Contribution from freelance writer Jackie Wills

Anyone involved in sales and marketing knows that developing sales through cold calling (cold leads) can be a thankless and frustrating task. In the modern age, though, an effective digital marketing strategy can mean that prospective clients already know all about your business and are ready to convert into customers with just a little encouragement. Welcome to the world of warm leads. An effective web presence and strong social media engagement means that the word is already out there regarding your business. People will be aware of your service and your unique selling points, and the whole sales dynamic becomes easier and more successful. This means better conversion rates and less time wasted on trying to develop interest in your product or service from scratch.

Is cold calling dead?

Everyone has experience of a cold call, whether it is a telephone call from a double glazing company, an unsolicited email offering you car insurance or a catalogue through your letterbox. Cold calls do generate some sales leads, or nobody would be doing them, but generation and conversion rates are poor. An increasing number of people block unsolicited calls and emails, and there is a school of thought that cold calling is no longer worth the effort. In the majority of cases, cold calls get you off on the wrong foot with the customer and put you at an instant disadvantage. They are suspicious of you and your motives, they never asked you to call and you probably interrupted them in the middle of dinner. Not the best start for a successful future.

What are warm leads?

A warm lead is someone who has already shown an interest in your product or service. They might have taken a look at your website or signed up for an email newsletter. Or perhaps they have followed you on social media or read an article or blog post that you have published. At the very least, you can be confident that warm leads are aware of and are interested in your product or service and have demonstrated an interest in learning more about it. They are far more promising than cold leads, as the initial “foot in the door” part is not necessary. There will not be the same level of suspicion and reluctance to engage. Many warm leads will approach you, rsocather than you having to chase them, but there are others that just need a little push in the right direction.

Getting hotter – qualified leads

A qualified lead is one that is a step further on in the buying cycle. While warm leads are aware of what you have to offer, a qualified lead is one that specifically needs that product or service. For example, if you operate an Italian restaurant in New York, then warm leads might be those who look at your social media pages and sign up for newsletters. They know something about your restaurant, and might be prepared to give it a try if they were in the neighborhood. Compare this with someone who has googled “Italian restaurant in New York” – this is a qualified lead, as it is someone who is specifically looking for a service just like yours.

Focus on Warm Leads

SEO experts Search Engine Journal carried out some research on warm leads versus cold, and the results are remarkable. They concluded that search-driven leads have a 14.6% close rate compared to just 1.7% for cold leads. This is simply because warm leads are already better prospects. Cold calls mean a lot of wasted time on prospects who have given no thought to your offering.

Identifying warm leads

The digital age is all about big data. There is more information available regarding every part of a business than ever before. Everyone who clicks on a link, conducts a search or uses an app leaves a unique data stream. The amount of data that’s being created and stored every day is truly mind-boggling, and it just keeps growing. The company that makes the best use of the data at its disposal is the one that will gain an edge over its competitors, but in the grand scheme of things, only a small percentage of data is actually analyzed and used to make critical insights. By making use of online lead generation tools, you can identify who is visiting your website and why. This gives you some useful information as to what people are looking for, and how they are driven to you. It provides a ready-made list of warm leads for you to develop into paying customers.

Evaluating your best leads

You can achieve unprecedented conversion rates by using the latest proprietary algorithms to rank those warm leads and make sure you focus on the ones that are likely to bring the highest prospects of a completed sale. Traditional sales strategies have relied on what is known as the BANT approach to evaluate leads. In short, this evaluates the following parameters:

  • Budget: does the potential lead have the funds available to buy your product or service?
  • Authority: is your prospective buyer in the position to make the purchase decision, or will they have to seek approval from somebody else?
  • Need: do they have a specific need that the product or service will satisfy?
  • Time frame: are they in the market for your product now, or at some future date?

Conceptually, there is nothing wrong with the BANT approach, and it has become the go-to sales qualification methodology. However, it does have certain flaws and limitations. For example, the implication is that Budget is the first and most important consideration, when in reality, most people will agree that Need is most important. What is it that people want, what problems are they facing or questions do they seek answers to that have driven them to your business? Customer need should really be the first consideration of anyone in sales, and in order to understand that, you need to know your customers.

Understanding your customers

Customer personas are the basic characteristics of your customer base. They might include basic demographic information such as age, gender, income level and employment status, as well as non-identifiable personal data, including geographic location, personal goals, past behaviour and lifestyle. Through personas, you also learn why they are looking to interact with your business and what needs they think you can satisfy. This information is of critical importance as it helps you decide where to focus your marketing efforts. Traditionally, companies have defined their most valuable customers as those who spend the most money. However, that may be over-simplistic, and there are plenty of other factors to consider, including the following:

  • Acquisition costs: How much did you have to spend on sales and marketing to win this type of customer? If acquisition costs are high and returns are low, then it could be time to rethink your methods.
  • Retention costs: What do you need to do in order to keep your customers? Do they expect a large amount of communication, support or training? In general, acquisition costs are higher than retention costs, so it makes sense to do whatever you have to, in order to maintain a close relationship with your customers and give them no reason to look elsewhere.
  • Average purchase size: On average, how much does your customer spend on a single purchase? Consider this question not just in the aggregate, but by each persona or customer type. Bear in mind that people often make purchasing decisions on the basis of value, not just on price. Ask yourself whether you might sell more to any customer segments through carefully targeted promotions and by developing an awareness and interest in other product lines. Social media coverage can be great for promotions like this.
  • Lifetime value: Single purchases are great, but repeat purchases are better. How much does each segment spend with your business over the course of their lifetime? This metric says a lot about the overall relationship that you have with your customers.
  • Customer satisfaction: To what extent are your customers satisfied with your product or service offering? Can you identify groups of satisfied and dissatisfied customers? If so, what makes one group happy and the other group unhappy? This is a great way to identify areas for improvement, or it could be a case of needing to communicate better to manage customer expectations.
  • Value alignment: Are your target customers actually the people who are buying from you? If not, then who is? Knowing this will help you to further refine your customer segments, and to make sure you are perfectly aligned.

By examining the above metrics, you will have better knowledge than ever about your customers. Armed with this knowledge, you will be in the ideal position to develop those leads that can bring real long-term success to your business and ensure you maintain that all-important competitive edge. In our next article that you can find here, we have discussed our best Lead Generation strategies for 2017.

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