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What’s the most equitable way to distribute online leads to salespeople?

As a brick-and-click business, managing inbound leads online in the same way clients are greeted in the store can be tricky. While cherry-picking or outright ignoring clients in the store would be unheard of among sales staff, it could be routine behavior with an online business left unchecked. What are some tips for managing inbound leads so all have the chance to make a sale yet no customer falls through the cracks?

11 Replies

Peter Jones [LION: li.blueoyster~@~gmail.com]
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Peter Jones creates solutions for product USP, market messaging, team building, venture and other commercial capital
A data thing?

Each customer record has a sales advisor code attached to it, or not.

This will avoid missing customers.

Unmatched customers can be selected from a list one at a time by sales advisors.

If the customer buys, the sale is recorded. Should stop sales advisors picking blocks of customers, since they will incur a backlog, although will likely need fine tuning in time.

Time of customer "acquisition" can also be recorded, allowing reporting on peak and trough advisor activity levels.

Hopefully the answer addresses the question, which seems straightforward.

If so, a good IT team should be able to deliver.

HTH.
Brent Wittke
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Brent Wittke Entrepreneur
CEO, Co-founder at Resale Therapy
Bear in mind, no matter which method you choose there will always be opinions of inequitable distribution. Though, in my opinion the simplest method would be distribute sequentially. Only after each lead has been validated first of course. Brent Wittke
Brent Hultman
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Brent Hultman Advisor
Business and Leadership Coach/Consultant at Pursuits Coaching and Wellness Network
Having an equitable system is one consideration. The other is customer conversions resulting from the online leads. Some sales people have a lot of other high probability business in their production pipeline and find online lead follow up to be a distraction. These folks are not likely to follow up on online leads and are likely to give them a perfunctory touch if they are required to work with online leads. You might ask your sales people if they want to work these leads. Allowing sales staff to opt in if they want to work online leads gives you the right to expect that those who want the leads will do all that they can to convert them to customers. Once you have self-identified sales staff to work online leads distribute them sequentially, or based on some other method that your team might suggest and then require that the online leads be tracked and reported on along with other activities in each of the sales peoples pipeline reports.
Brent Hultman
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Brent Hultman Advisor
Business and Leadership Coach/Consultant at Pursuits Coaching and Wellness Network
Eric, Having an equitable system is one consideration. The other is customer conversions resulting from the online leads. Some sales people have a lot of other high probability business in their production pipeline and find online lead follow up to be a distraction. These folks are not likely to follow up on online leads and are likely to give them a perfunctory touch if they are required to work with online leads. You might ask your sales people if they want to work these leads. Allowing sales staff to opt in if they want to work online leads gives you the right to expect that those who want the leads will do all that they can to convert them to customers. Once you have self-identified sales staff to work online leads distribute them sequentially, or based on some other method that your team might suggest and then require that the online leads be tracked and reported on along with other activities in each of the sales peoples pipeline reports.
Alex Eckelberry
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Alex Eckelberry Advisor
CEO at Meros.io
1. Operate by region, not by "round-robin".
2. Immediately send out an autoresponder to the customer. This is an insurance against the sales rep not getting to the lead.
3. Get the customer into a content marketing system and keep marketing to them.
4. Salesforce and other tools has simple metrics to track lead contact, so that shouldn't be an issue.
5. Keep re-optimizing regions to insure that reps aren't getting lazy with good leads and not working every lead to the bone.
6. Continue to do 3 until the customer tells you to go away. Leads can take years to bubble up into a sale.
Eric Robertson
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Eric Robertson Entrepreneur
Creative Director at Green Lake Jewelry Works

Really great insights here and really appreciate it! Coding reps to individual customers sequentially opposed to having them assign themselves seems to be the prevailing wisdom here. Letting reps opt in as to whether or not they'd like to receive online leads and how much puts a bit ownership back in the hands of the sales team too. When markets better defined for our business, allocating by region will be a great route to consider aw well - Thanks again for your feedback!

