Your Prospects Decide How Their Buyer Journey Progresses And When They Want To Talk To Your Sales Team
I love working with CEOs, marketing directors and sales leaders at midsize companies.
You’re aggressive, results-oriented and direct. But you have a blind spot for you own prospects’ buyer journeys, and it’s impacting your ability to create the marketing machine you need to grow your company.
To be more specific, some of you are looking at your leads through a lens that was appropriate in 1990. Back in 1990, I worked for Dun & Bradstreet, and the sales reps ran the company. If someone wasn’t ready to sign a contract that day, the reps weren’t interested in talking to them.
That worked 30 years ago when people had to talk to sales to get their goals accomplished. Their buyer journey required sales for 90% of the process.
Today, it’s completely different. Your prospects don’t need you or your sales team to experience their buyer journey.
In fact, they would prefer to not talk to your sales team.
Around 95% of the leads generated for your business are not ready to talk to your sales team. But that doesn’t mean these leads are bad leads.
That does not mean these leads are tire-kickers, plate-lickers, lookie-loos or any of the other ridiculous names people have created to degrade the quality of the people who have expressed interest in your company.
This does not mean that all Gmail accounts are not to be counted in your lead numbers.
A quick survey of our clients and a handful of active and high-quality prospects uncovered that 94% of them had Gmail accounts and used them when subscribing to marketing information.
This does not mean that people in your database who return to consume your content are in some way not good because you already know them.
What it does mean is that people are executing their own personal buyer journey and they have opted in to include you in that journey.
Regardless of what happened earlier, they’re signaling an interest in your company, your products, your services and your story. What you do with that interest next will make or break your revenue generation efforts.
It also means that if you don’t change your perception of marketing-qualified leads (anyone who provides contact information in exchange for your educational information), you’re destined to be stuck in 1990.
It means you will never digitally transform the way you market and sell your services.
It means you will likely never build a marketing machine to fuel your company’s growth.
Now if you’re open to reconsidering how you value the leads coming into your company, here are a few ways you can ensure you proactively move marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) into sales-qualified leads (SQLs), sales opportunities and more new customers.
Active Nurture Campaigns For ALL Leads
If all leads are good leads, then all leads need to be nurtured.
Here’s good news — this has never been easier. Reps don’t have to be involved. Marketing only has to set this up once and you get data on the performance of all your lead-nurturing campaigns.
Even better, you’ll get to see leads moving through their buyer journey with signals that can also be captured. Visits to your website, emails opened, links clicked and content downloaded all will send you a signal that their buyer journey is progressing.
To help illustrate this, I’ll use a real example from a company we’re talking to right now.
I recently signed up for their newsletter on their website. This should trigger a nurture like I described above, but instead I barely noticed the continuing conversation. The first email ended up in my trash folder.
Why? It came from Customer Care, which confused me. It featured a picture of their team in front of their building, and the call-to-action (CTA) was an Order Product Today button.
If you agree that all leads are in the buyer journey at some point or they never would have given you their email address, then you have to create an active nurture campaign for every new contact that aligns with their buyer journey.
Once you have this set up and running in the background, you’ll never have to worry again about continuing the conversation with people who are actively interested in your products or services.
Let’s go back to my experience and redesign it to be more strategic and nurturing.
I sign up for the newsletter on their website and this series triggers:
Email 1 – Sent immediately, from their CEO. Thank them for signing up to get the newsletter and explain what they can expect. Share a list of stories from customers, a list of blog articles they might like and perhaps a featured product link. Include the frequency of the emails, the content they can expect and access to a preference center where they can customize their experience around frequency of emails and content.
Email 2 – Sent three days later, reminding them of the preference center and highlighting a customer in their industry who ordered from them and had an amazing experience. Include a video of the customer talking and information on the featured product, including a link to order it.
Email 3 – Sent three days later, introducing them to the blog. Remember, they only signed up for the newsletter, which comes out once or twice a month. You want them to sign up for the blog too, because you publish blog articles two or three times a week.
Email 4 – Sent three days later, introducing them to one aspect of the company that is remarkable; in this case, the wide variety of amazing color and design options available to customers. Remember, every email should have a link back to the website, where their experience gets even better.
This strategic email nurture design would continue until the person buys, at which point they would get into a customer nurture, or until they take some additional action that would potentially impact their nurture settings. If they don’t act on the emails after some number of sends, end the nurture and have them settle into the regular email and blog notification sequences.
But regardless of their action, you are strategically continuing to talk with this prospect automatically and in a very one-to-one way.
This is how you take MQLs and turn them into paying customers.
