Your Guide to Lead Qualification: How To Get the Most Out of Your Leads

Running a successful business requires that you find individuals who need your product or service and convince them that your solution is well worth the cost. 

Blanket, cross-platform advertising might seem like an effective option to reach prospective customers, but the reality is that you’ll spend a lot of your budget reaching only a small percentage of potential clients. 

A far more effective method is to identify your target market and launch campaigns that reach them specifically. Marketing only to an audience that is more likely to be interested in your product or service costs less money and will result in a higher return on investment.

Lead Qualification and Why It’s Important

Simply put, lead qualification is when your marketing team determines whether potential leads are interested in your product or service and are also able and ready to buy it. Lead qualification isn’t only important for your advertising department’s bottom line but for your business as a whole.

Imagine you’ve gathered a list of 1,000 people to contact about your product. If you or your sales team begins to work through the list and doesn’t see any success, it will eventually feel as if time is being wasted. Ultimately, you’ll feel less motivated.

The Fundamentals of Lead Qualification

Broadly speaking, three stages make up the lead qualification process: marketing qualified leads, sales accepted leads, and sales qualified leads. Potential clients are only considered fully qualified leads if they pass all three checkpoints.

First, find marketing qualified leads. MQLs are leads that have already been assessed by your marketing team (or automated solution). The team creates ads or website content to gain the interest of potential leads, often in the form of free offers or gated downloadables. These offers could be anything from free downloadable e-books or printouts to free trials for ongoing services. As soon as potential clients opt in to a free offer, they are considered marketing qualified leads as they have demonstrated a certain level of interest in the solution provided.

Next, the clients must become sales accepted leads. After the marketing team has done its part, the sales team gets to work. A member of the team contacts the people who took advantage of marketing offers to ask additional questions. These in-depth questions help to determine the potential clients’ “sellability.”

Sometimes, leads are disqualified and marked as ‘bad’. Other times, the sales team opts to move them back to the marketing qualified stage. However, potential customers who have the right answers for the qualifying questions become sales qualified leads.

Sales qualified leads are at the third and final step of the process. At this point, the sales team will determine whether potential clients have the budget, authority, need, and timing necessary to purchase. This is known as a BANT analysis. The process includes determining whether potential clients have enough financing for the product or service, whether they have an urgent need that needs to be addressed, and if they know the time frame in which they hope to find a solution.

Finally, the sales team must ensure they’re speaking to the decision-maker for the business. When potential clients pass all parts of the BANT analysis, they become a qualified lead and the deal progressed by your company’s sales representatives.

Tailoring the Qualifying Questions to Your Company

The fundamentals of qualifying leads are an excellent starting point, but to make the BANT framework work for your business, you’ll need to dig deeper to determine which questions to ask. First, ask about the clients’ goals and plans for their businesses. Think both short-term and long-term. Where do the clients want to be in three months, in a year, and in five years? Which goal is most important to them right now? Do they already have plans in place to achieve them? Have they ever achieved similar goals and, if so, what plans did they use?

Next, talk to potential clients more in depth about challenges they feel they face and the timeline they have to fix the issues. This is where your sales skills come into play. Once you find out what challenges potential leads are facing, reiterate how important it is for them to fix the problem and how you can help.

Ask potential clients whether they have plans in place to overcome the challenge and why they believe they can fix the issue on their own. Find out when they want to put their plan into motion and how long they want it to take. From there, pitch a way that you can help them overcome their challenge with a better plan that takes less time. After all, time is money, and who doesn’t want to save a little of both?

Of course, budgets are important as well. If you spend your time pitching to individuals or businesses who can’t afford your product or service, you’re spending too much of your own time and money. Asking qualifying questions regarding potential clients’ budgets is necessary to protect your own budget.

Many companies simply ask “What is your current budget?” However, there are more tactful ways to bring up money, and some of them may be better received. Ask leads whether they see the potential return on their own investment if they purchase your product or service and whether they are already spending money on a similar service or product that doesn’t quite meet their needs.

Finally, consider where your leads stand in their company’s chain of command. While it isn’t necessary to speak to the person in charge of the company’s budget, it is important to speak to someone who has influence with the decision-makers. You may also ask your leads whether they feel the decision-maker would have any objections and how you can address them before the fact.

Lead qualification services

Attracting the right clients is essential for a thriving business, but it can also be time consuming if you are a solopreneur or a small business owner. Lead capture services can be an excellent solution. Trained professionals are available to answer calls, ask qualifying questions, and pass on strong leads to your sales team. 

