads into actual sales and customers. In fact, it takes an average of eight touches (or contacts) to generate a desired conversion. However, nearly half of all salespeople (48%) never even bother to make a single lead follow-up attempt.

If you want to not only generate leads, but leverage those leads to increase business, you need to be following up. But what, exactly, does an effective lead follow-up strategy look like? How do you get in touch with your prospects? And what steps can you take to nurture your leads in a way that helps drive or increase sales?

What Is a Lead Follow-Up? 

A lead follow-up is any contact you make with a lead after their first interaction with you or your business. 

This type of follow-up happens before the lead either converts into a customer or is otherwise disqualified (because they provided the wrong number or email address, asked not to be contacted, or for another reason.)

Following up with leads lets you guide prospects further through your sales funnel and can help turn a cold or lukewarm lead into a hot one—and ultimately help you drive more revenue, sales, and business activity.

What’s an Example of a Lead Follow-Up?

Let’s say you’re an insurance agent—lead follow-up might happen after a prospect requests a quote for a policy. In this example, the action of requesting a quote generates the initial lead, which generally includes the prospect’s name, phone number, email address, and other identifying and/or contact information. 

An insurance agent can use this information to follow up with the prospect and offer additional information about the quote and learn about the prospect’s needs and situation, creating opportunities to educate the customer, overcome any potential objections, and make a sale.

Why Is Following Up with Leads So Important?

Lead follow-up is important for a number of reasons—it allows you to establish relationships with potential customers, make personalized product recommendations, and ultimately drive sales for your business. 

Following up is important to:

  • Confirm the lead is the right fit: Following up with a prospect lets you gauge a lead’s interest in your company and your products/services. It also helps you determine if your products or services are a good fit for the prospect’s needs and if the prospect is ready (or almost ready) to buy what you’re selling. This can also let you know if the prospect can afford your goods before you invest any additional effort in trying to make a sale.
  • Establish and nurture a relationship: Effective customer relationships aren’t transactional; they’re built on trust and credibility. You can establish and grow a relationship by learning more about your leads and taking an interest in their needs. 
  • Create a point of contact: Purchasing certain products or services—like insurance—can be complex and confusing. By following up with leads, you can establish a single point of contact responsible for guiding a prospect through the sales funnel, providing personalized assistance and guidance from start to finish—and demonstrating the importance your agency or business places on customer service.
  • Recommend the right product or service: After qualifying and learning more about a lead, you can tap into your expertise to recommend the best or most relevant product/service that meets the prospect’s needs—which can increase the likelihood that they’ll make a purchase. For example, a lead that initially contacted you with questions about one workers’ compensation policy might get more comprehensive coverage and/or a better price by going with another workers’ comp policy you can offer—and informing them of that policy (and how going with the second option will benefit their business) could help you close the deal.
  • Make a sale: Following up with a lead—and establishing trust as you do—can make a prospect more comfortable purchasing from you. It can also give you an edge over competitors who neglect to build rapport with their leads, potentially helping you sell a less competitive (or more expensive) product.
  • Analyze your marketing strategy: Following up with a lead—whether it’s a success or failure—can help you analyze and evaluate your marketing strategy. Insights provided by prospects and your sales staff can alert you to important flaws—like an overly complex quote process—and let you know what works best to get in contact with leads and drive sales.

How to Reach Out to Leads

There are a number of ways to follow up with leads, including:

