Working the phones or slogging through cold-call prospecting are no longer the best ways to make a sale. Traveling salesmen’s techniques simply won’t work for the complex sale in today’s world of business-to-business (B2B) selling. That’s why you need a thoroughly researched lead generation program, managed to produce high profits.
Selling complex products and services is harder than ever because:
- Margins are shrinking.
- Salespeople lack training, expertise and time to nurture relationships.
- Customers have many more choices.
- The sales cycle has become longer.
- Many complex purchasing decisions require a consensus at the customer’s company.
- Decision makers hide behind more bureaucratic layers.
- Face-to-face meetings are no longer necessary early in the process because customers find information readily on the Internet.
Your Marketing and Sales Partnership
Ultimately, your marketing department should strive to supply your sales department with high-quality leads that salespeople can convert into valuable relationships, resulting in increased revenue. One role of marketing is to help salespeople make sales. When your company’s marketing and sales departments approach lead generation as partners, your bottom line will improve. Unfortunately, in many companies, marketing and sales don’t work together. When you integrate sales and marketing, expenses decrease, ROI increases and you shorten the sales cycle.
Lead Generation Strategy
When developing a lead generation strategy for marketing and sales you need to:
- Consolidate your lead qualification procedures.
- Develop a measurable lead generation plan.
- Hold salespeople accountable for following up on leads.
- Maintain an open, ongoing dialogue to encourage feedback.
- Ask questions such as, “Was this helpful?” and “What else should we be doing?”
- Set revenue goals.
- Meet regularly to discuss new developments.
- Develop a corporate culture that supports the lead generation program.
The Perfect Customer for your Business
The first step in developing your lead generation strategy is to define a sales-ready lead. First, hold a joint marketing and sales brainstorming session to create a profile of your perfect customer. Identify the key attributes that your best and worst clients share. Narrow this list of traits to the top five or ten. You now have a profile of your ideal customer. Use this customer profile as a standard to define your total target universe.
What Is a Good Lead?
Remember, an inquiry is not a lead. A lead is a potential buyer who seeks an answer to a problem and who thinks you might be able to help. When a former lead gets ready to buy, the individual becomes a “qualified sales lead.” The marketing team must learn how to qualify all sales leads. The BANT formula provides one set of qualifications:
• “Budget – Does the prospect affordably mirror your ideal customer profile?”
• “Authority – Does it involve the key people in the purchasing decision process?”
• “Need – Has a clear initiative or need been acknowledged? Are they motivated?”
• “Time frame – Has it been determined when the purchase decision will take place?”
The Goal is a Lead Generation Database
A complex sale involves several people, so recording all of your company’s information about a prospect in a single, easily accessible place is crucial. Marketing, sales, customer service, accounts receivable and other departments need a well-designed, well-maintained company-wide database. Your ideal customer profile and your definition of a sales-ready lead should govern the design of your database. Maintaining and verifying database information should become an ongoing process. Most databases need to include fields for “company name, address, telephone and fax numbers, contact names and titles, Web site URL, e-mail addresses, division/subsidiary/parent company relationship and a unique identification number.” Depending on your ideal client profile, consider fields for revenue, location, budget, size and time frame. Status fields allow you to track the lead through the sales process.
Why Lead Generation Comes After Marketing