| Mar 9, 2016 | | 8 min read

How to Revive Old Sales Leads: The Recycling Process


Do you have a bunch of leads collecting dust or you haven’t contacted them in a while? Most companies spend a lot of time and money marketing to generate quality leads, and can’t afford to lose contact with qualified leads. Time and money shouldn’t be wasted—it’s time to follow up!

Converting an old lead into a sale is not a simple task, but with the help of these effective sales tips, your sales team will know where to start when reviving old leads and the lead recycling process!

Quality Assess

Before sales teams reconnect with old leads, it’s important to make sure that the sales team is not wasting their time with unqualified or incompatible leads. Some of the leads passed through in a previous sales attempt may not have been qualified, and when a business is reviving their old leads, they must be sure to exclude unqualified leads. A quality assessment of old leads will ensure that the leads sent through the recycling process are not only qualified, but offer good opportunities for sales teams to close. What is a quality assessment? It’s determining the quality or value a prospect could potentially give a business. Quality leads are compatible leads that have interest in a company’s products/services, this way a sales team can close a deal. Unqualified leads are incompatible for a business’s services or product.


  • Look for potential business partners, quality leads should be leads that you can see your sales team closing a sale with. You can measure lead quality in two ways – by their closing potential and by their revenue potential. (Startup Nation)
    → Closing potential describes how easy it will be to convert that prospect into a customer.
    → Revenue potential describes how much money that prospect could generate over a lifetime or a fixed period of time.
  • Are they interested? This can be a huge contributor to the quality of a lead, when a lead shows interest in what a sales team offers they are likely much easier to close. If old leads are still showing interest then they are qualified and ready for lead recycling.

Find Out Where Your Sales Team Lost Contact

In order to pick things up, a salesperson must first know where they left off. An old lead who was previously in contact with your sales team has a history and a story. These questions need answers: why were they contacted in the first place? Why did you lose contact? What’s their story?

To pick up conversation and really gauge interest from a particular lead, your team must do some digging to find a little more about the history that lead has with your sales team. Lot’s of leads lost contact because they weren’t ready to commit to a sale or they didn’t know what direction they were headed in.


  • Keep activity notes on your sales leads. Most sales CRM platforms are equipped with notes. If a lead loses interest, make sure to note why they lost interest and where the contact stopped. Notes can be an easy outlet for salespeople to use when picking up conversation with an old lead.
  • 73% of leads are not sales-ready at first contact, this is likely why there are a lot of old leads. Find out if this is one of the contributing factors as to why your sales team lost contact with a lead (Hoovers).BarGraphSalesReadinessIf a sales team has done a good job documenting where a lead left off in the sales process, or archives interactions with old leads, it should be very easy to resume the sale. Research old leads to find out their story before your sales team gets back in contact with them; know why they weren’t converted into a sales and have a plan of action to win them back.

Re-connect & Nurture

The late Paul Cooper, one of the founders and directors at the Institute of Customer Service, suggests to "Just contact them to ask how things are going." It’s vital to get conversation rolling, and not to push the sale immediately after re-connecting with an old lead. One HUGE turnoff for old leads is a follow up that involves conversation with an intrusive demand for money. With old leads, you won’t make a sale if all you care about is the sale, which might not really make sense to everyone. If a salesperson spends some time catching up with an old lead, they will begin to re-establish a positive rapport between both parties. This way they can work a conversation towards making a sale, instead of leading off the conversation with a sales proposal. You can let the prospect know about new products or services you have available, what your company does, but don’t go for the hard sell in this scenario.


  • A person’s attention span is short. In fact the average attention span in 2015 was 8.25 seconds (Statistic Brain). In a very short time, a salesperson must connect with a lead or they will most likely lose their attention. Personalizing conversation engages old leads, and therefore eliminates the probability of losing the prospect’s attention.
  • "People buy from people that they like and can relate to.” Adrian Miller, a sales trainer based in Port Washington, N.Y(Entrepreneur.com). Be likeable and relatable; re-establishing a relationship is one of the first steps in making a sale with an old lead. 98% of the top sales professionals say relationships are the most important part of generating new business (Business 2 Community).
  • It may be worth connecting with the lead on LinkedIn, that is, if they want to. Offer the opportunity to connect over social platforms such as LinkedIn. The closer connected a salesperson is to their leads, the higher the chance of converting them into a sale. Consumers are 5x times more likely to schedule a first meeting if you have a personal LinkedIn connection (Sales Benchmark Index)
LinkedIn has the highest visit-to-lead conversion rate over major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. (MarketingLand)

Maybe you didn’t connect well the first time around when you first interacted with a sales lead. This could be why your sales team didn’t close the sale in the first place, and why you’re stuck contacting old leads.