  1. Text messaging/SMS: Customers open a whopping 98% of text messages—and generate a response rate of 45%—giving texts a significant edge over email as a way to follow up with leads. A text message works as a quick way to gain a prospect’s attention, giving them a chance to respond at their convenience. From there, you can carry on the conversation with a phone call or meeting if they are interested.
  2. Direct mail: Snail mail, in the form of fliers, letters, and postcards, can be a great way to contact a lead and increase your brand awareness and credibility. The reason? Direct mail can feel more personal, with letter-sized direct mail generating a 112% ROI (or, in other words, for every $1 you spend, you’ll generate $1.12 in profit).
  3. Email55% of consumers prefer email as the primary way a small business contacts them. Why? Emails are convenient and unobtrusive. They let you get in touch and provide detailed information about your company and offer—but allow the lead to review that information on their own time. Emails can also give you insight into the customer’s interest and mannerisms through analytics like open rate and click-through rate, revealing the effectiveness of your marketing campaign.
  4. Social media: Engaging with potential customers on social media, like Facebook and LinkedIn, should be part of your follow-up strategy. In other words, don’t ignore company tags or direct messages; instead, quickly respond to the prospective client’s query to keep you and your brand top-of-mind and guide the potential client further through the sales funnel.
  5. Phone calls: A phone call or voicemail is a quick and easy way to get into direct contact with a lead. Reaching out like this in real-time can create a sense of urgency, letting you speak directly to the prospect—and answer any of their questions—without any lag time between communications. Phone calls also let you demonstrate your company’s level of customer commitment and service by humanizing your business and giving the prospect’s point-of-contact a name and voice, helping establish and nurture your relationship.
  6. One-on-one appointment: Real-time meetings, either in-person or via teleconferencing software like Zoom, give you and your lead a chance to discuss the ins and outs of what they’re looking for and how your product or service meets their needs. Setting up a meeting can let you explain complex products, answer questions, and overcome objections and pain points immediately.

But how do you know the right way to follow up?

Generally, when a lead first gets in contact, they might do so through an online form, email, or phone call. Your first response should be via the same way you were initially contacted—or using the lead’s preferred contact method (if provided). If you end up not hearing from the prospect, then use a different way of getting in touch.

The 8 Most Effective Strategies for Following Up with Leads

You know the value of lead nurturing and how to send follow-up messages. Now, let’s look at how to create and maximize an effective sales follow-up process to respond to new leads and increase your conversion rate.

1. Use a CRM

Managing your sales leads can be challenging—especially as your business grows. Customer relationship management (CRM) software lets companies and sales teams record, organize, and manage information about prospects, clients, and leads across the customer lifecycle. And most CRM platforms integrate with other apps and tools to grant other team members—like customer service reps and marketers—access to the same data the sales team uses (and/or generates).

With a CRM, sales reps can record a prospective client’s information, including contact details and the type of products the new lead is interested in, into the CRM. From there, you and your sales reps can determine the most effective workflow for guiding that lead through the sales funnel. At the same time, specific leads can be assigned to individual sales reps to ensure prospects aren’t overwhelmed with sales calls—or that salespeople aren’t stepping on each other’s toes.

For example, a potential customer might fill out a form indicating interest in product liability insurance. This information can be used to create a new entry in your CRM with the new lead’s name, contact details, and information about their pain points, including their industry, company size, and the types of products they manufacture. Each touchpoint should also be recorded in the CRM to make sure your sales team isn’t contacting the lead too often—or too infrequently.

2. Organize and Group Your Leads

Segmenting your leads into different groups can help you better target your messaging and address different pain points depending on the lead’s specifics. 

For example, new leads can be added to a specific group for your salespeople to follow up with via cold calls and cold emails. 

Once contact is made, you can shift these prospects to another group, like “warm leads”—or, if they’re not interested, a group dedicated to “not/no longer interested” prospects. 

Segmenting your leads in this way can help you stay organized—and ensure that you’re following up with leads in the most effective way.

3. Use the Right Point of Contact

Choosing the right point of contact is important if you want to connect with your leads. That’s why it’s important to give new leads options for how they’d like to be contacted.

For example, if you use an online form, include checkboxes that leads can select to indicate their choices (for example, by phone or email). Or, in your initial message, ask a lead how they’d prefer you contact them in the future.

If that information isn’t available (at least immediately), experiment with different types of follow-up methods to see what works best with a particular lead. If an email doesn’t prompt a response, switch it up with a phone call. 

Or if your direct mail goes unanswered, shoot over a text. (Remember that it can take up to eight touchpoints to successfully close a sale, so vary your points of contact until a.) you figure out the most effective way to get in touch, or b.) it becomes obvious the lead is no longer interested.)

