The hunt for the coveted “A” lead. It can be dangerous. It can fracture an organization, even bankrupt it. It can misalign sales and marketing. It can leave a marketing team bruised and battered, and without confidence. And it can leave a sales team endlessly disappointed.
Even worse, it can leave money on the table, and good, healthy prospects feeling left out in the cold.
So why are we so enamored with the “A” lead? And what can we do to change our preconceived beliefs about its importance in the sales process?
Well, the truth is that we’re being forced to change because the tables have turned. Rather than being the “hunters”, good reps with good solutions are now the “hunted.” And while we’ve lost much control of the sales cycle, the opportunities are getting better, more abundant, and more ready for the taking.
But how do we prepare? And how do we take back some of that control?
Let’s forget about the buzzwords such as “marketing automation”, “lead nurturing”, “inbound marketing,” and “BANT,” and focus on what’s really happening. Prospects (or buyers) have turned into researchers with an endless thirst for information. They’re finding out what they want, and sometimes even who they want it from, mostly by trusting their vast network of peers (who are often complete strangers). They’re reading, watching videos, looking at infographics, socializing. They want to be educated. They want to be in control. And boy, are they.
By now, we’ve all seen the stats from analyst groups like Sirius Decisions and the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), who are saying today’s prospects are actually 60%-70% through the sales cycle before they even WANT to engage with a sales rep. They’re qualifying themselves! They’re coming in smarter. And then they’re qualifying us.
And so many have no idea what to do! How do we become the “A” solution provider they are hunting for when we haven’t even talked to them yet?
- We take back control by feeding their need and giving them more of what they want: content and value.
- We align sales and marketing to redefine and agree on what the “A” lead truly is and how we treat it.
- We redefine some of the processes that determine how we look for and develop relationships with prospects and treat them as more than just the first few letters of the alphabet…or even worse, the dreaded “not interested.”
- We focus on getting more “at bats,” not just waiting for the perfect pitch. And taking those opportunities to challenge and educate potential customers, not just pitch and price.
And by doing so, we take back some of that control, get prospects engaged earlier and eliminate some of the competition. Take, for example, a reseller who set a goal in 2013 to become a leader in the education vertical. Rather than resort back to their age-old tactics of acquiring lists and bombarding them with emails, landing pages and cold calls, the decided to take a new approach focused on “educating the educators.” Starting with a 12-month editorial calendar full of 1-2 minute videos and podcasts, solutions briefs, clients success stories, blog articles and social media content, and live speaking engagements, they began filling their website and affiliate networks with relevant, valuable content. Then they speckled-in a combination of high-level and non-intrusive market research, emails, personalized letters and appointment setting.
The result? A 400% increase in inbound leads, 57% jump in revenue within the vertical, and a return on their campaign investment of over 600%. Yes – those numbers are real.
But it can only happen by being the thought leader in your industry and being engaged and visible. By being “allbound” with our content – not just inbound or outbound. By using social media to actually listen and react rather than just blab about ourselves. And by turning our marketers into educators and enablers and our reps into challengers who truly understand needs and value, not products and PowerPoint. This in turn makes your sales reps the “A” lead that has the perfect solution for the perfect customer.
Let’s face it – high tech sales and marketing has forever changed. Isn’t it nice to feel wanted?
Scott Salkin is the Founder and CEO of Allbound.
This article was originally published in the March 2014 issue of ChannelProSMB Magazine.