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Justin Gray

The Shrinking Sales Process & The Growing Need for Demand

Justin Gray / December 14, 2010 / 0 Comments

The revolutionary changes in the buying process mean that the sales process seems to be getting smaller while the marketing cycle is growing. How do we then stay engaged and determine when the time is right to strike?

We need to get involved early – when the buying process begins – by providing educational content that creates a positive image in the buyer’s mind. It also means we have to stay in touch with potential buyers regardless of their timeframe to buy. And we need to clearly identify when a company is ready to buy, so we get involved with the right decision makers at the right time. This new approach is Demand Generation and email is the driving force in nurturing leads from realization to revenue.

Imagine your marketplace is like a bunch of water pots. Your marketing people are the heat who nurture and cause the water to boil. When the water gets hot enough, it boils and bubbles start to reach the top. Some pots are different sized and filled with different liquid so they boil at different rates.

It used to be that most of these boiling pots were caused by sales. They found the container, applied the heat and got the pot boiling and reveled in the success. Until something strange happened. The liquid in the pots started getting thicker and thicker and harder to manage, soon the same amount of heat wasn’t causing the pots to boil. In fact, there’s an old saying that applies to this.

A funny thing happened that mirrors this pot analogy to the tee. Just as the liquid in the example changed, so did buyer preferences. Buyers in the Business-to-Business (B2B) space have changed in the way they buy, act and expect to be engaged. This is due in no small part to how they consume in their personal lives. We can go online, research the perfect shoe, read reviews, see which of our role models wear the brand and so on. Why then would we change when going to work? We don’t look in the phonebook for shoes so why would we look at a static buyers guide or brochure for software? The short answer is, we wouldn’t.

So we know that we need to engage a buyer, that’s become a buzzword. We have to start the heat at a tolerable level, build it slowly and when the water starts to bubble, take the right action. The problem seems to be that most companies don’t really know what type of liquid is in the pot or how quickly to apply the heat. Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that we apply heat pretty evenly in some scenarios, but then forget to turn the oven on in others. This often has to do with crazy things, like money. Meaning the more we spend on reaching the buyer, the more likely we are to turn up the heat. Why does the pot care how much we spent on the stove? It doesn’t. It just feels the heat and reacts accordingly.

Here’s the big statistic we are all waiting for…

Up-to 80% of marketing expenditures on lead generation and collateral go to waste for lack of commitment and discipline.

How can we, with any degree of certainty, know when a liquid will boil if we don’t keep the experiment constant? We have to identify which liquids we work with most often and then start treating them in consistent manners. If we want to measure results accurately. After all, it could turn out that the high end stove boils water even more slowly than the model that costs considerably less. This process, of standardizing our heating process by marketers, is called lead nurturing.

Lead nurturing is all about creating a bi-directional conversation (interaction) with the buyer. It’s about building trusted relationships with our buyer. It’s also about building value in our consistency and our knowledge of their needs. Are we responding with messaging that is relevant based on their last interaction? Or are we turning off the stove and trying to start over every day?

Most B2B buyers know that there are a myriad of solution providers out there that will get the job done. It’s the provider that connects with them on a trust level that gets the opportunity to earn their business. A recent study of B2B buyers shows that sales people who become trusted advisors and understand the needs of economic buyers are 69% more likely to come away with a sale.

  • Your prospect must be familiar with you and your company and with what you and your company do.
  • Your prospect must perceive you and your company to be expert in your field.
  • Your prospect must believe that you and your company understand his or her specific issues and can solve them.
  • Your prospect likes you and your company enough to want to work with you.

Trust therefore becomes the theme for a new type of marketing – Conversational Based Marketing.

Bubbles indicate trust.

After applying some slight heat, most pots will start to develop a few bubbles around the base. This is the interest we have been trying to generate. The next touches are crucial, if we turn up the heat rapidly, the pot may bubble over. If we remove the heat, we loose the interest. It’s how we gradually apply the heat based on the bubbles we see that allows us to build buyer trust. This balance, we term the conversation. We want to track what increase buyer movements. Are they attending webinars? Are they viewing content online? Are they opening emails? Are we interacting with them through other channels like tradeshows? Do they use a partner company of ours? All of this information allows us to tailor the next marketing interaction and guides the conversation in a more interesting direction. Ever notice how when making small talk you tend to poke around until you find a common topic and then dive in once you do? Same with marketing, but because we allow the buyer to determine the conversation topics we always know where to pursue interest. Looking at out pricing page 4 times in a week – how about an ROI case study in your inbox as a follow up? Not many marketers are that savvy yet, but with the right tools they can get there!

What’s it worth to you?

Many companies who have in the past been ‘sales’ organizations are beginning to embrace the concepts behind this trend. Few however have a cohesive strategy to back the initiative – yet.

Startling, as it may seem, research shows that longer-term leads (future opportunities), often ignored by salespeople, represent 77% of potential sales.

Over 50% of inquiries need follow up that extends beyond 30 days. That’s a lot of time for your sales staff to spend simply following up with information. Why not bring that task back into the marketing department, let them control the dials and knobs on the stove and re-pass the truly qualified prospect back to sales when the interest AND the trust have reached the buying point. Sales can then handle the personal areas of true sales, price.

An effective plan to extend marketing might look like:

  • Day 1 Webinar invite: Industry Topic
  • Day 28 Thank You for Your Attendance email
  • Day 42 Email recent customer success story using strategy covered in webinar
  • Day 60 Email link to Demo based on navigated steps on the website
  • Day 80 Email recent Podcast based on webinar topic follow up
  • Day 100 Email Whitepaper Download link for webinar topic ROI
  • Day 120 Offer to stop by booth at upcoming show
  • Day 140 Click though from Banner Ad based on Free Report
  • Day 141 Prospect Reaches Qualification Point based on behavior: Qualified Lead

A Watched Pot Does Boil.

Lead Nurturing works. Our clients see a lift in nurtured marketing driven deals anywhere between 30 – 200%. The average time to close these prospects is 160 days on average, but because we have shifted the buyer back into the marketing cycle we see a decrease of over $60 per lead, that’s 40% with our client average of $150.oo burdened cost per lead.Those are big results and we’re seeing them in less than six months after implementing a well rounds lead nurturing program that is driven by a solid process. The other area where we see our clients actually cutting costs is in relation to those expensive stoves they were using to heat the pot. Tradeshow expenses, print-based advertising and untargeted SEM are easy to determine true ROI in relation to once you develop a true nurturing plan that tracks point of conversion. At the end of the day, more and more bubbles are emerging and our clients are formulating a strategy to know exactly when that boiling point will take place. Determining when the boiling point will occur is very scientific, and requires an understanding of human behavior, It is not child’s play. Just like when we were kids it is important to remember that, stoves are hot, and should be handled only by mature professionals.


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