How to Manage Sales Leads

Generating, managing, and following up with sales leads is the life blood of any service business. Freelancers and independent professionals know this. Still, they often fail to get in touch with new sales leads in a timely manner.

Why is this? Is it because they just don’t want the new business?

Not really. It has more to do with their lack of a process — a system — for tracking and managing their sales leads.

I know I’ve let a few leads slip through the cracks over the years. Trust me, it was not intentional. Here’s how it would normally go down…

I’d get slammed with two or three copywriting projects, all with similar deadlines. I’d block out everything else except for the task at hand: hitting my deadlines.

During that busy period, I’d get a sales lead or two. I’d see the lead and think to myself, “I can’t get to that now. I’m too busy. I’ll reply tomorrow.”

Of course, when tomorrow arrived I’d be back elbow-deep in my copywriting projects and I would once again fail to respond to the new lead.

I probably don’t have to tell you this, but sales leads get cold fast. If you don’t reply within 24 to 48 hours, it is unlikely that you will turn that prospect into a client.

There are two principles at play here…

New leads usually have a problem they want solved quickly. If you don’t respond quickly, they will move on to a more responsive competitor.

Here’s the other principle at play: How you do anything is how you do everything.

If you are not responsive to potential clients, then how responsive will you be to actual clients? This is the internal dialog your potential clients are having.

One year, after letting too many leads languish, I decided I would track all my leads and do a better job of making sure I responded promptly to all inquiries. I set up a spreadsheet and tracked my leads that way.

This new system worked fairly well. I discovered some interesting things. I got a better feel for how many sales leads I generated in a year, where those leads were coming from, how many converted into clients, and how much each new client was worth to me.

I could definitely see some strong 80/20 patterns at work.

The spreadsheet system was a massive improvement over my old “try-my-best-to-remember method,” but still not great. So this year I’ve begun using Zoho CRM. It’s free for solo guys like me.

So far I’m finding it to be a much better way to manage my sales leads. I just input new leads as they come in. Because each lead gets its own page, there’s plenty of space for notes and tasks that need to be completed.

If there’s one thing that bugs me about Zoho CRM, it’s that the interface is not entirely intuitive. Just seems like there are a lot of bells and whistles that don’t apply to my business. (Or maybe they do apply and I just haven’t figured it out yet.)

For that reason, I may at some point switch to Highrise (by 37 Signals). They also offer a free plan for up to 250 contacts — probably enough for most freelance folks for at least a year.

But for now I’m sticking with Zoho so all my leads are in one place. I’ll see if I can learn how to use it better as I go.

Getting back to the original reason for my post — and the key point I want to make — is that you need to have a system not only for generating sales leads, but also for tracking and managing them through the conversion process.

This will produce three outcomes for you:

Firstly, you will close more new business than you did before.

Secondly, you will make a better impression on the people who contact you — no matter if they become clients or not.

And, thirdly, you won’t be cluttering up your mind trying to remember who you need to call and follow-up with, which will allow you to focus more completely on whatever work you need to do.

-Ryan M. Healy

Ryan M. Healy

Ryan Healy is a financial copywriter and the author of Speed Writing for Nonfiction Writers. Since 2002, he has worked with scores of clients, including Agora Financial, Lombardi Publishing, and Contrarian Profits. He writes a popular blog about copywriting, advertising, and business growth, has been featured in publications like Feed Front magazine, and has been published on sites like WordStream.com, SmallBizClub.com, and MarketingForSuccess.com.

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