Why It Shouldn’t Take 100 Days to Close a Lead

Good leads keep businesses up and running, but only 37 percent of companies respond to online leads within an hour. When prospects could be buying from competitors’ websites just as easily, an hour online might as well be a year.

Dragging out these processes for 100 days — or more — doesn’t simply have a negative impact on metrics like time on site. Bad customer experiences account for $83 billion lost by businesses annually, so companies must pay close attention from the first second they interact with leads and nurture them throughout the entire customer journey.

Instead of striking out by focusing on a Facebook post’s likes or a Twitter account’s followers, companies need to examine what leads actually do online — both on and off the company’s site. To convert more leads into sales quickly, companies should focus on three specific aspects of the consumer journey.

1. Scout your top prospects

It’s much easier to score or qualify leads based on their actual behavior than on information prospects provide themselves through online forms or surveys. Using cross-site behavioral data to filter leads will help narrow a large list to the prospects most likely to convert into sales.

For example, a financial services executive recently reached out to me after noticing that my company was a sponsor of an upcoming conference. After visiting our site and reading through our blog, this prospect saw a potential fit. I put this lead in contact with our sales team members, who quickly realized that a few of our emails had reached people at this prospect’s company, and those people had responded favorably to the communication. All of this information on one customer’s journey helped us turn a small lead into an enterprise-level sale.

In addition, the more a company understands where it overlaps with its competitors, the better its chances of winning leads. Prospects who research both a company and its competition should be treated differently than those who do not or those who are active clients of a competitor. Knowing that a customer has researched the competition means salespeople can leverage the weaknesses of other companies that the customer investigated without being seen as negative or “trash talking” the competition.

2. Look beyond your leads’ knee-jerk tendencies

Bring in everything known about a prospect from marketing, sales, analytics, e-commerce, etc., to get a holistic view of what this person needs. It’s not easy, but manually connecting activity across various points of engagement to an individual provides a big leg up on the competition and puts sales teams in a position to understand this lead better than anyone else.

Most analytics tools can determine where a customer has come from, but they don’t connect the dots between different interfaces or detect when a visitor interacts with a brand on multiple sites or platforms. The more a person interacts with a brand, the more the brand should know about that person. Cross-site customer journey mapping not only reveals what prospects do on other sites, but it also enables companies to craft tailored solutions based on prospects’ actual behavior.

When studying leads with cross-site data, observe patterns to identify new opportunities. Which channels, partners, and campaigns generate more leads and sales? Defining sales approaches by looking at results can help companies focus on the sources that are most likely to increase revenue. For example, we recently found that the wholesale market fosters customer loyalty, even though there’s a very high overlap of both products and customers among retailers. Knowing that their customers are loyal can change the type and frequency of messaging, leading to a focus on offerings and personalization rather than competitive standing. Findings like this may go against previously held assumptions, so be sure to study online behavior carefully.

3. Abandon the shotgun approach

Once patterns have been identified, base all communication on leads’ actual behavior — don’t rely on information they’ve provided. And keep an open mind when analyzing leads’ online activities; you may discover unexpected trends, like wholesale customer loyalty.

Knowing what products prospective leads actually buy online is much stronger data than common lead form information, like email address and job title. For a luxury travel company, for example, knowing who’s purchasing luxury cars and shopping for premium brands could be the information needed to identify the people who will actually pay for its services.

After identifying promising leads, don’t forget to put this data to good use. Lack of nurturing is the primary reason 79 percent of leads never pay off. Automation is fine, but the shotgun approach of reaching as many customers as possible neglects the nurturing process that transforms leads into sales.

Don’t mistake automation as a replacement for personalization. One bulk message is easier to send than 100 personalized ones, but splitting the difference can achieve great results. Arrange leads into different categories, and send different messages to each group. A lead that originated from advertising is different than an organic visitor and should receive different messaging and treatment from the outset.

It’s not about identifying more leads — it’s about generating the kinds of leads that turn into sales quickly. Gather data to create a holistic view of your prospects, then use that information to nurture leads and whittle that 100-day sales cycle down to something much more reasonable — and much more thrilling.

Deren Baker is the CEO of Jumpshot, a San Francisco-based startup that offers marketing analytics solutions tailored for the travel, retail, media, financial, and e-commerce industries. He previously held senior roles at Travelocity and Switchfly.