In 2004, we finally put into effect a detailed "Lead Generation Report" form. It is available to all of our sales and management personnel. We put all of our replacement department leads onto the report along with as much information as we can obtain.

Specifically, we are looking for the geographic location of the lead, how the lead came to us, and the final outcome of the lead. Among other things, we hoped that the report, if properly used by the salespeople, would serve as a reminder of those jobs they quoted but no response had been received.

The results from our first year were very interesting, although not as complete as I would have liked. We did a good job getting the name, address, location, and source of most of the leads. We didn't do a good job in following up to determine if we lost the sale and, if so, why. It is apparent that we as management have to continue to remind the salespeople of the need for them to follow up and determine the status of each lead.

The program required some adjusting in the way we handled our leads. Rather than the service department handling the lead internally, the service tech gives the information to the office, where our receptionist takes the information and turns it over to the most appropriate salesperson. At that point she also enters all of the information on the lead generation sheet.

Where Leads Come From

We found that 65 percent of our leads come directly from our service department and another 12 percent come from our existing customers. Referrals result in another 9 percent, while the remaining 14 percent are split among home shows, manufacturers' ads, Yellow Pages, etc.

The most obvious fact we found from this information was that our own service department produced the majority of our leads and a high percentage of those leads were individuals who were part of our maintenance agreement program.

As a result of these findings, we are adjusting our advertising programs for 2005 to concentrate on obtaining more service customers. It is apparent that it is most important for us to concentrate even more heavily on obtaining service customers and specifically selling them maintenance agreements.

Although in the past we had concentrated our advertising on a relatively small part of our geographical area, we found that our leads and sales actually covered a much larger area than we would have suspected. As a result, we plan to widen the area that we cover with our advertising. Also, whereas in the past we had done a great deal of cable advertising, our results indicate that media is not as successful for us as it was even a few years ago. We anticipate that with the number of satellite dishes, TiVo® systems, VCRs, etc., that fewer and fewer viewers are actually seeing our cable ads.

Our results were also interesting regarding the number of leads that actually resulted in sales. Our salespeople had been telling us that they were closing around 75 percent of their leads. What we found in actuality was that we averaged 42 percent of leads sold. I was actually quite disappointed in this number given that such a high percentage of our leads were from our own service department, previous customers, and referrals. We have now set an overall goal of 60 percent close ratio for this year.

One area that our people did not do a good job on was reporting the status of the lead in order to be able to follow up and find out if the job was lost or if some action could be taken to turn the lead into a sale. We believe that merely by following up more diligently we should be able to add another 10 percent to our closure rate. Naturally the sales manager and I will have to monitor the process closely to make sure that this follow-up occurs.

Overall, we were quite pleased with our lead generation report program. And although we know we have work to do to improve our results, we know that those results will give us higher closure rates, as well as a greater wealth of information on which to make our business and marketing decisions. I encourage you to utilize such a program. If you would like a copy of our form, just e-mail me at the address below.

Guest columnist Butch Welsch operates Welsch Heating & Cooling in St. Louis. He can be reached by e-mail at

Publication date: 02/28/2005