[Ben Jablow, VP of Alliances at Postal, and Daniel Cross, Director of Business Development at Verse uncover an omnichannel approach to getting creative with lead engagement.] If you’re in sales or marketing, you’re most...
The Lead Conversion Gap
Always be closing. Every sales team has heard this one before. In fact, it’s almost a mantra for any salesperson in the business world.
Despite this guideline, sales and marketing teams are struggling to fill the holes in their sales funnel. There’s a large gap somewhere during the handoff that is causing frustration on both ends.
This lead conversion gap is an issue — and it’s an issue because into it goes immense amounts of lost money, business, and time. Yet, people don’t know where to begin when it comes to bridging this gap. From what we’ve seen, many leaders and teams – from both marketing and sales – seem to have just accepted the gap as something they have to live with and don’t see it as something that they can address or fix.
Our CEO, David Tal, experienced these problems himself in the real estate world, and his lightbulb moment is what triggered a whole new kind of bridge to reunite sales and marketing teams in the sales funnel.
This guide covers “the gap” and the steps to bridge and close that gap, which have helped companies book more appointments and close more deals. Follow along with us and you should be able to link arms with your sales or marketing colleagues and watch your Lead Conversion Gap shrink.
The Gap between Sales and Marketing
Would you like to text?
Digital Storefronts: Open 24/7
Speed-to-Lead and Why it Matters
Tech + Human = Superhuman
Expensive and Complex Tech Stacks Aren’t Cutting It
1 The Gap Between Sales and Marketing
In the world of business, challenges and obstacles, such as lead conversion, arise often in all shapes and forms. Success or failure of an entire company can come down to the relatively simple question of: can they solve the problem?
Sales and marketing teams are very familiar with their problems and misalignments. Often, there can be a lot of pointing fingers. Maybe sales teams aren’t following up with the leads marketing gives them. Maybe marketing isn’t delivering high quality or high volume of leads. Whatever it may be, the hand-off between marketing and sales leaves about 55% of leads neglected without ever being contacted. This is a huge gap in the funnel many companies struggle to close.
While everyone is trying to figure out who to blame, both parties tend to have a role in the lead conversion struggles:
Common Problems in Marketing:
- Poor understanding of targeted demographic (i.e. casting their net in the wrong pond)
- Outdated lead generating tactics
- Trouble generating a high volume of high quality leads
Common Problems in Sales:
- Filtering and funneling leads
- Following up with leads quickly enough
- Maintaining sales morale (“lead fatigue”)
“Sales and marketing didn’t become misaligned all at once; they became gradually misaligned through a number of changes. The vast majority of these changes were not made to intentionally shaft one side or the other…Most causes of misalignment were made innocently, with the intent of making things better, not worse.”
Marketers and sales have two different kinds of mindsets. While marketers might tend to think big picture, casting their large net into the “lead pond,” sales teams are focusing on individuals and closing deals. When marketing teams deliver leads, it can be incredibly overwhelming for the sales team to capitalize on them when they are constantly following up and chasing down prospects. This eventually leads to major “lead fatigue,” overall poor sales team morale, and of course, lower closing rates (and the aforementioned finger pointing).
Nurturing and qualifying leads is one of the most challenging and therefore often neglected areas of the sales funnel to date. The sales team cannot possibly be on call, ready to answer a lead within five minutes every time. Sales teams are trying to nurture, but continue to fail, often due to simple bandwidth issues. However, it doesn’t mean the problem is unsolvable.
2 “Would you like to text?”
In a world of spam and Robocalls, sales teams struggle to get leads to pick up the phone. Phone and email communication has since taken the back seat due to the annoyance of overflowing, out-of-area phone calls and a full email inbox for consumers. Email specifically has fallen off dramatically with less than a 20% open rate for nurtured leads.
Put this into the context of your daily life – you probably open most, if not all, the texts you receive but how many emails do you delete without even opening?
One of the problems both marketing and sales teams are running into is truly not understanding their consumers, especially with respect to the way they communicate.
Sales teams are still wasting 15% of their day or more leaving voicemails instead of recognizing that consumers have clearly developed other communication preferences.
So, what exactly is going on in the minds of consumers?
