clicksThere’s ample evidence and research now that proves faster response time on inbound leads can increase your connect and conversion rates.  I liked Howard Sewell‘s recent post on this citing some great research from Software Advice as well.

But there’s an important qualifier to this.  If a prospect specifically requests more information, if they’ve specifically asked for someone to follow up to answer some of their questions, immediate follow-up is a great best practice.

But if someone merely downloads a white paper, or signs up for your upcoming webinar, an immediate scorched-earth when-can-we-talk sales follow-up campaign will likely have the opposite effect.

The transcribed email exchange below represents what I can only hope is a well-intentioned but clearly poorly-executed follow-up strategy.  I wouldn’t even call it a lead follow-up strategy because I wasn’t even a lead.

A company I’ve recently been interested in is hosting a webinar next week.  I won’t name the company or sales rep specifically to protect the guilty.  This morning I signed up for the webinar.  Within five minutes, I had been called, emailed and effectively paged by an eager sales rep to get on the phone with them.

Thankfully I was in a meeting when the barrage began.  Before I even got to the rep’s voicemail, one of our client services directors sent me the following email:

A very persistent sales guy from REDACTED COMPANY has been hounding our front desk and they asked me to handle it. Apparently you downloaded something and that meant that you are super interested and ready to buy. What a joker. I put him into your voice mail.

Again, before I even checked for the voicemail, I received the following email from the sales rep in question:

Hi Matt,

Hope all is well!

As I mentioned in the VM, I wanted to see how your trial was going and offer any assistance.

Please let me know when we can have a quick chat.

Thanks and looking forward!

Best regards,
Paul

It’s a pleasant enough email, if I had started a trial. But I hadn’t. I had simply signed up for a webinar. Here’s the rest of the email exchange with Paul (grammatical mistakes and run-on sentences are left intact):

Me:
Hi Paul,
I signed up for the webinar but haven’t yet started a trial. What would you like to chat about?

Paul:
If you need any questions answered i am here to help you if you need anything and what i can do to get you on board with us.

Me:
All I did was sign up for the webinar though, right? I’m interested in the content you’re promoting, not necessarily buying the product at this point.

Paul:
Ok when can i call you

Me:
Seriously? What would we talk about? All I did was sign up for a Webinar. I’m surprised to be getting the hard-sell already.

Paul:
Dont wanna sell you anything just yet just wanna know what you do.

Me:
Have you been to my Web site?

Paul:
Just looked at website it looks good

That’s where the exchange ended, mercifully.

Paul didn’t get what he wanted, and there really wasn’t any harm done on my end. I’m still very interested in the webinar’s content and will likely still attend. But the nature and unprofessionalism of the exchange put a very bad taste in my mouth and set a very bad first impression of the organization.

It’s easy to justify that any registration is a warm lead. That every qualified company is worth following up on. But there are smart ways to do that and dumb ways.

Maybe worse, it’s possible this sales rep’s manager will think he had a productive day. He probably dialed my line and our front desk’s line 4-5 times today. If he’s being measured on dials, perhaps he’s perceived as one of his sales floor’s most “efficient” reps. Scary thought.

  • Howard J. Sewell

    Hi Matt, thanks for the mention of my post. I wish your experience were more unique, but you and I both know differently. Lead follow-up is rarely executed well, and most reps simply want to learn if you’re “ready to buy,” regardless of the evidence or lack thereof.

    However, I respectfully disagree with the premise of your post, namely that this situation was one where immediate follow-up was unwarranted. I’d still maintain that immediate follow-up was appropriate – it’s just that the person doing that follow-up was ill-informed and poorly trained. A better approach (per the point in my post) would have been to respond to you immediately with an automated email offering you opportunities to explore additional resources in advance of the Webinar. If you were to have then clicked on those additional resources, the assigned rep could have reasonably inferred a more immediate interest and made a phone call. Even then, of course, his/her script would reference your specific actions, not some wild-eyed assumption that you were ready to buy.

    Cheers,

    Howard

    • http://www.heinzmarketing.com Matt Heinz

      You’re absolutely right, a thanks for bringing up that distinction. I would love to have a company quickly respond with content relevant to the upcoming webinar. And honestly, I would have been open to a sales rep phone call thanking me for registering, and asking if there was specific information I’d like to hear in the event. Asking me in advance if there is content or questions I’d like addressed would be a great way to identify particular pain points or early-stage buying signals.

      Unfortunately, this guy had no such approach. The fact that he mistook a webinar registration for a trial registration was bad enough. But even if he had my initial action right, the scorched-earth attempt to reach me plus the unprofessional use of grammar and punctuation left a lot to be desired.