Stefan Boyle, Leads

Would You Prefer 100 Cold Leads or 10 HOT Leads?

I always say this to our prospects and clients…

Leads do not pay the bills…

CLOSED DEALS pay the bills!!

Closed deals are the crucial element and obviously that’s where you make the money!

To close deals, you need pipeline and to fill your pipeline you need actual OPPORTUNITIES!

So opportunities come from having leads…

But this is where the problem often is!

I am full of ongoing frustration with lead generation and how there is a multitude of service providers who basically deem data to be leads!

In recent years it has become apparent that different aspects of the sales process require different skillsets.

Experienced, skilled and let’s face it, expensive sales people should be focussed on their highest value tasks…

Closing deals and Growing Sales from Current Clients!

Depending on the size of the organisation and the resources available will determine how much time a sales person spends on other aspects of the sales funnel such as prospecting and account management and development.

It is more and more common to either have specialist internal business development or sales enablement teams to focus on the top of the funnel.

Equally common is to outsource this function to specialist agencies who have particular skillset and services to find “leads” for sales people to follow up.

So HERE is my beef!!


If you have invested in either of these options, it’s vital that they deliver sales people with real, tangible value, so they are eager to pick up and run with these “leads”.

But…

It is increasingly common for “leads” to be just mainly names and emails and perhaps some other data and companies talk about providing high volume of these “leads” to potential clients.

No sales person wants to go on a wild goose chase!!

Simply put, there is often almost ZERO RELATIONSHIP with these people and in fact, they are just lists of data in a spreadsheet!

I bet at some time or another you’ve downloaded a white paper, report or some form of marketing collateral, right?

And as many organisations have done, there is an automated follow up email sequence, which can be effective to a small percentage, but that leads a large percentage, in fact the vast majority, where the download has been instantly forgotten and the emails have gone into junk!

This means the recipient is now “marketing data”.

You have probably unsubscribed from more databases than you are currently on.

But I would bet my bottom dollar than a data company is selling your name and email as valid data to someone!

63% of people requesting information aren’t generally ready to purchase for another 3 months and 20% will take more than 12 months to buy.

But within a few days of opting in to a marketing list they have pretty much forgotten about it, as well as the company who is marketing their products and services!

In my business, Marketing Republic, we have on many occasions had a client provide us with supposedly “warm data” for us to follow up, after they have used a company who specialise in “white paper lead generation” type activities or run a campaign themselves!

Almost without exception, in our experience, this data has been pretty much worthless.

When we have followed up and contacted these people, in the extremely low percentage of times we have actually made contact, they have never developed further.

In fact, they have no real recollection of downloading a white paper or other form of collateral!

So, let’s think about the sales person again…

Is it worth their time following up a prospect who is extremely hard to make contact with and once they have, it really is a COLD CALL?!

They also have to spend a lot of time qualifying a “lead” to make sure it’s worth their time to continue following them up.

There are different stages of qualified leads and these can be established using what is a well-known process, commonly called the BANT approach:

·      Budget: does the prospect have enough money to buy your products?

·      Authority: can the prospect make the purchase decision, or do they answer to someone else?

·      Need: do they in fact have a need that the product or service will fill?

·      Timescale: is there a specific time period in mind where they intend on making a purchase?

This is best used as a guide and does not have to be exact in terms of the information you provide as there is all kinds of valuable information you can learn by developing a relationship with a key decision maker or even a referrer in a business.

Going back to high value tasks, one of the best skills of top salespeople is time management. 

A very large hurdle against time management is that lead qualification process.

Sales people want HOT opportunities!

Let me go back to when I started out in sales when I was learning the ropes in my Dad’s printing business…

This was about 200 years ago before the internet…

Yup…

I am THAT old 😉

We had to either buy a list of people and that least had probably been sold to as many people as possible, so it was “well used”!!!

Oops…

That practice from some data providers is possibly still going on but I couldn’t possibly comment!

Having literally bought millions of data in our direct mail operation I can tell you my experience of data is not the best experience of my life!!!

Or…

We used something like the yellow pages.

And we went in COLD!!!!!

Picking up the phone and dialling….

Dialling..

DIALLING!!!!

All day, like a LUNATIC!!!

So yes I have been told to “go forth and multiply” many a time by prospects who didn’t want to be pitched!!

I also had some great success and built some great relationships with brilliant clients.

But boy was it difficult!!

Proper slog!


Relentless persistence and tenacity needed by the bucket load!!!

But a great training.

Here’s the thing though.

I wouldn’t want to do it again.

Not nowadays with gatekeepers, automated answering services designed to stop “time wasting” sales people from calling!!!

As I’ve mentioned (and you are probably well aware), the prospecting process is labour intensive and can be soul destroying if it’s something you or your sales people just don’t enjoy, but also, is it really the best use of your time?

If building pipeline is a specific activity in your business (which it should be!), with dedicated time and resource focussed on continual prospecting then the next issue is how does that person or team go about it?

At Marketing Republic, we have experienced many occasions of clients having previously made serious investment in both time and money (though the former always equals the latter eventually!), without any real success.

This could be down to a whole number of issues including the proposition, targeting, clarity of USP’s, understanding of the needs and wants of the marketplace or even just the process which nowadays, with strong gatekeepers keeping cold callers away, could be a problem as cold calling as I’ve said is massively labour intensive!

