Lead fulfillment: Moving inquiries to sales

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As marketing professionals, we are tasked not only with generating initial interest in our company's products and services but also with filling the sales pipeline with qualified leads and helping our sales force close the deals. Here are some tips to support sales and drive business:
  • Focus on qualified leads. Sales and marketing need to agree on how to define qualified leads as well as on a process for managing them. I find that getting the who, what, when, where and why laid out in advance provides accountability and helps ensure that every lead gets prompt attention. And speed does count. Studies show that response rates fall by half after just 48 hours if you fail to communicate with a prospect and, in some instances, by as much as 90% after a week.
  • Develop a communication strategy. Map out in advance what you will send, provide or say in response to different types of inquiries and leads—and have a variety of relevant marketing items readily available in different formats, such as printed materials, Web downloads, podcasts, email templates and phone scripts.
  • Be solutions-oriented. No matter how you deliver your messages, they should focus on solutions rather than raw product data or features alone. Remember to offer content prospects can really use. The reason: Along with systematically moving prospects one step closer to the point of purchase, your strategy should center on building confidence in your company and its products.
  • Nurture today's leads for tomorrow's sales. Sometimes a good lead isn't ready to buy just yet. The prospect may be doing research for a purchase that's six months to a year off. Don't let these leads go cold. Instead, nurture them. Keep them in the pipeline using the same multitouch, multichannel process you would use for a high-ticket or complex sale with a closer purchase date.
  • Find the right fulfillment partner. Better fulfillment companies go beyond same-day order shipping and inventory management, supporting clients' business strategies with such services as data-driven digital print-on-demand. Ask potential vendors about all their capabilities, including their ability to capture and integrate data from your telemarketers or call centers.
Every sale begins with an inquiry; but that doesn't mean every inquiry will result in a sale. This is a challenge that can be daunting, but creating a formal lead-fulfillment process will help you greatly. David Lowndes is director-product marketing for Iron Mountain Fulfillment Services ( He can be reached at [email protected]
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