This is a great breakdown of the B2B telemarketing process for generating leads. Defining the steps helps all involved to understand the various stages of the sales funnel. Working with our customers we make sure that everyone has the same definitions for the various aspects of the sale funnel.
Funnel measurements have two important benefits in B2B lead generation:
Helping marketers forecast outcomes. By tracking the conversion percentages, marketers can apply those conversion percentages to each new campaign and predict what the outcome will be before the campaign occurs. Such predictions are very helpful in capacity planning and budgeting.
Helping marketing identify funnel leakage and optimize revenue production. Marketers can apply both their own internal, historical baseline conversion ratios (i.e., an aggregation of conversion ratios) and industry benchmarks, like those gathered by MarketingSherpa.
Executive-level funnel metrics provide marketers with the 50,000-foot view to provide an end-to-end perspective. But when there appears to be leakage, zooming in on a particular leak is essential.
In that context, let me share seven funnel conversions for telemarketing.
But first, let’s agree on the scope. In B2B, there are two important functions in this area:
- Following up on, qualifying, educating, and nuturing marketing responses until they are sales-ready leads.
- Prospecting into target accounts to identify and qualify existing demand and to generate demand and convert that demand into sales-ready leads.
For both of these activities, it seems the key funnel stages would be similar. But, what are they?
Before I share a point of view on this important subject, let me say that telemarketing is very complex and the interpretation of outcomes at various stages of the funnel are more and more subjective. Plus, in one call, the telemarketing rep may go through all the funnel stages.
- Dial – a telemarketing rep making an outbound dial; or a customer making an inbound call.
- Connection –the dial converting into a connection.Those dials that do not convert into connection either have busy-outs, dials with no answers, recorded phone company messages about the number being out of service or changed. A very high percentage of dials not converting into connections means the list or lead source is problematic.
- Conversation.– the rep reaching someone to have a conversation, however short; a prospect reaching a telemarketing representative via an inbound call.
- Decision-maker conversation – some of the conversations are with those who would be part of a decision and some are not, either because the telemarketing representative is speaking merely to a receptionist or to someone otherwise not involved in the solution area.
Decision-maker/decision-influencer conversations are much more predictive of future purchase intent than non-conversations. Even when following up on marketing responses, it’s not uncommon that 20 percent of more of the leads never make it to this stage.
- Qualified Account –Usually, the first thing a telemarketing representative does is qualify the person. The second thing is often qualifying the account. Is the account in the target market? Those that are would get this kind of status.
At the top of the market, the funnel may end here with an attempt to set an appointment, the idea being that the sales person will take meetings with the right people in the right accounts because the buying potential is so large.
- Acknowledged Need – The next thing a telemarketing representative does is discover if there are buying plans, and if not, at least an acknowledged need. Those who meet the other criteria (Qualified Account, a stakeholder in the decision processs) and have an acknowledged need are the most likely to convert into a sales-ready lead.
In fact, for some larger accounts, the sales organization may decide that this level of qualification is sufficient to warrant sales follow-up. Others in this stage might warrant tele-nurturing.
- Sales-Ready Lead.Sales-ready leads meet any other qualifying criteria, like a particular timeline for buying, the existence of a budget, etc.
And then, of couse, the overall sales-marketing funnel extends beyond the telemarketing operation as sales people validate leads, convert them into opportunities, forecast them, and close them.
There are some problems with the above funnel however:
- It doesn’t account for inbound or outbound emails sent to or from the telemarketing representative or the clickthroughs that might happen.
- It doesn’t factor in online chat sessions, where there might be an opportunity to identify the prospect, qualify their interest, role, and the account they work for, all before having a live conversation with them.
- There is also nothing in here about leaving messages, per se, like a voice mail.
- There could certainly be other stages, like a presentation stage, where the telemarketing representative presents, however informally, some kind of elevator pitch to the prospect.
- It’s also possible that by sending an Outlook meeting request or speaking to an admin, a telemarketing representative schedules a phone meeting.
- Finally, there isn’t a stage for doing some kind of preliminary investigation of an account and/or a contact, like going to LinkedIn or the account website.
