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Drive In More Leads

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By Mike Rand in May, 2018 | 9 minute read

Sales & Marketing

How to Follow up with an Inbound Sales Lead

If your inbound sales lead doesn't respond to your first phone call, enroll them in a sales sequence. That sequence will send personalized, automated emails to keep them engaged in the sales process. When following up, use your lead intelligence to add context and personalization to your calls and emails.


Most sales teams are using a bundle of technologies to give them a deeper understanding of their buyers and leads. Once an inbound sales lead fills out a form on your website, they can be tracked any time they return. For example, using HubSpot’s sales features, you can see a perfect timeline of their activities, from the first blog post they viewed to the last email they opened:

Hubspot inbound sales lead example

With all this information, it begs the question: When and how do you follow up with an inbound sales lead?

Taking the wrong approach might spook the buyer. For example, if you get a notice that one of your prospects is looking at your pricing page, they may not appreciate it if you call them and say, “I noticed you were looking at our pricing page.” But if they fill out a form for a free consultation, they’re probably in a good position to talk.

If a prospect downloads your eBook, how-to guide, or checklist, they may not be ready to hear your sales pitch. But they may be interested in more helpful content. It all depends on where they are in the buyer’s journey:

buyer's journey with content desciptions

Someone who is just becoming aware of your company will probably be open to more helpful content. If they’ve already engaged with some of your content, they might be ready for a product comparison or even a case study. If it seems reasonable to do so, you can reach out at any stage of the buyer’s journey if you understand your prospect’s needs and context.

On the other hand, if a prospect has spent months perusing your website, opening your marketing emails, and filling out your forms, all with no outreach from you, they may decide you aren’t invested and drop off the face of the earth.

So, what’s the best approach?

Follow Up Quickly

If a lead fills out a form on your company’s website, respond within five minutes.

With so much money and effort being poured into your marketing, there’s no good reason to leave leads sitting with their hands in their pockets.

Reaching out is, at the very least, a means of starting a conversation. Even if your lead isn’t ready to buy, there’s a pretty good chance they’re at least considering what you have to offer if they’ve filled out a form.

A study reported by Harvard Business Review showed that, of the 2,241 U.S. companies surveyed, only 37% responded to online leads within an hour. Meanwhile, 34% took more than 24 hours to respond and a surprising 23% didn’t respond to online leads at all.

The quality of your leads will diminish quickly over time. A lot can happen in 30 minutes. Maybe your lead has already started talking to one of your competitors. Perhaps they’ve already moved on to other tasks and aren’t in a good spot to speak to a salesperson.

Maybe they’ve gone to lunch!

All in all, you have a better chance of making contact if you respond while your lead is still actively searching for a solution. If you don’t, use a follow-up process. Don’t assume they’ll contact you first if they really want to talk. It’s likely that they have 10, 20, or even 50 other companies to consider. If they don’t hear from you, they may forget you even exist.

They’ll still receive marketing emails, so if they download more content you’ll have an opportunity to reach out again.

Use Sales Automation

Following up with sales leads can be time-consuming, especially if you’re chasing after several leads at the same time. Thankfully, HubSpot provides salespeople with an array of tools that make the follow-up process faster and more efficient.

First and foremost, HubSpot’s sales tools provide you with email sequences that make repetitive follow-ups easier. You can take your best sales emails and turn them into templates for your whole team to use. Then, you can send a series of timed messages. You’ll never miss an opportunity to connect.

Your automated sales emails don’t need to be impersonal, either. You can use personalization tokens to keep your emails relevant, then build on your template by adding additional contextual information. You can even place phone calls directly through HubSpot and incorporate them into your follow-up sequences. You’ll never need to dial another phone number.

Need to send your leads some content? HubSpot’s sales tools let you store an entire library of sales documents that are accessible to everyone on your team. You can even track when your prospects open or share documents. This helps inform the timing and messaging of your next follow up.

Altogether, you can track the effectiveness of your sequences using HubSpot’s analytics. Once you identify your best-performing sequences, you can share them with the rest of your team. Use them as a model for future sales automation.

