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Your sales cycle is killing your leads.
Beware of the zombie lead.
Previously thought of as 'dead,' these leads are now known to come back.
Mediabistro recently published an article discussing what to do with 'dead' leads. They quoted research from Ed Gandia's "The Wealthy Freelancer."
According to Gandia's book, a large percentage of your 'dead' leads will hire someone to do what you do within 18 to 24 months of your contact.
In his example, a 'dead' lead qualifies as someone who responded to a pitch you gave, but did not return your follow-up call. Gandia says a common mistake sales people make is to follow up with only those leads who express either immediate interest or down-the-line interest. They drop the leads who do not respond to a follow-up call!
This baffled me.
In the five years I've done business for myself, I've never had a 'dead' lead. I've only had long sales cycles. I'm sure anyone entrepreneur understands what I'm saying.
2015 Update: 63% of people requesting information on your company today will not purchase for at least three months – and 20% will take more than 12 months to buy. -Marketing Donut
That has been our experience again and again. We'll have someone contact us and say, 'Yeah, so-and-so told me about your company a year ago but we just weren't ready to hire yet.' Or we'll have someone we went back and forth with six months ago come back to us and engage again.
Sales is as much about creating an experience for and building relationships with people as it is about turning a profit. I believe that once a project is over, both parties–the vendor and the client–come away with more than a payment and product. They come away with a relationship. And relationships last a heck of a lot longer than a client/customer project.
When a potential relationship doesn't return a phone call or an email, we don't take it to heart. We understand building relationships can take time. We're more than willing to put the time into that development. We'll shoot them an email down the line or give them a quick a call after awhile, but we make it more about them and less about us. Because let's face it, no one likes a one-sided relationship.
Our sales cycle is a long one. I can tell you that 75% of our sales this year came from conversations and pitches we gave in early 2010. I can also tell you, with a fair amount of confidence, that at least 30% of next year's profits will come from these same leads. They'll either come back to us or they'll refer us to someone in their network
If we had given up on these leads as dead after eight months - and if I had not checked in every few months with a friendly email - we 'd not be in the position we're in now.
The lead is dead, long live the lead. I certainly hope so.
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