Lead-Scoring Models That Put More Qualified Leads In The Hands Of Reps
Now that we have the nurtures down, let’s talk about when reps get involved, because if you start calling all of your MQLs you’re going to have reps wasting their time talking to people who are not ready to buy. Even worse, you’ll have your entire sales team completely down on the quality of the leads being generated.
The way to deal with this proactively is to set up lead scoring.
A lot of information about lead scoring is available on the web. Here are just a few resources I’d recommend for you:
To give you a basic primer on lead scoring, here’s what you need to know.
As HubSpot explains, “Lead scoring is the process of assigning values, often in the form of numerical 'points,' to each lead you generate for the business. You can score your leads based on multiple attributes, including the professional information they’ve submitted to you and how they’ve engaged with your website and brand across the internet.
“This process helps sales and marketing teams prioritize leads, respond to them appropriately and increase the rate at which those leads become customers.”
Did you catch that? It helps leads become customers. How does lead scoring help leads become customers?
First, it allows the lead to signal you on exactly how serious they are based on their actual behavior. It allows you to apply your persona model and give higher scores to different sets of collected information.
Over time, it allows the prospect’s behavior and information to increase their score as they move through their own buyer journey.
Let me give you an example.
You want to do business with the people who head up operations at big-box retailers, multi-location gyms and large supermarket chains. The titles you want to be talking to include CEO, COO, Director of Operations and Facilities Manager.
The bigger the company, the better. The more locations, the better. Perhaps the expiration date of their current contract is also important. The sooner, the better.
We’d build a lead-scoring model on a scale of 1 to 100 that gives prospects more points for type of business, title, company size, number of locations and the state of their current contract.
Then we’d add to the model more points based on the number of times they’ve been to your website, the number of website pages they visit and they specific pages they visit. Some pages, like a pricing page or contact us page, might earn more points.
We’d give them points for downloading content, and the late-stage buyer journey content earns more points than early-stage buyer journey content. We might give them more points if they engage in chat with us on the website.
The result might look something like this:
Small retailer; Associate Store Manager; $2 million in annual revenue; 20 employees; two locations; currently in the first year of a three-year contract. They’ve been to the website once, visited two pages and converted on one early-stage buyer journey offer. They didn’t visit any key pages or chat with anyone. Their score might be 12.
Larger big-box retailer; VP of Facilities Management; $500 million in annual revenue; 2,000 employees; 100 locations; currently in the final year of a three-year contract. They’ve been to the website five times over the past week, visited 10 pages, spent over 20 minutes on the site and downloaded three content offers, including a late-stage buyer journey piece. They chatted with you twice this week. Their score might be 95.
On top of the scoring, you’ve established an action and follow-up plan based on score:
People under 60 get ongoing lead nurtures.
People 61 to 80 get a different, more aggressive set of lead nurtures and a personal email from a rep.
People 81 and over get a personal email from a rep immediately and a personal phone call from a rep within one hour of the lead getting scored. They also get a personal email from the CEO, with a piece of content that includes tips on making a move to a new firm.
Now reps are only spending time with the leads that are ready to close, and the other equally good leads are also getting the appropriate level of follow-up.
Once the lead scores increase, the new nurtures and follow-up kicks in.
Creative And Innovative Late-Stage Buyer Journey Offers
Want more sales-qualified leads? Then give people a reason to want to talk to you. Contact us, request a quote, schedule a meeting, talk to a rep and even get a demo are horrible late-stage buyer journey offers, and based on 18 years of experience they rarely work well.
One of the best ways to create more sales-ready leads is to create late-stage buyer journey offers that add value for your prospects.
Here are some examples that we’ve used over the years for actual clients as well as a few ideas from conversations with current prospects:
- Schedule your free virtual safety audit. In 60 minutes, you’ll get at least 10 ways to improve safety on your shop floor.
- Want to raise more money for your favorite charity? Schedule a donations improvement session with us. We’ll show you how to raise 10x more with custom-designed ceramic mugs for your organization or group.
- Is your gym ready to reopen? Are your customers going to agree? In 30 minutes, our clean tech experts will assess your current cleaning and sanitization program. You’ll get five improvements or enhancements proven to ensure your customers come back fast.
- Bad actors might already be in your network! In 30 minutes, our cyber security team can assess your network, identify any potential risks and share a mitigation plan with you. Schedule your risk assessment today.
- Does your store’s concrete floor need a facelift? Send us a picture of your floor, and in 30 minutes we’ll give you at least six tips and techniques to improve its look and luster.
Each of these creative and innovative offers would indicate legitimate late-stage buyer journey interest.
All you have to do is train your sales reps to be able to deliver the valued conversation, assessment, review or improvement ideas outlined in the new late-stage buyer journey offer. Most sales reps are already capable of having these conversations, so this is generally a very light lift for people.
