There’s a fine line between helpful and creepy.

A colleague knowing that you were interested in a certain subject and surprising you by bringing a book from home for you to borrow – helpful.

A co-worker looking through your Facebook page and seeing that you “liked” Gillian Flynn and surprising you with a copy of her latest book – creepy.

You’re probably thinking, ‘Yeah, you’re right, that is creepy, but what does that have to do with sales leads?” Don’t worry, I’m getting there, I promise.

When it comes to your digital marketing efforts, you have the ability to track a large majority of the things that your leads and prospects engage in: from email marketing opens, to asset registrations, to the length of time someone spends on a specific page. This is great and very helpful information for your sales teams, and can assist in building rapport, and ultimately, making a sale.

But how do you toe that fine line between helpful and creepy? When it comes to following up with leads, you want to ensure that you are armed with all of the necessary information about their interactions with your site. It helps you to get insight into the lead and their interests before you even get on the phone with them.

However, and here’s where we get to that helpful vs. creepy vibe, how much information is too much information?

If your lead is receiving a phone call at 1:30 from a sales representative saying, “Hi, I’m Mr. Salesman from XYZ Co. Nice to meet you. I saw you were looking at this white paper for 11 minutes and this eBook for 7 minutes at 1 PM today. Are you ready to learn more? I’m here to help.” You just might have found that line.

Now hopefully this is an extreme exaggeration, but if you engage with your leads in the wrong way, it can make them extremely uncomfortable and ruin the relationship before it even begins.

So how do you use all of the information that you have collected on your lead in a way that is perceived as helpful and definitely not creepy? Also, while we are on the subject, when should you be contacting your leads? Here are a few tips on sales lead interaction:

Do your homework:

So you got an email saying that you have a new lead – congratulations! Now, what? First thing is first, do some research! Work with your marketing team to gather some information about this lead. Who are they? What else have they engaged in with regards to marketing campaigns, assets they have signed up for, etc. This should be information that you are collecting from your marketing team in order to have a basic idea of the best ways to engage with them once you get in touch.

In the above hypothetical phone call, Mr. Salesman used his information in all of the wrong ways. Information that you gather on your leads should be for your eyes only. You have the inside scoop, use it to your advantage to build up that relationship – not creep them out!

Moral of the story: Use the lead information that you receive from your reporting or from marketing for your own personal research, not something that you start with when following up with your lead. Knowing that they signed up for an eBook 35 minutes ago does not impress them, it just makes them feel like you’re spying on them.

How being helpful can make sales:

Now that you have done your research, it’s time to talk to this lead. You can go one of two routes: you can tell them all about YOUR product and YOUR company and about why YOU are so awesome or you could listen to THEIR problems and learn more about THEIR company and hear what pain points THEIR company is currently having. Based on the way our conversation is going today, what would you guess is best?

When you’re first starting to build a relationship with your lead, you need to let them know that you are there to:

  • Listen: know all of their pain points before you even begin making any suggestions. You wouldn’t want a doctor who tells you what medicine you should be taking before you even tell them your symptoms. Why would you want a salesman who tells you what you need to buy before you even detail any pain points you are having?
  • Help: once you have listened to their concerns and needs, let them know that you are there to help. Not just in giving them product or service recommendations, but with helpful, expert advice and information. This will go a long way in building trust and rapport.
  • Educate: educate these leads by giving them industry insights and pointing them in the direction of information that your company has available. This will not only indicate your company as thought leaders in the industry but will keep them engaging in more and more of your marketing materials. This will lead to a better engaged, and informed lead, which will make them better equipped to make a purchasing decision.


Following up with leads in an appropriate time frame is vital to furthering them toward a purchasing decision. But how important is timing? Well according to Harvard Business Review, it’s pretty important.

HBR tracked 1.25 million sales leads received by B2C and B2B companies in the US to see how important timing was in contacting leads. Companies that contacted the lead within one hour of receiving the query were seven times more likely to qualify the lead (defined as a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those who contacted leads even just one hour later. This number goes all the way up to sixty times more likely to qualify the lead than those who wait for 24 hours or longer.

So judging from this study, it looks like we might have an answer on that ‘when to contact your leads’ question from earlier. It looks like that hot spot is right within that hour. If you can reach out to them while your company is still very fresh on their mind, they will be more receptive to learning more about your product/solution.

Now you’re ready to contact those leads! Remember, do your homework and make sure that you know what your lead is interested in, be helpful and make sure you get in touch within a reasonable time frame. Now go and be helpful!

Your turn! Any sales horror stories? Or any successes to share?