Your follow-up process may differ depending on your industry, but here’s a good way to start:

  • If they don’t answer your initial call, leave a voicemail offering additional free content or help.
  • Enroll them in a sales sequence shortly after you leave the voicemail. Think of it as a custom sales email drip campaign. We recommend starting with a sequence that is 3-6 emails long. Each email is sent automatically and they stop automatically when the prospect responds back.
  • Make sure your sales sequence is set up to reference your voicemail in the first email. Include a piece of content, a link to your calendar, and a case study or a link to an article in each email template.
  • Next, assign yourself “tasks” within the contact record or within the sales sequence itself so you don’t miss a step in your process.

According to a recent HubSpot study of salespeople, 66% of their time is spent doing things other than talking to prospects! Imagine how much more time you could be spending talking to prospects when you use automation!

Use Context to Inform Your Approach

Your buyers are informed, so you need to be informed as well. Your approach to following up needs to be tailored to each inbound sales lead.

Like other platforms, HubSpot uses browser cookies to track user activity on your website. This helps support salespeople by establishing a timeline of a lead’s activity, logging which pieces of content they’ve read, documenting all your conversations, and keeping their lead intelligence in a single location. If your website isn’t on HubSpot, enabling HubSpot tracking is a simple as installing a HubSpot tracking code on your external website such as WordPress.

Once you have this lead intelligence, you’ll know just what to offer during your follow up. For example, if a decision-maker who’s been browsing your website fills out the “Request a Free Consultation” form on your homepage, it’s appropriate to call them immediately to try to set up that consultation.

If that same person has downloaded a piece of content instead, you should still attempt to contact them. Just be prepared to offer them additional value instead of a sales pitch. They may not even be ready for you to help them solve their problem, but they might be interested in some exclusive content.

You’ll want to use your lead intelligence to inform your conversations. Based on what you say, your lead may realize that you’ve been tracking them (if they didn’t know it already). It’s best not to cover up the fact that you’ve been using tracking technology. In fact, you should be completely transparent about it if they ask.

You can inform them that you use tracking technology to identify your visitors’ interests and needs so you can provide them with expert advice. Instead of having to discover those needs through lengthy conversations, you can both save time by getting to the heart of the matter immediately.

Often, your leads will expect you to have some form of tracking on your website. Most people won’t find it strange that you’re calling them immediately after they’ve filled out a form or opened one of your emails. In fact, they might find it indicative of your dedication and determination.

indound sales lead follow up email example

Don’t Make Assumptions

With so much data at your fingertips, you can score every lead that comes your way. If you’ve got a lot of inbound leads, you’ll be tempted to prioritize the best prospects over the ones that seem less urgent.

If an intern at a company downloads one of your how-to guides, it may not seem appropriate to reach out to them. But this is a common mistake. Just because a lead isn’t a decision-maker, doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable.

That intern still represents an opportunity. Sure, add them to your subscriber list, but don’t be afraid contact them to offer more helpful content. Most decision-makers are busy and don’t always have time to seek out new products and services. It’s possible that they’ve tasked an intern or another employee to come up with a list of solutions for them.

If that’s the case, an intern could be your best means of accessing a decision-maker.

Along the same line, don’t make assumptions about what prospects are interested in only because of what they’re viewing on your website.

Let’s say you wrote a blog post about how to solve a problem. One of your leads has looked at it several times. It’s highly possible that they’re having the problem you’ve described in the blog post, but it’s also possible that they aren’t.

What if they’re visiting your blog post because they like the style of the infographic you used in the post? If you call or send an email and say, “I see that you’re having a problem with X,” they may find it off-putting. A better approach is to start broad and add value through conversation. It may well be that they’re having a different problem than the one in your blog post.

The Sales Process Has Changed

Marketers and sales professionals often think of content as a means of getting leads on their websites. But content also eliminates part of the sales process. Buyers are now more empowered than ever. You can usually expect that they’ve done some research before they’ve filled out one of your forms or contacted you directly.

Just remember, an inbound sales lead is just as valuable as a prospect calling your phone out of the blue. Most people will expect to hear from you if they fill out a contact form. Don’t hesitate to meet their expectations!

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