How to Effectively Follow Up With Your Inbound Leads

Effective inbound lead follow-up on the phone

Your B2B marketing campaigns are generating inbound leads. Marketing carefully tracks the source and hands over the information to sales. Your salespeople diligently reach out to everyone on the list. It’s a single, solution-rich message that lets reps easily contact each lead. 

But only 1 person responds 

You’re confused. Sales blames Marketing for passing a list of bad leads. Marketing says Sales isn’t trying hard enough. 

What really happened is more nuanced

The leads aren’t all bad. Your sales team isn’t incompetent. The issue is ineffective messaging that’s missing two critical pieces of information.

What You Need for Effective Inbound Lead Follow-Up

Effective inbound lead follow-up depends on your sales team’s ability to analyze the lead source and understand where the prospect is in their buy cycle. When you pair these two data points, your sales team becomes more effective at inbound lead follow-up and converts prospects to clients.

Start by segmenting your list by the lead source

The lead source is easy to obtain; your marketing team can tell you if a prospect came from:

  • Gated assets or forms on your website

  • Phone calls

  • Emails

Lead source indicates how qualified a prospect is

Effective salespeople use it to pinpoint where prospects are in their buy cycle. If you aren’t familiar with the buy cycle, think of it as a sales funnel for prospects.

The sales funnel and the client buy cycle

While you’re moving through the sales funnel, a prospect also moves through their buy cycle. In it, prospects go from figuring out they have a problem to taking action and making a buying decision. 

The 5 steps of the client buy cycle are: 

  1. Unawareness
  2. Awareness 
  3. Interest 
  4. Desire 
  5. Action 

You’ll notice that visually, it’s very similar to a sales funnel. It also maps perfectly with your lead sources. 

inbound lead sources and client buy cycle graphic

Your Guide to Pairing the Buy Cycle With Lead Sources

How you reach out to a prospect will depend on their mindset (where they are in the buy cycle). Their perspective will change as they move through the funnel, which is why one message – no matter how well-crafted it is – can’t convert every lead. To get more clients, your salespeople need to tweak what they say to fit the prospect’s state of mind.

Downloading assets points to awareness 

People who download gated assets from your site – like ebooks and checklists – demonstrate they: 

  • Know they have a problem
  • Realize you can help

But they may not be ready to talk to you

The topic and depth of your gated assets help define where a prospect is in their buy cycle. 

Overviews and content with less depth point to problems early in the buy cycle. Whatever problem they’re experiencing hasn’t become a priority. Prospects are using your information to do research. It’ll likely be hard for your salespeople to engage contacts when they’re in this phase. 

Solution-focused, more explicit content points to later in the buy cycle. These prospects are looking for potential solutions to their problems to determine the best way to address them. Your salespeople will find it easier to engage these contacts if they are persistent, but may encounter stiff competition.

Stay top of mind

As your prospects work their way through their buyer’s journey, don’t let them forget you. Using the information they provided to access your resource, you can: 

  1. Add them to marketing campaigns
  2. Put them into sales sequences 

Now, when their problem becomes urgent, they reach out to you

Leads from SEO are interested in your solutions

SEO leads are actively looking for your solutions. Their problem is becoming a priority. But they haven’t settled on your services. They’re still conducting research, looking for the best solution. However, now they’re willing to hear from you and will take a call from your sales team. 

Don’t rush the process

On the call, don’t jump ahead to the next phase or your sell cycle or their buy cycle. The prospect is talking, but not ready to buy. Move at the pace your prospect wants to move. Your goal right now is to build trust. Have a thorough conversation about their problems and what your services enable. Answer as many questions as possible during this phase. It will help prevent objections later on in their buy cycle. This patience will pay off. If they aren’t ready to engage yet, at some point, SEO leads start to trend into the Desire phase.

SEO + SEM are hot leads indicating desire

By the time a prospect gets to “Desire,” they are well aware of the problem and how to solve it. SEO and PPC leads typically originate from inbound calls or a Contact Us form on your website. A better SEO ranking will get you more of these very desirable leads. These prospects are further along in their Client Buy Cycle, and they are often hot and very competitive. Your prospect is comparison shopping to figure out just who is going to fix their issue. 

How to make your company the preferred option

Your prospect wants a solution. The sales rep’s job is to make it clear why your company is the best choice. If your salesperson simply runs through all the standard benefits your company provides, you won’t move many people into the Action phase of the funnel. Your sales rep must ask questions that let them frame the value you can provide to that prospect

SEM-only shows your lead is ready for action

Leads who contact you after calling the number you list in an ad, or clicking through to the Contact Us page, are ready to purchase right now. But just because they’re reaching out to you doesn’t mean they’re ready to buy from you. They’ve moved from comparison shopping into price shopping – and you want to capture their business without discounting your services.

Uncover hidden value that you provide

You created a preference for your company in the Desire stage. Now it’s time to go deeper. You have to find some hidden value the prospect hasn’t already thought about that your solution provides. With that hidden value, you then reframe the prospect’s idea of what their solution should be and get the prospect to pivot. You change your prospect’s vision of the solution they need and differentiate yourself from the competition. If your rep can do that, you won’t be forced to compete on price with your business rivals. 

graphic of bloodhound prospecting

Inbound Lead Follow-Up Requires Complete Sales Skillsets

When your salespeople follow up on inbound leads, they need to adapt their approach and messaging to where a prospect is in the Client Buy Cycle. Your reps need to think on their feet and react. There isn’t a set script to follow. 

That doesn’t mean your salespeople can’t prepare

With the right inbound lead follow-up training, salespeople will have the skills to adapt to changing circumstances. They’ll tailor their approach to where a prospect is in the buy cycle. They’ll qualify opportunities and know when to question or recommend. We do this in our expert-led, interactive web-based sales training. Reps use their own sales opportunities as examples, giving them the opportunity to generate revenue for your business while learning and building their skills. A full description of our approach is here:

You can also reach out to me directly to talk about training opportunities for your sales team. Let’s meet.

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