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Handling incoming sales leads - 6 Hot Tips

Supplier: Industracom
14 July, 2011

For many businesses success depends on much more than just being great at what you do.

You may be able to deliver superior services, or your products may be better than your competitors', but if you don't handle incoming sales leads effectively you'll have trouble converting them into sales and may find yourself with a lot of spare time on your hands.

There are a number of important things that have to happen to convert a lead into a sale. While there are lots of different techniques and methods, we've highlighted 6 top tips for handling your incoming leads.

1. Recognise opportunities
Sales leads can take many forms and are not restricted to phone calls from people who openly ask you for quotes. They can come in via your website or by email, and they can also present themselves in day to day conversations with existing customers or contacts – don't forget referrals are also a great source of leads. The key here is to listen for the signals that someone may have a problem that you can help with.

2. Have a process to handle and qualify sales leads
When you recognise an opportunity and feel that you are moving into sales mode, you should start to run through your lead handling checklist. Again, you need to listen to make sure it is actually a lead presenting itself, and then you need to start asking some qualifying questions. These should be open ended to encourage more conversation, but specific enough for you to work out whether there is an opportunity you want to pursue further. This checklist, whether it’s just in your head or something written next to your phone, can be an essential part of your lead handling process. Basic techniques like noting down all details at the beginning of the process are very important. These can include full name, company, contact number, location and email address.

3. Don't drop the ball
You've heard the expression you only get one chance to make a first impression, and the same is true with sales leads. Each step from identification and qualification through to pitching and closing requires careful attention to ensure that what you are proposing will meet the needs of your prospect. If you try out a new restaurant and they get your order wrong because they aren't paying attention you probably won't go back, and it's often the same with closing sales leads.

4. Follow up
This point can't be emphasised enough. People are busy and it's easy to get distracted with schedules, work, and life's little challenges, so it's not enough just recognising the opportunity and quoting or sending through a proposal. If you don't follow up there's a good chance that proposal will sit on a desk or in an inbox and by the time your prospect gets around to looking at it again they've forgotten why they needed it so urgently in the first place. This should also be a part of your lead handling process.

5. Start a relationship
Well, not quite like that, but try to start a marketing relationship with the prospect. Even if you don't get this sale ask your prospect if they'd like to receive your newsletter or your catalogues so that you still have the opportunity to offer them your products or services in the future. Get their permission, understand their interests, and then stay in touch with relevant communications.

6. Monitor leads and learn from your wins and losses
Monitoring the progress of your leads is hugely important. Whether you manage to convert the prospect into a customer or not, you should always try and make sure that you understand why. If you were successful, was this because your products or services were better than your competitors? Did you win it on price? Were you just in the right spot at the right time? The same questions should also be asked if you didn't convert the sale. This isn't always easy because sometimes it can feel like a slap in the face if a prospect goes elsewhere, but understanding why could mean you make the next sale.