As we take a look at the end of the year industry reports coming out that discuss the main B2B sales and marketing challenges going into 2014, we see the consensus of B2B marketers is that “getting more leads” is their number one challenge.
If your goal is to increase sales revenue, it is rational to want more leads; more leads equals more prospects, which equals more conversions and therefore more deals. However, as a B2B integrated sales and marketing outsourcing company who has run hundreds of sales and marketing campaigns for dozens of clients, we have seen a different approach to be much more effective.
From our perspective, the reason many B2B companies are constantly crying for more leads is that they are not effectively working the ones they already have. Consider these statistics:
- 5% of your market is ready to buy at any given time (Selling Power Magazine)
- 80% of leads are passed to sales before they are ready to engage (Marketing Sherpa)
- 70% of mishandled leads buy from a competitor (Forrester)
So, here is what is happening: A company gets a lead, and marketing sees a general level of interest. The marketing team then passes the lead on to sales before anyone takes the time to fully understand where the prospect is at in his or her buying cycle. Sales then determines that the lead is not interested or not ready to buy, and the lead is essentially thrown in the trash (or given to your competitor).
This is another example of the traditional sales model lingering in the digital space. The old way of selling said to ‘sell hard and fast upfront’ and keep pushing to the close. The problem is that this sales model does not work anymore. Not only that, but if you try to use this technique on buyers today, they will run. Fast.
Buyers are now in control of the sales cycle—they get to choose what marketing content to view and when to view it, when to engage with sales and when to buy. If you get in your buyer’s way while they are doing this with pushy sales messages or phone calls, you will come off as annoying or worse, threatening.
Rather than a traditional sales approach to lead generation, B2B companies need to engage in lead nurturing and sales pipeline management in 2014.
Lead nurturing addresses the problem of only 5% of your market being ready to buy at any given time. B2B lead nurturing generally consists of sending out early-stage educational content that is non-threatening and helps your prospects move through their own discovery and education around your product/service. When your prospect is finally ready to buy, he will be so grateful to for genuinely educating him that he will call up your sales rep and make a purchase.
Sales pipeline management is a way of managing lead generation, conversion and nurturing. By tracking your prospects activity across all marketing and sales tactics (content marketing, email campaigns, website activity, social media, etc.), you get a better understanding of where each prospect is in his or her buying cycle.
For example, if a prospect is only clicking in early-stage, educational blogs, you know they are not ready to buy. If a prospect is instead clicking on customer testimonials and pricing pages, you know it is time for a sales rep to pick up the phone.
By using digital strategies like lead nurturing and sales pipeline management, you ensure that you are not throwing away leads to early. To implement these strategies, you simply need to map out your sales process and create marketing content to fit each stage of your buyers’ buying cycle, then push the content at the appropriate time (using your marketing automation solution), track engagement and finally, bring in the closer when buying signals have been shown.
If this seems complicated or overwhelming, here are several resources to help you get started:
- The #1 Mistake Salesmen Make
- B2B Buying Cycles – Don’t Serve Dessert for Breakfast!
- Marketing Automation Implementation Checklist
- Core Competencies Required for Highly Qualified B2B Lead & Demand Generation