Obviously, these limitations speak to the complexity of B2B telemarketing for the complex sale, and the evolution of this capability to include more and more Web-based tools for both discovery and communication.
Qualifying your prospects is key to making sure your sales pipeline is “healthy”. Many of our customers utilize our b2b telemarketing services to further qualify leads that are in their database. This article discusses setting criteria to move prospects seamlessly through the pipeline.
A pipeline full of opportunities certainly feels healthier, than a sparse or empty funnel that will clearly not generate revenue. However, as is the case in many scenarios, less is often more. The ultimate goal is a lean, healthy pipeline with a high % of opportunities matching your target profile, moving swiftly from stage to stage, through the funnel to close.
There is a world of difference between a healthy feed of the right opportunities and a full, but poor quality pipeline, sapping large amounts of time and resource, not to mention wasted sales management time grappling with inaccurate forecasts and misleading performance indicators.
Sales people each have their own style and approach and use different skills to achieve results. Depending on your product and proposition, opportunities in the B2B space may be complex, involve a protracted path to purchase, with multiple decision makers across many job functions. All these varying factors can make it challenging to analyse and understand your pipeline performance, the key to hitting critical growth targets for your business.
So, how do you build a strong predictable sales pipeline?
To manage a pipeline effectively, you need a level of control. This requires a process and definitions that make sense to all involved, including a clearly defined target audience, and set criteria for what constitutes a ‘good prospect’. If your team is working to a shared set of criteria, you can measure the process and identify areas in need of improvement – parts of the funnel that are leaking, conversion rates above or below average – and then coach individuals around the right behaviours, establishing best practice across the team. There are tools that can help – making your team more productive, minimising administration tasks and helping enforce a more disciplined approach.
Having established clear qualification criteria, you can then move prospects in and out appropriately, and ensure time and effort is targeted to the right opportunities. This assumes a feed of good quality data and robust qualification within your pipeline process. This is where a live conversation at an early stage can pay dividends. It ensures leads from digital sources are thoroughly evaluated, nurtured with relevant content and then delivered to your sales team only when they are truly sales ready, with additional insight that increases their propensity to convert. This, of course, avoids inefficiencies and pointless costs further down the funnel, as sales chase inquiries that don’t match the ideal prospect, or are not ready to buy.
Incorporating human interaction within your qualification process is a key stage in establishing a healthy pipeline. If you have limited resource, it is worth considering outsourcing this part of the process, as the potential increase in quality of output and improved ROI can make it a very cost-effective option.
The candor in this article about prospecting is refreshing! So many in the B2B sales and marketing arena’s tout one method to prospect for new customers. The third way in the article speaks to integrating your prospecting by utilizing telemarketing (cold calling) networking, inbound lead generation, direct mail, etc. There are so many tools, why limit yourself?
1. Consistency Counts: Prospect Daily!
Salespeople acquire new clients, and to do so, they necessarily open relationships. Prospecting is the art of opening new relationships. The new business opportunities that later turn into sales are initially identified through prospecting, making prospecting the lifeblood of sales.
The first way to improve your prospecting results is to acknowledge its importance to your sales results and treat it accordingly.
Improving your prospecting results begins with setting aside the time and the energy to prospect each and every day. And, yes, I do mean each and every day. You would never suggest that you could only close on Thursday afternoons, and it is ridiculous to suggest that there is only a single time at which you can be effective prospecting. It is equally ridiculous to suggest that your prospects are only open to taking your calls on Mondays and Fridays. Those are generalizations and all generalizations are lies.
Write a weekly plan making time to prospect every day. It is best to set aside the time first thing in the morning to ensure it gets done before the world makes other demands of you.
2. Turn Off the Distractions
Turn off the Internet. Turn off your email. Turn off your Smart Phone. Focus.
Tell your friends you have a new found discipline and that you need their support; promise to catch up with them later.
Hang a sign on your door saying “Do Not Disturb! Prospecting!” If you don’t have a door, use string and hang the sign over your desk.
