When is a lead truly dead?

By Patricia Egen • October 21st, 2012

Well, once again my muse has come up with a great blog article topic.  I’ve been tweeting about not deadheading my cone flowers.  Turns out they are an excellent thistle seed source for Gold Finch.  Last week there had to be 50 or more of the lovely birds in my garden feasting on the dead blossoms.  In this case, there was a benefit to not dead heading or “throwing away” what appears to be something of no use.

My muse, who is @kimjosephs on Twitter said “Oh, does the deadheading make you think of a potential blog article? When is a lead is no longer a lead? Do we give up too soon?” Once again, she has inspired me to write a blog article on just that.  When is a lead well and truly dead.

Today’s blog article is mostly going to be about leads, but it probably will also apply to existing customers as well.  I still remember years ago working with a client who had over 25K contacts in an ACT 6 database.  Adding someone to a group took 45 minutes – that’s minutes – not seconds.  I knew we needed to clean up his database in order to improve performance.  Besides all the contacts, he had over 10 years of histories as well.  One of the first things I suggested was removing companies and customers that were, for sure, no longer in business.  He absolutely refused.  When I even showed him several contacts who were really dead, like buried in the ground dead, he didn’t want them removed either.  When I questioned him about his rationale for keeping the contacts, he said it was the history he was most interested in – in other words, why were they a customer – what kept them coming back – what could he have done better if they went away or were lost.  I really couldn’t argue with his concept.

Just last week I was working with a client who wanted to keep three databases – something I really hate doing for a variety of reasons.  He wanted a prospect/lead database of contacts that were not qualified, a Leads database of contacts that were qualified and then a final, “they are now a customer” database.  Well, yikes, no.   How do you follow the transition from unqualified to customer?  How do you follow up with a calendar entry to call them on a regular basis if you have to read more than one calendar.  Yikes again.

Once I got him to actually settle on one database with groups, then we started talking about leads and lead management.  We were on a conference call with several of his salespeople and it got pretty heated during the discussion.  It was no surprise that everyone had a different opinion about what constitutes a dead lead.  I chipped in and told them the story of one of my supposedly dead leads.  I had done my due diligence and called back the client.  They told me they were absolutely not interested and NEVER would be.  Ok, I wrote up the notes, stating that the client wasn’t interested in receiving any more of our emails, left them in the database and moved onwards.  Two years later, about 6 months ago actually, out of the blue I get a call from the client who now wants to move forward and get ACT.  Oh, and it needed to happen right away.  I was curious and asked him why he had told me before that he NEVER would be interested.  He chuckled, and said “hm, did I really say that – well never say never.”  He said what he meant was he wasn’t interested at that moment.

That then begs the question – when is a NO really a NO?  After you follow up with a lead and then they tell you to go away, do you remove them from your database?  For one thing, you don’t keep calling them.  I have a vendor that I have said NO to more times than I can remember and religiously, every 6 months, this guy calls me back and I tell him once again, I’m not interested.  You have to admire his tenacity.

Personally, I do not call back a client if they say don’t.  To me that’s common courtesy.  I’ve had salespeople argue with me that this is the wrong mentality.  But nowhere in any of my writing are you ever going to see me say I am a salesperson.  There are products and things I am passionate about and will “talk up” but I will not call, on a weekly basis, to convince you to buy my services.   Guess maybe that’s why I’m not a gazillionaire.  But I sleep better at night.  Now, for the clients that have told me don’t call back, I do include them in email marketing campaigns.  If they don’t want to hear from me anymore they can opt out.  Then I pretty much know for sure they are not interested. I don’t remove them from my database, though, cause based on the gentleman calling me back 6 months ago, you just never know.

I guess the point of this blog is you may not really know when a lead is truly dead and no longer interested.  It might clutter up your database, but you really do need to keep the history of what was said and heard. Is the client really dead and gone?  Who knows, but like my client said, never say never.

 

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