New Lead. Do you call or e-mail?

First, a little back story.  I recently received a lead through a channel we’re involved in. My natural instinct is to always pick up the phone and call a new lead to introduce myself, the company, and learn a little about what they are looking for.  However, this new lead (who shall remain unnamed) informed me that I was the ONLY one of 4 companies who actually called him.  The other companies, my competitors, all decided it was best to first send an e-mail (one even sent a discovery questionnaire).

So we land at the topic of this blog post and my big question for the day.  When you get a new lead how do you make first contact?  Do you base first contact on the type of lead it is (warm / hot / something doesn’t feel right), or do you always have the same sales process?  I tend to stick to the phone call first while using e-mail for communication that requires no human connection or emotion.  This is just how I was taught to do business, not to mention it just seems like the proper thing to do.  If someone has expressed an interest in your services, do they not deserve your fullest attention? 

Perhaps that lead, who at first glance seemed crappy, could turn out to be a fantastic customer.  We recently had one of these situations here at Demac Media.  A lead came to us and we did our initial due diligence.  Our first impressions were not good!  However, we spent a little more time hashing out some project details and it turned out to be a really interesting project that was for a very large company.  Sometimes it pays to invest the time and dig a little deeper.

Internally this also brought up another great topic of discussion.  When you are working with a prospect, do you perform discovery sessions via e-mail (question & answer documents) or do you prefer to have discovery calls?  During my tenure with Netsuite we almost always had the initial discovery over the phone, with follow up e-mail questions for clarification on finer points.  This is another one of those things that I feel has to be done over the phone.  When you ask prospects questions about their business, their answers may lead to other questions and so on and so forth.  A document / e-mail can’t do this effectively, at least in my experience.

The next time you have a lead / prospect / opportunity fall into your lap, think about the best possible way to engage the potential customer.  And by best possible way, I mean what’s best for the customer.  Happy customers = successful business.