“Listen” to what they “do” instead of what they “say”

Fastest or Safest?

I am working with an airplane sales company that is faced with this challenge.  They sell the fastest single engine airplanes in world and the safest single engine planes in the world – both undisputable claims. 

PlaneThere is also a huge price difference.  However since airplanes are not “essentials” (unless you have the aviation addiction which is why we become pilots), price is not really the ultimate issue – kind of like the saying “if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it”. 

The aircraft salesman I am working with is one of the best salesmen I have ever met. One of his key challenges is to know where his prospect is really leaning so he can reinforce their buying criteria rather than causing confusion in their decision or dissatisfaction with the product that best meets their needs (as they understand them) – either way, the “cash register” does not ring.

To clarify this sales “challenge”, let me give another example.  Harley Davidson sells performance bikes (like the V Rod), “bar bikes” (like the Fat Boy), and heavy, long range touring bikes (like the Ultraglide).  The Harley sales rep has to be very quick in his assessment of his walk-in prospects if he is going to make a sale – the buyer of any one of these bikes is not very interested in the other options – as different as swimming, tennis, and golf are – and yet all three are -sports.

So what am I recommending to help the airplane salesman establish his prospect’s interest, i.e. score and track their behavior so that he knows how to pitch his prospects to a successful sales outcome?

My first recommendation is to make minor changes to the seller’s website. The goal is to display links to “more” information so that the prospect’s digital fingerprints tell us how to effectively sell them based upon their specific interests. 

1. The main pages will establish the clear choice with unambiguous questions like:

– Are your typical flights more than 300 miles and thus speed is a critical criteria?

– Are you a beginning pilot who needs a forgiving airplane (safety)?

– Are you an experienced pilot (maybe even a twin engine pilot) who now wants to fly a single engine for the simplicity and lower operating costs but wants the “safety” they have become accustomed to in the twins?

Obviously, these questions will be more subtle, but clicking on one of the questions, branches you down a path of more questions that will further support your criteria or branch you back to the other option.

2. The airplane broker (and the Harley dealer for that matter) can also use their used product inventory to further “let the prospect speak with their mouse clicks” on their true interest. Both of these products attract many people with “champagne tastes and beer income”. If you track the products they are looking at, you can quickly apply scoring rules that will accurately tell you which prospects have the MAN (MONEY, AUTHORITY, AND NEED) to buy your product from those who just want a demo ride (very expensive in both time and hard dollars). Maybe even more importantly, the sales efforts will start with pitching the products and price points that the prospects think are the most important.

My second recommendation is to establish a regular lead nurturing program that sends “interest specific” (tailored to their interests as indicated by their digital behavior) follow on information so that when the prospect is ready to make a decision, the company will be “First in Mind”.

Does tracking the digital behavior of your prospects on your website give your sales reps a competitive advantage?

Lead Nurturing…the New Wave of the Future

WaveYesterday, I was reading Aberdeen’s new industry analyst report, which discusses the best practices of lead nurturing by exploring the tactics and strategies of top performing organizations. I found it quite interesting that 56% of all respondents surveyed indicated that they lack a formal lead nurturing process.

With 80% of sales closing after the 5th contact, can marketing and sales really afford not to nurture all leads? I think not. It’s time to wise up and realize the importance of lead nurturing and the impact it can have on your organization. By implementing a lead nurturing process, marketing departments can significantly reduce their lead generation budgets and in return maximize their efforts on lead quality instead of lead quantity.

With today’s economic conditions spiraling downward across the globe many organizations are being forced to cut costs and focus on maximizing marketing and sales effectiveness. We can no longer afford to waste money on generating qualified leads to only have them fall through the cracks. So not only is lead nurturing the new Wave of the future, but it is a powerful way that all organizations can help to maximize their lead generation efforts once and for all – finally!

If you’re interested in learning more, download a complimentary copy of Aberdeen’s Lead Nurturing: The Secret to Successful Lead Generation report.

Fifteen years ago, it was okay if you didn’t know who was visiting your website.

Dogs On the InternetBack then, the sales cycle and the buy cycle began at the same time because your sales rep was the broker of your product information. However, today, the buy cycle begins long before the sales cycle with over 80% of all B2B purchases initiated via web search.

As a lead article in the Harvard Business Review points out, the sales cycle is forever changed. In today’s highly competitive “flat world,” you can’t afford not to know who is visiting your website.

Getting prospects to your website is activity – closing business with these individuals is an accomplishment. Without tracking your prospects’ digital fingerprints on your website, you won’t be able to score them properly, and if you can’t score your prospects then you won’t be able to separate the dogs (those who will never buy your products) from the suspects (the people who want to buy your products).

In a recent study by CSO Insights, an industry analyst research firm, found in its 2008 Lead Life Cycle Optimization analysis that there is still a major disconnect between sales and marketing. Sales executives were asked to assess the quality and quantity of the leads they receive from marketing and 51% reported that marketing “needs improvement.” The analysis also revealed that companies who are not implementing a lead management system within their organization could find themselves at a serious competitive disadvantage. With today’s economic downturn, can you really afford not to score and manage your incoming leads for sales?

