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January 18, 2012   Posted by: Dale Underwood

Turn leads into sales opportunities using a Red Zone Response Plan

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This is a special post for LeadLifter clients currently using our EchoQuote™ lead capturing solution who want to maximize their marketing and sales results. My thanks go out to dozens of contributing customers that have helped us design and shape this process. If you are not an EchoQuote™ user, many of these concepts still apply because the goal of responding quickly to website visitor requests should be a goal for every B2B company.

 

What is a Red Zone Response plan?

Do you have a formal process for how to handle incoming B2B leads from your website or blog? Most marketers do for leads generated from traditional, non-selective calls to action like Whitepapers, Webinars and Contact Us forms.

But what about specialty Calls to Action like EchoQuote™ where the sales team, not marketing, handles and approves the requests?

Since EchoQuote™ captures serious, early stage prospects, they need to be handled by sales quickly, within 5-10 minutes if possible. To make this happen consistently, we’ve developed a process we call our Red Zone Response plan. This article explains why it’s important and how to implement it.

Why a Red Zone Response plan is critical for EchoQuote™ leads

Inbound leads captured by EchoQuote™ are not your typical marketing leads. For the 60,000+ that we’ve captured thus far, we know that they are generally much better qualified and most share the following characteristics:

  • There is a real project underway
  • The project is in it’s early stages
  • The decision criteria has not yet been defined
  • Budgetary estimates are in flux
  • Potential vendors are not yet engaged

Early stage prospects that have real projects underway are exactly what most B2B sales teams are looking for. These inbound leads are not “ready to buy”, they are “ready to design”. Although they have not formally reached out to the sales team and are engaging with us indirectly via a quote request, we can connect and engage with them IF we understand their position and give them what they want.

What you need for this Red Zone Plan

As I mentioned earlier, this is a specific plan for sales and marketing users of LeadLifter’s EchoQuote™ service. You will need, at a minimum, the following:

  • A current, active EchoQuote™ instance running
  • Link(s) from your website to EchoQuote™ (see samples)
  • One or more designated Sales reps to receive the EchoQuote™ requests
  • Email and Web access via iPhone, Blackberry or any smart phone is highly recommended but not required

Speed is the key to earning trust

The Red Zone Response plan focuses on the first 30 minutes following an inbound quote request from a prospect. It begins when a prospect responds to a “Self-Service Budgetary Pricing” Call to Action on your site and completes the EchoQuote™ process. The EchoQuote™ system will send your designated Sales rep(s) a special email notifying them of the request.

The clock is now ticking….

There are 2 critical steps in the Red Zone Response plan:

  1. Deliver exactly what was requested within 5 minutes
  2. Follow-up within 20 minutes and open a dialogue

Step 1 – Deliver exactly what was requested within 5 minutes

This one sounds easy but can be tricky because auto-responders don’t count. Sending an email saying “Thank you for your request and someone will contact you shortly” is a slap in the face. You might as well tell them “We don’t care that you are interested in our products, we’re too busy finding new customers.”

Sales reps using EchoQuote™ only have one decision to make; “Do I approve or deny this request?

Since everything has been pre-loaded and automated by EchoQuote™, the Sales rep does not have to spend any time putting together a budgetary quote. They simply need to use the tools that are readily available to research the requester QUICKLY, and make that decision.

Who should approve the request?

The best way for organizations to handle this varies but in our experience you do not want to designate someone who will be a bottleneck. We have seen Sales managers try and manage these requests but are soon overwhelmed because of their other responsibilities. It may make more sense for the Sales manager to control the process initially to get a feel for it but then assign the duty to the inside sales team or one or two designated reps.

If a Sales manager holds onto or ends up denying these requests because they are too busy, then the process will fail. The end-user must get their requested budgetary quote quickly for Step 2 (engagement) to work.

Assuming the requested quote in Step 1 has been approved within 5-10 minutes of the request (and delivered by the EchoQuote™ system), a sales person simply follows up within 20-30 minutes to start the sales process. The danger here lies in how sales follows up; this is where most companies blow it.

Some companies have their sales rep(s) pick up the phone and call the prospect and it completely backfires. If a prospect has requested something via EchoQuote™, then the next thing they are expecting is to ACTUALLY receive the quote. Respect their wishes and resist the urge to call them. Nothing grates on a serious prospect more than a hollow promise on a website followed by a phone call from a “helpful” sales person. If they wanted to talk, they would have called.

Step 2 – Follow-up via email within 20-30 minutes and open a dialogue

Instead, have the Sales person email the requester with something like this:

Hi Jim,
My name is Dale with LeadLifter. I approved your quote request and it has been sent. This is a courtesy follow-up to make sure you received it. If not, please check your spam filter.

May I ask you one question?

Have you defined the requirements for your XYZ project, or no?

If you are just beginning to research solutions, we have compiled a “Top 20 Customer Requirements List” from our hundreds of customers and would be happy to share it with you. Just reply with “Send me the top 20 list” and I’ll send it over.

Thank you for your interest in WWW.

 

Now, think about your own experience as a consumer. First, wouldn’t the quick response to your request make you start to trust them just a little bit? Doesn’t the follow-up email give them a “human” quality that seems easy to do business with?

The reason we know this sequence works is because we have tested it. Over the past 4 years we have processed over 60,000 of these requests for sales and marketing clients. Through trial and error, we’ve shaped and honed the method and have discovered that there are no short cuts.

Red Zone Response Wrap Up

We are all consumers. Many of us use the web daily to research and make buying decisions. We want information on our own terms and we don’t want to be bothered by sales people or worse, being promised something and not getting it.

Creating a Red Zone Response plan can give forward thinking companies a competitive edge. By acting on a prospect’s request quickly and respectfully, we can build a larger sales funnel and close more business. Engaging early stage prospects with EchoQuote™, we can help establish the decision criteria, add more value, and sell our solutions at better margins.

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  1. […] and then 20-30 minutes for the subsequent courtesy follow-up email…not a phone call! See our Turn inbound leads into sales opportunities using a Red Zone Response Plan […]