by Jennifer Lonoff Schiff

How to convert sales leads into sales

May 19, 2016
Enterprise ApplicationsMarketing

Sales and marketing experts share their tips on how to turn prospects into customers.

sales leads ts
Credit: Thinkstock

Getting a lead is one thing. Turning that lead into a sale is quite another. Indeed, while there are plenty of companies and software solutions that can help businesses drum up sales leads, they can’t close the deal for you. So to find out what organizations can, or should, do to convert leads into sales, we queried dozens of sales and marketing professionals. Here are their four top tips on how to successfully turn a prospect into a customer.

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1. Give sales reps the tools and information they need to track and manage leads.“To keep up with empowered buyers, organizations need to equip their sales teams with as much information about the lead as possible: what site they came from, what content they have already consumed, how many touches they’ve had with the brand, etc.,” says Ed Calnan, cofounder, Seismic, a sales enablement solution provider. The best way to do this, he says, is to have technology, such as a sales automation/CRM solution, that the sales team is comfortable using — and is kept up to date.

“A CRM system is such a critical piece [for managing leads], and I continue to be baffled by companies that don’t have a CRM system, much less track leads within one,” says Ryan DuCharme, national account manager, Modernize, which provides home empowerment solutions. “For the contracting and remodeling industries, [for example,] companies like Improveit!360 and MarketSharp are leaders in the CRM space and have cost-effective methods that will immediately improve lead generation ROI, as long as you commit to using the systems.”

2. Make sure salespeople are prepared before they reach out to prospects.Sales reps can follow up on leads successfully only when they [are] properly prepared to do so,” says Robin Saitz, CMO, Brainshark, a sales enablement company. “For example, if leads are passed [on] based on webinar attendance, reps must [know] that webinar’s content and [what]qualifying questions would be relevant to be fully prepared for follow up with an attendee,” she explains. “If leads come in through a paid social media ad, reps need to know the nature of the offer, and what to probe for in a follow-up call or email. If reps don’t have this kind of background or foundation, leads will go to waste.”

Similarly, “if the lead came in through a referral source or partner, take a few minutes to ask the refer[er] why they directed the lead to you, what were the issues and problems,” says Aalap Shah, cofounder and new business development lead, SoMe, a digital marketing agency. “Knowledge is power and can help you set yourself up for success.”

3. Have sales reps follow up quickly with prospective customers – and pick up a phone. “Fast response times can increase the odds of winning the client,” says Shah.

“As a follow-up to any new sales opportunity, [sales] reps should [immediately] email each prospect a piece of content designed to advance the conversation forward,” says Saitz. And this content should be “mapped in context with the prospect’s persona, industry and stage of the buying cycle.”

But don’t just follow up with prospects via email.

“My number 1 tip for converting leads into sales is to pick up the phone,” says Josh Pittman, vice president, Inside Sales, Velocify, a provider of intelligent sales software. “While communicating with qualified leads through email serves a basic function, a lot can be lost using email by itself, as it fails to capture tone and emotion,” he says. “Picking up the phone [and] learning the pain points [prospects] are facing establish[es] a personal connection in real time, earning their trust and eventually their business.”

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And if you are unable to connect with the lead the first time you try, don’t give up. Leave a message (if you called) and follow up again in a day or two, via email and phone. And keep trying until you get a response. Just be sure not to overdo it – e.g., call or email more than once a day – as that can turn off prospects.

4. Have sales reps avoid the hard sell and instead focus on solving problems. “Instead of launching into a pitch about your product, since the customer has already expressed interest, the most effective way to open the conversation is to introduce yourself, [explain] why you’re calling [e.g., ‘I heard you were having a problem with…’] and ask ‘How can I help you?’” says Jessica Magoch, CEO, The Virtual Sales Academy. “Then listen. Many of your qualifying questions will be answered and the customer will tell you exactly what he or she wants to buy. Then just sell them what they want to buy, [or what they really need,] not what you want to sell.”

As for upselling, if you have an additional product or solution that the prospect didn’t ask for, or knows about, but that would help her solve her problem, by all means mention it. Just be prepared to back off – and focus on winning the initial sale – if the customer says she’s not interested, or not interested right now. If you make the customer feel comfortable working with you, she will likely continue to buy from you/your company.