Successful Sales Lead Program
Every business owner knows that the most painstaking marketing plan in the world is not worth the paper it's written on unless it results in actual sales. This report focuses on the key function of any effective marketing program: the ability to generate a steady, predictable stream of qualified sales leads. The information presented here is based on proven performance in the marketplace.
- When leads stop flowing, sales representatives go hungry and your company's profits and cash flow are likely to drop dramatically.
- Helps to ensure that your sales message is constant, of high quality and delivered when and where you desire
- Lets you make sure the same, consistent message is given to a group of prospects
- Allows you to control and influence expectation levels of your prospects, leveraging your highest sales efforts on the highest quality sales opportunities
- The more you know about your best customers, the easier it is to find more customers just like them.
- The best lead generation program starts with the sales force, not with the marketing department.
- How "clean" does the lead need to be when it gets to sales?
- What goes on between the sales rep and the prospect?
- What information is needed to close the sale?
- How do your best sales reps lead the buyer to "yes"?
- What objections come up regularly?
- Be sure you understand the entire sales process.
- Who is responsible for managing and controlling each individual step?
- How can they help or hurt your program?
- What will they do?
- Where will they balk?
- Match your leads to your sales capacity.
- Who will handle the pre-qualifying?
- Will the sales force be able to handle the number of leads this program is expected to produce?
- Have they been trained properly for this particular sales initiative?
- Are they fully aware of everything the leads will have seen and heard before the salesperson contacts them?
- Are lead banking systems in place?
- Establish clear, measurable objectives - and hold programs accountable for them.
- What level of lead qualification do you want to achieve?
- How many leads are required per day, per week, per month?
- What is the total completed sales goal of this program?
- How is this information being tracked and what is the communication method for showing results?
- Strike a balance between quality and quantity.
- Does your team use a drop close (dropping the price as a final closing incentive)? Then a discount offer might be one of your best test ideas.
- Are they getting good results with a take-away close (using a "buy now or miss the opportunity" incentive)? Then an offer built around limited availability might work best.
- Are they using a budget close (stressing the easy affordability of a right-now buying decision)? In that case, a free financing offer might be effective.
- When you are hoping to generate sales leads, remember that the more you tell, the less you sell.
- Keep your target in focus.
- Do you really know who your customers are and what they want?
- If so, are you reaching people who are like them?
- Are your tracking systems in place and functioning so you will know when you hit the right target?
- Are you making decisions based on real information - or are you trying to verify what you're convinced must be true?
It's easy to take this important principle for granted. Yet too many people who are savvy in all other aspects of running a business sometimes overlook this basic tenet. The demands of the business environment continually compete for priority. Developing new products, hiring good people, even writing the marketing plan - all of these can distract top management from what should be high on the list of every company's goals, delivering qualified leads to a motivated sales force.
The cost of making a face-to-face sales call increased more than 300% in one ten-year period, a trend that continues to escalate. This ever increasing cost makes effective lead generation an even more critical factor to success. A good lead generation program is much less expensive on a per call, per contact basis than one-to-one, face-to-face sales calls.
A well-conceived, well-executed lead generation program:
To generate the number and quality of leads your sales organization needs, your program should be carefully thought out, beginning to end.
The best way to identify how you'll find new sales leads that meet your requirements is to fully understand your current customers.
A thorough analysis of your customer base can help you understand the personalities of both the individual buyers and their companies. You can also learn how long the typical buying decision is and plan your lead flow to accommodate a realistic sales cycle. Once you know your current customers, you can create a respondent profile and ultimately a lead that looks similar. Carefully profiled leads should produce a close rate of approximately 20%, an important motivating factor for your sales team.
A comprehensive profile of your customer file is among the most valuable resources available to your business. You'll learn what characteristics they have in common and what distinctions separate them. For example, in business-to-business applications, you may find that business size is not as important as industry segment. You can also determine what kind of communication methods your customers prefer. While it's tempting to assume all people prefer the communication channel that we choose for ourselves, the truth may be completely different. While some like mail, others find telephone more efficient and still others would opt for email. Real estate professionals, for example, often ask to be contacted via fax.
The more information you have about your customers, the better you'll be able to serve the ones you have and find more like them.
The class war between sales and marketing is a business cliché. Unfortunately, there's often truth behind the myth. No effective sales force can be asked to work with a marketing program that doesn't take into effect the needs and preferences of the frontline sales staff.
To create an effective lead generation program, start with a powerful customer profile, then sit down and talk to your best salespeople. Find out how they sell. Learn what obstacles they encounter and how they handle them.
The answers to these questions will tell you a great deal about who the best leads are and where you will find them. You'll also get valuable information that will help you make your lead generation message consistent with your most successful sales messaging.
Every organization has key influencers within the sales process. To design a successful lead generation program you must understand who these people are and what roles they play. A thorough examination of each step in the sale is essential.