As you can probably relate, consumers are:
- Tired of spam calling
- Not able to set aside 30 minutes to talk
- Asking for text options– 9 in 10 prefer to TEXT
The comfort of the consumer during the sales process is vital. If a consumer is feeling bombarded, smothered, or inconvenienced, they will likely “ghost” the rep and their company and take their business somewhere else. Having a more “modern” contact center, with both AI and people driving the conversation and the option of text, leaves a consumer with the option to talk on their own terms and time.
At Verse, we’ve used Smart Cadence, which is a data-driven approach to texting and calling leads, to tackle this shift in consumer behavior. This part of our software monitors and records which communication works best for the consumer along with the platform, time of day, and day of the week they typically are available. For your business, taking the step to engage with leads via SMS in addition to calling and emailing is a critical first step.
Text is the surest and most effective way to communicate with consumers, and not just the younger ones. Businesses are mistaken to think millennials are the only ones communicating this way. It’s become the vast majority’s preferred method of communication. This is why we offer text right away.
Hardly anyone answers the phone from a number they do not know and, making the problem worse, if a lead does happen to pick up their phone for whatever reason, they tend to get aggravated instantly when they realize it’s a cold sales call. All of this means that sales teams are wasting a ton of time repetitively calling and emailing all of these leads.
Consumers likely block numbers or unsubscribe from emails, leaving sales stuck and forced to leave them alone. So, it’s clear that relying on phone or email communication isn’t meeting leads where they are at anymore. Communication has drastically evolved, pulled rapidly by the instant gratification of texting. In fact, Verse has reported that 89% of consumers prefer to communicate with businesses via SMS.
“Hi this is Alex with Sunline Energy. I got your inquiry form you filled out on the website. Is now a good time for a quick call, or would you prefer to text?”
At Verse we know the two important effects of offering text up front:
- Legitimacy. A consumer can tell when they’re speaking to a robot. Offering text instead of a phone call in this format shows they’re not talking to a chatbot or auto-reply system. It shows a human is willing to get on the phone with them right away and the consumer is therefore more comfortable.
- Comfort. The ball is now in the consumer’s court. They decide when and how they want to communicate, increasing the odds of real contact and an overall better sales-client relationship. No mass emails, calls, or voicemails necessary. If and when a consumer does request a call, at that point they’re expecting the conversation and tend to be delighted to receive a quick call in response. Talk about a dramatic shift away from irritated consumers getting tricked into picking up a cold call!
Part of the appeal with text revolves around the immediacy of it. Consumers can request a follow-up text quickly sent to their phone, which leaves them feeling taken care of and cared for when it comes to their business. Furthermore, it’s an easy way to capture the attention of consumers, as 98% of all text messages are opened, according to a study by Dynmark. That’s worth calling out again — 98%! Compare that to your email open rate or call answer rate.
Need help converting more of your leads into deals?
Talk to a Verse Lead Conversion Specialist to see how we can help.
3 Digital Storefronts: Open 24/7
Sales teams are all too aware of the difficulty of getting a hold of consumers and leads. As both sales reps and their prospects work primarily during business hours, a huge part of the challenge for sales teams is the struggle to contact or be available for consumers outside of working hours.
On the other hand, just 60% of consumers are likely to be willing or be available to speak during business hours. That translates to a staggering 40% of leads that sales teams will miss if they’re unable or unwilling to engage during:
Technology is a huge reason society has shifted from its typical brick-and-mortar shopping to a more digital storefront. And now, consumers don’t have to shop during regular store hours. Yet, companies are not always sure on how to shift to this kind of change.
This is where a modern contact center comes in: a vital source of relief for sales teams. As we’ve covered, any salesperson is constantly trying to stay on top of their leads. They may even feel obligated to step away from an anniversary dinner to take a call or skip out on time with their kids to connect with a prospect. After all, 85% of consumers whose calls aren’t answered will not call back — all that sounds like is missed money and opportunity.
A 24/7 contact center prevents the sales team from having to step away from their family, miss a holiday party, or even interrupt their night’s rest. Rest assured, money can still be made for your sales teams without taking away from their quality of life.
With 75% of consumers saying how difficult it is to get a hold of sales teams, it’s important to examine other options. This is no longer a situation where sales should have to take the fall. Again, sales teams are not capable of 24/7 care– not even at their best.