Contact HelloSells to start capturing and qualify your leads today.

How Slow Response Times Destroy Your Marketing Budget

Have you ever received an auto response from a company you emailed or contacted online? If so, it probably stated that you would hear back from the company within 24 hours. While 24 hours is the common standard for responding to customers, it’s simply too slow for today’s fast-paced world.

In fact, slow responses could be one of the main reasons you aren’t hitting your growth targets or reaching your sales goals. Here’s how slow response times can waste your marketing budget and why faster responses to your leads are so important.

What’s Considered a Slow Response Time

If you’re looking for ways to speed up your response times, you first need to know what’s considered “slow”. Research shows that the average response time is 38 hours, which is way too long. By that time, your customers will think you’ve forgotten about them. Even 24 hours is too long. That may have been the standard years ago, but it is no longer acceptable. Conventional wisdom is that a response to emails and web forms within 12 hours is acceptable. If you can respond within just a few hours, that is even better.

When a customer or potential customer reaches out to you, he or she wants answers NOW, not in 24 hours. If you wait 24 hours simply because you think it’s OK to do so, you could lose your lead. You’ve got to hustle to keep leads happy and interested.

Why Response Times Matter

If you’re wondering why it matters if you respond to an email in two hours or 20 hours, you’re underestimating how valuable a fast response is to your customers. According to one survey, customers rated fast response times as the most important aspect of their experience with a company. Therefore, if your response times are slow, you are failing to meet customer expectations. That’s a surefire way to lose business.

Unfortunately, only 12% of surveyed customer service managers reported that they were focused on sending quick responses to customers. If you are not one of these rare few, you need to re-evaluate the importance you place on responding quickly. Make sure all of your customer service representatives know how important it is to respond quickly to all leads.

What Potential Consequences Can Come From Slow Response Times

The modern consumer is impatient, and it’s easy to see why. Gratification is instant these days, and if people have to wait too long for a response, they’ll probably move on out of frustration. Here are some of the potential consequences you could face if your response times are too slow.

  • Non-converting leads: If a lead contacts you and you don’t respond in a timely manner, that lead will probably never convert into a paying customer. If you’re struggling to convert leads and you don’t know why, you may want to take a second look at your response time. Shorten it, if possible, and see if you are able to convert more leads as a result.
  • Damaged reputation: Did you know customers are more likely to complain about bad experiences than they are to talk about their good experiences? As a business owner, that means you need to work extra hard to make sure every customer has a positive experience working with you. One of the first steps you can take to maintain your good reputation is to respond to customers quickly. If you take too long to respond and the customer feels ignored, he or she is more likely to complain about you to others and damage your reputation.
  • Loss of loyalty: Take a moment to think about companies you’re loyal to. What have they done to earn your loyalty? While the list may be long, it most likely includes fast response times. When companies respond to you quickly, it means they value you. On the flip side, if a company takes a long time to respond to you, it is sending the message that it doesn’t truly value your business. Be the type of company that values others and earns their loyalty.
  • Loss of revenue: Every business wants and needs to earn revenue. In order to do that, you need to make enough sales. If you’re not converting leads and keeping current customers happy by responding to their questions and needs quickly, they’ll probably take their business elsewhere. When that happens, you lose out on revenue.

In addition to all these negative consequences, you’re also losing the effectiveness of your marketing dollars when you don’t provide good customer service response times. If your response time is slow, it could also result in an overflow of leads. Since all leads aren’t created equal, it can be difficult to separate the qualified leads from the rest if there are too many waiting for a response from you at the same time.

How To Improve Your Response Time

Now that you know how important it is to respond to emails and webforms quickly, you may be wondering how to do it. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Use email autoresponders
  • Use templates to save time on responses
  • Hire a lead response team

Email autoresponders can assure your customers that you’ve received their query and are preparing to respond to it. Ideally autoresponders should be sent out within a couple of minutes of the email or web-form submission.

If you receive the same types of questions on a regular basis, you could save a lot of time by preparing templates. Supply your team with templates that answer the most common customer questions. This will make their jobs easier and help them respond very quickly to customers. Keep in mind that not all questions or concerns can or should be answered with an email template. When deciding whether to respond with a template or a customized response, use your best judgment.

If you don’t have a large enough customer service team to keep up with emails and web-forms, consider outsourcing this part of your business. You can hire a lead response team to take care of these matters for you.