3. Use Every Method Available
Prospecting is the activity of opening new relationships, but it isn’t really what we are focused on here. We are focused on the outcome that is better described as opening new business relationships to identify potential new business opportunities. There are many ways to do this, and all of them are effective sometimes.
To prospect well, you need to focus your time and energy on what works best for you, but not exclusively. If you are great at cold calling, you should absolutely focus on cold calling. But that doesn’t mean that you should never use email marketing, inbound marketing, networking, trade shows and conferences, direct mail, social networking, or referrals. You should include all of these tools in your arsenal.
Make a list of all of the methods that you can and will use to prospect. Plan the time that you will set aside for each method and how many prospects you will gain from your effort. For example, you might commit to attending one networking event per month with the result that you acquire two new prospects from each networking event. Measure these results and focus on what generates the greatest return on your investment of time, but remember that your prospects may have their own opinion on how they best like to be approached, and you shouldn’t exclude any method.
4. Write Scripts
Two things cause poor prospecting results. The first is not spending enough time prospecting. The other is ineffective prospecting. This mostly comes down to language choices. It comes down to what you are saying when you prospect.
There is no substitute for scripts.
“But wait!” you say. “I am a professional salesperson and I can’t sound like I am using a script!” I hear you loud and clear. And you can’t sound like someone that your prospect isn’t interested in meeting either.
First you have to recognize that you are already using a script. The words that you use when prospecting (and on sales calls, by the way), are choices that are comfortable to you because you have rehearsed them. They are comfortable to you because you have them memorized, not because you are reading them. But this doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best language choices.
Your effectiveness is improved by choosing carefully the word that use, making observations about what is working and what isn’t working. This takes an awareness, focus, and discipline. It also allows you to experiment with language choices to see what is most effective.
Write scripts for each of the prospecting methods you use. Write responses to the common objections you hear. Rehearse them. If you are part of a great sales team, do this together and rehearse them together. Commit the best language to memory and replace the unwritten and ineffective scripts you are already using.
5. Focus on the Outcome
The outcome of prospecting is to open the relationship. This almost always involves obtaining the commitment for an appointment.
Effectiveness in prospecting is improved by simply focusing on the outcome. This means that you don’t allow your prospecting to turn into a needs analysis, a presentation, or a discussion about the merits of your product or service. It means you apply a laser-like focus on scheduling the appointment.
The reason some salespeople struggle focusing on the outcome of an appointment and the reason often they slip into the sales mode is because they feel that they have to prove that they can create value for the prospect during their prospecting activity. But prospecting has a very different goal, namely, the opening of the exploration of the possibility that you might be able to create value and do something together. Selling, at this point, is premature.
There is no list to make, no plan to write here. Just know that a successful outcome here is almost always an appointment. It doesn’t matter how much you liked them or how much they liked you if you didn’t schedule an appointment.
6. Get Good at Cold Calling
There is too much to write here about how to get good at cold calling. But it is important that you have it in your repertoire, and that you build your competency picking up the phone and scheduling an appointment.
Cold calling is still one of the fastest ways to schedule appointments and to open relationships, and the very best salespeople are the very best at cold calling. They are also the very best at all other forms of prospecting, and the only salespeople I have found that are willing to consistently ask for referrals, something else salespeople avoid.
Start cold calling.
7. Nurture Relationships Over Time
Even when you use all of the ideas above, you are still going to hear “no.” You are going to hear it a lot. But relationships, including business relationships, are built over time. Your consistent and unrelenting pursuit of your dream clients is part of a longer-term plan for success and not a quick fix.
Consistency here means that these prospects hear from you more than sporadically. It means they hear from you frequently and with all the predictability of the Sun rising each morning.
Your calls, your thank you cards, your letters, your white papers, your surveys, your studies, your newspaper and web clippings, your constant attempts to find a way to create some value before claiming any all add up over time.
Some of the best relationships and the biggest deals will take the longest time to win, and your consistent nurturing of these relationships will open opportunities for you over time. This approach proves that you are not going to disappear like so many of your peers, that you are truly interested in working with them, that you are a professional who executes well, and that you are determined. These are some of the attributes that people look for in salespeople and partners.
