As a B2B Sales Leader, or as a Partner in a Professional Services firm, we understand that making our goals relies heavily on new business lead development.
Over the past few years, the lead generation process for new logo business has become much more complex and challenging, compared to the process for new/increased business from existing accounts.
- Traditional lead development techniques, including targeted account penetration, cannot keep pace with the annual increases in new business goals.
- Social selling is receiving a lot of hype, but the jury is still out regarding results, scalability and impact to personal productivity.
- Marketing-generated leads represent a huge volume of leads but with low quality; the leads become more of a distraction for us than a savior. It’s just too time consuming to qualify everything they generate, so we don’t!
Where should we focus our energy for maximum Sales impact within the next six months? It all revolves around the Buyer, so let’s start there.
The Buyer Purchasing Journey
B2B and Professional Services buyers have become self-educating. The buyers, and/or the members of their teams that influence the final decision, have direct access to a wealth of information about industry challenges, vendor solutions, vendor reputation, and more.
Sales Process versus Buyer Process
With the help of mobile and social platforms, the buyer completes up to 70% of their purchasing cycle before calling any vendor representative. We need to somehow influence all of these buyers early in their online process so they have a pre-disposition towards our solutions.
The typical Sales Process or New Business Development process is focused on what we do in Sales; and not what the Buyer does. It’s internally focused; not externally focused. It is based upon an outdated premise that we control the flow of information to the buyer, or at least most of the information that the buyer consumes.
We are no longer in control; the buyer is. So we can no longer figure out where the buyer is in their journey based solely on what our reps do!
Even if we get involved early with the buyer via our lead development efforts, or even social selling, throughout the process the customer will be consuming information from the internet.
All of us have walked into a customer meeting and found ourselves on the defensive regarding information the buyer uncovered prior to our meeting. Maybe they read a bad customer review, or a well written competitor white paper, or a pundit’s blog post, or even some content developed by our own Marketing department (that we didn’t know about). We need to become better aware and prepared for online information that talks about our company, products and services.
Finally, if we do interact with a buyer, and subsequently determine that the lead is not sales-ready yet, what do we do next? Unfortunately, we stop interacting with the prospect and move on to another lead that can hopefully make our goals for the quarter. We need to have a more effective process that keeps these potential prospects moving through their decision process and pre-disposed to our solutions until they become sales-ready prospects.
If our sales process was based upon Buyer actions, and not our internal actions, we would have a much better qualification process for all our lead generation activities:
- Lead qualification would be more accurate: it would be based on observed Buyer actions (or inactions) and less on “happy ears”.
- Sales productivity would be improved by focusing on higher quality leads rather than chasing poor leads.
- Forecast accuracy would increase and become more reliable, with fewer surprises at the end of each quarter.
While this will increase sales productivity for Sales-generated leads, it doesn’t close the gap or fully compensate for the volume of poor quality Marketing-generated leads. So what can Sales do to impact this?
Marketing Process versus Buyer Process
A quick look at the Marketing process shows that their process is also focused on their internal actions and not the Buyer’s actions. The Marketing process also happens to be a different process than the prevailing Sales process.
Wouldn’t it be a lot better for everyone concerned if Sales and Marketing both adopted a buyer-centric process?
While Sales may not be able to convince Marketing to change their process with any sense of urgency, you should be able to define what constitutes a quality lead that Sales is prepared to accept.
Marketing can adjust their campaigns to essentially deliver buyer-qualified leads, or at a minimum, leads with much better qualification information regarding who, what, when, where, why:
- Which industry challenges was the buyer interested in learning more about? How many times did they download content directly related to industry challenges and solution options?
- Which industry solutions were they interested in learning more about: Solution A or Service C? How many times did they download content directly related to product solutions and customer case studies?
- What specific products were they interested in learning more about: Product B or Product D? How many times did they download content directly related to product functionality and comparisons, or, best practices for evaluating and choosing their solution?
- What size of company needs this solution:10 person company or a 10,000 person company?
- Who was the buyer persona that downloaded the information: Financial, Business or IT? Specialist, Manager, VP?
- What was their role: influencer, recommender, decision maker?
- Why are they looking: new installation, replacement, upgrade?
- When were they planning to implement: not sure, within 3 months, within 6 months, next year?
- Where will the product be delivered/implemented?
- How many times were they offered, but declined, to speak to a product representative, view an explainer video, participate in online demo, or schedule a meeting with a sales representative?
If Marketing agrees to provide this level of lead qualification information, the quality of information associated with an MQL will be much higher, and Sales will be in a much better position to “sales qualify” the leads and take the right action.
If Marketing is unable to deliver better leads within 3-6 months, you may have a strong case for the CEO to approve extra funding to increase the Sales Development / Inside Sales groups to “re-qualify” and “hand-hold” the high volume of poor quality leads from Marketing.
The Best Leads For Achieving Sales Goals
If Marketing does align their process to the buyer, as discussed in my prior post on Best Marketing Leads For Increased Sales, Sales will end up having the best new business Sales leads, ever!
- The quality of leads would sky-rocket and Sales productivity would increase.
- Marketing would have an effective lead nurturing process for any early-stage leads, whether it was Marketing-generated or Sales-generated.
- Since both Sales and Marketing would essentially have the same buyer perspective, Marketing-generated content and Sales Enablement content would be essentially the same! With better Sales tools in hand sales quota production would increase and the sales cycle would shorten.
Marketing and Sales would have a common perspective of the buyer, a common revenue process, and they would start working more as a revenue generating team, finally! For more information, see my prior post on the Marketing and Sales: Alignment, Integration or Collaboration.
The Best Next Step
The best investment your VP Sales can make, for both shorter and longer term results, is to align the Sales organization to the buyer.
We need to give our sales process a much needed tune-up. It’s within our control; Sales doesn’t have to wait for Marketing input before aligning our sales process and lead qualification efforts to our target buyer’s purchasing journey.
The qualification criteria and questions that the Sales VP needs to give to the Sales reps to improve their qualification and forecast skills, is essentially the same criteria and questions that needs to be given to the Marketing group to improve their lead quality.
To be in the strongest position internally, the qualification criteria that you send to Marketing must be easily defensible and represent something that Marketing can reasonably be expected to implement within 6 months. You may need the help of a Sales consultant, who also has a deep understanding of Marketing capabilities, to assist you in this process.
Let’s take action to ensure we consistently achieve our quarterly and annual goals! Please share this post with your colleagues.
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