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About 25% of online leads are lost before they speak to a sales person.

About 25% of leads from online advertising (Google, Facebook etc) never speak to a sales person. They fill in a form, start a live chat or leave a voicemail but it never gets any further.

Everybody expects to lose some sales because the product isn't a good fit or the price is too high. But to lose 25% of all possible sales before the process even starts is a huge waste.

It's also a huge opportunity. Speak to more leads and you'll make more sales. And, you've already paid for those leads, so the extra sales mean a better return on your ad spend.

The 25% figure comes from a process called Map-Measure-Maximise I use to help my clients get more sales from their online leads.

The process starts with establishing a baseline - working out how good the business currently is at turning leads into sales. The percentage of non-contacted leads is an important part of that baseline.

The best baseline percentage of non-contacted leads I've seen was 17%. The worst was a hair over 40%. The rest clustered around 25% which I guess is representative of businesses that haven't yet tried to improve it.

In this article we'll look at:-

  1. Why we can't contact leads because knowing why leads to the solutions.
  2. What you can do to contact more of your online leads.

Why can't we contact leads.

The reasons for a low contact rate come from technical issues, how the business operates and the people in the business. Improving it usually takes a combination of:

But we first need to figure out why the so many leads don't speak to a salesperson.

Sometimes the cause can be determined. We could record how many leads arrive per hour at peak time and compare that with how many people we have available to respond.

At other times we have to hypothesize and test. With one early client we were getting a lot of unanswered and rejected calls. We thought people might be reluctant to answer calls from numbers they didn't recognise. We tested this by sending an SMS telling them we'd call in a few minutes. More people answered.

And, there are times when it takes a bit of digging to get to the root cause of the problem...

One of my client's non-contacted rate shot up over about a month. On the surface it looked like the cause was people not answering or rejecting calls.

At the same time the call centre reported speaking to several people who claimed that they had never filled in our enquiry form and, who's name wasn't on the form.

Junk leads with real phone numbers and random names are a classic symptom of click-farm spam.

Click-farms harness humans to fill out forms with realistic-looking enquiries. These enquiries slip through spam filters designed to stop bot spam.

More digging pinpointed the source of the spam leads to a group of Google Ads campaigns using the display network. Changing the campaigns to only show ads on Google search fixed the problem. Nothing else would have.

I'll bet your business shares some of the same reasons for non-contacted leads that I've seen with my clients. I'll also bet that some of what's worked for them will work for you.

Here, in no particular order, are some reasons I've seen.

The lead is junk/fake/spam.

We've referred to this above.

Most bot-spam leads are easy to identify. They can (and should be) stopped before they get to the person who has to contact the lead.

Click-farm spam is more difficult to spot so it's useful to have a way for the person responding to the leads to flag this.

Some leads never arrive.

Leads delivered by email are most at risk of getting lost. The usual cause is your email service provider deciding that the lead-delivery email is spam.

Some email services will put spam in a spam folder so you can fish them out. Others are much more aggressive. They delete what they think is spam without telling you.

A client of mine owns a complex of self-catering guesthouses in Cape Town, South Africa. It's got fantastic views. The city and the Atlantic ocean out the front. Table mountain out the back.

He contacted me because he'd got no leads the previous day where he'd normally get at least one or two very day.

I checked the logs and saw that we'd sent him eight great enquiries. None of them had made it to his inbox.

The first lost enquiry was from an employee at a bank looking for somewhere to hold a retreat. She’d put her work email address in the enquiry form.

His email service thought the lead-delivery email was dodgy because of the bank email address. They deleted it and every other lead-deliver email our system tried to send from then on.

We got it sorted but not before their mistake cost him thousands in lost business.

You are not aware of how many leads are not contacted.

I've implemented the Map-Measure-Maximise process with several clients over the last few years. Looking at the baseline was not a comfortable experience for any of them. They were all shocked when they saw how many leads were not contacted and how many sales they were missing out on.

I don't blame a busy business owner for not realising the extent of the problem. Staying on top of not-contacted leads is hard. This is especially true if the flow of online leads to your business grows naturally over time...

The website leads go to your inbox. Live chat leads are in the live-chat system. Facebook's leads are in Facebook and incoming phone calls go to the office number or someone's mobile. There is no one place where you can see and measure all your leads from. That makes it impossible to keep track of who was contacted and who you couldn't get hold of.

Leads get lost in your inbox.

