Ping! That was Outlook notifying me that yet another industry newsletter hit my inbox. But this time, the title caught my eye, so I opened the email. This particular newsletter offered an e-book from a sponsoring vendor, and although I wasn’t familiar with the author, I felt compelled to take a look. I downloaded and added the e-book to my “Saved Reading” list, something I reserve for evenings and flights, and then started preparing for my next meeting. At this point, I knew little about the e-book’s content, but I’d find out at some point. At some point…when I’d had a chance to read or even glance through it, which is something I hadn’t the time nor the inclination to do right after downloading it.

Yet, apparently, the mere fact that I downloaded the book meant that I was clearly far enough along on the buyer’s journey to warrant a phone call. In fact, within 15 minutes of downloading, I received a phone call and an email from a sales representative trying to interest me in a personal demo or free trial. Of what? I hadn’t even read the piece, much less looked up the company to determine if its business has any relevance to mine.

I can only imagine the sales rep’s face when my Web form information came in. Great company! Ideal title! Hot prospect! But guess what, salesperson? This isn’t about your sales cycle; it’s about MY buying journey. And I’m not ready. You haven’t given me the opportunity.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of a “buyer’s journey” – the progression of stages that buyers go through from the minute they realize they have a problem until the point at which they select a partner or identify a solution to help them solve that problem. But know this: buyers don’t skip stages – they might move through them more quickly at times – but it’s important that the buyer move through each and every stage. Buyer JourneyYour job, as a marketer and/or as a sales person, is to provide them with the information and tools they need, when they need them, to make the best, most informed decision…one that leads them (hopefully) to your product or service.

So to my eager salesperson (and the marketers who sit behind him), here are a few thoughts:

  1. Follow the cues. Remember, a download does not a true prospect make. Let the content (and inbound marketing) work for you. Give your prospect time to read the content, visit your site and learn a bit more about you. Then, as she starts to amass a better lead score (this company is using marketing automation) and has done some self-qualification, she’ll have given you the type of information you need to better frame a discussion. OR, she might have enough information to request that free trial or personal demo.
  2. Spend your $$ wisely. You could be wasting valuable inside sales resources by making premature calls. Your sales people will be far more effective (total conversations, % of leads passed, etc.) if you provide them with better, more insightful information about a potential prospect and his areas of interest. Progressive profiling is one way to gather more self-reported information in an unobtrusive way.
  3. Understand my journey, not your sales cycle. Map out the buyer’s journey and then determine when and how to execute your marketing activities. I’ve provided a high-level sample above.
  4. “Show me you know me”. Before a sales rep even picks up the phone, make sure he’s done due diligence. Research the organization and the individual online and connect the dots between your services or capabilities and something that’s meaningful and specific to the prospect. Remember: Timeliness + Relevance + Personalization = B2B Prospecting Success.
  5. Nurture, don’t rush. Think about your follow-up. Rather than making a call 15 minutes after the download of an e-book, think differently about your contact strategy. In this case, it would have felt more natural to me (as the buyer) if your nurturing stream had included a much-needed wait time to allow me to read and absorb the contents of your e-book.

It isn’t all bad news for this vendor, however; I did take a look at the content and it is, in fact, a good awareness/education piece. The company has entered me into a nurturing stream, which feels very generic, but touches on areas of interest. Whether or not I do business with the company remains to be seen, but I can only hope that my friend the salesperson takes a moment to read this post and sees it for the constructive feedback it is meant to be.