Start Responding to Interactions Instantly

Are you tired of losing business because you can’t respond to customers in time? Hello Sells can help you solve the problem. Contact us to learn how we can help you turn leads into customers.

How Live Chat Can Help You Generate Leads

One of the most important parts of running a business is generating leads and bringing in new customers.

If you think web forms and gated content are the only way to bring in those leads on your website, you might be surprised. In recent years, small businesses and large corporations alike have seen success in implementing live chat to capture lead information.

Benefits of Live Chat for Your Business

A recent study found that 73% of customers prefer live chat as a communication channel.

What’s more, data shows that using chat services on your website not only saves you time but also boosts conversion rates.

Usually, representatives take on tasks that are necessary but often more time-consuming for customers. Examples include scheduling appointments, suggesting knowledge-base articles, and collecting information from potential clients.

Live representatives aren’t just helping you save time, though.

They are beneficial for the customer, too. Reduced wait times mean customers can get on with their days and view visiting your website as a positive customer experience.

Adding a live chat service to your website can improve your search engine performance as well.

Chat windows keep visitors on your website longer – ‘dwell time’ – which improves your page rankings on search engine results pages.

You can also analyze the chat’s data to determine which pages your visitors spend the most time on, how they came across your website, how long they spend on the site, and much more. This data allows you to determine which visitors are most likely to become qualified leads and tailor your marketing campaigns as a result.

Implementing Your Live Chat Feature

Think ahead before implementing a live chat feature on your website. Will you be available to chat yourself at certain times, or will you need assistance from an external service or chat bots?

Being available to chat with customers yourself from time to time adds to the visitor experience, but only if you are truly there. When you log in to chat with visitors, do so on a schedule and avoid any other distractions while chatting. Slow replies are likely to leave a negative impression.

If you make use of an answering service, ensure they have a comprehensive understanding of common tasks and questions from customers to make it easier to provide quality interactions.

Regardless of whether you’re chatting yourself, your chat widget must be easy to use. Provide a clear name and title on the chat interface. Additionally, customers want to know who they’re talking to, so avoid faceless profiles. Add a professional, smiling picture of yourself (or the representative handling the chat) to personalize the experience.

Remember, your chat window isn’t just about answering questions. You can also use it to provide incentives for your visitors to shop. Consider exclusive offers, free delivery, or discounts tailored to new or returning customers.

Using Live Chat To Welcome Customers

Your visitors’ live chat experience can begin as soon as they land on your homepage. All you need to do is set up your live chat service to greet customers and ask whether they’d like to know about specific services or products. Distinguish between a new visitor and a returning one to personalize the experience even further.

If you conduct a pre-chat survey, you can quickly gather the information you’d need to contact your visitors in the future. Asking for their names, email addresses, and telephone numbers is an excellent way to quickly generate a lead list for additional follow-up marketing campaigns.

Generating Dialogue During the Interaction

With a chat widget, you can choose to proactively initiate conversations. This can work well when a visitor has been on a single page for a long time, or is on a product page that suggests they might be ready to buy.

Perhaps your visitors landed on a specific URL that typically yields a high conversion rate. Chat representatives can ask how to provide further assistance. Visitors can opt to learn more about your products, shop for specific items, ask for a representative to call them, or simply tell you that they’re browsing.

When a chat dialogue is initiated at the right time, starting a conversation can be the key interaction that progresses the visitor on their purchasing journey.

Retaining Customers at the End of an Interaction

Live chat services provide opportunities to interact with your potential customers right up until the very end of their visit.

Visitors will often spend time on a website, even adding items to their shopping carts, only to decide to click away from the site without completing their orders.

Use a live chat service to ask visitors why they are leaving the website and find a way to help them get solutions to their needs. If customers abandon their shopping cart, a live chat widget can pop up to offer a discount and attempt to bring them back. Even if these interactions don’t turn into sales, you may receive feedback that helps you create a better user experience.

It is likely that you have a contact form somewhere on your website, and it is also likely that you’ve had visitors fill out the form but never submit it. A chat widget may be able to collect information without forms by offering potential customers help. They can answer specific questions and have a two-way conversation that makes it far more likely that you’ll get the lead information you need to follow up and make a sale.

If you’d prefer to always have live representatives available, consider a live chat service to help you out when you can’t chat yourself.

View the HelloSells live chat service here – ChatSupport.