A solid, state-side contact center can be the one to first contact a lead at 3AM or on New Year’s Day. Sales teams are composed of humans and we already know humans have lives. In fact, it is likely hurting your company and sales teams when the concept of “always be working” is seen as gospel. This is another part of what results in “lead fatigue,” overall poor sales morale, and eventually, a significant decrease in productivity. No one wants the job that takes away from their everyday life.
The summary is not that you or your sales reps should be giving up on consumers contacting outside of business hours. Quite the opposite, actually: to ensure a consumer is always being directly catered to, a contact center can bridge the gap so sales can focus on doing business in a time frame that works for both the consumer and themselves.
4 Speed-to-Lead and Why it Matters
Leads are coming in and coming in fast. Sales teams are doing their best to get in touch with all of them quickly, but they often fall short. Almost 1 in 2 businesses fail to respond to leads within 24 hours.
One of the main problems Verse noticed among sales teams was the lack of quick response time to leads once they’ve been generated or once they’ve filled out an inquiry.
During this lack of follow up, leads are:
- Losing interest
- Getting in touch with other businesses
- Feeling unimportant
- Not being nurtured
Not only does that mean that business is being lost, but, of course, a competitor is likely taking it. As part of a study by InsideSales.com, 10,000 companies were sent leads with a valid phone number and email address. Of those 10,000 companies, only 12 (!) had built or implemented systems to respond immediately to leads. In addition, 23% of leads were not contacted at all.
“Imagine going to Nordstrom’s on a Wednesday morning and asking to talk to a sales rep about a pair of shoes and the salesperson says they will be happy to help you Friday morning!”
There are three reasons Inside Sales cited re: why speed-to-lead is so vital:
- Presence detection – if a lead puts their information in on a website or fills out some sort of online inquiry form, the lead is likely still next to their phone or computer. Contacting a lead immediately provides the best odds by far for getting a lead to engage quickly.
- Top-of-mind-awareness – this concept of calling or contacting a lead immediately equates to staying on their mind. The average callback time is nearly 48 hours after a lead submits an inquiry — if you can’t outperform that significantly, the consumer will likely have forgotten about your business. (InsideSales.Com)
- The “Wow” effect – people seem to be impressed rather than concerned when a company follows up within minutes of inquiring! This “wow” factor creates a response from consumers that establishes immediate trust. Prospects likely correlate the promptness of a response and assume that their business was prioritized and valued.
The speed-to-lead mission is non-negotiable for sales teams to capitalize on their leads. The chances of a prospect turning into a qualified lead decrease rapidly within five minutes of going uncontacted. (InsideSales.com)
All of this lost opportunity was what drove Verse to create our conversational enablement platform in the first place. Most people think lead volume must equate to hiring more salespeople to handle the intake. But out of effectiveness and cost, a company is capitalizing and saving more by hiring a lead effectiveness solution to maintain leads for them.
Talk to a Verse Lead Conversion Specialist to see how we can help
Qualification rates from first response time
Data from InsideSales.com
- 5 Min
- 15 Min
- 30 Min
- 45 Min
- 60 Min
A business is 21x more likely to convert a lead if engaged within five minutes
5 Tech + Human = Superhuman
Those who have already started using a conversational enablement platform know the reason behind having it. It’s an investment designed to help you communicate, nurture and qualify your leads on behalf of a weary sales team. It also helps the marketing team deliver return on their campaigns and expenses by giving them great lead data for future marketing strategies.
However, it’s worth noting the common problems of varying lead conversion options, many of which tend to be fairly one dimensional in nature:
- A platform that relies on humans only (ISA only) for engagement. We already know this doesn’t work. If a sales team is exhausted from trying to contact and maintain leads, adding more people is just going to be more expensive and will lead to the same result. Yes, you can outsource SDR or BDR functionality to a domestic call center, but the issues we’ve covered, like lack of control, lack of coverage for off-hours, and high expenses will inevitably surface. AI can better use data to apply it to lead management than a human would in their own personal bandwidth. People alone are insufficient. (https://verse.io/blog/why-every-marketing-team-needs-ai-in-their-tech-stack/)
- A platform that offers AI technology (artificial intelligence) only. While technology certainly makes up for the lack of efficiency in humans, AI just cannot connect with consumers like people do. Tech alone is inauthentic, and you’ll always risk alienating a percentage of your leads who quickly can tell that they’re not texting or emailing or chatting with a real person. Part of sales will always be human connection!
