Everyone likes to feel productive, so when sales teams receive a set of “warm leads” — prospects who have been nurtured through marketing and have indicated an interest in being contacted — the first temptation might be to call or e-mail as many of them as possible. And preferably as quickly as possible, before they grow “cold.”
But wait! You may be making a mistake.
The point of warm leads is not to get through them as though they were a set of items on a to-do list. Warm leads are the building blocks of a company’s growth strategy, and as they convert into real customers they bring critical data to CRM such as Sales Cloud. Whether they fully realize it or not, they have started on a journey with you, but even though there are elements that marketing and sales departments can control, warm leads can choose to step off and end the journey at any time they choose. At that point, they don’t just become cold — they sometimes freeze out any future attempts to contact them.
Bear in mind that warm leads might describe themselves as “lukewarm” at best in many cases. They were interested in something, but not necessarily a purchase, and they may feel they can avoid contact with sales long enough that they’ll eventually be left to their own devices again. That’s what makes the following best practices so important as you proceed:
How warm is “warm?” Sales and marketing teams should agree on this well before any lead generation programs are established, of course, but it’s surprising how often there are misunderstandings here. What counts as a marketing qualified lead (MQL) could include downloading a white paper or eBook. To sales, that may not feel very warm. They might prefer someone who has downloaded an eBook but also subscribed to the company’s blog, and who has shared some of its content with their social media followers with a positive comment attached. There is obviously a difference between those two levels of engagement, and it will determine which leads sales prioritize and those that marketing will need to nurture.
Will a warm lead shower you with not only one sale but ongoing business? Or will they dry up soon after being contacted? This is where having a robust CRM in place begins to show real value, because it allows sales teams to benchmark warm leads against similar kinds of decision makers and companies who have already become customers. Some of the things you should look for may include:
Typical account team size: Will reaching out to this warm lead be a very preliminary step, or is this the person who will make the ultimate call to buy or not?
Buyer journey specifics: Do these companies look at supplier web sites first and foremost, or are there other experts? What offline research might influence their behaviour?
Use case and needs analysis: What pain points has your company helped alleviate with similar companies? This may get you closer to understanding why this person was willing to hand over their information.
Too many initial calls or e-mails to a warm lead use vague, open-ended overtures. It becomes obvious to any B2B buyer that they’re only one of many people a rep is contacting. These openings tend to follow some kind of formula that includes, “I noticed you (downloaded a white paper/took a free trial/used our online calculator). How can I help you further?”
More experienced sales pros get as specific as possible, positioning whatever asset captured the warm lead’s interest as something that’s almost like a “super power,” exclusive to their firm. This could be:
Expertise in a certain industry challenge
Proprietary technology or approaches to offering a service
Special pricing, bundles or packages that make acquisition and deployment easier
Instead of asking how to help, reps can offer specifically to help a warm lead take the next step or continue the journey they’ve already begun.
If you manage to connect with a warm lead and it doesn’t immediately lead to an in-person meeting or even a followup call, don’t panic. It’s not uncommon for warm leads to respond to value statements with a variation on, “don’t call us, we’ll call you.” This may be because, even if the rep is very prepared when they make the call, the warm lead was in the middle of something else, far removed from whatever mindset they had when they downloaded an asset or engaged in some other kind of lead-nurturing activity.
Rather than risk being too aggressive, reps have lots more they can do. This includes providing additional assets or resources — some of which can be purely educational and not centered around making a conversation. They can listen for any additional details from the warm lead that can be used for further discussion with their manager or investigation with their CRM. Or they can communicate the results of the interaction back to their marketing department, who can then pursue additional tactics to warm the lead up again.
When warm leads go completely cold, there may be a tendency to pretend they never existed in the first place and move on to the next one. That makes a small loss even bigger for the sales department, however. Instead, CRM should be coupled with analytics and artificial intelligence technologies such as Salesforce Einstein to better understand the barriers to properly qualifying a warm lead. It can help build a better plan of attack with the next one, certainly, but it can also assist marketing with the lead capture and nurture process, or even areas of customer service where upselling or cross-selling is difficult.
You won’t always walk away with a sale, but at least walk away with more actionable data and more warm leads.
Learn more ways to help your sales team succeed with our ebook, “4 Steps to Transforming Your Sales Process.”