Write a nurturing plan. What will you do to create value for your dream clients even before they decide to set an appointment with you? How often will you call? How often will they receive something from you? What will they receive? What will it say about you? How will it create trust?
Salespeople open relationships. Opening relationships is built upon the ability to prospect. Follow these steps to improve your prospecting results.
Summertime is fast approaching, next week if you think it starts on Memorial Day. The question from our customers that always comes up is, does b2b telemarketing work during the summer. My answer is since activity slows down in most industries this is a great time to do prospecting. Prospects are more willing to take the call and talk. Calling on Fridays in the summer is also a good time to call, decision makers easier to reach. The article below explains 3 strategies to prospecting during the summer.
Every summer I write a post about working a little harder so that your pipeline stays full through to fall. Cold calling gets more difficult in the summer. People are on vacation, taking shorter days, golfing…it does prove difficult to make the same number of connections that you make through the rest of the year. With all the distractions available to you through the summer, it can be difficult to maintain focused on picking up the phone. Or take it up a notch.
You have three options in the summer.
- Carry on as usual
Let’s assume for a minute your normal commitment to outbound prospecting is 200 dials per week. That should lead to one or two new meetings every week. This depends on some variables like the territory you’re prospecting in, your skill level, and the list you’re working. If you look at summer as eight weeks, you have the option of making 1600 dials through that time frame. If you connect half as many times, you’re still going to meet with eight new prospects this summer, just from outbound prospecting. What’s your closing ratio like? How does that impact your bottom line?
- Reduce your activity, or stop entirely.
Reducing your activity, while not ideal, at least keeps enough attention on your pipeline that warm leads get the attention they need, and you still will get a few opportunities to win new business.
We don’t recommend that you stop prospecting through the summer. If you stop entirely you’re going to lose the opportunity to set the eight meetings we just discussed. You’ll have zero “action items” in your pipeline for fall. Prospecting requires you to continually stuff leads in to the top of the funnel in order for opportunities to come out at the bottom. No new activities? No new business. As you get further and further away from new dials, your pipeline gets cold and stale. That means you’re starting over from zero again in September, and that will take you a full quarter to recover from. You don’t lose one quarter when you stop dialing, you always lose two.
- Step it up.
While your competitors are taking time off to golf, and lamenting about how summer is a waste of time to prospect, you can accelerate your prospecting. Commit to another 100 dials weekly. The law of numbers – even at a slower summer pace – says this will find you at least 4 new opportunities this summer. Closing one extra 50 seat managed deal this summer (Is your closing ratio one in four? Better?) would make missing a few golf games worth it, wouldn’t it?
Some great points are made about the basics however the prospecting aspect is sorely lacking. Our customers hire us to add to their b2b sales process. We create lead generation and lead qualification campaigns to help their prospects through the sales cycle. Of course there are many great books that can help teach prospecting including “Cold Calling for the Clueless” written by me.
What so few of us are willing to accept is this fundamental truth: Great salespeople, like great athletes, simply do the basics very well. Some of us would like to believe that there’s a shortcut around the basics; that, if we could only find it, there’s a secret formula out there somewhere for just sitting back and letting the money roll in. The sooner you get rid of that illusion, the sooner you can get on with reaching the heights you want to reach through effective use of the basics.
1. Prospecting. If you’re like most of the people in my seminar audiences, just hearing the word prospecting makes you a little nervous. Don’t think that way. If you don’t like to prospect, it’s because no one has taught you the professional way to do it. I’m going to.
2. Making original contact the professional way. We all meet new people all the time—in social situations, at events for our children, at church, in non-sales business settings. The key to success in selling is to refine your skills during these initial contacts to become memorable to the other folks and to remember as much about them as possible so you can impress them even more on your second meeting—which, hopefully, will be a selling situation.
3. Qualification. Many salespeople spend most of their time talking to the wrong people. If you do that, it doesn’t matter how eloquently you present your service or product. Your earnings are going to be low. I’ll show you how professionals make sure that they invest their time with the right people who can make yes decisions, instead of expending it on the wrong people who can only make no decisions.
