Many organizations complain that business is not growing fast enough – or at all. Some of these entities have failed to invest the required time and energy to develop the necessary infrastructure to foster that growth. They shake the proverbial business tree and then do not have the capacity to harvest the clients that would like to work with them.
In this first part of a two part series, the essential pieces of infrastructure needed to increase lead conversion are explored. The second part will offer suggested strategies for growing your business by leveraging staff and infrastructure.
Focus on the Basics: Building Your Database
Effective lead conversion starts with a complete, accurate and useful database. How do you track every potential client and business colleague who contacts your organization? At a minimum, your database should collect names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, and other relevant information. There are plenty of affordable, available programs to manage leads including Microsoft Excel, Access, and ACT! Every contact must be entered into the database and available for other team members to view.
This data should not be kept secret! Your business is not planning for growth if contacts are recorded on slips of paper or held by individuals who hoard their own leads. The data collection process should be uniform, centralized, and organized so that if something happens to one team member, another person can step in and continue to build the relationship.
Once the leads are entered into the system, evaluate and rate your inquiries according to how likely they are to become clients. A rating system can take into account many factors such as the immediacy of their needs (in other words, they want to buy your services or product immediately or very soon), whether you have the products or services they want, if the person the decision-maker or, if not, who is, or any number of other relevant data. Understand your potential customers so that you can meet their needs while meeting the needs of your organization.
Depending on the answers to a set of questions used to screen each prospect, the leads are ranked accordingly. We use a simple “A”, B”, “C” classification for leads who are the most likely to engage our services today to those who are casually interested in what we do but, for the time being, are simply interested in getting our newsletter. Of course, existing clients should be identified in your database as well.
Once prospective clients are “rated”, the next steps become much easier to pinpoint so that you are maximizing your time and resources with appropriate and timely follow up. Your “A” prospects are getting the most attention, immediately, while “B” and “C” prospects receive regular but less frequent communications.
What Gets Measured Matters – Know Your Conversion Rate
Many software programs offer scheduling and tracking functions which are useful for managing leads. Setting up follow up phone calls or other communications can be accomplished with the help of technology but it still depends on people knowing how to manage the conversion process.
Do you count how many phone call you receive every day? How many calls are answered versus how many are transferred into voice mail? How promptly are calls returned? Of the number of calls received, how many become actual customers? The same questions should be asked and answered about email inquiries.
Are you measuring this and other important information?
If you are not, then it is time to start now to calculate your inquiry (lead) to customer conversion rate!
When I ran a medical recruitment company, we knew that it would take about 20 outbound calls to potential employers to secure one placement for one of our candidates. Our representatives were encouraged to “Hurry up and fail!” In other words, make enough calls so that the 20-1 ratio would be met. We measured the number of call each representative made to see who was most effective in getting results and who needed more support to succeed using SMART objectives.
Are your goals SMART?
Use your database to create SMART goals to measure success. SMART goalsi are:
- Specific (and strategic): Linked to position summary, departmental goals/mission, and/or overall School of Medicine goals and strategic plans. Answers the question-Who? and What?
- Measurable: The success toward meeting the goal can be measure Answers the question-How?
- Attainable: Goals are realistic and can be achieved in a specific amount of time and are reasonable.
- Relevant (results oriented): The goals are aligned with current tasks and projects and focus in one defined area; include the expected result
- Time framed: Goals have a clearly defined time-frame including a target or deadline date.
Our recruitment company measured the number of calls (specific) as they were the main way that placements were arranged. By tracking this data over time we knew, on average, the ratio of the calls made to placements completed (measurable). The database software was able to generate reports for us so we knew how many calls a representative could make on a daily basis and used that average to set the minimum number of calls each person was expected to complete taking into account other job duties (attainable). The tasks (telephone calls) were aligned with the results – getting placements (relevant). Weekly reports were generated to review the number of calls and placements made per person (time frame).
Our SMART goals were tied to our conversion rates and our profits.
Can your database system support SMART goals? If so, then make sure you are measuring data, sharing the data with your team, using the data to reward or further support team members, and watch what happens to your lead conversion ratio.
Is Your Customer Response System working?
The Customer Response System is made up of three integrated systems – web site, telephone system, and email system. The web site provides information, generates interest and results in an inquiry either by telephone or email. Staff responds promptly and professionally to initiate the relationship with the individual and either continues to interact with the potential client or forwards the inquiry to the proper person to complete the process. Simple, right?
Our research demonstrates quite the opposite.
While web sites tend to be fairly good at attracting potential clients, the trail often ends there. Telephone calls go unanswered, information is not provided in a timely fashion or at all, or people are disconnected. Add different languages to the interaction and the relationship is often doomed to fail. Email responses are even worse.
Does your staff have the skills and knowledge to successfully interact with current and potential customers over the telephone and via email? If not, provide the training and tools that they need to succeed. Part of the success of converting leads into clients is based on your employees’ abilities. They should understand their role in the conversion process as well as what is being measured. Tie their compensation or other rewards to meeting and exceeding your SMART goals.
Your organization’s web site as well as the telephone and email response systems must work together as one seamless interaction for your potential and current clients. While you can test the system in-house, an independent third party will be able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the customer service experience you are delivering and offer concrete recommendations to improve those services.
By investing time and energy in creating, building, monitoring and improving your lead generation and conversion capacity, you will have the infrastructure to turn more inquiries into paying clients.
In the second part of this article, specific strategies, ideas and recommendations will be offered to leverage the investment you have made in your organization.
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