While sales professionals may feel they wear a lot of hats these days – and in small businesses, they probably do – the primary job is lead prospecting to fill the sales pipeline. Marketing can go a long way towards stirring up pools of potential prospects, but sales still needs to close the gap. Sitting back and waiting for leads to drop into your company’s lap is probably not going to work.
There’s no question, however, that lead generation can be a tedious process, which is why it’s often shuffled to the bottom of the to-do list. There are some ways companies can improve (and speed up) the process so it’s no longer the most dreaded task in the office. Following are some tips to improve prospecting and ensure better sales results.
Automate your Lead Prospecting Process
Effective lead prospecting has a lot of moving parts, and trying to manage them manually will lead to lost opportunities and duplicate efforts. Automation is a great way to reduce mistakes and missed opportunities while eliminating some of the most boring aspects of prospecting. A sales automation solution can “assign” tasks to the sales department and automate everything from telephony and follow-up emails to appointment scheduling.
Agile CRM’s unified prospecting platform can add value to your sales work and save a lot of time compared to manual processes or a poorly integrated series of legacy tools. When sales, CRM, marketing and service automation are integrated on the same platform, you can automate even more of the prospecting process and speed up your race to the goal: warm, actionable leads that are likely to lead to sales.
Make Time to Know Your Prospects
There are only so many hours in the day, and these hours are often claimed by unexpected or emergency tasks such as placating a customer, getting paperwork in order, or sitting though endless meetings. Before you know it, you realize the day is done and you haven’t chased a single lead. Set aside a consistent block of time every day to prospect for leads. Get rid of other distractions, if possible, and focus on getting into the lead zone.
With this time you’ve set aside, create a 360-degree view of your prospects and customers by pulling together as much as information as possible into the same place. Agile CRM provides users with single page management, which gathers everything they need to know about a contact in one window, including contact info, communication history, social media profiles and lead scores. There’s also a graphical timeline function that allows you to display complete histories of contact activity, including emails exchanged, website visits, social updates and dashboard activity.
Make Use of Lead Scoring
In theory, everyone in your CRM database is a lead, but not all leads are created equal. If you’re beginning a new lead generation campaign, you’ll want to start with the warmest leads. Lead scoring, which measures the value of each lead and ranks them based on that score, can give you a time-saving roadmap for your prospecting if you follow a standardized lead scoring process. These scores might be based on a prospect’s company size, past behavior, place in the budget cycle, responses to marketing efforts (such as opened emails) and more.
Agile CRM’s lead scoring tools help you prioritize your engagements with your contacts and even help you with the nurturing process workflow. Since Agile CRM links customer relationship management, marketing automation and sales enablement, it has more sources to pull information from when creating relevant lead scoring, which improves accuracy of scores. This may be the single biggest tip a company seeking to improve prospecting can follow: a 2012 study by MarketingSherpa found that organizations that currently use lead scoring experience a 77 percent boost in lead generation return on investment over organizations that do not use lead scoring.
Let the Smart Machines (Analytics) Help
While your instincts are critical when it comes to lead prospecting, analytics can go much further in identifying the best leads to approach. Analytics can also help in identifying the right time to approach leads. If sales teams are approaching inbound leads at the wrong time and not having much success, they may begin to ignore these leads altogether.
Agile CRM’s built-in analytics tools analyze customer interests and web engagement patterns with activity reports, timelines and real-time alerts. The tools can identify patterns in customer behavior based on the pages they’re interested in, the time they spend on each page, their location and previous buying preferences. These patterns, which might not be noticeable to human salespeople, can help boost the chances of success with the right actions at the right time. They can also add significant value to lead scores.
Ask for Referrals
In a socially networked world, chances are good that your existing happy customers know people they think would benefit from your prospects and services. Pick up the phone and call a few, or reach out via instant messaging. You can even – gently and subtly – ask your happy customers to share their enthusiasm about your company via social media and tag or identify you as the person to approach with questions.
Consider taking the referrals process further by building a formal framework for it. Research by Heinz Marketing has found that 55 percent of companies with formalized referral programs ranked their sales efforts as highly effective, compared to 35 percent of those without referral programs. With a formalized process that can be put in place using an automated email template process, you can ask for referrals right after a sale, when a customer’s opinion of you is likely to be the highest.
Share Information across Departments
While salespeople have been guilty in the past of hoarding lead information to protect their turf, it’s not an effective way to operate. When it comes to leads, the more information the better, so collaboration, particularly between sales and marketing, benefits everyone. Many people in the organization touch customers and prospects, and their notes could be useful in finding and qualifying good leads.
This is why a cloud-based marketing- and sales-automation solution is so important: it makes collaboration and information-sharing easy and effective. Agile CRM helps organize all relevant and available information so it’s usable and actionable. When you eliminate the traditional silos of sales and marketing, you’re better positioned to make a seamless transition from marketing-qualified to sales-ready leads.
A CSO Insights Sales Performance Optimization Study found that the average sales rep spends only two days a week effectively selling. Imagine how much more selling your company could do if sales personnel reduced the amount of time they spend on rote tasks and dedicated more time to courting qualified leads. Smart automation is the way to make it happen.