Sales and Marketing Advice
Your guide to perfect lead generation to accelerate sales
If revenue is the lifeblood of a business, then customers are the heartbeat. But customers don’t materialize out of thin air. And if your sales pipeline isn’t full, there are no deals to close.
It’s not a big secret that sales teams need a consistent flow of leads.
Yet, the path to more revenue isn’t simply paved with more leads – or as I like to call them, suspects and pre-qualified prospects. This just doesn’t cut it today, particularly when navigating the increased complexity of business-to-business (B2B) selling. You’ll need to go beyond quantity and the closing tactic of the week. Only a sales process built on a cornerstone of lead generation will work.
Great lead generation is critically important because it’s the core of what comes next; every selling activity from that point on. So, it’s worth spending time getting it right for your organization. Sales performance improvement and accelerated growth begin with a repeatable lead generation process.
The benefits to your business are gargantuan – shorter sales cycles, improved revenue forecasting, new sales people hit the ground running faster, and increased win rates.
Where do you start and what steps can you take now? Lead generation is a broad term and the specifics depend on your company, industry, and target markets. There are an endless number of resources and tools telling you “exactly” how to generate leads, but they have no idea who you are. Besides, what good is a lead if you don’t act on it correctly.
A Forrester Consulting study found that B2B buyers are more impatient than ever (78%), and respond more frequently to emails than phone calls (74%). How you handle this is crucial, because if you don’t respond in a timely manner your competition will.
Since I can’t ask you some very pointed questions to help customize a lead generation process just for your organization, here are the practical, definitive steps to take.
Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way. You already know that targeting too wide is madness. You may be right that “everyone” needs your solution (I doubt it), but trying to sell to everybody is selling to no one. The key to attracting your perfect audience is focus. Exactly who they are, the real problems they need to solve, where they can be reached and how, what influences your audience, channels they buy from, the buyer’s journey to a purchase, and a million other questions. Now that you understand your perfect prospect, tailor messaging just for them aimed at their pain that you erase. Never stop questioning how well you know your target. Never stop questioning your niche.
Sourcing Strategy: To find and convert new prospects, be intentional. Now that you know what motivates the people who need your solution the most, take a step back and create a purposeful lead generation strategy, point-by-point. Unfortunately, many sales organizations skip the sourcing strategy stage of lead generating activities and jump right into tactics. A well thought out process for getting quality, qualified leads into the top of the sales funnel, and ultimately into the pipeline, is a must. To start, consider what you’ve learnt about your market and audience and pinpoint the best, simplest, and most reliable sources of leads, which offer the greatest cost-effectiveness. This is where they hang out online and offline as well as what they’re likely to respond to. In the B2B world, generally the biggies are cold email, content, search, events, and referrals. Note that cold phone calls are not listed – calling comes later. Social media for B2B companies varies, but with a very few exceptions, LinkedIn is the king of the mountain; more on this later. These lead sources may be different for your particular buyers, so dig deep to figure this out and prioritize based on resources and testing. There is one more thing to think about in your lead generation strategy. The more effort you put into optimizing the perfect prospect definition and ideal lead sources, the better your chances are of reducing the percentage of unqualified “raw” suspects you’ll end up with. Use a ranking or scoring system to up the ante and drive the top pre-qualified prospects into top-of-the-funnel. Then respectfully dump the rest.
Connection Strategy: Lead engagement and nurturing has its own rhythm. Once you have a lead in hand, then what? Your sales funnel engagement activities will make or break sales growth. Successful B2B prospecting is hard enough without taking the time to call, email and connect with on LinkedIn. Now imagine having 100 active high-quality leads. That’s a bunch of people you need to speak with! Working each lead through the sales funnels and pipeline requires a strategy and a little help. Again, taking what you know about your perfect prospect create an engagement cadence. Map out a engagement flow, step-by-step, with what you’ll do over a period of time and what will happen when you receive a response, or don’t. These might be sending an email, a LinkedIn connection request, text message, or making a phone call. There are three realities in selling – the sooner you respond to a request for information the better the chances of closing a sale; following-up increases your chances of closing a sale; and the greater the number of touches the better the chances of closing a sale. As a sales rep, the only way to do this with 100 active leads is to use tools. The top dogs are LinkedIn and a CRM integrated with a sales engagement platform. Hopefully you’re already exploiting the power of a CRM. Add a ton of muscle with an engagement platform which will allow you to pre-define and set five, ten, or more actions and triggers. Plus, it’ll automate much of the tedious tasks with a personal touch. A word of warning; be careful about automating connection requests and InMail on LinkedIn – they’re watching you!
In future columns I’ll talk more about sales engagement platforms, how to use them, and a few that’ll fit almost any budget.
Without a viable sales process, companies struggle to grow. Lead generation is the first foundational step. Carefully follow the steps above to get sustainable, repeatable, predictable revenue results. This how you connect and engage with buyers, turning prospects into customers.
Read earlier columns from Florida Trend's sales and marketing coach, Ron Stein.
Ron is the founder of FastPath Marketing & Selling. He works with tech-enabled companies, helping them find the fastest path to revenue with executive advising, business development coaching and consulting, as well as marketing and selling training. As an accomplished tech industry business leader and entrepreneur, Ron has served in top-level sales, marketing and business development roles ranging from emerging companies to global tech giants, including as the CEO of a venture-backed wireless startup. Ron is on the advisory board of the University of Florida’s two internationally recognized tech business incubators and writes a popular column on how to grow revenue in the award-winning Florida Trend business magazine. Learn more at FastPath Marketing & Selling. Ron can be reached at 727-642-4246 or by email.
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