When I joined Revenue River three and a half years ago, it was as an Inbound Coordinator on the marketing team. I was a couple years out of college and became the third employee at a start-up digital marketing agency in Denver, behind Marc Herschberger and Nathan Miller. I was servicing a handful of clients across a wide variety of industries. Work was fun and challenging and new. And when I wasn’t embarrassing my boss and myself by nodding off in an early morning client meeting, I was learning a lot, about the job, about the industry, about myself.
And after a year and a half of working in that marketing role, I was ready for a new challenge. As the business continued to grow, eventually my boss was forced to seek additional help in some areas. So when I heard him talk about needing someone to take over some of his sales responsibilities, I jumped at the opportunity to learn a new role. The way I saw it, and the way I eventually pitched the idea to my boss, was that he could either hire an experienced salesman to teach him our business or he could take me, a marketer, and teach me how to sell. Luckily for me, his professional background was as a sales manager, so the pairing seemed to work. I’d rely on my extensive knowledge of our industry and practices to be able to provide a solution-based approach for my leads. Once I made the switch however, I was forced to acknowledge a few stark contrasts between my previous role and my new one, specifically in that the conversations I wanted to have were not going to be nearly as easy to come by.
As a marketer, your clients are paying for your advice. In sales, however, you don’t already have that trust established. Leads won’t always agree to or show up for meetings, so you will inevitably have to do some chasing. Because this is something every salesperson will face, it helps to be able to follow a few guidelines for keeping tabs on your leads.
When in doubt, give them a call
The first step to reacting to a lead going dark on you is being able to determine that is what’s happening. Your leads have a million other things going on and often have a bunch of legitimate reasons they couldn’t get back to you on time. So whenever in doubt, resist the temptation to simply send an email trying to touch base. According to research by TOPO, less than 24% of sales emails are ever even opened. If your lead is truly busy, chances are they don’t have time to reply to your email anyway. And if they are ducking you intentionally, an email is too easy to ignore. So if you are trying to establish some sales credibility, when in doubt, pick up the phone and ask what’s going on.
Take advantage of your toolset
The second step to handling a lead that has gone dark on you is to take advantage of the toolset at your disposal. The HubSpot CRM makes it very easy to set reminders, or “tasks,” to follow up with a lead. Just because they couldn’t answer your call that morning doesn’t mean they can’t later that day or week. It’s important to make sure you stay diligent, and setting a reminder is a very easy way to ensure you do so. At the very least, it lets your lead know that winning their business is important to you. Furthermore, when set up and utilized correctly, HubSpot Sales gives you an even deeper look into the behavior of your leads. I know when they opened my email. I know when they clicked a link or reviewed one of my documents. Every action they take or don’t take gives me a clearer picture of where they are at mentally. According to HubSpot, today's "customers are more self-directed as they move through the sales cycle. Gartner estimates that by 2020, only 15% of the customer relationship will involve human interaction. Does this mean the sales rep is being slowly phased out of the process? Far from it. It means you now need tools and insights to make all your connections high value ones." All of these tools provided in the CRM and Sales were added for a reason, so you might as well use them.
Don’t be afraid to go negative
Sometimes despite your best efforts and continued touches, a lead is going to ghost you. After having been regularly able to contact them through the sales process, they will seemingly disappear into thin air. My experience has shown me that this happens most often when you are a good ways into the sales cycle. Typically I have already gone through an exploratory call, assessment review, and even have submitted a proposal when this happens. Everything seemed to be going great, and BAM, ghosted. They don’t answer my calls. They don’t reply to my emails. They are just dark. But before I give up, it’s important to use that one last club in your bag, going negative.
Going negative means calling your lead out on their bullshit. Your previous attempted touches probably sound something like “Hello, I just wanted to catch up and find out how you feel about the proposal in your hands. Please give me a shout at your convenience.” But once you get to this point, it is okay to take a much harder stance. Don’t be afraid to be very clear about what it looks like from your position. The opportunity is either already lost, so you can’t risk losing it any further, or the lead just needs some additional motivation to update you on their situation. “I am confused on what is going on here. I built a proposal of our services for your business per your request, and I haven’t heard a word from you since I sent it. Please give me a call ASAP to let me know where you stand.” It may sound a bit harsh compared to your typical messages, but that is the point. Change the tone. Change the message, and get an answer either way. Most salespeople will agree that a No is much less troubling than receiving no answer.
Avoid chase mode altogether by always setting the next step
My final piece of advice is one my boss has hammered into me time and time again. You must always set the next step. If you just finished an exploratory call, set the assessment review. If it was an assessment review, set the proposal. Most importantly, if it was a proposal review, be sure to set a time to address any questions or concerns about what they will review. Most often this is the least intuitive meeting to set because the lead has just been presented with a lot of new information, including the pricing, and they will just want a few days to take it all in. It is okay if they need a few days, a week, or even a month, so long as you end that conversation with an agreed upon time to chat again. If they aren’t sure about their schedule, have them guess on a good time, plan on that, and if you have to change it, so be it, but at least it will be on both of your calendars, so you won’t have to waste time trying to track down your lead.