Leads Are Precious. Here's How You're Probably Mishandling Them.

3/17/2021

By Dave Yoho, Dave Yoho Associates

A major consideration in evaluating the worth of a lead is its lifespan. To understand this phenomenon, examine what created the lead in the first place. While leads for many products/services come from prospects that recognize need and urgency, a high percentage come from those who spontaneously respond to something they’ve seen or heard. These are prospects who acted on an impulse to buy.

There are two critical factors to consider:

  1. Lead costs continue to escalate. As such, it is important to utilize “lower cost” lead sources, while simultaneously using your leads more efficiently.

  2. Whether you are aware of it or not, you and/or your personnel may unconsciously be mishandling leads.

To further illustrate these critical factors, I want to be clear on defining the difference between a prospect and a lead.

A prospect is someone who can use your product or service. If a prospect responds to your marketing efforts (thereby acknowledging their need), you can subsequently classify them as a “lead”.

However, if a prospect does not respond to your marketing efforts, they remain a prospect and will remain so until someone gets them to acknowledge their need (and sells them). You will notice the word “want” does not appear in this explanation. There is an intentional reason for this. Someone may want to see your product or “get a price”, yet no marketing message has stimulated a response. In the vast majority of these cases, it is because they haven’t been able to determine what their needs are.

What is a lead? The definition is often as simple as a prospect calling your office for an estimate, filling out a form on your website, or being referred by a neighbor, friend or family member. At other times, the lead is deeply hidden in a customer’s response for information, with phrases such as “Give me an idea how this product will benefit me...” or “Here’s my email address, send me some information or a brochure”. Making this more complex, prospects may make statements such as, “We’re not going to buy now!” or “Under no circumstances are we ready to do business!” These are the type of leads which become complicated because of the way in which sales personnel or marketing agents interpret this language and qualify in their own mind the “value of the lead”.

When sales personnel raise the issue of good vs. bad leads or when marketers refer to qualified vs. unqualified leads, they are frequently basing the qualification on their own value system. The truth about leads is that, “The difference between a good and bad lead is frequently the way it is handled by the company’s lead intake and sales personnel.”   

I do not deny that some leads are easier to work than others — yet a good prospect that is handled inefficiently may be referred to by a salesperson as a weak or poor lead. So what does this mean for nebulous leads? The word nebulous by definition means “indefinite”. It could be a prospect who may need what you have to sell, but hasn’t yet identified it as a want. Many marketing professionals are experts at producing and nurturing these leads. Nebulous leads require finessing beyond that of the average prospect who asks for a price or an estimate. They frequently require a scripted “appointment-setter” along with several modifications to your sales system.

What I have seen in many companies is that by focusing your marketing efforts on attracting nebulous leads, and most importantly, developing them, you will frequently stimulate the interest of “less-definite prospects”. These prospects may not have identified your product as a need. However, because of this, you may not have a lot of competition for your services. Furthermore, in today’s market, nebulous leads can be critical in reducing overall marketing costs. Keep in mind however that you and your salespeople may need training on how to handle leads of this nature.

One of our long-term clients recently instituted a program to produce and cultivate nebulous leads. Here are his results:

Case Study: A-64

16 Nebulous Leads Were Created:

  • 3 were bogus
  • 2 were not in their territory
  • 5 leads were issued and presented
  • 2 were sold for a total volume of $19,270
  • 6 leads have yet to be reached
  • The non-issued leads went into their database for re-contact by phone and email in 15-day intervals
  • Marketing costs were less than 2%

Are these leads good or bad? Remember, your answer is determined by your value system.

A lead retains its dominant value for about 48 to 72 hours. While it’s not “dead” after that, research shows that many individuals will lose interest after this period of time. If you do nothing else follow this maxim: When you receive a lead, act on it ASAP. Confirm to the prospect that you are interested in them and don’t set conditions about whether they are worthy of a sales presentation. Most of our clients confirm leads immediately irrespective of the source. Any delay diminishes the prospect’s value in your eyesight and it also diminishes your value in theirs.