The Yankee Group reports that 80% of all sales leads go stale. In other words, four out of five leads get buried, lost, or are simply ignored. Are you losing potential sales by mishandling leads? To ensure that you don’t miss opportunities, you need to be prepared. Here are a few things that will help you deal with sales leads effectively. Respond – The first step is to provide a timely response to sales leads and inquiries. A quick response demonstrates competence and professionalism. More importantly, it will increase your likelihood of getting the sale. Think about it. If four out of five sales leads die on the vine; your quick response will immediately set you apart from your competition. Qualify – The next step is to qualify the lead. This does not mean that you automatically respond to an inquiry or a sales lead with a sales packet or a canned pitch. Instead, you need to ask questions. And not just any questions. Questions that help you discern interest and fit. At this stage, you probably won’t have an exhaustive conversation. But, you can easily ask some well-scripted questions that will give you valuable insights and information. What are the questions that you should ask that will weed out unqualified prospects from qualified ones? What are the characteristics you look for in your best clients? What needs are you most qualified to address? By asking the right questions, you can discern how to handle and prioritize your leads. Act – Once you have qualified a prospect, you need to take action. Whether it’s scheduling an appointment, sending information or placing the lead in your database; you should take deliberate action. Make sure you are living up to your company’s standards while meeting or exceeding the expectations of your prospects. For many industries, qualified prospects are hard to come by. Don’t waste your opportunities by failing to have a process to respond, qualify and act.