Cold leads, hot leads, warm leads … what do these terms mean? A cold lead is someone you think is a potential buyer, but you don't know them, and they don't know you. A hot lead is someone who is ready to buy and is interested in buying from you. A warm lead is anywhere in between.
Warm leads have, at the very least, raised their hand and expressed interest in your offering. While warm leads vary in degrees of temperature, from lukewarm to borderline hot, they all have two things in common. One, they hold great potential for future sales. Two, they require nurturing and cultivation to keep them from turning cold again. Ideally, those warm leads will one day turn hot, and your company will be front and center when they do.
A helpful way to understand how to best approach warm leads is to compare it to dating, or in more outdated terminology, courting. The same rules apply. When a man, for instance, courts a woman with the intention of marrying her, his behavior will follow some very important guidelines, because he knows he'll lose her otherwise. These guidelines are almost identical to my seven tips for nurturing warm leads.
In a courtship, a man's number one goal will be to further the relationship so that one day she'll say yes to marrying him. All actions will adhere to this overarching goal (Tip No. 1). He will date her and see her as often as possible, toeing the line between being too overbearing or seeming too uninterested (Tip No. 2). He will make her feel special in other ways, such as sending her flowers, writing her love notes and giving her gifts (Tip No. 3). He will listen to her so that she feels heard and valued and so that he understands how best to support her (Tip No. 4). He will always be honest, knowing that if he breaks trust, she will end the relationship (Tip No. 5). He will be patient with her, allowing her to come to him in her own time (Tip No. 6). And, in our present modern age, he will move in with her first before committing to marriage if she so desires (Tip No. 7).
With these dating guidelines in mind, here are my seven tips for nurturing warm leads:
1. Focus on building rapport. The most important aspect of nurturing warm leads is the relationship. In every interaction, the primary goal should be to further cultivate the relationship. This overarching intention needs to inform everything that you do and every decision you make.
2. Regularly follow up. This is the area where it can get tricky. You don't want to be a pest, but you don't want to be forgotten. It's the delicate balance between coming on too strong and being too distant. If you come on too strong, it will scare leads away and make you seem too salesy – the kiss of death in sales. However, if you play it too cool, you will be perceived as not caring about gaining their business – again, the kiss of death in sales. Plus, you'll be easily forgotten. Out of sight, out of mind as they say.
Unfortunately, our instincts can't be totally relied upon when it comes to this area. I advise clients to follow up a little bit more than they might naturally be inclined to because most people err on the being too distant side of the equation. It helps to have a purpose with each follow-up, i.e., news about your company, new offerings or services, updated information, targeted marketing collateral, handwritten notes, white papers, etc. You can also congratulate the prospect on their news, offer up a valuable referral or note a mutual connection. Every once in a blue moon, you can just check-in, but most of the time have a purpose or add value in some way, shape or form.
3. Connect in any way possible. In today's world, businesses can connect with prospects in a number of different ways. Before the advent of computers, we were limited to in-person meetings, the phone and snail mail. Now, there is LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc. Make it a habit of following your prospects on all these platforms so you can connect with them and support them in a variety of ways. This will go a long way toward building rapport.
4. Listen more than you talk. The focus should be on them, not you. People like to talk. They want to be heard. They want to know they are important to you and that their concerns are important. Plus, the intel you can learn by simply listening is priceless and can be of enormous help when it comes time to close the sale.
5. Be integrous. As in any relationship, trust is of paramount importance. A stain on integrity is not easily forgotten or forgiven. Maintain integrity throughout all of your interactions, big and small. It all matters.
6. Be patient. The truth is, there is no way of knowing when a warm lead will turn hot. Could take weeks, could take months, could take years. Be patient and just trust the process. No matter how long it takes, you want to be there when they decide they're ready.
7. Let them take you out for a test spin. Every company should have a soft offering – a way to test the product or service. Just like most couples these days will move in together before walking down the aisle, most prospects are going to want to try you out in some capacity before fully committing. If you don't have that option available, you'll likely lose a lot of business to companies that do offer that option.
As a final thought, it helps to remember that, as in dating, there are no guarantees. You could do everything right and a warm lead could still turn cold for reasons that have nothing to do with you. Alternatively, they could turn hot and, at the last minute, decide to go with a competitor. However, if you master the practice of cultivating and nurturing your warm leads, you'll always be in the game. And as long as you're in the game, odds are you'll win sometimes too.