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Whether you want to stay in touch, go deeper into RGS or start a conversation, here are three easy ways to take the next step.
Does anyone know the answer to this question? I did a little looking around. Sales Hacker tried to tackle this topic but didn’t publish an actual answer.
HubSpot looks like they think it’s around eight. This article from Selling Energy says seven to 10.
After reading over 20 articles on the topic, one thing is crystal clear — no one knows, or no one is saying.
Let me be very clear. I know that every business and industry is different. The answer depends highly on the size of the sale, the complexity of the purchase and the number of people who have to participate and so on.
However, we did a little research at Square 2 and have some more interesting findings.
First, we broke down the barrier between sales and marketing. It doesn’t matter how many of these touches are from marketing campaigns and how many are from sales efforts.
If the goal is to create a seamless and remarkable experience, each touch point is as important as the next, regardless of who is executing the touch point.
Next, we looked at all touches. These include ads, website page visits, emails, marketing campaign outreach and sales follow-up emails. Each touch contributes to moving a person through their buyer journey, and we wanted to know how many of these touches are needed.
We looked at over 50 different B2B companies that we work with. We’re either running their marketing campaigns or working directly with their sales teams to help them move leads through the sales process.
We tried to keep the type of company consistent, so we stuck with companies that have high ticket averages for their sales, complex sales and a long sales cycle (usually months).
While this wasn’t a formal research study with formal research practices, looking at the data over the past six was extremely informative.
I hope you won’t be shocked to hear that the number of touches is far more than eight, 10 or even 15. The number we typically saw was well over 40 and, in some cases, closer to 50.
This is one reason why generating scalable, repeatable and predictable revenue growth is so challenging. With so many touch points, the failure points are equally high. This means you could blow it at each of these touches if your experience is not tuned, personalized and highly contextual.
Here is a representation of how complicated this is and the type of touches we found in our research.
Most new prospects still come from some type of advertising or marketing-related first touch, so we also started with an ad. In most cases, this is a social ad on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn.
We found that people typically had to see an ad three times before they acted on that ad. This is supported by research published on DMNews.
Once they converted, they ended up on a landing page for their fourth touch. While some people did convert immediately, we found most needed slightly over three additional webpage visits before they converted, taking our total touches to seven.
However, we’re not even close to getting them over to sales, so the journey and our tracking continued. Most people returned and, on average, visited almost five additional pages on that visit.
With all this visiting and clicking, the good news is many of them converted and became known to us instead of just anonymous visitors. This allowed us to continue tracking the touches.
Remember, we’re now up to 12 touches.
Three lead nurturing emails later and another visit to our sales-converting landing page finally moved them into the sales process. That takes us to 16 touches.
Two emails from sales and a link to a calendar secured the much-coveted first meeting, and at the end of that first meeting, we had captured 20 total touches. It’s a good thing that the first meeting produced a qualified prospect, but now consider all the effort just to drive first meetings with unqualified prospects.
This right here is why a lot of demand generation enthusiasts have advocated eliminating gating and letting people serve themselves until they are highly qualified and ready to talk with sales.
This is also where lead scoring could be working in the background, tallying all this touch data into a model that would help the reps know whether this person is at the right level of authority, has the right intent based on their content and website activities, appears to have the needed pain and, based on additional data collection processes, can afford your products or services.
Let’s keep going.
Now that the sales team is in control, I know that there are wild fluctuations around how people sell, what their sales processes look like and the touches associated with those sales processes. Again, this information is for illustrative purposes and to show you how many touches are being executed.
I’m trying to prove a point, not document anyone’s sales process.
After the first meeting, sales has a qualified lead, one they consider a potential opportunity that’s worth pursuing.
Of course, there is a second meeting, one that will help the company better diagnose exactly what’s going on and get all the information needed to put together a solid set of recommendations. It’s probably going to take at least one more email to get this meeting to happen.
Even if they plan the data during the first meeting, there is a reminder email or two for additional people who end up getting invited. There’s also a shared agenda for the meeting. We’re now adding two more emails to the touches prior to our big diagnostic meeting, taking our total to 22.
You could even put a few thank-you emails in there, which could easily include additional content that helps tell your story, educate the prospect and differentiate your company. Each of these touches is highly relevant.
You have your big meeting and, on average, four emails follow as your share information and keep the prospect informed on your progress to put their recommendations or proposal together. We’re now at 27 touches.
At Square 2, we advocate that our clients run a co-creation step in the sales process that gets everyone on the same page. It socializes the investment and the program configuration, and it involves the prospect in creating the final set of detailed recommendations. This usually means another two to four emails and a conversation, so let’s add three more touches to our total, taking it to 30.
But we’re far from done.
Now we have the final “big reveal” on the calendar. Again, a reminder email is sent and a new person is added to the meeting. Hopefully, it’s finally the decision-maker.
The whole set of recommendations — including the investment, timing, team configuration and business outcomes — gets presented. Inevitably, despite our best efforts, there are questions and considerations after that meeting. This leads to an additional three emails on average. With the meeting and the follow-up emails, we clock in at 34 touches.
But we’re not done yet. References must be checked, contracts must be reviewed and, if it goes well, negotiations or at least some requests for changes push our touch point number up over 40 touches.
If everything aligns, you have a new customer, but the number of touches is far more than seven, eight or even 10. In reality, it’s four to five times that.
While I’ll mention it again, this is more for illustrative purposes and to show how complicated it is to get to “yes.” How many places are there where conversations, messages or even follow-ups can go wrong?
This illustration should highlight the importance of identifying all these touch points, trying to make each one remarkable and analyzing them regularly to look for the weak spots or the failure points. This requires tracking each one and using technology to create a process where marketing and sales can scale these touches while still making them highly engaging.
As you get better at this, you’ll have a shorter sales cycle and higher close rate. You’ll need fewer sales reps to grow and be more efficient in your marketing. You don’t need more leads — you need better leads that close faster and more frequently.