4. Presentation. After you qualify and know that this person has a need for your product or service, it’s now time to move on to the fourth basic which is the presentation or demonstration. You must present your product in such a way that they see that it’s just what they had in mind all along.
5. Handling objections. The fifth basic method of developing your competence is to learn how to handle objections effectively. Maybe you’ve had prospects who want to wait and think it over; prospects who already have one of whatever it is you’re selling; prospects who’ve been doing business with your competitor for years. Have you ever heard any of these things? If you’ve been in sales longer than a week, you undoubtedly have. Read on. You’ll find material that’ll make you smile the next time you hear these objections. You’ll smile, bore in—and close a delightful number of such sales. But there’s a price to pay for that smile: You’ve got to learn the concept, adapt the idea to your offering, and learn the words that make it work.
6. Closing the sale. Many average to good salespeople prospect, make contacts, qualify, present, and handle objections so well that they manage to get by without learning to close competently. And that, of course, is what keeps them from being great. Closing contains elements of both art and science, and those elements can be learned.
7. Referrals. After you’ve satisfied the needs of your client and closed the sale, you have earned the right to your next prospect. By that I mean getting referral business from each and every client. That is the seventh and final basic. If they’re happy, they’ll want someone else to be happy, too. I’ll teach you simple steps to getting solid, qualified referrals every time, if you’re willing to learn.
But many of us have forgotten how to learn, so let’s quickly review the steps to learning that apply not only to everything in this book, but to anything you choose to study.
One of the benefits of working with IT’S YOUR CALL is that we track what occurs which each dial. The results are then given to our customers in a weekly report. Thus allowing them to manage their telemarketing campaign and measure the ROI.
I asked a six person sales team I was coaching if they knew how many sales meetings it took (on average) to generate one qualified proposal. No one knew for sure.
A business owner I coached didn’t record the stats from her direct mail campaigns. She always made a few sales so she just kept it going. (But at what cost?).
A manager of a small B2B call-center I met didn’t know how many decision-maker conversations it took (on average) to set one appointment. (It’s different with every caller he said…).
Management guru Dr. Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured gets managed.” Want to avoid sales mediocrity? Then track your numbers and improve your ratios. If you’re responsible for generating new business, start by looking at a meaningful number worth tracking…your desired income.
As a salesperson, what’s your annual income goal?
Let’s say your goal is to earn $84,000 a year ($7,000.00 per month). To figure out how to do that, work your ratios backwards as follows.
- How much revenue is required to earn $7,000 monthly?
- How many sales does that equate to each month?
- How many proposals are required to yield one new sale?
- How many prospects do you need to set appointments with to yield one qualified proposal?
- How many decision-maker conversations must you have to generate one appointment?
- How many dials (see definition below) are required for one decision-maker conversation?
And there you have it. Schedule X dials a week and you’re on plan.
A “Dial” means:
- You reach a prospect’s voice-mail
- The receptionist says the prospect is not available
- The number is not in service
- You connect with a live prospect
You can’t control how many decision-makers (prospects) you connect with, but if you make the dials and have an effective introductory call process, the decision-maker conversations and appointments will come.
The number of dials you make per week is completely in your control. The key is knowing how many you need to make each week and scheduling them.
- Elements completely out of a salesperson’s control – conversations with decision-makers
- Elements partially within a salesperson’s control – Number of appointments made and qualified proposals submitted (your effectiveness has a bearing on results)
- Elements completely within a salesperson’s control – Number of dials made!
This article sums up the current marketing trend. Build a form and leads will come. Yes, a form will generate leads but the majority are not ready to be handed off to sales. The process of qualifying inbound leads needs to be built into the marketing strategy. Many of our customers have successfully created an inbound approach by utilizing our outbound b2b telemarketing services to fully qualify their leads.
Most leads aren’t qualified
For nearly 20 years, I have worked with hundreds of leading B2B organizations to optimize their lead-qualification efforts — this includes phoning inbound leads to find out if they are truly qualified. We have found that calling the “qualified leads” at most companies reveals that a mere 5% to 40% are ready for Sales and up to 95% are not really qualified.