Andrew Lockley
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Andrew Lockley Advisor
Investor and strategy consultant
Randomly could work. Also first come, first served encourages speed Manger assignment could get better results if there's enough info to allocate by fit, but it's risky as regards favouritism and corruption Andrew Lockley Andrewlockley.com
Peter Johnston
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Peter Johnston Advisor
Businesses are composed of pixels, bytes & atoms. All 3 change constantly. I make that change +ve.
Seth Godin wrote Meatball Sundae, a book about mixing old and new to get something pretty unappetising.

The key word here is "online". What people online hate is discovering that they've "downloaded a sales call" (just as they hate having a salesperson come up to them while browsing in the store).

So forget the fact that you are paying all those salespeople's salaries. Think instead about how your customers really want to progress their interest.

80% of your online customers want to complete their purchase online. But your site is letting them down.
Perhaps they want to see the jewellery on them - there are apps to do exactly that taking a selfie and superimposing. Or they want to see models, celebrities etc. sporting the same items. Or they want practical help - a sizing guide, a what size looks best for you tool, a colour matcher, wrap it for you or simply delivery costs. Or they want reassurance - a no quibble return option, guaranteed trade-in, or a send it to a friend system for gifts which also offer a swap for an alternative option.

For the remainder, there are a host of options.
A click to chat, which instantly connects them with a salesperson. A home or hotel visit from a personal shopper. A guaranteed store appointment, where they get a special fitting (this can be sold as a premium service). Even a credit advisor who can help them finance their purchase.

There is one sure way to make sure customers fall through the cracks. Not following up while the idea is in their minds, but instead allocating their enquiry to a salesperson who follows up when it suits him/her and often phones when the prospect is with the person they are buying for, busy or offline. By then the prospect will either have bought, seen something else online which interests them more or gone off the idea. And telephone messages from a jewellery store on a partner's phone can look highly suspicious.

Think of your customer and how they like to buy, not your need to keep salespeople fed with work.
Jacques de Cock
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Jacques de Cock Entrepreneur
Partner at CQRS
It depends on the culture you want to create and whatever you chose needs to fit other aspects of your management of the sales team.

The obvious answer is proportionate with a bias towards success rate in conversion of lead into client.

So if the first leads are given with the people with the best conversion rates and if htey are busy then it cascades down depending on conversion rates.

You will obviously need some process to deal with new salesmen as they need to go through a training and induction phase where they cannot be subjected to the same rules as experienced staff as they are likely to be never given a chance and therefore leave very frustrated

Also sales staff that are performing badly need to either be encouraged to improve (again separate process), made to partner with an experienced good salesperson, or allowed to sink or swim if this is the culture of your enterprise.

I personally believe in team based processes but that is a personal bias.
Dan Morris
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Dan Morris Advisor
VP Sales at Zootly. Startup Sales Strategy Expert Building A B2B Sales Team In New York City.
Hi Eric. My approach would depend on scale and structure:
  1. Are your salespeople working standard store hours or longer shifts to accommodate the 24/7 nature of ecommerce? (who's available when the lead comes in?)
  2. Are they working in store, and checking the online leads between physical customers?
  3. Is lead volume significant enough to take a person/people's whole day?
At any rate, a degree of qualification from marketing is best practice before requiring that the lead is counted into the salesperson's pipeline. Example - a web inquiry from a student studying jewelry or asking about internships would obviously not count as a lead, if you'd like to automate lead allocation there needs to be a process to handle those - best practice to have a fair handling policy for "non sales" incoming "leads".

If your salespeople also work face to face in store - I'd agree that letting reps opt in to inbound leads would be an interesting option, although if a salesperson says no to leads perhaps that's a red flag!

I've run round-robin systems, and meritocracy systems-where the best performing reps of the month get leads first then the sequence follows the leaderboard second, third, etc. Both work well when all salespeople are ramped up and trained. The choice would be based on the culture of your business.

Best practice is when a salesperson gets a qualified inbound lead there should also be a requirement that it is contacted within a specified time window.

Happy to discuss further if you can disclose more info.
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