Inquiries and Leads
 In Business Tips

overwhelmed by inquiriesNot understanding the difference between an inquiry and a lead, and what to do with them, can be a problem for business owners. You may think you’d love to have lots of people contacting your business about working with you. But be careful what you wish for. It can be overwhelming.

What’s the difference between an inquiry and a lead?

People who download a white paper or register for your webcast are not leads. Just because someone reads your newsletter does not make them a lead.  Someone who sends a contact form is not a lead. These are all inquiries from people who are expressing interest in understanding more about how to solve a particular problem they have.

A lead is someone who has been qualified as a true business opportunity for a specific solution you offer. A lead has the budget, authority, need, and a specific time frame for purchasing a solution for their problem.

So having lots of inquiries is the big issue. A recent article in Forbes discussed research showing as many as 71% of inquiries are wasted from lack of proper followup.  And 27% are never even followed up on.

A couple of years back, I met a local WordPress developer who worked freelance, Tom Nguyen. I was impressed because it turns out that his business, Mr Technique ranks number one for a Google search for Websites Atlanta. Okay, I admit it. I was jealous. Humph.

I wanted to come up on page one for websites Atlanta. I chatted him up to find out just how he did it, and during that process I got to know him. Turns out my new friend, Tom gets about ten inquiries a day. This is way too many contacts for a sole freelancer to handle especially since they would need to be followed up with.

Six years ago, when I started sending out a newsletter each week,  my subscriber list grew and we started to get lots of phone calls and emails from people wanting to pick my brain. I wouldn’t have any brain left had I not done something about this.  The way I solved the problem was to institute a paid Talk it Out Session as a consultation and first step to working with New Tricks.

I would talk to people for five minutes or so but if their questions were going to take more time, then I would suggest they sign up for a Talk It Out Session so we could continue to discuss their problem. I love doing these sessions, and this policy served to cut down on inquiries from people who weren’t serious.  The people signing up self-selected as being serious enough about their problem to pay for a consultation, so about 85% of them actually lead to us working with them as website clients.

Back to my friend with his number one ranking . . . the contact forms he receives are inquiries from people searching for information from a website developer by going to the first listing in a Google search.

When I looked at his contact form I was worried that he would be deluged with inquiries that he couldn’t possibly follow up with because the questions that I saw on his form did not differentiate the ready, willing and able prospects from the tire-kickers who wanted a quick website for a grand. In my imagination, I saw Tom getting so may inquiries that he would be going crazy like Lucy and Ethel working in the candy factory.

Before writing this post, I went to my friend’s website to see how he was doing.  Interestingly enough, I saw that he had given up on trying to follow up on what must be an overwhelming number of inquiry forms.

This is what he said:

Not Taking Any New Work Until June 15.  Save the date because I won’t be taking on that many new clients. I prefer quality over quantity. If you want, you could still give me at least a three to four sentence description of your project. Just saying “I need a website designed” gives me very little to work off of. If you want to know how much a website will run you, please check out my FAQ page. Thanks for thinking of me for web design.

I used to be able to respond to everybody’s inquiry, but I can’t do that any more. If I don’t respond to your email or voice-mail, it’s because I am working on current client projects. If you have to move on to the next web designer or SEO person in Atlanta, I promise you that my feelings won’t be hurt.

Then I gave Tom a call to ask him how he was getting along and how he handles being number one for Atlanta Websites. Tom told me that he gets about ten inquiries a day from Google. To my relief, Tom did explain that he has a two tiered contact form. Once someone fills out the initial form and get a thank you, they are asked to fill out a second form with more questions about their website needs. This does give him a way to respond to the better inquiries first.

I didn’t really see the point in two questionnaires, but hey, we are entrepreneurs so we can do it in whatever way works for us.

I am not sure what his second tier questions are but If I was getting ten leads a day I would have one questionnaire asking some questions designed to weed out inquiries that did not meet my qualifications for a client. I would still have to speak to them but this would cut down on the numbers making the process more manageable and letting me choose who to email a sorry we are not taking new clients and who to follow up with a phone call.

  1. What is your business
  2. What is your website budget.    3,000+,  5,000+,  8,000+, 10,000+
  3. Are you the decision maker?
  4. Do you currently have a website? If so what is the url?
  5. What are the problems with your current site?
  6. What are your goals for your new website or redesign?
  7. Will you have all of your content and graphics before we start?
  8. Will you need a writer? A Photographer?
  9. What is your expectation for completion?  30 days, 60 days, 90 days.

Having all these questions would cut the inquires down substantially.  The answers to the questions would help in knowing how to handle the inquiry and the potential of it turning into a lead.

What is your process for dealing with inquiries?

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Showing 8 comments
  • Jane Kelley

    Good points on quick ways to qualify inquiries, Judy.
    And congrats on being on page one of Google!

    • Judi

      Thanks, Jane. How do you manage inquires to your business?

  • Tom Nguyen

    Thanks for the mention, Judy! No need to be jealous though. You are in the top 5 for the term “web design in Atlanta” and “web design in Atlanta GA”. The fact that you are in the local listings as opposed to the organic listings doesn’t matter. To me, the local listings are even better because your contact information is right there.

    I have two contact forms because I took into account that not all people think the same. Some people don’t want to answer 10-20 questions to get a quote while other don’t mind filling out a long contact form. I want to cater to all types of people. Some call, some fill out the contact form, some want to send you a direct email, and some even want to connect with you through social media. I have found great web design clients through all of these methods of contact.

    Two many leads is better than not enough. You can always filter out the tire kickers but if there are no leads, you don’t have anything filter out. If I can’t answer the person’s inquiry, I’m sure they’ll go down the search engine results until they find someone. There’s lots of great web designers out there that aren’t at the top of Google.

    For the people that want to see my contact form, you can click here to see it.

    • Judi Knight

      Tom, Thanks for letting me use you as an example of what you can do. You have done a great job. Judi

  • Dr Clari

    Hey Judy!
    Thanks for the email and the info.
    I’m a Life Coach and Chiropractor here in Atlanta and was wondering if you might be interested in the possibility of us working together in exchange for your help with my business.
    I do phone sessions for the Coaching and my clients do very, very well with the work we do.
    I once went to one of your WordPress presentations and learned a lot.

    Best regards,
    Dr Clari

    • Judi Knight

      Dr. Clari, Yes, I remember meeting you. Glad you are enjoying the JADM. I have a policy that I don’t barter but I would be happy to have a short discussion about what kind of help you need with your business. Then the next step would be to do a Talk it out session to map out a strategies that can help you bring in more business. I people need help implementing the plan, I have them buy a package of hours. Let me know if I can help.

  • Teresa

    Thank you for sharing such good guidance, and also for posting probably my all-time favorite moment in comedy to illustrate your point. Doesn’t matter how many times I see it – hysterically funny every single time.

    • Judi

      Teresa, I know right! Funniest ever. I imagined Tom balling up the inquiry forms flying out of his printer until he was overflowing:-)

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