4. Don’t Follow Up Too Much

Even if a lead indicates they want to hear back from you, there is such a thing as following up too much, too often. Inundating a lead with follow-ups is a great way to kill a sale—so space out your contact based on the prospect’s preferences. If they ask you to get back to them in a week, do exactly that (and schedule the next contact in your CRM).

But what if a lead isn’t so upfront? How do you know the “sweet spot” for how often to continue to touch base with leads?

In that situation, set up a timeframe to follow up based on where the prospect is in your sales funnel:

For Cold Leads

With cold leads, space out your follow-ups over a week or two—ideally at different times to avoid overwhelming, frustrating, or annoying prospects. This can help keep your offer top-of-mind while demonstrating a degree of urgency, particularly if you’re offering a special promotion.

For Hot Leads

With hot leads, your follow-up frequency can be more spaced out. Though it’s important to stay in touch, how often you reach out should depend on the prospect’s preferences. 

This means additional contacts might occur over weeks or months, especially if the lead needs to wait for internal feedback. On the flip side, if you’re close to signing a contract—or the lead’s response is time-sensitive—you might need to increase your frequency. In other words, be persistent, but respect the lead’s preferences too.

Know When to Stop

At the same time, know when to stop following up—and respect a lead’s lack of interest. If a lead stops responding to your follow-ups, segment them into an “uninterested” category to avoid annoying or frustrating them (which can result in them speaking poorly about your business!). 

By respecting their current lack of interest, they might reach out to you again in the future. But, unless a lead asks you to stop contacting them, reach out once or twice a year to check in—maybe even by sending over a personalized offer or special discount (if applicable).

5. Create a Follow-Up Schedule

After you segment your leads and determine their preferred follow-up frequencies, create a follow-up schedule that outlines when and how you’ll reach out to gauge their interest and guide them along the sales process. 

On the schedule, note important promotions or dates. For example, if a lead indicated the preference for purchasing an insurance policy before the end of the year, make sure to schedule follow-ups on a regular basis (for example, once per week) as the New Year gets closer.

6. Use Sales Templates to Keep Messages Concise and Relevant

Following up with a lead can be daunting. Crafting sales scripts and templates can make it easier for your sales team to follow up in a way that’s consistent, effective, and doesn’t neglect any useful details. Sales templates should:

  • Introduce your company and the sales rep assigned to the lead
  • Acknowledge and confirm the lead’s interest
  • Invite the lead to move forward through the sales process using a call-to-action (CTA)

At the same time, your messaging should be concise and relevant. For example, if you use an email template in your email marketing process, it should include a compelling subject line and concise answers to the lead’s pain points, as well as suggestions for remaining in touch with your business.

7. Focus on Adding Value

Whenever you reach out to a lead, do so with the intent of providing value. Don’t just mention your product’s benefits or features either; instead, explain how your product resolves the prospect’s pain points. 

For example, if you’re an insurance agent reaching out to a contractor who is constantly getting slammed with huge workers’ comp audit bills, you should offer ways to solve that problem. You could mention your partnership with Hourly to connect payroll and time tracking directly to workers’ comp—so premiums are based on real-time data and not estimates.

This will further pique your lead’s interest since you’re offering something they can’t find anywhere else.

8. Automate The Process as Much as Possible

Following up with leads can be time-consuming. Implementing automation can cut down the time spent on administrative or menial tasks, helping you and your sales staff focus more on engaging your leads.

For example, use software that automatically generates a CRM entry any time you receive a new lead. 

Keep Following Up with Leads To Boost Your Revenue

Sales leads are your company’s lifeblood. They help generate the continuous revenue you need to keep your business moving forward. 

But managing prospects—and how often you manage them—can be a delicate process. By creating and implementing an effective lead follow-up strategy, you can accurately gauge a lead’s temperature, make sure you’re following up at the right frequency and cadence, and take the appropriate steps necessary to close a deal.

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