However, too many B2B marketers — a whopping 61% according to MarketingSherpa’s 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report — think that filling out a Web form, downloading some information, or attending an event is enough qualification to hand a lead to Sales.
That leaves sales professionals two not-so-great options:
- Option #1 – Spend hours upon hours calling marketing leads to weed out the 5% to 40% that are ready to talk.
Ask yourself: Is this the best use of a highly compensated sales professional’s time?
- Option #2 – Disregard the leads they get from Marketing and focus on the deals they know will close. (This is the most common scenario.)
Ask yourself: When Sales ignores leads, how much potential revenue is lost? Understand that leads that aren’t ready to buy immediately represent 80% of your future sales.
The only way to qualify leads is to call them
Every day some kind of software emerges that will help you track customer behavior. This is certainly valuable for lead scoring and prioritizing qualification efforts, but too many marketers rely on that to do their heavy lifting.
When you really need to know all the answers, you must make human contact and speak to them directly. I have yet to find a better way to qualify a lead. In fact, I’ve talked with many of the major marketing automation providers and most have salespeople who follow-up on inbound leads with a phone call.
This human touch takes your organization’s relationship with prospects to the next level. Suddenly, you’re not an email or website anymore. You’re a real company with real people, and people buy from people.
B2B marketing isn’t about how many names you’re getting; it’s about doing everything you can to optimize your selling time by connecting Sales with the right people in the right companies. Doing this helps your salespeople sell, makes them more productive, and earns your company more revenue.
Whether its called B2B telemarketing, B2B lead generation or just plain old cold calling, the success of this strategy is determined by how comfortable you are with your pitch. The tips below are good to keep in mind when you get on the phone. I would add, though, that practicing and role playing before you make the actual calls help to develop confidence. If you want to learn more check out “Cold Calling for the Clueless” an e-book for the non sales professional.
Whether you’re a sales professional delivering working from a large prospect list, or a business person on the receiving end of a cold call, the unsolicited sales call often creates discomfort in both parties.
But a review of tips from respected sales experts shows that cold calling can turn into a happy win-win situation for everyone.
Here are the top guidelines that experts consistently mention:
- Be genuine, be yourself. This requires real conversation, not reading scripts.
- Research your prospects to determine their needs and identify what you have in common that can be used to fuel conversation and create bonding.
- Delay pushing for your sales goal right away. Instead, focus on the prospect’s problems, which you can acknowledge and validate, demonstrating that you care.
- You only have a few seconds at the beginning of your call before you risk losing the prospect. Prepare a confident, concise opening statement that provides the all-important WIFM (“What’s in it for me”), drawing in the prospect and creating the conditions for real conversation.
- Remember always: It’s not about you, it’s about the prospect.
This article is written from the PR perspective but whether its from this industry perspective or any other marketing industry perspective the consensus is that a follow up phone call needs to occur after the trade show. Customers have hired IT’S YOUR CALL to follow up on the b2b leads they’ve generated at trade shows and we have always uncovered “hidden gems”. Not only will follow up secure permission for opt in mailing lists but also has the extra benefit of qualifying the prospects.
- Contact the Right People Weeks Before
Typically, a trade show will release a list of press members who are covering the show. This may include bloggers, influencers, and journalists.
While these contacts are not themselves leads, their audience is. One of the most important steps you can take to snag time with these influential people is to reach out to them by email at least several weeks before a show. Request that they stop by your booth, and if possible, schedule a time for them to do so. Remeber that media get jammed at trade shows so you want to be early enough for them to see you. If they are overscheduled or not attending the conference, not to worry. Offer them the opportunity to interview you in advance and embargo the interview till the show.
If you can, give them samples, a free trial, or a demo of your product or service. And don’t forget to provide background information or any helfpul collateral.
- Land a Speaking Engagement
Securing a speaking gig is a great way to generate more credibility around your brand, as well as yourself as a thought leader.
This isn’t always easy to do, so you must plan well in advance. Thought leadership begins with your owned media. In addition, once you have established credibility, you will have to submit an application to speak, likely months in advance. Here’s one tip to help get you in the door: Submit if you can with a customer. Trade shows are loaded with vendors eager to speak and you can differentiate yourself by presenting with a customer.
