Optimize your channel lead management process to sell more

5 strategies to convert more leads into paying customers

If your marketing efforts and lead volumes are in good shape, and your external sales team is handed a healthy list of sales leads, but your conversion rates aren’t keeping pace, the problem may be your lead follow-up process.

Industry research tells us that time and again more than a third of sales leads are never followed up on, and I’d bet that figure is even higher among companies that use a channel partner sales model, where there are far more opportunities for sales leads to fall through the cracks.

By simply creating a process to contact more leads — and therefore better understand why current leads go uncontacted — what kind of revenue increase could result?

One of the biggest complaints I hear from manufacturers that sell through channel partners is the struggle for pipeline visibility. They’ve established a strong lead generation program with plenty of marketing qualified leads. But once handed off to a channel partner, too many of these prospects go dark. They become difficult to track, and conversion rates — and by extension the bottom line — suffer.

To improve conversion rates, you need to develop a visible lead follow-up process that ensures you don’t leave leads, and potential revenue, on the table.

Here are 5 strategies that should be a part of your process:

1. Don’t let your leads spoil

According to a Harvard Business Review study which involved 1.25 million sales leads, firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which they defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.

Therefore, the faster your external partners connect with potential customers, the more likely your product will be top of mind when the prospect picks up the phone.

2. Establish priorities

Treating all leads as equals is inefficient, and inhibits revenue potential. (Spending time and resources on an unlikely buyer, while a higher-potential opportunity sits idle).

By determining whether a lead is “hot” or merely “lukewarm” before you send it to a distributor, you help them prioritize their day and signal which leads should be contacted first. Rather than throwing all leads in the same priority bucket, higher priority leads are contacted first while lower priority leads can be given a longer follow-up period.

3. Commit to follow-up

Recent research from Harvard Business Review reveals that sales reps can experience up to a 70 percent increase in contact rates by simply making a few more call attempts. Since you never know when a customer will be ready to buy, asking distributors to consistently and continuously follow-up with a lead increases the chance that they will make a connection that pays off.

Rather than burden channel partners with keeping track of these additional touches, a shared platform for communication makes follow-up easy to see and track.

4. Be relevant

Help your distributors by providing contextual sales information that will be useful when communicating with leads at the right time. Think about the questions that most potential customers have when they reach out to you, and supply your distributors with helpful content right when they need it, including product line updates, sales materials and other updates by stage and location. This will better position your distributors to convert opportunities into sales.

5. Tweak, refine & win

Once you begin communicating with your distributors about leads more closely, you can track every activity and fine-tune your process. Log contact rates, speeds and conversion to see what it most effective. The only way you can improve your sales figures when working with large distribution channels is to use your data to uncover where there are barriers in the buying process and take steps to remove them.

Without proper tracking through every stage of the buying process, there is no way to maximize the potential of your leads and sales opportunities. The result is lost revenue and wasted marketing dollars.

Implementing these 5 strategies will provide you insight into exactly what happens to every lead at every stage of the sales process — so your channel partners can turn more opportunities into closed deals.