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How to Handle Online vs. In-Person Leads The follow-up separates the ordinary salespeople from the pro status.

By Grant Cardone

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The landscape of sales has changed dramatically since I started out selling cars 32 years ago. Digital marketing has come to dominate advertising and is expected to exceed total TV advertising spending by 2018. This shift to digital is driving an unprecedented number of customers to websites and landing pages.

This creates new problems and bigger opportunities for salespeople that can figure out how to effectively respond to these prospects. And whether the person comes in on foot or through the Internet, you have to know how to handle following them up.

How big is the opportunity you miss by failing to follow-up? Well, have you ever reached out to a business' website, filled out a form and ended up being completely ignored?

Of course, you have.

I created a mystery-shop campaign to show companies just how big this problem and opportunity is. Three companies with three completely different products hired me to evaluate their website response and sales teams.

One was a luxury jewelry store, another a large group of automotive dealerships, and the third was a service company. The automotive dealership sent an automated response to the lead and the other two companies still had not responded after three days.

Having looked into this follow-up problem, I can tell you it is massive. Sixty-five percent of all companies admit that they have no process to nurture leads. When a lead walks onto your showroom you aren't going to close them unless you know how to follow-up.

Whether the lead is in person or online, the follow-up separates the ordinary salespeople from the pro status.

And the reality is there is no commitment to follow-up. The culture of your company has made it okay not to follow up. In defense of the sales team, if your salespeople don't know how to effectively follow up, what to say, how to text, when to email, or when to call, then how can you even make a second call, much less the 5 to 12 calls necessary to convert a lead to a purchase?

Related: When You're Hungry for Sales, Consider These Lead-Gen Tools

Here are some rules and steps on how to turn your follow-up game to pro status.

10 Rules when using the phone to follow-up on any lead:

  1. Always leave a message
  2. Call sooner, rather than later
  3. Be consistent with the phone (daily use)
  4. Call everyone—no exception
  5. Call when floor traffic is lightest
  6. Always be enthusiastic, upbeat and positive
  7. Always offer alternatives that benefit the buyer
  8. Give the buyer reasons to return
  9. Have a designated time for your outbound calls
  10. Ask for referrals on the outbound call

The faster you can respond, the better chance of converting and qualifying a sales lead. The first company that follows up gets 50 percent of the business. And the key to increasing your speed in following up with leads is to utilize every communication tool you have available. Don't just rely on phone calls and leaving voicemails. Email. Text. Send smoke signals and carrier pigeons if you have to.

If you have the data to text a client within the first five minutes of contact, your chances of conversion go up almost 300 times.

3 Steps to Effectively Follow-Up Online Leads:

1. Share the facts about lead response and follow up with your team:

  • Average response time for an Internet lead is 44 hours
  • 65 percent of all companies don't nurture leads
  • Only 25 percent of all salespeople make two contact attempts
  • 80 percent of all transactions require five to 12 follow-ups

2. Make a commitment to follow-up at your company. This is about your culture; and isn't only the decision of the executive management.

Related: 6 Secrets to a Successful Sales Meeting

3. Give your staff a very precise schedule and actions for each follow-up attempt using a variety of means. An example may look like this:

  • Automated response within five minutes: "Thank you. Someone will be right with you."
  • Text message or email (text preferred) response with information and terms guarantee.
  • A same-day call from quality service.
  • A same-day email message: "Please call me immediately regarding your interest. I have a way for you to take advantage of great savings."
  • Third party touch, management call: "What can we do to earn your business?"

If you still fail to convert the lead, you must create an exact follow-up process from day two through the next 12 months. Don't just write it off, don't qui t -- dominate and stay on your schedule. I give the ultimate training and tips with 365 days of follow-up content on my Cardone University training platform. It includes what I've mentioned above plus how to put the buyer at ease, building up buyer profiles, handling objections and more.

The purpose of the follow up is to demonstrate interest in this person and those things that are important to them. If you don't have interest, you need to immediately get this worked out. Only when you are genuinely interested will you be able to effectively understand or implement the three points.

Your future in your business will be determined by your ability and willingness to be creative, consistent and persistent in staying interested in your customers through follow-up. Every contact is greasing the line—lubricating the relationship—separating yourself from all the other players and demonstrating to your customer that you are there for them all the time, not just when its time to close the deal. I assure you that by being creative, consistent and persistent in staying interested and following up with customers you sell, as well as those you don't sell, will improve your self-esteem, improve your closing ratios, increase your sales and is the number one ingredient to improving your profits and margins.

Stop struggling. Take advantage of this opportunity and differentiate yourself in today's market. Create a solid follow-up system and make it a part of your culture, not just your work culture.

Train, follow-up, or die out.

Be great.

Related: 5 Reasons to Take Cold Calling Behind the Barn and Shoot It

Grant Cardone

International Sales Expert & $1.78B Real Estate Fund Manager

Grant Cardone is an internationally-renowned speaker on sales, leadership, real-estate investing, entrepreneurship and finance whose five privately held companies have annual revenues exceeding $300 million.

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