Speed to Your Leads

It was only a few years ago that e-mails could be answered at the end of the day, and that only computer geeks needed BlackBerrys. Technology is still changing our business and your ability to get the “good leads” is changing with them.

In the last three years, the number of lead sources for exterior contractors has increased almost tenfold. Today — in spaces ranging from the Internet to canvassing your neighborhood — there are marketing programs that offer pay-per call, pay-per click, pay-per inquiry. All are on a pay-per-lead basis. Some contractors use these programs in place of much of their traditional advertising because the cost seems similar to what they previously spent running their own programs — without the upfront investment. Using these programs can be great for someone whose company is 100 percent ready to accept these leads, but for those who are not, these pay-per programs can be a huge waste of money.

Let’s use the example of an Internet provider that automatically accepts leads on your behalf, sending a prospect your information right after they inquire. Sounds like a winner, and it was . . . a few years ago. Today customers are increasingly expecting human-to-human contact immediately after they submit a request. Most savvy homeowners realize that the auto response generated by a computer has little to do with the service they can expect. When you take this into consideration along with the fact that less than 5 percent of the leads available will be exclusive to your business, you end up with a good, old-fashioned race. The contractor that calls the customer first with the most compelling call-to-action and collateral wins.

Even those companies that call back within the hour — but after another company beat them to it — are met with no answer or at least a colder shoulder that often makes the lead tough to schedule.

There are a few simple ways to handle these problems. First, charge one of your employees who is looking at the computer most of the day with the responsibility for accepting and calling leads. Second, write some simple ground rules. Leads can only be accepted if they are hot off the press. Insist that once a lead is accepted that everything in that person’s world stops until that lead is called at all their numbers with a scripted message left on voice mails. Also, a “personalized” e-mail must be sent to the customer during the calling process.

After your office closes, have a rotating call schedule that assigns responsibility for monitoring electronic submissions. Unlike traditional media, many pay-per leads can be generated during after hours. Thankfully, many of these programs offer services to distribute leads, even to those team members not glued to a computer. We have found that cell-phone text messaging is an easy way to make sure your assigned people are getting the leads early enough to have the best chance at setting a quality appointment.

Last, but not least, it is critical to establish written guidelines as to what type of leads you will accept (easy) along with what information provided on a lead will cause you not to accept it (much harder). Written guidelines and clear scripting are one of the most important ways you can ensure that your money spent on valuable lead sources does not get wasted and that your sales team has the best opportunities to close.