Finally, reps would have to attempt to qualify prospects during these calls, and if the calls go well, actively move them into an engaged sales process. This would signal you’ve turned your sales-qualified lead into a sales opportunity.
If you use Pain, Power, Fit, they are talking to or have access to power, have acute pain and are a good fit for your products or services.
If you use BANT, they have budget, authority to purchase, a stated need and want to move in a timely manner.
Now you have a system for getting prospects to move quickly to the end of the buyer journey and engage with reps. Plus, you’re giving reps the tools they need to qualify people as legitimate sales opportunities.
Strategic Sales And Marketing Alignment Around Lead Follow-Up
We’ve been talking about some of the sales-related alignment that needs to be in place to drive effective lead follow-up and turn leads into dollars.
Understanding the rep’s role in delivering the last-stage buyer journey offer is one item. Having solid lead qualification criteria is another, but a big alignment issue that is often missed has to do with the buyer’s experience when working with your sales teams.
If you’re delivering a highly educational experience to prospects before they connect with sales, you can’t have a pushy sales experience once prospects connect with the sales team.
- The sales team needs a defined, documented and managed sales process that every rep follows religiously at all times.
- The sales team has to continue the guided and advisory experience by being armed with an inventory of questions to ask prospects.
- The sales team has to be equipped with content (not available on your website) that helps them answer those questions, and they have to be ready to deliver that content in context to the prospect’s challenges or issues.
- The sales team needs to be adept at knowing how to follow up so they seem helpful and not pushy.
And all of this needs to be informed by data, analytics, dashboards and metrics, so that ongoing iterations to the sales process are done based on facts, not opinions or perceptions.
Very quickly you should be able to see the level of success the reps are having using these tools. Shorter sales cycles, higher close rates, bigger-value deals and more consistent target attainment are the business outcomes you’re looking for from this effort.
Chat And Conversational Marketing To Help People With Acute Pain Go To The Front Of The Line
There is one more way to move people through the buyer journey faster, and that is to remove all of the friction, gates and forms people typically rely on when you’re talking about digital lead generation.
People don’t want to call your office (even if they can’t reach you there because you’re at home). They don’t want to fill out a form and wait for you to get back to them. They want answers quickly, especially if their pain is acute and they need help fast.
The best way to help them is to allow them an easier way to connect with your sales team, and that involves chat plus a conversational marketing initiative.
Chat (or as some people like to refer to it, conversational marketing) is the practice of enabling prospects to have conversations with your company. Conversations that are unencumbered by forms, gates or any impediments.
This means letting people connect with you when and how they want to.
The reason we’re talking about chat in this conversation around getting sales-qualified leads in the hands of the sales reps is because chat significantly accelerates a prospect’s buyer journey.
That’s primarily because it’s a signal driven directly by the prospect, and it’s a signal directly related to how ready they are to speak with one of your reps.
The younger your target prospects, the more likely they will want to chat with your company, want immediate attention and need information now on their timeline as opposed to yours.
Millennials, now defined as being between 26 and 40 years old, want and expect immediate attention. These are not kids anymore. These are highly educated, trained and experienced professionals who have very distinctive buyer journeys. They don’t want to call your office or fill out a form. They have questions, they want answers and they want to chat with you right now.
Chat services on your website offer a number of attributes that accelerate the sales cycle and move MQLs to sales opportunities quickly:
- There are no forms to fill out, just questions and answers
- Links and additional content can be provided in the chat, eliminating the need for the visitor to find stuff on their own
- This content can be served up in context to their challenges
- Reps can be assigned to prospects based on territory or assignments, making chat perfectly aligned to your sales alignment plan
- Your company’s value proposition, differentiation, story and positioning can be delivered by reps via chat, supporting the marketing experience the website delivers
- Important qualification questions can be asked directly, making the reps’ time highly efficient and moving only the highest qualified leads along
- New nurture tracks can be launched for prospects who are not ready to move forward
All of this happens in a matter of minutes. What typically took days or weeks to execute can now be done in one-tenth of the time.
Chat tools like Drift also provide data to inform decisions about how to deploy and optimize the chat software. Visits to conversations, conversations to meetings, conversations to sales opportunities, conversations to new customers and days from first visit to new customer with and without chat — these are all new key performance indicators (KPIs) that inform the decisions and action plans associated with revenue generation.
It’s time to stop the old-school practice of devaluing leads who are at early stages of the sales cycle. Instead, start actively nurturing those people to give them a remarkable experience that positions your company as the only one uniquely capable of helping them.
Once you leave your old sales funnel thinking behind and start looking at your Revenue Cycle, you’ll realize the massive opportunity with people you already have in your contact database, and your revenue generation efforts will grow exponentially.
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