This is a subset of the point above. Ignore this if you're an inbox zero person. But if you use your email as a task list, filing cabinet and calendar you may have a problem. Chances are good that you’ve opened a lead email, decided to handle it later, and then forgotten about it.

Sales people reject leads without speaking to them.

Sometimes a sales person will use arbitrary criteria to decide that a lead is not worth contacting.

The most egregious example comes from a client who fits replacement car engines. Replacing an engine is a big-ticket item so you’d think that every lead would be loved. Not so.

I spoke with his sales lady while we were implementing the Map-Measure-Maximise process. She said that because she'd been in the industry for 20 plus years she could tell which leads would buy just by reading the lead-delivery email. She didn't even need to speak to them to know they would't be able to afford an engine.

She deleted all leads:-

Sadly she is not the only lead-psychic I've met. I've been told “Men don’t buy treadmills”, “Short enquiries are never serious” and “Nobody who enquires on the weekend ever buys”.

Insufficient capacity to respond to leads during peak times.

Leads don't arrive at regular intervals, evenly over time. There are peak times and quiet times. Sometimes the peaks happen at a certain time of day. Sometimes it's a day of the week and sometimes it's seasonal.

In some industries the difference between the peak times and the quiet times is extreme.

Tourism in the UK is like this.

The flow of leads dries to a trickle after Halloween. At about 5pm on Christmas day the entire country decides that they've had enough of cold wet weather and they need to book a holiday in the sun. The trickle of leads turns into a torrent which lasts until New Year.

I've had clients report they they get 70% of their bookings for the whole year in that week.

Responding to leads in date order.

I bumped into a crazy situation.

A client was trying to do something about the backlog of not-contacted leads. He gave the job to his call centre manager and offered a bonus if the backlog was reduced to the agreed level.

The manager concocted a plan: Nobody would accept incoming calls from new leads till they'd cleared the backlog.

It didn't go well...

Every morning there would be a pile of overnight leads. The operators ignored incoming calls while trying to contact last night's leads.

By lunchtime they'd have a hundred or so new leads in the backlog from the morning.

Then they'd spend the afternoon ignoring incoming calls while trying to get hold of the people from earlier that day.


(Luckily it was caught and fixed after less than a week.)

Too many leads spoils the sales team.

A business can become victim to successful advertising. This happens when the sales team has more leads than they need to meet their targets. They work the easy leads and abandon those they couldn't contact the first time.

This is somewhat aligned to the next point.

Nobody has an incentive to chase non-contacted leads.

Someone earning sales commission has no incentive to spend time chasing non-contacted leads if they have enough hot leads.

Leads rot.

The longer you delay responding to a web lead, the lower your chances of hearing from them again.

One study showed that if you respond in under five minutes you have 900% more chance of making contact than if you waited a day.

That same study showed that response speed is a huge factor in whether you make a sale or not. The faster you respond, the more sales you’re going to make. The chances of a sale plunge after 30 minutes. After 24 hours you have less chance of making a sale than a porpoise has of frying an egg.

Missing or incorrect contact information.

The lead might have entered the wrong phone number or email address in the enquiry form. Typos happen, especially on mobiles.

There are technical measures that help people make fewer mistakes. We'll cover them later.

The lead might not be able to talk when you call.

This is a valid reason. It’s less likely to happen if you call the lead within 5 minutes of them filling in the enquiry form.

The lead doesn’t answer calls from numbers they don’t recognise.

We touched briefly on this problem and some solutions earlier.

People are suspicious of unknown numbers because of the high volume of unwanted calls we receive.

There are too many not-contacted leads to manage.

Lets assume that you get 40 leads a day and 25% of them (10) don’t get contacted that day.

Your protocol for attempting contact is one call attempt as soon as possible and one every day for the next 3 days.

Here's how the numbers stack up.

If your sales team was close to or at capacity dealing with new leads they're not going to be able to handle double the number of calls.

There are diminishing returns on making contact attempts.

A fast first contact attempt will give you the best return on your effort. The calls on day 3 or 4 are much less likely to turn into sales but they take the same effort as the first call.

Using automation or cheaper humans to make the later calls can help balance the cost with the likely return.

The business doesn’t have a protocol for attempting contact with leads.

Non-contacted leads will be a problem until the business has:

What you can do to contact more of your leads.

