Sat 18 Apr 2009
(FYI…Republished and amended from a recent post while on the clock at Babcock & Jenkins on April 14, 2009)
This Post Inspired By I’ve Seen All Good People — Yes.
You and your sales colleagues call them leads. Some call them prospects. Others suspects. Whatever you call those who you believe absolutely need what you sell—take a breath.
Think for a minute before you go headlong into strategies, tactics and buying cycle position assessments. These are people.
Just like you and me. We all hold the same fears of making bad decisions, losing respect or getting fired. The same needs for validation. Similar desires for adulation.
With that empathy in mind, now take a look at your current sales funnel. Some people are waving a big red flag saying “Help me right now” by phone call, e-mail or Web site visit. Others were kind enough to respond to your BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing) profile questions on a microsite after you reached out to them via direct mail, e-mail or online.
Tire-kicking isn’t a crime
All others who showed interest in your message but didn’t meet your sales teams’ BANT criteria have been relegated to the tire-kicker position—doomed to languish into perpetuity in your CRM database.
This decision just cost your company big money. Research indicates that 80-90 percent of those “tire-kickers” will buy a product similar to yours in the next 12 months. It’s likely that product won’t be yours unless you keep your company top of mind. Turn your info seekers into buyers by becoming a genuine business decision collaborator.
Prospect-to-lead tip: Restraint
But…wait! Back away from the phone or keyboard for a minute. Before offering more brochureware or demos, put yourself in your prospect’s shoes. What would you want? If you are actually having an internal dialogue right now, you’re likely saying “Something relevant. Something actionable. Something that helps me take one step forward—not retreat in fear from a full-frontal marketing assault on my senses.”
Here are four steps.
First: Be relevant
Your marketing materials in all media formats sent out via every communication vehicle at your disposal is not relevance. It’s carpet bombing. Find thought leaders outside your company to talk about solutions to broader industry challenges. A simple, timely, “Did you see this?” with a one-sentence description, a link to the article, and a one-sentence explanation of why this is relevant to previous interactions with your company will suffice.
Second: Be timely but considerate
Again, put yourself in the shoes of the person you are engaging with. How many times would you want to be contacted in this manner or another mode of communication and what makes it less intrusive? Once a week? Once a month? Once a quarter? Don’t know? Ask.
Here’s a great article forwarded to me recently by a colleague that has two industry leaders answering questions on B2B best practices, reading “Digital Body Language” and nurturing prospects to become leads: When Is It Nurturing, When Is It “Big Brother”?
Third: Set expectations
On that first communication with your new acquaintance, set the ground rules for any outreach going forward. Tell them you are contacting them based on their expressed interest in the subject matter and that you intend to send news and information that could help them stay abreast of key issues and solutions in the industry. Set a delivery expectation timeframe and enable them to say “No.”
Fourth: Request feedback
Set up a feedback loop for prospects to either ask questions or update their current interest or buying status related to your products. The key is patience. Help them arrive at decisions based on knowledge.
Lead cultivation resources
Marketing Sherpa has a library of strategic documents on proven approaches that gingerly move people through buying decisions. Lead Nurturing Best Practices: New Data, Charts, Tips to Put More Punch in Your Cultivation Tactics provides great guidance.
Ann Handley from MarketingProfs is another marketing/buying behavior guru worth checking out. She can be followed on Twitter here.
Good luck and stay positive.