About 6 weeks ago, I downloaded an e-book sponsored by company that offers a B2B software solution. Within minutes, Stephanie (the sales pro with a new “qualified lead”) attacked.
I responded to her first sales email indicating I was really only interested in the e-book. Getting an A for persistence, Stephanie ignored that email and kept pressing each week with another email prompt trying to move to a phone call or a demo. She sent articles, links, press releases, case studies — even access to their developers’ site.
Yesterday, I finally responded. More than that, I offered her a wide-open lane to really advance this time. “My only real need/interest was the e-book,” I wrote. “But since you mentioned it, what examples do you have in ‘my space’ — or what do you consider to be ‘my space’?”
This was her shot. And she came back with … nothing. My engagement is actually what finally shut her down. That isn’t sales. I like to simply refer to this approach as, “hiding behind the screen.” This is clearly not the best way to convert new leads that download your content. It’s actually a colossal waste of time for everyone involved, even when it’s “automated.”
Marketing and sales professionals have access to a dazzling array of technology options to capture contacts and both analyze and automate the sales process. Let’s review a better approach to put that technology to work to drive your business forward — and convert!
Have a plan and a process
Your organization needs to have a process in place to respond to every inbound lead it gets — an action plan for every step the potential customer takes.
Stephanie didn’t have a coherent process, and it showed. She wasted her time pushing when I wasn’t responding — and wasted my time further when I did. Quick responses, like the one Stephanie gave me, are ideal, but your salespeople need to know what to do after making that contact. In hindsight, I am actually neither qualified nor do I resemble a good fit for the software solution.
Share information and ideas
Sales and marketing need to work together; it’s a basic idea that’s forgotten again and again. Does your sales team know where inbound leads are coming from? Do they understand the personas your marketing team has developed to reach out to potential customers?
If Stephanie had known what kind of personas her company was marketing to, she may have been able to identify what “my space” was, instead of offering radio silence. Bottom line, sellers have to know a little more about their prospective buyers before they engage. You’ll easily offend today’s savvy buyer otherwise. Nobody wants to be sent irrelevant e-mails that amount to little more than spam every week after downloading content online. That doesn’t work.
Collect data — and use it
Response rates and lead origins are important, but only if you pay attention to what it’s telling you. My lack of response after several tries should have been all the data Stephanie needed, but she was either desperate or simply wasn’t paying attention. Typically, it’s the latter. I can tell you from experience that consistently converting prospects to customers today requires more care, consideration and customization than any time previously. If you cannot make the introduction relevant to that specific buyer, perhaps it might be wise for you to pause and consider whether the introduction is the worth the time at all? Nothing will annoy a prospective buyer more than wasting their time.
Continue the conversation with a focus on value
Inbound leads often aren’t looking for a sales pitch right away. Instead of pushing for a demo, engage the leads around the content in the download. Stephanie unleashed an avalanche of other resources instead of offering a follow-up response about the content I had already shown interest in. And when I gave her a chance to continue the conversation about something important to me, she dropped the ball. A better move: as a question! Was the content useful? Would I be interested in related content in the future? What are my 3 biggest challenges/opportunities related to her software in 2015? Would I respond to a short survey. All reasonable options to initiate a dialogue and advance the relationship.
Contact marketing can be a catalyst for getting found. I’ve shared previously that next to getting referred, getting found is the the strongest way to sell in the new economy. However, it still requires a strong sales process that puts the customer needs front and center. Technology helps. Don’t let it become a replacement for you.
Are you a revenue leader looking to jumpstart sales performance in 2015 or an HR leader looking for ways to motivate your company’s sales team? Join me and Modern Survey President Don MacPherson in a free, one-hour webinar on Tuesday, Dec. 16, and learn what you can do right now to improve your sales team’s engagement and performance.
Ryan Estis helps companies and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance. Each live event blends original research with compelling stories that move participants to take action. Ryan has 20 years of business experience working with the world’s best brands to initiate change, inspire innovation and deliver growth. Learn more about Ryan Estis.
Ryan Estis is a Keynote Speaker & Management Consultant blogging about business performance.