Using Science To Boost Sales: The Best Time To Call Leads

What makes a great salesperson? Natural talent and hard work are qualities that come to mind. Thinking like a scientist might be farther down the list in most people’s estimation, but experts like New York Times bestselling author Daniel H. Pink disagree. “One of the best predictors of ultimate success,” says Pink, “isn’t natural talent or even industry expertise, but how you explain your failures and rejections.”

It is precisely this ability to explain results that was the focus of a widely cited marketing research project called the Lead Response Management Study. The results of this research are frequently cited as guidelines for when to call potential clients after they submit online forms.

The Question of When To Call

Many companies use web-based enquiry forms for interested clients. However, few businesses seem to know the best way to act on the information provided. In 2007, Dr. James Oldroyd of M.I.T. conducted a survey of North American companies across more than 40 industries. He asked the companies 22 questions pertaining to techniques they used to follow up on internet leads. He received 495 responses and summarized his findings into a report.

While the results of the survey did shine a light on practices being used, they offered little in the way of hard data or sound advice about what worked. All valid scientific research must start with a testable question, so Dr. Oldroyd came up with a good one: When exactly is the best time to call leads? This question sparked a collaboration with a research group on what is now known as the Lead Response Management Study. This time the study was designed not just to take a snapshot of industry practices, but rather to determine the best day of the week, time of day, and length of time to wait to call potential customers who submitted online forms.

Variables Tested

The researchers compiled three years’ worth of data sourced from six companies. Over 100,000 call attempts in response to over 15,000 web-based form submissions were analyzed. Researchers looked for correlations among the following variables:

  • Internet forms filled out by potential clients
  • Telephone conversations with potential clients that lasted between two and six minutes (contacts)
  • Conversations in which a potential client either set up an appointment or otherwise began the process of making a purchase (qualifying contacts)
  • Time intervals between online form submissions and contacts
  • Day of week and time of day contacts occurred

Time Interval Between Form Submission and Contact

The most significant correlation the researchers discovered pertained to how long a sales representative waited to call a potential client after he or she filled out an online form. Leads contacted within the first five minutes of submitting the forms were four times more likely to become qualified (begin the process of making a purchase) than those contacted after 10 minutes, and 21 times more likely than those contacted after 30 minutes. After one hour, the likelihood of a lead making a purchase dropped to almost zero.

Another surprising result was that after 20 hours, leads were virtually impossible to contact by phone. Furthermore, calls made after 20 hours were not only useless but may even have hurt the chances of future sales. Because potential clients actively avoided answering the phone, Oldroyd concluded they had developed an aversion to the product or company. The results of calls made after 20 hours can thus be summarized by the adage “too little too late” rather than “better late than never.”

Day of the Week

Thursday was the best day for calls overall. Leads were more likely to answer the telephone and have conversations on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Of initial calls, clients contacted on Thursdays were most likely to later become qualified. The next best days to make contact were Fridays, Mondays, and Tuesdays, in order of decreasing effectiveness, but Friday was the worst day for qualifying contacts. Some professionals have offered the interpretation that although customers were willing to have phone discussions on Fridays, they were reluctant to make actual purchasing decisions before the weekend.

Time of Day

Most conversations with leads occurred between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. or 8:00 and 10:00 a.m. and the fewest between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. The time of day when first-time calls were most likely to result in qualifying contacts were between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. and between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. The fewest qualifying contacts were between 12:00 and 2:00 pm and between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. Unsurprisingly, the fewest calls received and sales made overall were during breakfast, lunch, and dinner time.

Data Limitations

Data is a powerful tool, but it cannot offer universal truth. Some limitations of this study include the following caveats:

  • The likelihood of contacting a client on a certain day of the week may have been confounded with the time interval between form submission and calling. Thus the high rate of contact on Thursdays may have reflected a preference for submitting online forms, rather than receiving phone calls, on that day. The same caveat can be made for time of day.
  • Significant results were found only when data across six companies were pooled. Thus, individual companies may have difficulty analyzing their own patterns in a meaningful way.
  • Statistical methods and names of actual companies included in the study are not readily available to the public, so it is hard to gauge applicability to an individual business.

Conclusion

What is the take-home message of this scientific undertaking? Call immediately.

If you have to wait, call on a Thursday evening before dinner.

Could this advice have been given without scientific data to back it up? Probably, but it is reassuring to know that your sales intuition is backed up by scientific evidence.