If you immediately turn over all of your web suspects to your sales organization without having a lead management system in place, you could decrease your revenue per sales rep because you are forcing your sales team to chase the dogs that haven’t hit a certain interest level threshold. This is frustrating to your sales reps and annoying to your prospects. By utilizing a lead management system, you can automatically find the “hot” leads based on your definition (whitepaper downloads, product demos viewed, etc.) and send those leads to your CRM system or sales team. By implementing a lead management system within your organization, you will be able to gain a deeper understanding of how lead scoring can increase your marketing ROI while maximizing your sales resources.

Say No to the Status Quo

Status QuoOver the past several weeks I’ve had some interesting conversations with marketers and it seems to me that some company’s allow status quo to outweigh ROI – why is that?  Most of my discussions have been with marketers that are seeing the value in lead management – especially from a behavior tracking and lead nurturing perspective. But what’s very odd is their ability to redistribute marketing dollars to support a nurturing program. The money is stuck in existing campaigns that the company has executed for years.  What I’m seeing is that certain management would rather stick their head in the sand or do what our competitors do, just because it’s always done that way. Versus those that are analyzing the ROI of marketing expenditures and continuing to readjust as necessary.  In these economic times one would think that there is no money left for that tradeshow “we just have to do”, or that print ad that produces very little but “it’s what we’ve done for years.”  Granted some marketing line items are harder to equate a direct ROI – such as collateral and branding elements, but there should be some way of measuring effectiveness.  And if you are truly going to increase the ratio of marketing dollars spent to sales revenue generated, then the status quo has proven not to work.  If people continued to buy the way they used to before the Internet became so pervasive, this wouldn’t be as big of an issue. However, that has all changed and the number of leads coming to your website to buy from you today is small.  According to statistics, most will buy from someone over the next 24 months.  Most are not buying from you or anyone else today. So, if your lead generation dollars are driving leads to your website or landing page and you are not nurturing, you are wasting money.  There are plenty of statistics out there to drive a business case. Don’t allow the status quo to rob your marketing budget and lead you to fail.

To Email or not to Email? That is The Question.

confused-faceWell, here we are; 1.5 years away from the first decade of the new millennium.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s dominated the world during this decade.  Of course it’s none other than our BFF, the http://www.  Dare I get specific?  Okay, you asked for it….email.  There, I said it.  Email.  It’s the one thing that makes us cringe and smile simultaneously.  Many (like myself) can’t imagine life without it.  However, most baby boomers are just now getting used to it, and some wish they didn’t have it.  Needless to say, hate it or love it; email is here to stay.

Why hate it?  One word:  spam.  We often find ourselves spending time setting junk filters, blocking email addresses, or hitting the delete button that it truly becomes quite agitating.  We also hate it because our “friends” inundate us with useless forwards; some, even threatening, “Send to your friends OR ELSE.”  (Yikes!)  Yet, we still email.  Why?  Because it’s the best way to communicate since Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.  It’s quick, simple, universal, searchable, manageable and FREE.

If you’ve got a message that you want to get out without incurring various costs of print, send it in an email.  Though it isn’t a science, it is in fact measurable.  With email, you can tell who actually read your message, whereas in print, it takes a bit more digging.  I could go on forever, but the overall factor is that there are far better variables of email that outweigh any spam or evil forward any day.  It’s as simple as that.

So, to email or not to email? I’m sure you know the answer.

How Marketers Can Turn An Economic Downturn Into An Upturn

money-ideaRecently, I read an article published by MarketingSherpa that stressed how lead scoring and nurturing are the best tools that marketing can use in finding qualified prospects during an economic downturn, and I couldn’t agree more. 

When talking to marketers I can’t stress enough how “quality is always better than quantity” when passing leads over to sales. It’s key when targeting qualified leads that your marketing campaigns always start with the “who?”- who will you target, who has a need for your product or service? No one can optimize lead generation without specifically defining the right audience to approach. Targeting can encompass many dimensions: industry, geography, company size, job title, etc. When I speak to prospects about email marketing, or lead optimization in general, much of the discussion focuses on understanding what comprises their very best prospect profile.

Paul Dunay, Global Director of Integrated Marketing, at BearingPoint and a LeadLife customer, stated in the article that he works closely with the sales team when identifying target companies in order to produce “quality leads” based on company name, size, and expected revenue generated from a sale. BearingPoint has found that by implementing a lead scoring and nurturing system within their organization that they have been able to increased their qualified leads by 78%, and decreased their buy cycle time from months to weeks.

For more information on the best tools that marketers can use during an economic downturn, click here.

What Makes For A “Good” Lead?

A common question amongst marketers is, “When do I know that a lead is a “good” lead? And what criteria should I be looking for?” 

A good lead is one that has shown an interest in buying or at least an interest to start the buying process. When is an inquiry no longer just looking and researching, but ready to buy?  A “sales ready” lead or good lead is one that meets certain criteria as defined by your company as well as has shown interest in what you are saying and what you are selling? How does a lead show interest? They respond to your nurturing emails of interest by clicking on the links. They continue to come back to your site or download your materials. They start to show interactions with your company over a condensed time frame.  You see they come back repeatedly or click on the 4 nurturing emails you sent out during the month.  Of course, by utilizing a lead scoring system, these interactions will “bubble” the good lead up to the top and when it hits the threshold, it will then be passed to sales.