Landing a speaking engagement at a trade show is well worth the effort, as it will drive prospects, not only to your booth, but to your website since you will (with any luck) create a memorable presence.
- Establish Your Goals
Of course, the end game is always to turn strangers into buyers. However, the stage you’re at in your marketing game will largely determine your goals and means of achieving them.
If you’re a startup, you’re main mission at a trade show might be to create a buzz by handing out free swag. However, if you’re well-established, you might be aiming to launch a new product, or secure greater publicity.
Get your strategy in place by first determining your end game.
- Get Busy on Social Media
In the weeks and days that precede a trade event, you’ll want to create a buzz on social media. If your brand is launching a new product at a trade show, why not use Snapchat to reveal a hint of the product, mentioning that the full product will be unleashed at the upcoming trade show.
While you’re at the trade show, take full advantage of Facebook Liveto capture real-time highlights of the event.
- Follow Up
Want to know something a bit frightening? One statistic says:
“90% of trade show attendees received no follow-up within 12 months of their visit.”
If you want anything to come of your trade show experience, you must follow up. That means inputting new contacts into your CRM, reaching out via email or telephone, and asking for permission to add them to your email list.
Just think… if you can accomplish this one task that so few B2B companies are paying attention to, you’ll have the upper hand to win your prospects’ attention.
A great article that breaks down a b2b lead generation and lead nurturing strategy. This spells out the structure that’s needed to implement a successful marketing to sales hand off. Not surprising is the suggestion that at least 60% of the marketing budget should be spent on lead generation.
“B2B organizations face buying cycles of varying complexities, but at the core of all buying cycles lay three distinct commonalities: Prospects, leads and customers.” This line comes straight from the MarketingSherpa 2011 B2B Benchmark Report.
All three are part of an integrated whole, and this Sherpa article will touch on these elements while taking a closer look at lead nurturing.
Brian Carroll, Executive Director of Applied Research, MECLABS (Full disclosure: MECLABS is the parent company of MarketingSherpa), and author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale, shared his expertise on handling leads during the B2B sales process. To begin thinking about leads, Carroll posed the question, “What does a lead mean? Is it getting someone to raise their hand, or is it to develop a sales-ready prospect?”
Leads fall into both categories. At the very earliest stages of demand generation just getting a potential customer to request more information about your product or service can be enough. As that prospect gets deeper into lead nurturing efforts, the goal is going to be to develop them into a sales-ready lead who can be handed off to Sales. Lead nurturing is all about taking that prospect from just raising their hand, to someone who is prepared to become a customer.
This how-to article looks at all three stages of a prospect — demand generation, lead nurturing and the hand-off to sales — and offers five tactics to utilize in the middle portion of lead nurturing.
GENERATING LEADS WITH A PORTFOLIO APPROACH
He added that these different lead streams should be integrated and all work together.
Carroll said, “Look at what is working right now in your portfolio, and keep testing new things in your portfolio so that you are switching things in and out. I would not rely on one particular lead source.”
By implementing more than one lead source, lead generation becomes a multi-touch process. This improves the entire process because one lead source is good at starting the conversation while another might work better at converting those conversations. If both sources aren’t part of your lead generation efforts, you will miss out on optimizing the process.
Lead generation should also command the lion’s share of the marketing budget. Carroll suggested 60% to 80% of the budget should be allocated to demand generation, while 20% to 40% should go to nurturing the leads you already have.
NURTURING THE LEADS
“The easiest way to conduct lead nurturing is to look at the relationships that you already have,” explained Carroll. “How can you carry the conversation forward? Think of lead nurturing as being an extension of the conversation you started with lead generation.”
He added to look at the relationships started through the different lead generation sources and ask what content or information can be shared to advance that conversation.
