Why there's no such thing as an old hot lead

by Steli Efti
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Most startups assume that hot leads stay hot, no matter how much time has passed.

But a prospect who tried your product six months ago isn’t a hot lead. If anything, they’re pretty damn cold.

I hear the same thing from sales leaders all the time:

“I know we haven’t reached out to these prospects in a while, but they know our product. They signed up for a free trial months ago, so we’re already in the door. They just need a little reminder.”

If you’ve ever said something like this, I’ve got some news for you:

These leads aren’t hot. They’re not even lukewarm. If you have to remind people who you are or what you’re selling, you’re dealing with ice cold prospects.

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Startups often have unrealistic expectations for their leads

They take brand recognition for granted and set out to build on momentum that just isn’t there anymore. Prospects move on. They find other solutions. They forget all about you. When you think of them like old hot leads, you set yourself up for a world of disappointment.

This problem is most common when you build campaigns around expired trials and cancelled customers. Once in a while, you’ll go back to the well and revisit these lists. You’ll try to win people back with new trials and discount offers.

It’s a strategy that’s worked for many startups, but don’t fool yourself into believing these are warm leads. Smart sales leaders take these lists and treat them like cold leads. They create campaigns that acknowledge a previous engagement, but they go the extra mile to sell prospects all over again.

And they don’t expect to see meteoric reach rates and conversion rates for these campaigns.

After a week, you’ve already lost a lot of heat

And if your list is older than 6–12 months, you’re probably going to convert at the same rate as your cold leads—maybe even worse, if your cold leads are well-researched and fit your ideal customer profile.

When I tell people this, their minds are usually blown. They assume that their brand and/or product has a reputation that’s somehow unaffected by time. But the truth is, most sales leaders underestimate how quickly a lead moves from one stage to the next.

A month is an eternity for a new lead.

So how do you get the most out of your leads?

Set realistic expectations for your campaigns

Don’t pin your hopes to the conversion rates of hot leads that aren’t actually hot. When you reach out to old lists—even if they’re former trial users and customers—expect results closer to those of cold leads.

Prevent hot leads from going cold

There are two ways to do this:

  1. Improve your speed to contact

When someone gives you their phone number or email address, get in touch with them immediately. Start a conversation. Build a relationship. Reach out to every trial signup user within 5 minutes. If you do, your chances of reaching a lead will be 100X higher than calling or emailing after 30 minutes.

  1. Never disengage with leads

Startups love to run big, splashy campaigns, but they often forget about their lists after the initial push. Months later, they remember those lists and think, “Well, let’s just blast this message one more time and see what shakes loose.” But that’s not the way to go. You can’t allow for breaks in communication. That’s exactly how leads go cold.

Stay in touch with hot leads at least every couple of weeks, if not once a week. And when you do reach out, offer something of value. Provide advice, tactics, scripts, or templates. Help your prospects achieve real results.

We invest an incredible amount of time, energy, and resources creating compelling, tactical content for sales professionals. Signing up for a trial means you’re going to hear from us once a week.

People who find out about Close.io through the blog usually engage with our content for 6–9 months before they ever sign up for a trial. But at that point, we know they’re hooked. And we keep providing valuable content, even after their trials expire.

Prospects tell us all the time, “I love how helpful you’ve been since I discovered Close.io. The minute our company is in the market for a CRM, you’re the first software we’ll check out.”

Because we stay in contact with them throughout this process, these leads never really have a chance to cool off.

Remember, hot leads don’t stay hot forever

They drop in temperature quickly—sometimes in a manner of minutes, hours, or days. So engage your prospects early and often. Design sales and marketing campaigns that minimize turnaround times and maximize contact frequency. If you go about this strategy in the right way, you’ll never use the phrase “old hot lead” again.

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