  1. Find out how big the problem is.
  2. Fix technical issues.
  3. Design a protocol for contacting leads.
  4. Implement the protocol and monitor the results.

Step 1: Find out how big the problem is.

We start by establishing a baseline: what percentage of our leads we currently speak to.

This is vital because no business has unlimited time and money to throw at problems. If the baseline shows that you speak to 50% of leads it might be worth working on it. But if you currently speak to 95% you might put the problem on the back burner.

Accept inefficiencies.

Gathering baseline information will be inefficient and labour-intensive.

That's OK. It is a once-off project. You can always improve the efficiency later if you decide it's something you want to track.

Get enough data to know if the problem is worth working on now.

You don't need an answer accurate to 3 decimal places. All you're trying to do is decide whether to work on the problem now or later.

Expect resistance from the sales team.

If your experience is anything like mine you’l meet resistance from the sales team or whoever has the job of speaking to leads.

They might feel like you're going to micro-manage them. They might feel threatened. They might just not like any changes at all.

I expect you'll get more cooperation if you explain what you're doing and why, and how it benefits them.

Appoint one person to find out how many leads were spoken to.

Choose someone who is not normally responsible for contacting leads if possible.

They'll need the authority to press the sales team for information. I'm not talking about a formal rearranging of the org-chart. Something simple like the example below could be enough.

“Hey sales team, this is Danny, I’ve asked him to help track how many of our leads get spoken to. He’ll be asking you for a list of leads you’ve spoken to every afternoon. Please help him with this.”

They’ll also need enough time to do this. Probably just a few minutes at the end of every day but if they're swamped it's going to slip. Remove some of their other duties or pay overtime if needed.

Capture leads before they can get lost inside the business.

Sometimes leads get lost after they enter the business. I'll give you two examples from businesses I've worked with.

The first is from a firm that gets thousands of leads every year via a live chat system on their website.

The live chat software assigns chat requests from certain pages to certain operators so the lead gets to speak to the right person.

Over the years the job of managing the live chat system was passed between IT and marketing. Somewhere along the line someone forgot to remove an operator when they left the business and all chat requests to that operator went unanswered.

Normally the person managing the live chat system would get a warning about this but the reporting email address was wrong.

The second is from a business where the sales manager received all the leads for distribution to the sales team.

Every Monday morning she deleted the weekend's leads. She didn't do this out of malice. She did it because the sales team was busy and she knew 2-day old leads were less likely to turn into customers.

Nobody picked this up because she was the only person who knew how many leads entered the business.

These might sound like extreme examples, but both happened at profitable businesses with smart owners.

The best way to prevent this sort of thing is to count leads at the front door, before they can get lost.

Start by listing all the ways leads contact the business. Things like incoming phone calls, the enquiry form on the website, landing page forms, live chat, Facebook Messenger etc.

Work out where the lead first enters the business for each contact method. e.g. leads from the website enquiry form get emailed to info@. Live chat leads show up in the live chat software dashboard. Facebook messages are in Facebook.

Then give the person in charge of the project the access and training that they need to be able to record the leads at the point of entry.

Put all the leads into one place.

A spreadsheet is probably your best bet. It doesn’t need more than the lead's name and date they were spoken to to be useful.

There is a danger that you're going to want to collect more information, automate something or install a CRM system at this point.

Resist that urge. We’re looking for something quick and easy that'll actually be used. If necessary, it can be perfected later.

Beat what counts as speaking to a lead into the sales team.

I've seen sales people report that they've spoken to a lead when they've:

I understand why someone might do this. They want record of the work they've put in. In their mind they've done what they have to do. The ball is is in the lead's court.

But, for this exercise we only want to count actual human-to-human conversations.

Update the records at the end of every day.

You have the best chance of getting accurate records if you update spreadsheet every day.

A low-tech approach is to give each sales person an index card and have them write the name of the lead as they finish speaking to them.

At the end of the day the person in charge picks up the cards and updates the spreadsheet.

Review the baseline a week after the last lead was received.

Most leads will be contacted within a few days or not at all, so you don't need to wait more than a week after the last lead arrived to review the results.

Step 2. Once-off fix for any technical issues.

Coming soon, subscribe using the box below and I'll let you know when it's published.

Step 3. Design your protocol for contacting leads.

Coming soon, subscribe using the box below and I'll let you know when it's published.

Step 4. Implement the protocol and monitor the results.

Coming soon, subscribe using the box below and I'll let you know when it's published.

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