Monday, April 4, 2011

Federal Sales and The Short Life of Online Sales Leads

Harvard Business Review has a very important piece on how quickly on-line sales leads expire.

They studied 2,241 U.S. companies and found that "37% responded to their lead within an hour, and 16% responded within one to 24 hours, 24% took more than 24 hours—and 23% of the companies never responded at all."

A more important study found that companies responding to an on-line lead "within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer."

If you're not responding to a lead within an hour of receiving it on your website, your chance of turning that lead into a prospect nearly evaporates.

Many companies send government leads to the federal sales team rather than a commercial rep. If the federal rep cannot respond immediately, the sale may be lost forever.

The authors found that reasons for delay "include the practice of retrieving leads from CRM systems’ databases daily rather than continuously; sales forces focused on generating their own leads...and rules for distributing sales leads among agents..."

To combat this, your organization should:
1. audit your on-line lead generation system,
2. identify bottlenecks that delay the distribution of federal leads, and
3. re-design the system to allow someone within your company to always respond within an hour.

Allow your commercial sales rep to have the initial dialogue with the federal employee making the query, then hand the lead over to a federal sales rep.

Better still, create a separate portal on your site for government inquiries, so they get e-mailed directly to the federal sales team without being entered into the main query tracking system.

The bottom line: if you don't respond to government queries within an hour, your chance of turning that query into a sale plummets drastically.