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Is Your Lead Generation System Causing You to Lose Clients?

Much sales literature talks about sales in terms of processes. A key process element is lead screening, or lead qualification. And that process is often described in terms of efficiency.

As one CRM article put it:

“…the process of lead qualification has been codified into the 8-4-2-1 Rule…for every eight leads that pass preliminary qualification, four will lead to sales presentations, which will produce two quotes and finally one sale.

“In other words, the sales funnel narrows sharply even once you’ve done your preliminary qualification. Obviously, considering the increasing cost, the further you move into the process, the better it is to narrow the funnel early on. If you can reduce that 8-4-2-1 to a 4-2-2-1, you’ve saved half the cost of lead handling.”

Think about that. The focus is on how to do sales cheaply, efficiently, and at least cost. This may seem an obvious and good goal until you consider what it leaves out: the impact on the 7 out of 8 who are screened out.

By focusing on sales through the twin lenses of process and efficiency, we run the twin risks of damaging client relationships and of poisoning the marketplace well. And as online social media continue to explode, that risk only increases.

How Lead Qualification Can Hurt Relationships

Imagine somewhere it’s important to make good relationships. Maybe your child is entering a new elementary school. Maybe, if you’re single, you’re entering into the dating world in a new community. If you’ve switched companies, you’re getting acclimated to your new co-workers.

In those cases, we know the importance of treating everyone decently. We have our likes and dislikes, but we don’t let them affect our etiquette. It’s a small community, and we know the value of getting along. And so we behave in polite, decent, ways.

Not so in the world of sales. The screening process drives focus on one question: can I or can I not sell to this person?

If the answer is no, we want to stop wasting time on them. If the answer is yes, we want to move as quickly as possible so as to achieve our end result—the sale.

You may personally believe in relationships and in being nice, but if you walk around with a lead-qualification model in your head, you are subconsciously driven to treat your leads as primarily means to your ends, with some taking more of your precious time than others. This attitude inevitably bleeds through into your interactions.

Lead qualification as it’s usually practiced hurts relationships because it is inherently self-oriented, aimed at the seller not the buyer.

How Lead Qualification Can Poison the Well

When services firms look at the cost of sales, they often begin by focusing on the clients they’ve won and how much it cost to win them. They forget the much-higher cost of not getting all the clients they didn’t get, thus under-estimating cost of sales.

A similar blind spot affects firms looking at their lead qualification process. It’s simple to drop someone from your target list; having dropped them, they are out of sight and out of mind. Your sight, your mind, that is.

But they have memories of you. Did you simply drop them? Did you not return the last call? Did you cancel some meeting or event? Did you give the screened-out client any indication that they had been screened out?

Most firms don’t have any particular approach to screening out prospects; they simply stop doing what they were doing. Yet the same people would never drop a social relationship.

Should your child just begin ignoring a casual new acquaintance at school? If you’re dating, should you simply not call back after a first or second date? At work, do you simply turn your back on new acquaintances?

The reason we do in sales what we wouldn’t in social situations is that we assume closed social settings, but infinite lead streams. It’s just a lead, we rationalize. We’re a tiny firm, and the market is huge. There are always more leads.

But there are not. Leads are finite. Worse yet, many prospects know each other. Word of mouth doesn’t just work among customers and ex-customers, but among leads and ex-leads, too. Your reputation is greatly affected by the way you sell, and part of that is how you treat people you screen out.

The old customer service rule of thumb was that a person would tell four or five others about a good experience, but he would tell several dozen about a bad experience. In an age of YouTube and Twitter, negative stories don’t stop at a dozen—they explode to tens of thousands, and in just a matter of days.

The Only Two Screening Decisions You Have to Make

The lead screening process and underlying mindset can make us treat prospects as if we were examining them under a microscope for incipient dollar signs in our wallets. It drives self-focus and makes objects of our prospects. It dehumanizes both of us, and it pollutes our prospect base at a frightening rate. Lead screening processes done poorly equal self-destructive marketing.

Fortunately there’s a simple answer. There are just two screening decisions you must make:

  1. Are you willing to treat this prospect as a potential client?
  2. When shall you review this decision again?

As long as the answer to question one is yes, just one goal should drive your behavior. That is to determine whether and how you can help a prospect, by talking with them.

  • If you figure out how to help them, and they agree, a sale is the natural result.
  • If you figure out how to help them and they don’t agree, you have failed to communicate; that’s your fault.
  • If you decide you cannot help them, and they agree, you should thank them for the chance to explore together, and leave on good terms.
  • If you decide you cannot help them, and they don’t yet agree, you owe them the decency of an explanation that is satisfying to them.

Screening should not be a solo and self-oriented decision about timing based on what’s in it for you. It should be a consensus-based joint decision about whether to continue the dialogue, based on what’s in it for both of parties.

Done that way, a screen-out is nearly as positive as a sale because it implies a joint decision. Screened-out prospects become good marketing. After all, such joint decision-making is how we develop responsible and mature relationships with others.

This article was first published on RainToday.com

 

The #1 Top Single Best Way to Get a Meeting

iPhotoA free bit of advice to anyone seeking to improve their networking skills, or looking for a true best practice in getting a meeting with someone.

