Ah, Saturday. An early game of tennis, some family time, maybe a power nap with the fragrant promise of the choice T-bone you’ve been waiting to grill tempting you onward through the day. Sun starts to sink, you saunter out to pre-heat the gas grill to searing readiness. Turning the knob, you get…nothing. The bolt especially designed to secure the fuel line has vanished.
You vaguely recall tossing the extra one provided by the manufacturer into an overflowing box of miscellaneous fasteners you keep in the basement. Unearthing it, you are faced with at least 158 shiny, seemingly identical bolts – but only one will work. It’s getting dark, you’re getting hungry, and the longed-for explosion of chargrilled beef taste is slipping further away, buried in 157 indistinguishable bits of metal that aren’t quite right.
Now you know how your sales team feels.
The very best of them are unwaveringly focused on the end result. They visualize that steak, they hunger to sink their teeth into as big a bite as they possibly can, they know just how high the heat should be, just when to grab the meat off the grate and slap it down on the plate, sizzling and perfect. If you give them one bolt, or even three or four, they’ll test them and turn them, find the one that works, hook up that gas and turn up the flames.
If you give them 158, they’ll throw out the box and start looking around for another way to cook.
This is exactly what happens with typical lead generation. Even in an eroded U.S. economy that makes finding juicy deals harder and harder, about 94 percent of generated leads are not pursued by internal sales organizations. Pared-down sales organizations, reduced to their best performers and eager to close, are frustrated by the very thing that marketers are rewarded for: a mountain of leads. Rather than sort through a motley group of prospects – some not qualified, others not sales ready – they abandon all but the most obvious and substitute their own, usually less successful, prospecting.
Lead Generation Becomes Lead Honing With most companies being forced to do more with fewer resources, figuring out which leads will cut to the chase fastest becomes someone else’s problem. Marketing has done its job in initiating interest, sales converts the most interested to revenue, but who takes the existing market curiosity, sharpens it by exposing underlying pressure points, whets interest over repeated contact and files away the unqualified prospects to point sales to the most potent opportunities? A trusted prospecting partner who understands the market, the way to approach it and the messages that resonate most with prospective customers across the spectrum of purchase-readiness.
We use a discipline called M2O – Market, Media and Offer –to pinpoint a client’s best prospects, build familiarity with their organization and need and use that intelligence to craft messaging that directly targets their state of readiness. Those simple, sound practices often get lost between a large-scale marketing campaign and the immediate pressure to close in a sales pitch. But they are key to reaping the most revenue from both efforts.
Market? What Market? Many marketers, reluctant to miss any avenue of opportunity, define their target as broadly as possible and in so doing miss the chance to convincingly address the most potent prospects. A typical example is a company that perceives its target market to be the Fortune 500, when the most likely purchasers are actually a much smaller audience within that group. Companies that are quicker to see the value proposition of a client’s product, whether due to immediate business pains or because they are looking to enhance their own capabilities, are readier to respond at higher levels than others, so it makes sense to identify those segments and market to them specifically. Others, though still qualified, may be more hesitant and require different touch strategies and messaging before their sales potential can mature. They are still good sources of revenue, though, and if left behind in the rush to close will most likely end up directing that revenue to a competitor. Recognizing and nurturing their potential is crucial to pipeline development, future revenue and market share.
By applying market intelligence and finely-defined segmentation strategies, we have been successful in increasing sales performance while actually reducing marketing costs.
Reaching Out – The Right Way Marketing campaigns can establish brand image without the prospect sensing a direct touch from the marketer. Sales calls can be insistent enough to irritate. Good lead honing falls somewhere between the two – enough contact to engage but enough space to respect the demands on a busy prospect.
The trick is knowing how to balance the contacts between both timing and type of outreach. Mixed media programs that use a combination of quality outbound calls, voicemail messages, email and direct mail, optimally scheduled for greatest effect, are the most effective use of marketing dollars. Every day, a large percentage of leads are abandoned by sales simply because the prospect did not respond to a few, single channel contact attempts. Sales people generally do not have the time or patience to make the multiple touches, which can run from as few as eight to as many as thirty, to identify, qualify and nurture prospects to a point of sales-readiness. Even immediate-need opportunities can take as many as a dozen attempts by sales to become effectively engaged.
A multi-touch strategy also allows the prospect to be contacted in his or her preferred manner. Most busy decision-makers are not willing or able to arbitrarily pre-empt their business day to respond to a telephone sales contact, but can reply to an email or voicemail at their convenience and schedule a time for follow up. Some prefer the anonymity of email, others are more comfortable with the personal appeal of voicemail. A combination, properly timed and executed, opens all channels of communication and thereby opens opportunities.
What Can You Say to Convince the Prospect? As little as possible. Effective salespeople know that good prospects sell themselves by talking about their particular business challenges, opportunities on the horizon, and emerging issues that will affect business goals. Asking the right questions and then listening carefully to direct further discussion uncovers pain points that are most likely to motivate purchase. When the prospect’s needs are understood and can be matched to the benefits of a client’s product, the sales nurturing process is leap-frogged ahead. Testing messages and offers such as guarantees, discounts and extended financing within market sub-sections can result in powerful learning and increase campaign results dramatically.
What remains imperative is that contacts, whether direct or remote, be made in a professional manner, in accordance with best practices gleaned through market experience. Most of the time, these contacts will establish the prospect’s first active impression of the company, and the person making the contact must be assured, professional, approachable and credible. This won’t happen by accident. Training, constant coaching, a proven process and a thorough knowledge of the client’s offer are crucial to developing trust, interest and purchase interest. In addition, results should be constantly reviewed to assess the best strategies for each client, each product and each target segment.
Our clients have found that a prospect pool enticed by marketing and honed by the M2O process delivers leads that need their product, fit their qualifying parameters, are favorably pre-disposed to their brand and are ready to be sold. The sales teams, armed with precise business information on the prospects’ pains and priorities, are ready to sell.
The gas catches, the grate sears, and the meat sizzles. Slice off a big piece and bite down.
Dan McDade is the president of PointClear, a business-to-business sales and marketing services firm. Their industry focused solutions provide clients with high quality sales opportunities, effective market coverage and valuable market intelligence. PointClear clients include Ingenix, SGI, Microsoft and two of the world’s largest consultancies. Dan can be reached directly at
or via phone at 678-533-2722.blog comments powered by Disqus
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