How to Know When a Lead is Ripe (And What To Do When They Are!)

By: Andrea Lotz Tuesday March 10, 2015 comments



Lead management is more of an art than a science. 

How often do you call?  How many emails can you send without getting flagged as spam or annoying your customers?  How do you stay top of mind until you’re ready to close the sale?  And, most importantly, how do you know when a lead is ripe and ready to be converted?

Leads aren’t like fruit – you can’t give them a squeeze to find out if they’re ripe.  Instead, you have to rely on cues from the relationship you’ve cultivated with them up to this point, and learn to recognize what signals mean that someone is ready to be sold.  Using CRM (customer relationship management) software can help you map out a sales process, making those cues and signals easier to interpret.

If you can master lead qualification and confidently assess where leads are in the sales process, you’ll reap several important benefits:

  • Save time by focusing more time on leads that are likely to convert
  • Better clarity about lead status
  • Higher conversion rate of new clients, and increased likelihood of creating repeat customers
  • Reduced cost to convert leads
  • Improved projections for future revenue and profit

Read on for guiding principles to qualify and engage with leads, create a sales pipeline to manage leads, and how to bring new customers onboard in a way that encourages them to come back for more – and refer you to other great leads!

Find the Good Ones: Qualifying Leads

The first step to converting more leads is to find a way of quickly determining whether a lead is a good candidate.  This process is called qualification – basically, you’re finding out if the lead has qualities that will make them more likely to buy your product or service.

You can easily remember the qualities that make a good lead with the acronym BANT

  • Budget (access to funds)
  • Authority (ability to make the decision)
  • Need (that your business solves)
  • Timing (compelling event)

Budget means that they have the ability to pay for your product or service.  For B2B businesses, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re only looking for companies that have surplus budget (that’s likely to be a pretty short list), but it means that the person you’re talking to has the ability to make the call to include you in the budget.  For B2C companies, this means that you’re reaching prospects that can afford what you’re selling.  This is especially important for luxury products.

Authority is fairly self-explanatory.  For B2Bs, it means that you’re talking to someone high up enough in the organization to make the call.  For B2Cs, it often means appealing to the member of the family that makes the decision - this may be the husband, wife, or either parent, depending on the product.

Need refers to a pain point, which you solve.  It’s much easier to convince someone that your product can help them if it solves a problem they have, where they are actively looking for a solution.  To find out if your leads meet this criterion, try asking them what their major struggles are, and what they’ve tried to solve the problem.  If they quickly become passionate, and have tried other solutions, you are likely to be able to get a foot in the door as long as you can demonstrate that you have a better solution!

Timing simply refers to any event that might trigger them to commit to a solution to that need.  This could be seasonal, economic, personal . . . you’ll learn to recognize these events as you get into the practice of engaging more with your leads.

Guiding Principle: People only need one good reason to buy.


Develop a Relationship: Engaging Leads

Once you’ve qualified your lead, and determined that they are a good candidate, it’s time to start developing a relationship.  This is an often-overlooked part of the sales process for small businesses – don’t make that mistake!

This is where a CRM tool can really come in handy.  By keeping all your leads organized in one database, you’ll be able to access their information quickly – if your service is cloud-based, you can also access it from any mobile device.  If you get in the practice of keeping all your client notes in the CRM, you’ll never find yourself struggling to remember what you talked about the last time you spoke.

You’ll also be able to set up follow-up reminders, to schedule when you contact them.  This helps you strike up a balance – not too frequently, not so spaced out that you are forgotten.  The exact timing will depend on your business, but having a system in place can help you lock in on it.

Here are some tips for what to talk about when you’re engaging with leads:

  • Hone in on pain point – qualitative and quantitative
  • Sell your team
  • Question everything – 5Ws (who, what, when, where, why)
  • Look for enemies – competing priorities, personalities

This part of the process is all about establishing trust – setting yourself up as an authority, offering guidance and tips, and being genuine.  This takes a different amount of time for different businesses, and will even vary customer-to-customer.  Eventually, you’ll develop a feel for when the relationship has developed to the point where you can make a sale.

Guiding Principle: People buy what they understand, and look for guidance over information


Make a Sale: Converting Leads

This is the part you’ve been waiting for!  You’ve determined that your leads are a good fit for your product or service, and you’ve developed a relationship of trust – now it’s time to make the sale.

Ideally, this conversation should come about in a very natural way – hopefully, they suggest it before you do!  A good non-threatening way to start moving your relationship toward conversion is to offer a demo, or a free trial. 

Make sure to keep this focused on adding value to your lead, and remember the previous guiding principle of offering guidance over information.  This is not the time to go for the throat – the modern consumer is likely to be wary of those tactics.  Even if you make a one-time sale, the damage to the relationship could prevent future sales and upsells.

That being said, it is a good time to start conveying your passion for what you do.  Hopefully you have enough passion for your work that it can’t help but shine through once you start moving the conversation towards a sale.

Passion has a way of creating momentum.  Make sure you have the infrastructure in place to capture that momentum.  Many small businesses don’t have systems in place to make quotes and proposals quickly, and they find that qualified, interested leads fizzle out before their eyes.

Having processes and tools in place to increase speed and effectiveness along each step of the way is crucial.  You will be able to ride that passion through to the end, and look more professional while you’re doing it.  This is a crucial aspect of customer service that will not only help you close first-time sales, but also encourages customers to come back and bring friends.  Customers are much more comfortable referring their friends and family if they consider it low risk.  Being well-organized, passionate, and relationship-oriented makes you much more referable.

Here are some examples of often overlooked systems that can be streamlined with small business management software, such as small business ERP and small business CRM.

  • Order management
  • Shipping
  • Invoicing

Having clear systems and processes in place helps you capture the momentum of the relationship you forged in the previous step, and helps you make sure qualified leads don’t slip through your fingers.

Guiding Principle: People are swayed more by conviction than logic

Andrea Lotz

About the Author: Andrea Lotz

Andrea is the resident writer for AllProWebTools. She loves to write about just about anything, especially small businesses, sustainability, and whatever is new and upcoming on the horizon.  She lives in Fort Collins and spends her free time cycling, welding, cooking, and playing ukulele. 

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