There's a very specific approach that works with web leads, which we've found through trial and error. (Here I go giving away all our secrets again.)
Step 1: Good SEO: The first thing is to have really good search engine optimization (SEO) so people can find you. You can "rent" space at the top of Google by buying AdWords or you can pay an SEO expert to convince Google you're an expert so they'll rank you first naturally. AdWords is immediate but more expensive while natural SEO work takes time - 6 months or more. You can also use a combination of both approaches.
Step 2: Website tricks: I've said this before and I'll say it again: Most companies simply have no idea what the purpose of a website is. They seem to have this idea that a website is a great place to put lots of marketing literature. While that is fine, the purpose of a website for most companies is to get to a phone call. That's it. You want someone to pick up the phone and call you, or have the person email you, because they're impressed with the information they find on your site. But how is someone going to easily contact you when you have a small "contact us" tab or link at the bottom of your site? We have a big "contact us" form on every single page of our DROdio.com site. And people use it. On some of the pages, we have multiple "contact us" buttons & forms. There are 3 on our property listing pages, like this one.
Step 3: QUICK contact. A really fast response to a web lead is key. In fact, the speed of response is more important than anything else about you. It's more important than your subject matter knowledge. It's more important than your helpfulness. When people submit leads online, they don't wait for you to respond. They move on to another site and submit a lead on that site too. Whoever responds first gets the customer. Period. Our goal is to always respond within 15 minutes. In fact, we try to respond in under 5 minutes when someone submits a lead on our sites. And think of it this way - when you submit something online, you're not really expecting to get a response for several days, right? So when you get a call within a few minutes, that really builds trust with the client.
We use an advanced custom-build CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system that is PHP-based and FREE called XRMS, which we've been modifying for the last 4 years.
This CRM system lets us have multiple employees interfacing with each contact using a "sales funnel" approach. When a lead comes in, it starts in "no contact." As we interact with the lead, we move him to different statuses, such as "first followup" or "second followup". This lets us easily see at what stage each person is in.
You don't need an advanced CRM system to do this yourself. You could, for example, make a series of folders in your Outlook that mimic the same behavior. As your business prospects move through different stages of interest, you can move them to different folders. We do, however, highly, highly, highly recommend you start using a CRM system if you intend to do any selling at all. Trying to sell without a CRM system is like trying to eat without utensils. It's possible, but not pretty. There is a very good subscription-based CRM tool called Salesforce.com which is $50/month-ish. You can view their demos here.
We also have a very systematic approach to following up with each lead that comes in. We "tag" each lead with a very detailed set of tags specific to that person's interests. For example, if the buyer is looking to buy a home in Alexandria, VA, we can easily pull out of our database all of the prospective clients we have that meet that criteria, and market directly to them (when a new listing is available in Alexandria, for example). These "tags" are an important part of what's called "drip marketing" which is revolutionizing the way companies stay in touch with consumers.
These days, consumers often are just "kicking the tires" online, looking for some information. They're often not read to commit to you immediately. I've heard many salespeople get frustrated at this online behavior. But if you know how to harness it, this can become a real asset. Become a trusted resource for these potential clients over time, and use technology to leverage your knowledge transfer. For example, why do you think I spend so much time writing these blog postings? I know that there are many subscribers to this blog that I will eventually want to do business with in some form or another. If I can share my expertise to you now, then you'll be more likely to listen to what I have to say when I have a business idea for you. The same thing should apply to your business. You should be using a drip marketing campaign tool such as Constant Contact so you can keep your consumers on a "drip marketing" campaign and let them come to you when they are interested in something you write.
Our process is as follows:
- Lead comes in via email or phone. If via email, we respond within 15 minutes. We offer to put the home buyer on a "set it and forget it" alerting system so they're notified when new properties come one the market that match their buying criteria. You might be able to find similar ways to leverage technology to do some of your work for you. Once we've responded, we move people from "no contact" to "first followup" in our sales funnel.
- If no response, we follow up again via phone & email within 24 hours. We move the lead to "second followup"
- If no response within 2 days, we follow up again via phone & email. At this point we move the contact to "discarded" BUT we set them up on a "drip" marketing campaign to have them keep receiving occasional (usually weekly or every 2 weeks) emails from me about trends in the marketplace. About 30% of those on the drip campaign will eventually contact us, and of those, 25% to 40% will turn into clients.
As you can see, this process isn't difficult; it just requires discipline and a bit of a process framework to help you get things done in a consistent manner. Sales is a numbers game. The more people you have coming through your sales funnel, the more business you'll get. You have to be ready to face rejection; if 1 in 10 of your leads turn into paying clients, you're doing well. That means you'll be told "no" 9 out of 10 times. Most people can't handle that kind of rejection. But those of us who love selling thrive on the 1 "yes" in 10, and on providing true value to our clients. Good selling!