And here it is:

Comment on a blogpost or article that person has written.

Simple. You already intuitively get how that can be powerful, but let’s break it down.

Note: It only works if you’re careful about a couple of items.

First, your comment HAS TO BE SPECIFIC. It has to say something relevant, intelligent and useful about the person’s blogpost or article.

That means you have to know something about who you’re trying to contact. It also means you have to give some thought to what you’re saying.

It also means you probably have to know something about what the person is writing about. Mere fawning and saying ‘great blogpost’ will get you nowhere.  In fact, it will just identify you as a cheap SEO-seeking spammer. 

But – if you actually ARE intentional about whom you’re seeking to connect with, if you actually DO know something about the subject in question, and if your question actually IS intelligent and thoughtful – then you will get a powerful response back.

Why? Because we all love being noticed – and because being noticed and appreciated is something in very short supply. If you doubt the power of this, just ask yourself: 

  • how do you feel when you put yourself out there on the webs – and no one responds?
  • how do you feel when you put yourself out there on the webs – and you get a meaningful, thoughtful, inquisitive response back?

Everyone’s writing blogposts hoping to get noticed; very few people (Chris Brogan is a marvelous exception) put as much effort into noticing and commenting on others as they do into writing in the first place.

Want to connect? Start by commenting on others. For real.

Using Valuable Content to Build Trust Through the Sales Process

Valuable ContentPlease welcome guest-blogger Sonja Jefferson to Trust Matters today. She’s founder of Valuable Content consulting firm, and author of the Valuable Content Marketing book. I have high regard for what she does, and think you’ll enjoy this.

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I’d like to make a distinction. ‘Content’ is the words on the page you are reading. It’s the copy on your website, the blog you posted last night, the videos, images and tweets that you share. When we’re talking about content we just mean words, knowledge and information.

What lifts a piece of content above all the noise is the value it has to the person reading it. The term we use is valuable content’. Valuable content is supercharged content – words, knowledge and information shaped for your particular audience. It is content with a bigger purpose, useful information created for a niche; quality collateral that really hits the mark.

Valuable content is meaningful content and it will help you build trust at every step of the buying process. Here is how I’ve seen it make a difference to consultants and professional advisors along the long road to a sale.

Valuable Content For Every Step of the Sale

Growing awareness: Online or off, the right content will help you be found. Search engines reward valuable content. Just like your prospects, the Google algorithm is getting better and better at recognizing and blocking spam. But if you regularly share useful, relevant content in your blog articles and social media updates you’ll build your reputation and network, and rank as a helpful expert in your niche.

“I was struggling with an issue, and didn’t feel I had the whole picture. I searched on the web and found a really useful article by X. Funnily enough someone in my network had mentioned them favorably recently too.”

Generating interest: They’ve found your website, do they find something relevant and useful when they get there? Most websites and marketing communications are nothing more than self-oriented propaganda. We follow the 80/20 rule of thumb: aim for 80% valuable content and no more than 20% promotion. Pack your website full of engaging content, just for them. The key is to focus on the client and their issues: how-to articles and valuable guides are far more engaging than a brochure.

“That article really got me thinking. It made me curious about the people behind it. I checked out their website and found a veritable library of information on the subject – more articles, some interesting slide sets, a great video.”

Proving your expertise and motivating them to buy: Buyers are more likely to want to work with thought leaders and experts in a given field, and your published content helps you earn that title and builds trust in what you can do. When you’re up against a competitor, valuable content gives you an edge. When clients see your passion and expertise shining through, you gain an added level of credibility.

“The quality of their content, as well as their case studies and testimonials, gave me confidence in their ability and set them apart from their competitors.”

To convert all this good will into action is often a matter of good timing. Not everyone will be ready to buy straight away, so motivate them to keep in contact with you – connecting on social media and a simple email newsletter once a month will keep you front of mind.

Making it real and deepening the connection: Turning the spark of interest into a burning desire to meet means engaging prospects on a deeper level. Online tools like the Trusted Advisor Trust Quotient Assessment are a great way of helping potential clients experience the way you could help them; valuable in their own right. Webinars are another way to let potential clients see you in action. Hearing your voice, seeing you answer questions in real time make the benefits of your services come alive. Put the customer and his challenges at the centre of your world, and show them clearly not just how you help someone like them, but how your insights and experience could directly benefit them, for real.

“Every contact with them is valuable to me. I can see they develop good relationships with clients. They are a good fit for my world.”

Help Your Clients Along The Sales Journey

Marketing with content is more than just a lead generation activity. It’s an invaluable tool right through the process from first touch to long-term relationship.  Help your buyers along their sales journey with valuable content. Provide genuinely useful information at each stage of process – from ‘just looking’ to ‘just about to buy, big time’. Use it wisely and people will get to know, like, and trust you, and remember you when the time comes to buy.

[You’re in the right place if you want an example of best practice. Just look around you on the Trusted Advisor website.  You’ll find content here for every step of the sale, from tweets to articles, to e-books, online tools, webinars, his newsletter and of course Charlie’s books.]