Work to Get Answers

Good conversation can be very important, but a salesperson doesn’t want to waste all their time rambling on; they want the sale. Eventually a salesperson will want to get enough information that they can get answers. Paul Cooper expresses that  "the key thing is to get an answer to the question: 'why aren't you dealing with us?'” If a salesperson is able to get this answer, then they are able to make a plan of action to win their old leads back and convert them into sales, something that obviously failed the first time around.


  • Be straightforward. You’ve already spent time establishing a positive rapport with this lead, and if you’ve managed to keep them on the line this long it is probably time to ask some questions and be straightforward with them.

“Being straightforward in your sales approach is a breath of fresh air for most customers. They see you as someone they can trust and always know where you stand” (Entrepreneur).

  • Listen. If you ask them “Why aren’t you dealing with us?” or “Why didn’t the sale work the first time around?” make sure to listen to their response. Based on their response, a salesperson can quickly plan out how to win their business back.  Nearly three quarters, or 74%, of buyers said they were much more likely to buy if that salesperson would simply listen to them. Ask great open-ended questions and actively listen to your buyer (Web Strategies Incorporated).

Win Their Business

If an old lead is still engaged in the sale at this point, it’s likely that they are interested in making a deal. If things didn’t work the first time around, that is fine. You have another chance, and this is the opportunity to win their business. The lead has now expressed why they didn’t do business with you the first time around. Maybe it was the price. Maybe they didn’t know what direction their business was headed in. Maybe, maybe, etc. Whatever the reason, you must offer a solution to their problem. For example, if it’s price, then consider negotiating a trial offer or a discounted rate for the first month. This is the point where a deal is made or lost; it’s a matter of presenting the right offer, customized to your prospect.


  • Propose a win/win situation. This involves both parties finding a conclusion to benefit each the sales team and the lead.

Key points when aiming for a Win-Win outcome include: (Skills You Need)

  • Focus on maintaining the relationship - “separate the people from the problem.”
  • Focus on interests, not positions.
  • Generate a variety of options that offer gains to both parties before deciding what to do.
  • Aim for the result to be based on an objective standard.

Close the Deal

This the most satisfying moment for any salesperson: closing the deal. All of the effort invested in the sales process pays off when a deal is closed. What can be even more satisfying about this close is that a sales team has won back a lead who originally said no, and changed their mind.

Have lot’s of old leads? Your sales team is not alone.

Many sales teams are not willing to recycle their old leads simply because of the number of old leads or uncontacted prospects they have. It can be a daunting process to reassess leads, especially when a sales team has thousands. Even the world’s best sales team can’t close on every lead. In most cases, a sales team has a staggering amount of unclosed leads that become “old leads.”

About 5% of leads close (Ad Age). "If just 5% of all leads are closing, sales thinks the other 95% are junk," said Jim Lenskold, president of marketing consultancy Lenskold Group. "But marketing can take that 95%, pull out sets that shouldn't be in there and pull out another set that needs nurturing."

When 95% of leads are considered “junk” by a sales team, it’s time for marketing to look at lead recycling tactics. Businesses can not afford to waste a majority of their leads, it’s impossible for 95% of leads to be completely incompatible for a sale. Quality assessing old leads will separate the compatible leads from the incompatible and these leads should be recycled. Stop wasting your marketing budgets and company money—consider revisiting your old sales leads. Old leads have already received some form of nurturing, and this is why Jim Lenskold believes old leads can offer better sales opportunities than brand-new prospects.

It’s Time to Recycle Your Leads!

It can take hard work and time to recycle or revive old sales leads, but it pays off for sales teams in the long run. Leads are expensive, marketing is costly, and the time invested in lead nurturing should not go to waste. These reasons alone make lead recycling well worth the effort. Using Vendasta’s suggestions, try a recycling sales campaign with your sales team!

About the Author

Zach is a former content strategist with Vendasta. He is fascinated by digital marketing, international studies, and exploring the relationship between technology and business.

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