As any good salesperson knows, it is not enough to generate sales leads and keep a steady stream of leads in your pipeline. In addition to growing leads, it is also very important to learn how keep track of your progress with each lead. Otherwise you may miss significant opportunities to move a sales lead through prospect status to closing the deal with a new customer.
Fortunately, it has never been easier to maintain and update a listing of the marketing leads you currently have in the hopper. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- If you are a low-tech person, falling back on an older system that employs index cards may work very well for you. This type of a system is very easy to maintain. For each sales lead, you will record pertinent information on an index card. The basic information should include the name of your contact, his or her position, the company name, physical and mailing addresses, phone and fax numbers, email address, and a short description of what the company does. On the back of the card, keep track of your interactions with this person, including when your next contact is planned. Keep all your index cards in a file that is divided into several categories: a general leads section, followed by a section for contacts to make and then a section on action items to do. Using this system, you can check every morning to see what you have planned in the way of sales opportunities.
- For those who want to use some electronic means, but still want to keep it relatively simple, you can use some of the features that come with your computer. Chances are your basic programs include an address book and calendar of some sort. Record all leads in your address book and use your calendar to schedule phone calls, site visits, product demonstrations, etc. Make sure to schedule reminders for each of the activities you place on your calendar. This will allow you the option of checking scheduled activities for the day at a glance, as well as having something flash up and remind you that you have a phone call to make or some sort of activity to perform on behalf of a lead. Also, note that if you do not like the calendar that came on your basic software, you can always take advantage of an online calendar for free, such as with Yahoo.
- Tracking software for sales leads, prospects and customers is available from several reputable firms. Many of these programs will work with other features of your computer, so you can email directly from them, generate letters to whole lists of leads as well as individuals, record all the notes you want about interactions with your leads, and easily schedule upcoming activities. Two very popular programs are ACT! and GoldMine. Both of these programs are great for keeping track of appointments, scheduling meetings and phone calls, and recording information about each activity you schedule and complete, all with the goal to generate leads. Also, both of these will work well with Microsoft Word and Excel, as well as with Outlook. This means importing data is easy, as well as generating progress reports, emailing files, creating a bank of letters that you email directly from the program itself, and graphing where you are in the sales cycle with any given prospect. Both these software packages can easily pay for themselves in a very short time and will network very easily if you have a need for several persons to access the same bank of leads.
For someone who is just starting out, older versions of ACT! and Goldmine can often be purchased for very reasonable rates and will work just as well as the newer versions. You won't lose any of the basic features mentioned here if you have a version that is no more than seven years old. What you will not see with some of the older versions are more tools to build reports, a few extra ways to track your overall sales cycle, and a few extra perks you would use in a networked environment when working on sales leads generation. The main drawback with an older version is that technical support may have been discontinued or you may have to pay a fee for help with an older version. Keep in mind you can always start out with a cheaper older version. Should you like what you see, then you can upgrade to the latest version once your revenue stream justifies the expense.
Sales lead management through tracking the status of your sales leads can often make the difference between a new customer and a lost opportunity. Make sure you set up a lead tracking system that will work for you and your chances for success are greatly enhanced. Keeping your skills sharp by taking periodic refresher courses in business can't hurt, either!