sales intake best practices

The goal of all marketing efforts is to get people to do business with your organization. Whether you use inbound methods, direct tactics or have someone stand on a busy corner with a sign strapped around their shoulders, you’re trying to bring new leads to your business. 

Here’s a question though; once they walk through your doors, pick up the phone or respond to an email, are you properly equipped to help them become customers? Losing a potential customer because you’re unprepared to answer their questions, vet them for fit or even make contact with them in the first place should be unacceptable for your organization.

Let’s take a look at the best practices you can implement to ensure your lead intake process is ironclad so that no opportunities slip through the cracks.

Is Your Team Prepared?

Having a thorough intake process is a critical business function for a pretty simple reason — this is likely the first time a lead is making contact with your business. Sure, maybe they received a mailer or saw an ad online that led them to reach out to you, but the quality of your intake process will play a huge role in whether they decide to work with your business.

Think of a time you responded to some form of marketing and received a less-than-great response. Maybe you received a flyer in the mail with a special offer attached and gave the business a call to ask further questions, only to find that no one there knew what you were talking about. This won’t give you much faith in the ability of that organization to deliver on what they’re offering.

This is why you need to develop best practices for every possible way a lead may contact your business. That means that everyone in your business who answers phones or has any contact with potential leads needs to know how to respond and how your organization goes about obtaining more information on their needs.

What Goes Into a Successful Intake Process

First things first: you need to decide who will be handling the lead process internally. This includes determining who will create content like automated emails, what members of staff will handle intake calls, who the intake backups will be and how leads will be handed off to sales.

Once these roles have been assigned, it’s time to build your infrastructure.

Email and web submissions: If someone reaches out to your business via email, either through a contact form or sending a message directly to your general inbox, respond to them as soon as possible — the sooner, the better. Consider implementing email automation to make sure your lead knows their message has been received and a member of staff will be in contact soon. This inquiry should be directed to the appropriate internal party to schedule a call. 

If the lead becomes unresponsive and you have their number, pick up the phone and call. If that doesn’t work, consider using a workflow to nurture them toward a call.

Phone intake: Everyone responsible for phone intake needs to be working from the same playbook so that you can properly track, segment and prioritize leads. First, get the basics at the top of the call:

  • Name of caller
  • Company name (if your organization specializes in B2B services)
  • Phone number
  • Email

From there, the intake team should move through the prepared questionnaire. These questions should be designed to help you quickly determine if there’s a potential fit. Here’s a look at some of the questions we ask on intake calls:

  • Can you tell me about your company and your role there?
  • Why you are reaching out now?
  • What are you hoping to achieve with marketing?
  • What marketing strategies/tactics have you tried before? What’s worked?
  • Did you have any successes?

Resist the urge to immediately start selling your product or service. Your prospects want to be heard and understood first before you start rattling off features and benefits.

To conclude the call, put the question to the lead: what makes sense as a next step? If they want to move forward, they’ll request another call or a meeting. The easiest way to do this is to set up an email calendar invite and send it to the lead before they get off the phone. Remember to first check the availability of your sales person and always try to schedule a call for when they have 30 minutes free before and after to ensure there are no interruptions.

Suggested Tools and Follow Up

The next step in the intake process is figuring out where all this lead information you just collected should go. If you don’t have one already, get a CRM today. This is the only way to effectively keep track of these new leads. An automated platform like HubSpot will also make your life a lot easier, as you’ll be able to not only record when you spoke to a lead, document any relevant notes and add their contact information, but also use tools like lead scoring and engagement tracking to help your team prioritize and personalize the follow-up strategy.

Once the initial sales conversation has been completed, you’ll need to decide where this lead goes. Are they a marketing qualified lead who isn’t quite ready to become a customer? Then it might be good to have some email drafts prepared that you can then follow up with. These emails can be used to nurture the lead until they are ready to purchase, and can include links to relevant resources your organization built as a way to keep your organization top-of-mind. On the other hand, maybe after talking to them you’ve decided they’re a sales lead who’s ready for the next step in the process, whether that be another call or an in-person meeting. Evaluate your lead and properly label them to ensure they’re on the right track to becoming a customer.

Building a sales intake process that adheres to these best practices will help you quickly and efficiently move leads through the sales process, greatly reducing the odds that any fall through the cracks.