How to Track Sales Like a Boss

sales funnel

By James Archer

The biggest lead tracking mistake I ever made

A few years ago, I ran a well-known design firm with several employees. As the business owner, I worried constantly about having enough business to make payroll every couple of weeks. Every sales opportunity mattered.

You can imagine how excited I was one day when I was looking for something in my email archive and stumbled across a sales lead from a major corporation saying they were starting a new app design project and they’d shortlisted my firm to bid on it. They’d heard good things about us and liked our work, and they were excited to hear from us.

It was the kind of huge sales lead I always dreamed about. One deal with them could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of work—and a lot less stress about payroll as we headed into the slow season.

Then I checked the date on the email: it had come in two months ago.

My jaw dropped open. Two...MONTHS...ago….

Somehow I had totally missed it. Maybe I’d checked my mail on my phone and opened it before getting distracted by something else. It had been marked as read, but I never actually read it. I had left this amazing sales lead hanging for two full months.

I scrambled to find a phone number and called them, apologizing profusely and telling them how interested we were in the opportunity. I told them what a great fit we’d be, and how excited we were. I told them I’d love to chat with them as soon as possible to learn more about the project.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” my contact replied. “We never heard from you so we moved on to our second choice firm. We started the project a couple weeks ago.”

Our slow season was particularly slow that year, and that incident haunted me. If I’d been properly tracking sales leads, I wouldn’t have missed that potential project, and that whole year could have gone very differently.

You can see how I might be pretty passionate about lead tracking now. That’s why I’m so excited to work with the team at Peachee, looking for ways to help other small business owners avoid these same pains!

The joy of tracking sales leads

Here’s a happier story for you…

One day my firm received an email lead from a potential client that was a great fit for us. It went right into our lead tracking system, which kept track of it until I got out of a meeting and had a chance to follow up with her. I reached out right away and set myself a reminder to follow up with her if I didn’t hear back.

It was good I’d gotten into the habit of setting those reminders because it took seven tries before she finally responded back. She apologized for being so busy, and that she was glad I’d been persistent in my sales follow up approach because she really did want to talk, she’d just been too distracted to do so earlier.

Some weeks later, we wound up winning the project. She confided that the real reason she’d hired us was because we were the only ones who’d followed-up with her. She said she felt like we cared, we were interested in the project, and we were organized enough that we wouldn’t let her down.

Over the course of the few years that followed, we earned nearly $350,000 from that client alone. All because of sales lead tracking.

Tracking leads: Why is it so hard?

Nobody starts a business so they can leave people hanging and waste potential opportunities. In fact, it’s often the opposite! We start businesses because we really love our customers, and we think we can take better care of them than the companies we used to work for.

But then why are business owners so notoriously bad at keeping track of sales leads?

It’s understandable, of course. Running a small business can feel like swirling around in non-stop chaos. They’ve got financial issues, upset customers to deal with, deadlines to hit, employees to coordinate, and dozens of other issues on any given day.

It’s made worse by trying to rely on a haphazard mix of tools not really meant for tracking sales leads. Yes, you can track your leads by flagging your emails, setting phone alarms, adding them to your calendar, or even writing them down on paper, but each of these has some major shortcomings that can result in major follow-up failure.

On top of that, lead tracking feels like something we can just do. We don’t bother to put great tools in place because we think we’ll remember. It’s not until we lose track of something huge—like I did—that we finally realize just how important consistent sales lead tracking really is. Something always slips through the cracks, even if you’re great at tracking leads.

In a service business, it’s super important to track your leads effectively, because you never know which one is going to be the big one that totally changes the trajectory of your business—or the one that you always regret having missed.

What to look for in lead tracking software

Whether you’re using web or mobile lead tracking software, there are three key things it should allow you to do:

  • Capture leads efficiently and consistently

  • See the whole conversation history

  • Follow up intelligently

1: Capture leads efficiently and consistently

A lead tracking system doesn’t do you any good if you don’t put any information in it.

Small business owners often find their lead tracking software is so cumbersome that they revert to using other systems (like sticky notes) to actually keep track of things. They constantly feel guilty for not using their system, but it’s just not efficient enough to work with their daily routine.

It’s essential that your sales tracking software be lightweight, efficient, and even automated where possible (for example, creating new contacts based on incoming emails).

2: See the whole conversation history

As crazy as small businesses can get, it’s easy to forget the details of a single conversation thread. You know you reach out to someone, but you can’t remember your last discussion, what had been decided, when you’d last spoken to them, and so on.

Here are a few examples of dumb things I’ve done:

  • Accidentally re-sent documents to the same person
  • Emailed someone after forgetting I’d already talked to her on the phone
  • Forgot I emailed someone on Friday and rewrote basically the same email on Monday
  • Called someone to pitch a new project before having read a frustrated email he’d sent that morning.

Your lead tracking software should help you by gathering your conversation details into a single place, so you can quickly refresh your memory. Wherever possible, it should do this efficiently (such as a fast way to add call notes) or automatically (such as connecting to your email to include your interactions with that client).

3: Follow up intelligently

A lot of lead tracking software suffers from the “don’t care” syndrome. Whether you follow up with someone or you don’t, the software usually doesn’t care. It thinks it’s just a place to store information. That’s not very helpful.

Great lead tracking software will actually care about following up. This kind of lead tracking software should: - Intelligently detect when you should follow up with someone - Suggest people you might have forgotten to follow up with - Give you efficient tools for following up - Provide templates to help with repetitive follow up - Remind you to follow up - Give you a clear view of people you should follow up with each day

When you have a lead tracking solution that cares about follow up, it can make your day remarkably easier. Instead of the constant distractions of alarms, calendar alerts, and a desk full of post-it notes, you can just sit down and take care of all your follow-up work in one shot. Amazing.

Track sales leads like a boss!

I know how crazy it feels to be a small business owner. I was there. It’s mayhem. You know you should get organized, but it just seems like you never have time enough to do it. Fortunately, there are some great tools out there (including our own lead tracking app) that can help you do it efficiently—so you don’t make the same mistakes I did!