Tactic #1. Empower Sales during lead nurturing
Sales is an important element in developing a lead nurturing program. The ultimate goal of lead nurturing is to generate more sales and to accelerate leads in the pipeline. Even though Sales may not be involved in the execution of the program, Sales should be involved in a number of ways:
o Sharing their point-of-view
o Sharing thoughts for messaging
o Sharing what they are hearing in the marketplace
Carroll offered an example of involving Sales in the lead nurturing process, “Let’s say you did a webinar event. What you can do is equip your sales team with a nurturing content piece that could include an executive summary and key takeaways from the event.”
He added, “With that content, your sales team can call these leads and say, ‘I saw you attended our webinar last week, and we put together an executive summary and a two-page document with key takeaways, and I wanted to email that out to you for you to pass along. And what did you think of the event?'”
Giving Sales this lead nurturing content provides them with a valid business reason to engage the prospect.
Carroll said, “It is, of course, about building relationships and adding value to people, even if they never buy from you. Empower your sales team to do nurturing.”
Tactic #2. Nurturing at a small business
Large businesses will have large marketing departments, and will likely have tools such as marketing automation and CRM software that help make lead nurturing, well, more automatic.
Small businesses, even as small as a one-person company, face challenges in simply finding the time for lead nurturing.
The solution is to set up a calendar with a specific time every day, or at least once per week, to nurture the database. Carroll recommended making this time either during non-business hours or during non-revenue generating time, and also suggested leveraging electronic communication such as email or blogging to share content.
Tactic #3. Repurpose content for nurturing
Reuse the content you already have — repurpose it and use it in a new way. The first step is to inventory existing content and think of way to extend that material.
For example, a whitepaper can be broken into three to five articles that share a point of view.
Carroll stated this is a good strategy because, “…we are seeing more and more readers who would rather read shorter bits of information than longer. That is the trend.”
If you are doing live events, record the event and convert that video into another content asset. Post snippets of material as well.
Looking at the earlier webinar example, the executive summary and key takeaways provided to Sales are examples of two additional pieces of content from one online event.
Carroll said, “You are already creating content, you probably just don’t recognize it. So first, use what you have, catalog it and determine how you can bring new life to it. When you’ve leveraged what you already have and you have cataloged it, then you can start finding gaps in current content areas.”
Tactic #4. Take advantage of third-party content
Third-party content is another great source of material for lead nurturing.
Carroll explained, “Look at research where your customers and clients are going for information. I would start by first asking your sales team what types of content publications your customers are currently reading, where are they going for information and what are the questions Sales is asking those customers.”
Use online alerts to key phrases in your industry to find content from bloggers and industry publications that is vendor agnostic and can shared with your lead nurturing audience through a short synopsis and a link.
Tactic #5. Keep the touches coming
Carroll said most lead nurturing programs don’t begin to impact conversion before at least five meaningful touches, and that it’s important to continue nurturing leads whether it takes five touches or 25 touches to get them to the sales-ready point.
He offered an example of nurturing frequency, “If you have a nine-month sales cycle, you should nurture a lead in those nine months, and that’s at a minimum level. So that means nine nurturing patterns during the course of that lead.”
MAKE THE HAND-OFF TO SALES, BUT STILL HELP DRIVE CONVERSION
The ultimate goal of lead nurturing is to turn that prospect into a sales-ready lead prepared to become a customer.
“If that relationship were a baton, there is a point in time where both Marketing and Sales hands are on the baton and you are making that introduction,” states Carroll. “It is to be clear at what stage Marketing is going to hand the lead off so that Sales can run with it, and so that you don’t drop the baton or drop the relationship.”
You can find this ideal point in the relationship by leveraging lead scoring and lead qualification, and Carroll recommended this lead qualification occur through teleprospecting. He said, “There is only so much information that you can get off a Web forum, or that someone will volunteer in an email.”
Even thought the prospect is now sales-ready, and the baton has been passed to Sales, Carroll added one more caveat. Even though Marketing hands the lead to Sales once the prospect is ready to talk to a salesperson, “it doesn’t mean that Marketing is done. What we are looking to do is help accelerate leads in the sales pipeline and that is part of where we can work with the sales team to understand ‘what are the key issues?’, and, ‘what are the problems that they are facing?’ to help drive conversion.”