The Lifecycle of a Lead

Sales success at telephone answering services starts with a sales funnel. Picture a funnel. Pour leads into the top, and sales flow out the bottom. This assumes you have an effective sales team in place to work the leads. Alternately, an empty sales funnel will produce no sales, regardless of how good your salesforce. No leads mean no sales. To better understand this, let’s look at the lifecycle of a lead: Acquisition: We need a source of leads. The lead acquisition phase occurs through marketing, either directly or indirectly. Typical marketing for answering services are paid promotions, such as print media, online ads, and direct mail. In these, a target audience receives a marketing promotion tailored to them. For indirect marketing initiatives, one example is organic internet search to direct people to your website. This requires you have a professional site with relevant content that is strengthened with search engine optimization (SEO). A second example is word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied clients. To make this work, you need to provide quality service. Move these leads into your sales funnel.Qualification: The next step is to evaluate the quality of these leads. Ask these questions:

  • Do they seek a service you provide?
  • Do they have the budget?
  • Do they have an immediate or future need?
  • Do they have the authority to buy?

Their answers will let you know if you should proceed and how to do so. Nurturing: Leads that are qualified but not ready to buy must be nurtured to prepare them to one day purchase from you. This is often done using an email drip campaign, where strategic messages are automatically sent to leads at prescribed intervals. Nurturing should provide engagement, deliver information, and offer encouragement. Assignment: Leads that are qualified, have a current need, and possess the authority to buy must go directly to sales. All other leads stay in the nurturing phase until they are ready and able to buy. Be strategic in who you assign leads to. Some salespeople do better selling certain services or interacting with different buyer personalities. Make a good match to maximize the opportunity for success. Then, hold salespeople accountable for the leads you give them. Accept no excuses. Sales Opportunity: By only passing vetted leads to sales, your sales staff can focus on quality prospects who are ready to buy. This keeps them from wasting time on leads who aren’t ready or never will be. It’s essential to respond to these leads and to do so quickly. Though inaction and delays may happen at other answering services, they never should at yours. Then follow up diligently. Provide requested information, respect their timeframe, and make periodic contact. But when you do contact the lead, make sure each interaction advances the sales process. Close: When the lead is ready to buy, be ready to close. Learn closing techniques, apply them, and use the ones that fit you best. Don’t miss the close, because you may not get a second chance; don’t give your prospect an excuse to go with your competition. Make the sale and watch another sale drip from the sales funnel.  Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center and telephone answering service industry. Contact Janet at or call 800-901-7706. Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan and a longtime member of the TAS industry.