Ask yourself these questions:
Keep in mind that a major reason lead generation programs fail is unrealistic assumptions about the behavior of the people who are responsible for managing the system. Joseph Lethert, President of Performak, is quoted by Richard Gibson in the Wall Street Journal, saying:
"[In many companies] sales and marketing aren't working together. No one has responsibility for making sure prospects are converted to customers."
By finding out who controls each step of the sales process, you can go a long way toward making sure Lethert isn't talking about your company.
Assuming you are using the best available data information on which to base your program, the greatest risk to your success in lead generation is in your sales team's ability to follow through. Sales people are by nature optimistic. Ask them how many leads they can handle in a week and they will tell you to "send me as many as possible."
Yet it's a fact that too many leads can kill a sales force.
Sales representatives work better in a drizzle than a thunderstorm. And a hungry sales force will produce a higher close rate. At the same time, having too few leads is a major problem for morale. A safe rule of thumb is to deliver 70% to 80% of what your sales force tells you they can handle. Before your program begins, make sure your sales team is on the ground and ready to close.
Important questions to ask at start-up are:
Marketing statistics indicate that the average company takes 58 days to fulfill requests for information - almost two full months. The same research reports that 89 days (three months) elapse between the time a prospect asks for information and the time a sales representative contacts him or her. No lead generation program can succeed with those enormous response gaps. To avoid them, make sure you don't overwhelm your system with a flood of sales leads it isn't prepared to handle.
Of all the mistakes that cause lead generation programs to fail, the most common is the lack of measurable objectives. Too often, a company' s lead generation program is the result of a sales executive telling a communications manager to do something about getting more leads for the sales force. The project that ensues is usually a reaction to a perceived mandate, with no specific objectives and, therefore, no possible measurement of its success or effectiveness.
The lack of measurable objectives will ultimately cause salespeople, sales management and marketing management to have entirely different expectations of the lead generation program. Without a clear understanding of the goals, it becomes impossible to meet anyone's expectations. The following should be included among the measurable objectives of any lead generation program:
Because most lead programs are created in reaction to a specific sales problem, careful planning is essential. Programs implemented without well thought out objectives are almost certain to fail.
There's no escaping the fact that delivering highly qualified leads to a strongly motivated sales team results in powerful closings. But there' s an unavoidable truth to lead generation: left to their own devices, even the most high-minded sales reps will try to force you to over qualify leads before you get them, hoping for easy sales. So, when you're evaluating quantity against quality, ask yourself this - why would you want to disqualify people from the sales process before they understand what the product or service is about.
Sometimes the most qualified people will not allow themselves to be qualified. Be careful not to over qualify potential customers too soon in the process, particularly with high-cost products or services which have hard-to-understand features and utility. If your prospect doesn't really understand your product or the price-value relationship, you'll have a harder time prequalifying the lead.
To generate more highly qualified leads, your lead generation program needs to stress the offer, not the product. That means you need to match your offer to your sales representatives' most successful techniques.
Lead generation copy program should focus on one thing - getting a lead, not on closing the sale. When you say too much in your program communications, you often create reasons not to respond. The goal at each step of a multi-step sale is to get to the next step. Trying to skip a step will break the sales chain and can scare away qualified buyers.
Tease prospects into wanting to know more. Be strong on emotional benefits, leaving the rational features and advantages to the sales force.
And remember, the lead generation program isn't a marketing plan in disguise. Avoid putting all the year's major marketing objectives in every piece of marketing communications. Doing so will doom your chances of creating a successful lead generation program.
Before your lead generation project is implemented be sure to check it carefully. How much are you telling - make sure it's not too much. And your marketing plan? Keep it in the boardroom and out of your lead generation program materials.
When a lead generation program fails, it is tempting to change its emphasis to try to appeal to "everybody." Instead, the effort loses focus and the program can wind up appealing to nobody. Remember that your initial customer analysis is the cornerstone on which you will build future sales success. If a lead generation falls short of expectation, go back to your original data research.
If your effort misses the target, tighten your focus, don't broaden it.
A successful lead program can reduce the cost of selling by making your sales force more effective. The lead program has to work as a tool for your sales force. It should not be perceived by your sales team as an alternative to their efforts, but as a valuable asset which can increase their success. Nothing will destroy the effectiveness of the project faster than a sales force who believes you're trying to replace them with a lead generation program. Work with your sales organization to create a lead program that benefits everyone.
In order to measure the effectiveness of the lead program, you must have feedback. Because salespeople have a variety of responsibilities, their highest priority is not likely to be giving you the information you need on the quality of the leads your program generates. Be sure to design a lead tracking and management system to control the distribution and report of leads. For best results, consider positive actions, such as a contest for the most leads followed up, to encourage support from the sales staff. And make sure you publicize sales successes which originate from the lead program. Nothing motivates a sales team more than sales success.