- For example: A lead may be interested in buying a home but expresses concern about her insurance after losing her first home in a flood. An AI system would automate a response such as, “Great! I think you’d be a perfect fit for our agent,” completely neglecting the sensitivity of what the consumer just expressed. Leaving a consumer unvalidated is a certain way to lose them as a customer.
- An off-shore call center. While often less expensive than domestic call centers based in the US, off-shore teams can be unreliable or struggle to accurately produce or follow scripts and maintain conversations with leads in an authentic, comfortable manner. The language barriers and lack of proximity causes more hiccups with leads than it does connection. Furthermore, it can take months to fully set up a contact center with trained staff — and then, if you need to change your process or script, you’ll essentially be starting all over again.
“Most software-only platforms come short, only helping to improve dead & struggling channels”
Most of the services that fit under these three categories are missing a key piece or two, and are static in their service. The importance of a well-rounded, conversational service revolves around closing the lead conversion gap in the sales funnel. Research shows that when you respond to leads first, you are 3x more likely to convert a lead. But the authenticity of humans is important, too!
The goal is to leave no lead behind or simply put, to close the gap. You want to be the first to contact a lead, but you also need the ability to engage authentically and to adapt to a conversation when necessary. Taking this information into consideration when searching for a platform or building a system of your own will prevent future potential customers from ending up in the hands of your competitors.
A common problem companies run into when trying to find a solution that meets these admittedly tough criteria is the software itself. Most contact centers do not have a pre-built software that integrates with CRM solutions such as Salesforce or HubSpot. Trying to build software and then paying for the engineering maintenance can take too much time and also get pricey quickly, especially for a company which might not be generating high volumes of leads or revenue yet. If at all possible, your team is better off hiring a company who already has a software set up to integrate with your CRM solution.
Ultimately, at Verse we’ve aimed to cover all the bases and close conversion gaps throughout the funnel. Our software is driven by technology with humans to support the lead conversion process and capitalize on all leads. On top of that, the software is ready to be integrated into any CRM solution at any time, making it an easy and timely solution.
What about landlines?
No matter the source, Verse calls all landlines right away unless it is after hours. For any after hour landline leads, we email them right away, and we queue them up for a call in the morning.
6 Expensive and Complex Tech Stacks Aren’t Cutting It
Companies are starting to understand “Martech” and “conversational marketing” softwares are lacking where it really counts: the bottom of the funnel and actually getting all of those expensive leads to convert into opportunities. To go along with that, sales enablement platforms pick up at the opportunity stage, so we effectively see Martech and sales enablement on opposite sides of the conversion gap. There is a huge amount of money and time wasted, slipping into that chasm between marketing and sales, never to be seen again (no, tired marketing automation emails probably aren’t enough to pull them all out again).
The solution is engaging with a lead on their terms and their time, while having a system that doesn’t “forget” about leads. The future lies with text-first options, supported by a combination of AI and people who nurture and qualify those leads until they ultimately convert and sales can pick it up from there.
When a company decides to hire a call center for their company, the process is usually very tedious and lengthy. Trying to obtain licenses, train staff and supervisors, and build a standard software can take anywhere from 3 months to a year to get fully integrated.
We noticed all of these roadblocks, which is why Verse is the only contact center in 2020 that has its own software which integrates with any CRM solution – meaning your company does NOT have to invest tons of time and money creating and maintaining an additional software for the sake of a contact center.
The system also maintains a follow-up schedule over the course of 6 months. A lead may be unprepared to purchase at the start or may be deemed more qualified in the future. Either way, Verse is decided to be a contact center that would engage when the time is right. The leads a company generates should be faithfully contacted, nurtured and qualified to book more appointments or meetings than a sales team would have done alone.
When Verse brainstormed solutions to the problems in lead engagement platforms, we set out to fill all of these gaps by building a 24/7/365, state-side, modern contact center. With powerful technology taking center stage, humans are on-hand in a critical role: ready to step in and connect at the most important and high-value moments, where the technology alone doesn’t suffice. Verse fully bridges this conversion gap and all of its “holes,” thanks to an orderly exchange between AI and human conversation. It’s a solution that does all of the work for you, while also seamlessly integrating with your existing processes.
Watch David Tal, the CEO of Verse, show you how our lead engagement platform and software – driven by technology and the touch of authenticity from humans – works to qualify and convert leads through a simple, scripted conversation.