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Internet leads are not referrals.
Unlike referrals, the customer is not necessarily coming to you with any sort of specific interest in you or your company. They were not recommended to you based on your reputation or another measure of brand affinity.
In contrast, Internet leads are generated as a result of the consumer’s discovery and research process. They are comparing and contrasting options, of which you are one of many. The consumer is expecting to be pursued and courted.
That being said, if you’re going to be buying Internet leads or even generating them directly, you need to make a concerted effort to set up sales and marketing systems and processes to support your sales team. Proper systems will increase your sales team’s success and minimize common frustrations.
This is my simple framework for preparing a sales team for working Internet leads.
Get a CRM with Sales Automation
Done correctly, Internet leads will bring your sales team more leads than they are accustomed to managing. In addition, many of these leads will be further from making a decision than most of their referrals.
Remember, you’re catching them in the research and discovery phase, not the “urgent need” phase.
These two characteristics – higher volume and longer sales cycle – require you to have a database to hold and manage a longer and more complex sales process. In a nutshell, this process will need to include automated follow-ups and long-term lead nurturing. Your CRM solution must be able to support both of these.
Design a Speed-to-Contact and Follow-up Program
Internet leads come in at all times of the day. The Internet is so ubiquitous and accessible that consumers fill out web forms on a whim. For similar reasons, you’re probably competing with several others because consumers often fill out several web forms with multiple companies to generate comparable offers.
This situation creates two important challenges and opportunities for you.
First, the consumer expects and appreciates responsiveness. They also expect the convenience of being pursued. Your system needs to use automation to create an exceptional, responsive, attentive, and clear first contact – at any hour of the day.
Second, you need to be the first “in contact” with them. Notice I said, first “in contact,” not necessarily the first “to contact” them. Simple automation is not sufficient here. You need to design a frictionless process to get the consumer on the phone and lock in that personal, human relationship.
Some of the key technical components of this contact system, which should be components of your CRM system, include:
- Automated email response and sequence system
- Automated text messaging response and sequence system
- Automated ringless voicemail drop system (check with your compliance department)
- Self-service calendaring and scheduling system
Design a Lead Nurturing Program
Invariably, most of your Internet leads will be months away from converting. However, and this is essential to remember, most of them will convert…somewhere. That means that if you stop “talking” to them they will simply go back to the market (and become a lead again for someone else).
This is the case for designing a lead nurturing program that continues marketing to these consumers – staying top of mind indefinitely.
If you are buying or generating Internet leads you probably are best served with a tightly blended sales and marketing team, not a sales team AND a marketing team.
Again, your CRM system is a critical hub in this process. It should allow you to fully automate a system of email, text, and voicemail messages and sequences.
My lead nurturing programs often follow this framework:
- Leads enter relevant lead nurturing campaigns based on sales data, specifically lead status and product/service interest. In some case, this might also include final disposition status (i.e., unresponsive, not credit qualified, insufficient down payment, DTI too high, etc.)
- Lead nurturing campaigns are largely content-based email marketing campaigns. The objective of these campaigns is not only to stay top of mind but also to help evolve the consumer into a qualified lead in the future.
- Finally, and often a neglected aspect of a great lead nurturing program is the automated occasional check-in and call-to-action. This is the moment where to test if that leads us back in the market, or thinking about it.
Create Content for Your Leads
Sales and marketing automation always feels like spam without relevant, interesting content. Get a rate quote, buy my thing, call me! See what I mean?
Content can help us help consumers to become a better lead and in most cases get them a better deal.
Taking a couple of simple examples from mortgage lending, you can see how I like to improve the quality of my leads, and honestly my customer’s financial condition.
- If I have an unresponsive lead, I’m going to start a nurturing lifecycle that focuses on educating them on mortgages and the often confusing process that surrounds that process. My objective is to get them more confident in engaging with a mortgage loan officer.
- If I have a credit-challenged customer, I’m going to start educating them on how credit scores work and give them very actionable steps to improve their scores.
- If I have a DTI issue, I’m going to focus on educating them on how to improve their debt management, save more, and even how to earn more or get a better job.
You get the idea. Your database of leads (people) are going to be far more likely to stay engaged with you if you’re sending emails that are helping them improve themselves than emails that are very obviously only focused on improving your situation.
Ultimately, this approach “stocks the pond” for a never-ending, always growing, source of lead flow.
Optimize Your Website to Catch the Strays
Whether you are buying leads or generating leads, customers will bounce in and out of your website. Any mention of your company or you personally will probably generate a Google search.
If you and your company don’t show up in Google searches in a favorable way, you’ll be at a disadvantage. So, you need to ensure you have a decent website and make sure it’s ranking for both your company name and your sales people’s names. Honestly, this isn’t terribly hard to do. It’s not like ranking for competitive market keywords.
A quick highlight and sidebar on ranking for salespeople’s names. This is an often-overlooked gold mine. Your sales team is actively engaging and creating impressions with hundreds of people a week. All of those people are then Google searching, to “check-out” who is reaching out to them via phone and email. If you working on ranking for those names it just pulls those leads back into your sales funnel.
Finally, make sure that your website makes it frictionless for these visitors to inquire with you, often for a second time. Making this easy requires a little conversion rate optimization. In its simplest form, this means you need a little sales copy, a compelling call to action, a web form, and your phone number.
Okay, are you ready to buy or generate Internet leads? What gaps do you have left to fill?
For most of you, it’s probably writing and setting up a few email sequences.
If you need any help or want to talk through any of this in more detail, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for giving me a call at 734-775-4487.