Call HelloSells at 800.550.4955 to learn how we can put evidence-based best practices like these to use for your business.

How To Capture Leads

If your business is like many others, your conversion rate on your website is low. In most industries, a drop-off rate of 70-90% is expected. If you are selling something complex or specialized, you may be lucky to convert 1% of your visitors. In other words, as many as 99% of your visitors may be leaving your site without buying anything and with no intention of returning.

The question that most business teams ask is how they can increase their conversion rate. However, the reality is that most people are not even arriving at your website, intending to buy. That doesn’t mean they can’t become customers, though. You just need to do a little more work. Focusing on how you can move more of those visitors through the sales funnel to becoming hot leads should be your starting point.

What Is a Lead Capture Strategy?

Again, most people searching on the internet are not planning to find a product then immediately buy it. They are researching their potential purchase. After doing that research, they may take a little time to evaluate before making a purchase. In many cases, they may simply drop the matter and never buy anything.

In short, expecting your website to convert sales consistently on its own may be asking too much. Instead, you probably need to get your sales team involved.

By converting your visitors to leads for your salespeople to contact, you are making your initial ‘micro’ conversion easier. You aren’t asking them to buy anything, just to give up some contact information.

A lead capture strategy is your method of getting potential leads to send contact information to your team. With this information, your salespeople can develop them as leads and potential future sales. Often, a lead capture strategy includes offering something in exchange for the lead’s details. For example, you may have a form for downloading a whitepaper that contains fields for lead capture.

The Sales Funnel

As you likely already know, the sales funnel is a simple model for explaining how someone goes from not knowing about your product to becoming a customer. It may be a somewhat cliché way of looking at sales. However, it is also relevant in a lot of circumstances.

While the stages of awareness, information, evaluation, and purchase are generic, they are a good rough description of the purchase process. Thinking about lead capture in terms of these stages can help you to develop a more effective strategy.

As mentioned above, you will have a hard time converting website visitors into customers directly. This is because most of them are only in the information or evaluation phases of the funnel. They aren’t yet ready to buy. However, they could be ready in the future if you meet them where they are.

Capturing Leads at the Beginning of Their Buying Journey

Many visitors to your website may be at the beginning of their buying journey. They know that they have a problem to solve but are not yet familiar with the possible solutions.

Visitors in this stage are not searching for specific products or even considering a purchase. Instead, they are looking for more information and guidance on their problems.

Consider the issues that your products or services help solve. For example, if you sell some accounting software, visitors may be having trouble capturing all their expense information.

The key to capturing leads at this stage is to offer something helpful for people who are only just beginning to find solutions for their problems. Returning to the accounting software, you could provide a whitepaper on best practices for expense authorization. It is relevant to the problem that the visitor is currently addressing. You aren’t expecting them to switch their operations to your solution. You are just asking them to learn more.

Lead Capture in the Middle of the Funnel

Later in the funnel, you may have visitors aware of your solutions currently researching and evaluating one or a few options. At this stage, they are still not ready to talk about pricing or make a purchase. However, they are more interested in how your product or service could fit into the solution to their problem.

At this stage, more in-depth data is useful to visitors. For example, you may have a more detailed report on a study. For a marketing solution, you may have a report about the typical return on investment for different promotional channels.

Another option is access to a tool that would be helpful to leads at this stage in the funnel. The marketing brand may provide an ROI calculator.

Strategies for Lead Capture at the End of the Sales Journey

As potential buyers reach the end of the sales funnel, they are looking for detailed information about your product. They are down to one or two possibilities and want some final data to help confirm their decision.

At this stage, you can offer them reports about your solutions. For example, this may be information on how your product helps save businesses money. Another option is to provide testimonials or reviews that provide social proof of your product’s benefits. Free trials and demos are also extremely valuable at this stage.

Your visitors are interested in these types of answers because they have already learned about ways to solve their problems and how your products may fit into those solutions. With a fully considered lead capture strategy, you can help leads at every stage of the sales funnel.

Live Lead Response and Qualification From HelloSells

The right tool-set and services can help you capture and convert more leads at every funnel stage.

HelloSells provides powerful tools and services to help brands like yours be more responsive to website visitors’ needs.

We provide 24/7 live response to calls, form responses, web chat, click-to-call, and other valuable lead response services. With HelloSells, you can ensure that you are consistently engaging and capturing information on leads. Check out all our services and see how they could fit into your lead capture strategy.

Call us at 800-550-4955 to learn more.

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