Ah, Saturday. An early game of tennis, some family time, maybe a power nap with the fragrant promise of the choice T-bone you’ve been waiting to grill tempting you onward through the day. The sun starts to sink; you saunter out to pre-heat the gas grill to searing readiness. Turning the knob, you get…nothing. The bolt specially designed to control the gas line has vanished.

You vaguely recall tossing the extra one provided by the manufacturer into an overflowing box of miscellaneous fasteners you keep in the basement. Unearthing it, you are faced with at least 158 shiny, seemingly identical bolts—but only one will work. It’s getting dark, you’re getting hungry, and the longed for explosion of chargrilled beef taste is slipping further away, buried in 157 indistinguishable bits of metal that aren’t quite right.

Now you know how your sales team feels.

The very best of them are unwaveringly focused on the end result. They visualize that steak, they hunger to sink their teeth into as big a bite as they possibly can, they know just how high the heat should be, just when to grab the meat off the grate and slap it down on the plate, sizzling and perfect. If you give them one bolt, or even three or four, they’ll test them and turn them, find the one that works, hook up that gas and turn up the flames. If you give them 158, they’ll throw out the box and start looking around for another way to cook.

This is exactly what happens with typical lead generation. About 95 percent of generated leads are not effectively pursued by sales. Sales organizations eager to close deals are frustrated by the very thing that marketers are rewarded for: a mountain of leads. Rather than sort through a motley group of prospects—some not qualified, others not sales ready—they abandon all but the most obvious and substitute those leads with their own, usually less successful, prospecting.

With companies increasingly forced to do more with fewer resources, figuring out which leads will cut to the chase fastest becomes someone else’s problem. Marketing has done its job in initiating interest and sales converts the most interested to revenue. But who takes the existing market curiosity, sharpens it by exposing underlying pressure points, whets interest with repeated contact and files away the unqualified prospects, pointing sales toward only the most potent opportunities? An agreement on the importance of these functions—and who’s responsible—is absolutely necessary.

My clients find that a prospect pool enticed by marketing and honed by a specific process delivers leads that need their product, fit qualifying parameters, are favorably pre-disposed to their brand and are ready to be sold. The sales teams, armed with precise business information on the prospects’ pains and priorities, are ready to sell.

That specific process referred to above is facilitated by a discipline called M2O—Market, Media and Offer. M2O helps pinpoint the best prospects, build familiarity with their organizations and their needs, and use that intelligence to craft messaging that directly targets the state of readiness. Those simple, sound practices often get lost between a large-scale marketing campaign and the immediate pressure to close, but they are keys to reaping the most revenue from both.

The first “M” in M2O focuses on tightly defining your market by:

  • Industry
  • Geography
  • Firmographics
  • Titles
  • Psychographics

Many marketers, reluctant to miss any avenue of opportunity, define their market as broadly as possible and in doing so miss the chance to convincingly address the most potent prospects.

A typical example is a company that perceives its target market to be the Fortune 1000. That group is actually comprised of several thousand revenue reporting companies—some with centralized and some with de-centralized decision making. This market definition is simply not meaningful, and will cause confusion and inefficiency among the marketing and sales teams. While it sounds contradictory, I recommend that companies identify the largest but most targeted markets possible, to make sure that they have a tightly defined universe.

Once the market has been defined, the next step is to segment it. Companies that more quickly see the value proposition of a vendor’s product, whether due to immediate business pains or because they are looking to enhance their own capabilities, respond at higher levels than others. So it makes sense to identify segments of the market that are more likely to buy, and market to them specifically.

The second “M” in M2O refers to media or how you approach your market:

  • Media channels
  • Frequency
  • Reach
  • Calendar
  • Audiences
  • Creative
  • Activity reporting

Good lead nurturing delivers enough contact to engage but enough space to respect the demands on a busy prospect. The trick is to know how to balance the contacts between both timing and type of outreach.

Multiple touches

Traditional one-and-done advocates touch customers just once and then move on. That is extremely ineffective compared to campaigns that integrate multiple media and touch business prospects repeatedly. Multi-touch builds familiarity with busy decision makers and increases the potential of impacting them when the need for a solution is high.

Multiple cycles

There is additional benefit in implementing multiple cycles for marketing campaigns. The initial cycle—the first time you touch your market with a combination of nine phone calls, emails, voicemail and direct mail—will yield only 40 to 50 percent of the total opportunities. Continuing to touch the same prospects on a regular basis can identify other opportunities.

Multiple media

Contacts responding to voicemail or email have comprised close to 30 percent of all leads generated for most of my clients over a period of years. The most frequent responders to voicemail and email have been more senior-level decision makers like C-level and senior VP-level executives. These executives are 2.5 times more likely to respond to a voicemail or reply to an email than ubordinates.

The “O” in M2O refers to the relevant offer, or message, you bring to the market:

  • Corporate/solution/product/service positioning
  • Segmented messaging
  • Sweet spot definition
  • Objections and strategies for addressing
  • Potential messaging enhancements
  • Competitive context
  • Industry intelligence

How much should sales representatives talk about their product or solution? As little as possible. Effective salespeople know that good prospects sell themselves by talking about their particular business challenges, opportunities on the horizon, and emerging issues that will affect business goals. Asking the right questions and then listening carefully to direct further discussion uncovers pain points that are most likely to motivate purchase. When the prospect’s needs are understood and can be matched to the benefits of a client’s product, the sales nurturing process can leap-frog ahead.

What remains imperative is that contacts, whether direct or remote, be made in a professional manner, in accordance with best practices gleaned through market experience. Most of the time, these contacts will establish the prospect’s first active impression of the company, and the person making the contact must be assured, professional, approachable and credible. This won’t happen by accident. Training, constant coaching, a proven process and a thorough knowledge of the client’s offer are crucial to developing trust and purchase interest. In addition, results should be constantly reviewed to assess the best strategies for each client, each product and each target segment.

M2O is examined in greater detail in Chapter 6 of my new book, The Truth About Leads. Conscientiously applied, M2O increases sales and marketing productivity, improves lead and close rates, and drives more revenue.

Author: Dan McDade is President and CEO of PointClear, LLC, a prospect development firm that helps B2B companies drive revenue by nurturing leads, engaging contacts and developing prospects until they’re ready to close. The Sales Lead Management Association named Dan one of the 50 most influential people in sales lead management in 2009 and 2010.   Dan’s first book, The Truth About Leads, is a practical, easy-to-read book that helps B2B companies focus their lead-generation efforts, align their sales and marketing organizations and drive revenue.