If you’ve been a marketing executive for any length of time, you’ve certainly heard this sort of statement from business development people. “The leads you gave me were junk. I called the first five and they were going nowhere. Please don’t waste my time with anymore of your leads.”
I’ve heard this more than once in my career and I’ve come to realize how this is indicative of an alignment issue. Sales and marketing teams struggle to see many things eye-to-eye. But the biggest struggle is usually around what constitutes a lead.
If you’ve had issues in this area, I’d like to show you how to give business development consultants and sales people the kind of leads that really excite them and make you a hero.
To generate high-quality leads for your sales or business development staff, here are two important questions. How do we get the right people into the sales funnel and when do we engage them in dialogue?
Do a little homework.
If your sales function is choking on the leads you’ve sent them, I encourage you to do a little exercise. Pull together a list of the last 10-20 leads you asked them to follow-up with. Get the leads’ first and last name, title and company name. Go over to LinkedIn and do a search for each lead. Pull up the profile of the lead and ask yourself this question.
Does this individual fit our ideal client profile? If you are not sure what I mean by an ideal client profile, this is yet another step you need to take. So if you haven’t built a formal ideal client profile, do this now.
Pull out your ideal client profile and put it on your desk next to your computer. At the very least, your ideal client profile should indicate:
- What industry or industries your ideal clients come from.
- Their common titles
- Their areas of functional responsibility.
- Their level of decision-rights – usually the more senior they are the better.
- Their top goals, opportunities or challenges.
When you look at your ideal client profile and the LinkedIn profiles of the leads you gave to your sales function, is there a match? Do the LinkedIn profiles sound like the people your company would want as clients?
If they are a match, then you might well be justified in going back to your sales team and showing them the connection. I have seen lazy or busy sales people who give up if they don’t smell a deal within the first 10 minutes.
But if there is a mismatch between the LinkedIn profiles and your ideal client profile, you have some work to do. Don’t worry. Everybody goes through this.
The two important questions
To generate high-quality leads for your sales or business development staff, there are two important questions you have to answer:
- How do we get the right people into the sales funnel?
- When do we engage prospects in sales dialogue?
If you get the answers right to these two questions, you will give your business development staff what they want. Speaking of what they want, in my experience, sales people only want to talk to prospective clients who exhibit these 5 characteristics:
- They need the specific services you offer and know they need them.
- They have appropriate budget.
- They have a deadline in which they must make a decision or there will be consequences.
- They are actively looking for a professional service provider to help them.
- They are willing to engage in serious dialogue and move toward an agreement.
These people are whom most sales people want to engage. If you can give your sales team prospects who fit these characteristics, they will not complain. They will be grateful.
To make this happen, marketing people use content to entice prospects into the sales funnel. They also use content to nurture people until they are ready to engage in serious dialogue. I typically see two types of issues when it comes to breakdowns in these processes:
- The wrong people are registering for your content.
- The right people are in the sales funnel, but they’re not ready to engage just yet.
I recently met with a client who said: “Randy the high lead scores from our content registrations are from people who we don’t want to do business with. The lead scoring system must be broken.”
After I dug a little deeper, I discovered the real issue. It wasn’t the lead score system that was broken, it was the content. A few quarters before this, we had developed an ideal client profile for this client. We identified the top 5 goals, challenges and opportunities that their ideal clients, the ones with big budgets, wanted to accomplish.
When I looked at the content they’d been developing, most of it did not address the goals, challenges or opportunities of their ideal clients. So it was no wonder there were very few prospective ideal clients in their sales funnel. In marketing as in life, you get what you position for.
I see this far more often than you might realize. I’ve had people say to me – we really don’t believe in content marketing so we quit doing it. After I look at their content, I see why. I wouldn’t believe in that content either.
If you want your sales funnel and the leads you pass to the sales function to be comprised of prospective ideal clients, you have to produce content that compels them to register, read and then act.
How long should people sit in the sales funnel?
A second common issue I see is sales people calling on prospects who just aren’t ready. The prospects might be in the right industry. They might have budget. They might be senior enough to make decisions and sign deals. But if they don’t have a need for your services right now or in the very near future, it’s probably best not to engage them in dialogue. They probably won’t want to talk. They may even get annoyed if you try to talk to them.
Most professional services firms have a five-stage sales funnel comprised of:
- Awareness: Prospects become aware of your brand, services and content.
- Consideration: Prospects sample your content to see how you can help them.
- Interest: Prospects engage in serious dialogue, requesting a proposal.
- Evaluation: Prospects evaluate your proposal against their needs and competitive offerings.
- Selection: Prospects accept your proposal and move to next steps.
If you try to talk to people before they get to the Interest phase, you might actually turn them off. They might go elsewhere when they have a need. This is why you need lead scoring.
If you have a marketing automation system that shows a prospect who just recently became very active, downloading materials, looking at blog-posts and attending webinars, they might be a good fit for a phone call.
If you pull up the LinkedIn profile of that individual and discover they’re a close match to your ideal client profile – voila. You have a lead that your business development team will very likely want to talk to.
To help you achieve this goal, I’ve developed a short webinar that’s under 30 minutes. It’s called Align Sales & Marketing Teams To Grow Revenue And Clients. This free resource will show you how to create such tight alignment between your sales and marketing functions that you will consistently acquire the right new clients and increase revenues. You will also reduce or eliminate friction between these two important functions. If you want to align your sales and marketing functions to achieve these outcomes, access this webinar now. It is available on-demand.