March 9, 2021

7 tips for great lead follow-up

While generating leads may seem like the most important part of the sales and marketing cycle, knowing that your follow-up game is strong is as important — or in some cases, more important — as getting those leads in the first place. If you’ve struggled to convert leads, the first place to look for improvements is in your lead follow-up.

Greg Sebel
Greg Sebel

“The most important step to follow-up is to understand the importance of actually following up on the leads you receive. These people have expressed interest in what you sell, and following up is the first step to understanding a potential customer’s needs,” said Greg Sebel, associate publisher for Fruit Growers News, Vegetable Growers News and Organic Grower magazines.

 1. Plan ahead

Before you complete any lead generation efforts, or before you attend an event or trade show where you receive many leads at once, it’s important to know how a few facts about your follow-up process:

  • How much time it takes to convert a lead, on average
  • How many reach-outs you normally need to make to convert a lead
  • How many leads you can follow up on in a given period of time.

Besides these basics, you’ll want to plan how you will follow-up. This includes planning scheduled emails or call blocks as well as marketing efforts that your marketing team can do to help you keep the interest of those leads if you or your team know you will get more leads than you can handle.

 2. Hot (or not)?

While it may be tempting to categorize your leads as hot, medium, cool, you may be making assumptions without complete information. The worst thing that can happen when you classify your leads in this way is that you can forget to follow up with non-hot leads.

If you can confidently make the assessment that a lead is hot and you need to prioritize leads because you’re receiving more than you can give quality attention to, make sure you don’t ignore the medium or cool leads. Plan efforts that will keep non-hot leads interested while you work more aggressively towards completing the sales cycle on those you deemed ready to buy.

3. Be timely

Nancy Brooks
Nancy Brooks

When you’re following up after a trade show or event, it is important to do an initial reach-out with thanks to anyone you had a conversation with. Most lead collection systems allow you to add notes, so be sure to make a few after you scan someone’s badge so that your initial note to them can be personal. Once you return from the trade show, set your planned email program or call blocks up to try to set up a conversation within the first week or two after the show. Sometimes getting your foot in the door before any of your competitors do is the reason you’ll get a sale, so letting those leads sit on your desk a month or two might mean that they are no longer convertible.

“With trade show leads, it is imperative that you respond to the lead as soon as possible. To make the connection before the customer may lose interest or forget about your company and your products and services. Once you have connected to the company you can evaluate the level of interest and proceed with the next step. This can be setting up a second call or meeting, sending information by email or mail or setting up a follow up call in the near future when the company has the time to discuss their needs and goals and how your company, products and services can help them achieve to these goals,” said Nancy Brooks, integrated marketing consultant for Gift Shop Plus magazine.

If a prospect initiates a conversation via the web or phone, it’s imperative that you are able to reply within 1-2 business days at the very most with a personal acknowledgement. It’s ok to have a short boilerplate email that you use to reply, but be sure to add a few sentences that are relevant to them so you aren’t just guilty of giving a canned answer.

For processes where you don’t receive leads for a few weeks or months, just reach out as soon as you receive the leads to get the conversation going.

4.  Personalize it, be relevant and be brief

While mass emails seem like a great idea when you have large numbers of leads to follow up on, just keep in mind that they’ll perform best if they look like they’re crafted just for the recipient. Don’t send out a mass email unless you can add personalization.

What you should do instead: create emails that are partially unique, with some boilerplate, and add a couple sentences about your interaction or otherwise let them know you did a bit of research. Also, LinkedIn is a great resource. Do check their LinkedIn job description if you’re not sure what they do, rather than just assuming you understand their job by description alone. In initial reach-out, keep it brief so you can keep their attention.

5. Create a tracking system

Use CRM tools if you have them, but an excel or google sheets grid works well if your company has not invested in a CRM yet. The hardest part is keeping it updated when you’re busy, but those efforts will definitely pay off. You can also utilize automation tools that send out reminder emails to your clients if they don’t open or reply to your previous messages. 

6. Mix your media

Rather than just sticking to one type of email, try creating visually inviting emails — something your marketing team can take care of for you — and combine those with plain-text personal emails, phone calls, LinkedIn messages or contact via retargeting systems. If you have trouble keeping track of where you were in your conversation, utilize your tracking system to note statuses or the location of the last message you sent or received.

7. Be respectful

Andrea Schafer
Andrea Schafer

If someone opts out, be sure to note it and let other reps know so that they aren’t reaching out as well. The last thing you want is to annoy your prospects so that they do not want to work for you.

The bottom line

Leads won’t take care of themselves. Sure, you might have a few people you meet at trade shows reach out to book without any effort on your end. However, expect that you’ll need to do the work, and look forward to that follow-up. Leads are the lifeline of any sales rep, and following up is your bread & butter. “I think it is vital to follow up on leads because you’re ensuring a potential client who already showed an interest in your product

knows how and whom to contact for more information or to book an ad. A lead is someone taking an interest in your product, our job is to make it easy and ‘tempting’ to take the next step,” said Andrea Schafer, integrated marketing consultant for Spudman, Produce Processing, Organic Grower and Hemp Production News magazines.


About the author

Jess Schmidt brings a creative writing degree and over a decade of professional writing experience to the team. As a career marketer with a background in the design world, she works with clients to make their brand stories stand out. Her specialties are thought leadership, compelling descriptive language, technical details and marketing strategy. She writes content for all of the publications under the Great American Media Services umbrella and manages advertiser-driven projects. She’s also the in-house SEO and SEM guru. Learn more about our team here: