Good salespeople are assets to any organization. Outside of pure online sales, some form of interaction between Person A and Person B is necessary to conclude a sale. For higher value transactions, committee decisions are common so there may be multiple decision-makers. And, where services are concerned, buyers often want to see the whites of the seller’s eyes before agreeing to buy into what they offer. What’s more, the process may include some due diligence, proofs of concept, and trials before the sale goes ahead.
So, selling is no easy task. It may have several stages and managing the steps in an effective manner is essential for success
Driving Buyers to Your Door
The sales process can be broken down into many component parts. It’s unlikely that a prospective client will just ‘find’ your business, make a call to you and make a purchase there and then. There are often many component parts. This is where effective marketing is essential. A credible and attractive website is key. Increasingly, buyers check out your credentials on LinkedIn, Instagram and other social platforms relevant to what you offer. Hence, it can take time for buyers to reach your door. This is where inbound marketing plays a key role and investment in measures to attract prospects is crucial.
Generating new clients can be a costly business. Whether you select advertising, PR, Pay per Click, Sponsored ad, email marketing or some other method, your expensive sales teams need feeding with juicy leads. And, ideally, they need to be good ones. Unfortunately, you can’t always control this and there will always be some degree of wastage whether that’s email bounces, lack of response from LinkedIn outreach or through poor quality leads from landing pages where prospects ‘request more information’.
The Battle for ROI
It’s a constant battle to promote lead-flow whilst also maximising ROI, and optimising the level of investment. Sadly, there’s no silver bullet. The degree of pre-qualification can vary. Content, such as whitepapers, on a landing page can be offered free to all or gated based on answers to specific questions. This is where you identify either marketing qualified leads – MQL (where they simply provide their email address to download the item) or Sales Qualified Leads – SQL where you ask for more information about their needs, budget etc.
The above can, to some extent, pre-screen for quality. However, this is by no means fool-proof. Outbound calling through telemarketing can deepen the degree of qualification. But, it can take time to unearth the pearls. And, the work isn’t always done once a lead has been identified. There may be ‘interest’ but what’s the timing on the project? And, how hot is the interest?
The Value of Sales
Ultimately, time is money and sales teams are expensive resources. Therefore, it makes sense to provide those in the front line with worthwhile opportunities. But, how far should this go? Where should a salesperson take over? There is a fine line between the provision of leads that are weak and unqualified and those that are so deeply qualified that the seller needs to just turn up to win the deal. Of course, it isn’t as straightforward as that. However, sometimes resentment can build up between sales and marketing over the level of qualification required before the lead gets to the door of the field representative.
On occasions, there will be a pre-sales function within the organisation that takes the lead from ‘cold’ to a sales-qualified prospect. This is an additional layer in the process and costly addition to your cost of sale. It only really applies where the value of sale supports such an investment. And, to some extent, this can be accomplished by using an outsource agency to manage the process.
The Marketing Challenge
It’s perhaps a sensitive subject but there can sometimes be friction between sales and marketing. On one hand, marketing invests time, money, and skills with multi-channel and account-based marketing approaches to identify, and reach out to prospective prospects. This is not easy or cheap. There are few, if any, guarantees and it is often trial and error before hitting on an approach that works. And, it rarely works all the time! On the other hand, sales professionals need leads upon which they can work to generate the revenue needed.
So, you can appreciate the frustration experienced by marketing management when advised by ‘Sales’ that the leads are worthless. Often, that feedback can come in the form of throw-away comments about poor lead quality. This may be based on qualification criteria such as BANT (budget, authority, need, timescale) with one or more of these not being satisfied for the leads.
Lead Quality is Subjective
The problem is that lead quality is subjective. And, there are all sorts of definitions for leads from MQL (marketing qualified) through to SQL (sales qualified), and BANT, as explained earlier. Organisations differ as to the nature of the leads generated and what they expect the front-line sales team to do with those leads.
It is somewhat obvious that certain leads are warmer than others. That’s inevitable since buyers are at different stages of the buying process when they engage with you. Some are ready to buy. Others are evaluating the market. Some organisations have lower-level management doing due diligence before devising a shortlist of prospective suppliers. And, companies have extremely different budgets and timeframes. So, it’s a tough task.
In our experience, it can also be made more difficult. Sometimes, either through workload, the need to focus on key accounts, previous experience with poor leads, or due to other circumstances, the sales team may not follow-up the leads that have been loaded onto the CRM system. Once again, this causes friction in the sales process.
Do Front-Line Salespeople Have it Easy?
There is no right or wrong when it comes to lead generation. Arguably, lead scoring and lead criteria should dictate and there are lots of solutions for lead nurturing using multiple channels that, hopefully, means that the salespeople receive good quality leads. That is an ideal. However, not every organisation has the luxury of being able to deploy such resources and tactics and, in many smaller companies, the account managers need to take a more proactive approach to managing and nurturing the leads from initial enquiry to proposal.
Does Every Lead Need to be Piping Hot?
Wouldn’t it be great if every lead was hot and at the top end of the scale for value. That just isn’t reality and, especially with higher value target clients and leads, it takes time to bring a lead to fruition. Some are top-of-the-funnel leads and some come further down.
That means a proactive approach is essential. Regular contact is vital and effective lead generation means working hard throughout the life of a lead. The leads can certainly be plugged into whatever marketing automation the company uses. Yet, where the value of sale warrants it, there is usually no substitute for human interaction. This includes identification of client needs, due diligence, proof of concept, and other factors that come into play when closing down a sale. That’s where the real skills of salespeople come into sharper focus.
Are Your Salespeople Lazy?
Undoubtedly, some salespeople want an easy life with hot juicy leads served on a plate. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the real world for most organisations and most sellers. Salespeople need to refine their skills. They need to be able to:
There is no doubt that companies need to deploy this expensive resource wisely. Yet, there is rarely a silver bullet. Marketing can’t just wave a magic wand and produce leads ready to convert and hand them over on a silver platter. It’s a joint effort. That includes not just sales and marketing personnel. This includes senior management since they need to set the tone and clarify individual roles based on the requirements of the business.
In our article on Account-Based Marketing, we discussed that senior management’s patience is needed. If you want to land the big fish, it takes time and you need to be constantly fishing in waters where other fishermen are present since everyone wants the freshest fish. And, you’ll need someone to identify where to fish, and skilled fishermen to land the catch. Laziness and inaccuracy anywhere in the process will lead to everyone going hungry.