We have also competed with internal teams and actually replaced them sometimes, as the route of buying data, email and cold calling can be a damp squib very quickly without understanding the necessary steps.

The same applies to the approach of social selling but back to that in a second…

If you are building a list of leads that are names and email addresses, it really is top of the sales funnel and are a sales team going to add much real value to that?

Probably not!

It’s where I see a lot of churn and telemarketers are deemed as failures at a bloody tough job and get kicked out and the next cannon fodder comes in to keep the process going!


Of course, marketing departments keep maintaining efforts to build marketing qualified leads (MQL’s) but again, if there is no real relationship with these people, your sales team will very quickly deem them worthless and just ignore the lists of new MQL’s being handed to them and just do their own thing!

So, what is the answer?

We have endless resources at our fingertips nowadays.

Social media has made the task of research so much more effective and so much information is at hand.

But HOW you use that information is still crucial.

Not knowing how to use it means it’s very easy to fail at it!

“LinkedIn doesn’t work in my industry”

“I tried social selling for a couple of weeks, but it didn’t work so I stopped”

“Social selling doesn’t work as it’s all about posting content and I don’t know what to write about”

These are just a few of examples of countless objections to using social selling that I have heard in recent years.

But almost any sales process fails to works if you just dabble at it!

If you set up Facebook ads or Google ads and let them run for a couple of weeks, unless you are very experienced in what really works for a specific proposition and have an amazing sales funnel, the chances are you will burn through cash and not generate any interest!

That doesn’t mean those platforms don’t work!

In all of the tactics I have seen (and tried) for generating genuine business opportunities, none has been more effective than social selling on LinkedIn (for B2B businesses).

Whether you are a salesperson, a B2B business owner or entrepreneur, a marketer or offer a professional service, I can guarantee that you will see more results (i.e. actual sales revenue, not just a tonne of worthless leads!) following the steps in a proven social selling process.

But before I can go into any detail about the steps involved in doing this, I want to make sure that you understand what social selling actually is.

Social Selling = Relationship Building

Relationships are the most vital element of ALL businesses that sell B2B. 

Here are some statistics that LinkedIn clarify as to why B2B buyers engage with sales professionals through social selling:

·       92% of buyers engage if the professional is a known industry thought leader. 

·       88% of buyers accept connections through someone in their existing professional network. 

·       86% of buyers will listen if sales professionals provide insights about their business. 

·       46% of buyers will engage in the professionals has a complete LinkedIn profile.

Social selling refers to using social media platforms and other digital tools and processes to research, build lists of target ideal prospects and then connect with those people, building a relationship and eventually increasing your conversion rates and sales. 

Social selling comes down to building relationships with targeted prospects on platforms such as LinkedIn as that is the primary platform for B2B businesses.

So what do you have to do to make this work?

Well there is a process and crucial steps to that need to be adhered to.

The first key elements to build a strong sales pipeline using a social selling process are:-

·     Really understanding your Ideal Customer Profile

·     Understanding the key business issues your proposition solves

·     Positioning yourself and your business as the “go-to” authority in your sector

·     Consistently sharing content that underpins your authority

·     Being relentless and consistent

So where do you start?

Firstly, ensure you complete these crucial steps

1. Have a complete and professional LinkedIn profile

Your profile is your initial impression so make it clear and easy for people to understand what you do.

Having a title like “Business Owner” does NOT tell people what you do! 

Don’t make people try and work it out!

50% of buyers avoid sales professionals with incomplete LinkedIn profiles.

Tell people who you help and how you help them!

Ensure your LinkedIn profile is focused on your ideal client 

You must demonstrate to your prospects that you offer a solution to a specific problem or set of problems that are definable. 

As with any sales and marketing, this really is NOT all about you and how “passionate you are about customer service”!!!

Don’t forget your prospects don’t actually care about you

They only care about the solutions that you can provide to their specific problems. 

2. Create Content 

Demonstrate your expertise by creating quality content that is relevant to your target person!

Here’s a very simple guide to how to get started with what sort of content to write.

Firstly, put yourself in your buyers shoes. 

Think specifically about some of your current clients and if in doubt, ask them why they buy from you.

Top Tip: Do NOT guess this information!!!

Then brainstorm at least 10 key questions around the solutions to the problems your products and services provide.

From those questions, drill down even further into specifics and I bet you can come up with at least 5 ideas around each question.

So, from that simple exercise, there are minimum of 50 posts and articles you can write!

Aim to write as often as possible.

If it is a blogpost perhaps one a week is advisable so on that basis you have a year’s worth planned out from your 50 ideas!

If you don’t like writing long posts (like this one!!) then focus on statues updates.

The 80/20 rule applies here.

Only reference your solution 20% of the time.

80% of the time, build credibility and add VALUE.

Show personality (please don’t be dull!!), but don’t try and be anything other than authentic.

Create some authority by talking about issues your clients have had and how you’ve solved them.

Be relevant.

It may be wise to avoid subjects like politics!!!

Post daily if you can (even weekends) so your name becomes familiar and you develop that well known marketing goal of being known, liked and trusted!!

I don’t recommend just posting links to other content. 

It’s way better to write a short 1,000 character post that is really interesting than 100’s of links to other people’s content (or even off your own company website) without any personal input on your part!

3. Build Connections

Every day connect with people who fit your Ideal Customer Profile.

Sales Navigator is a highly recommended and must have tool for this. You can build highly targeted connection lists and connect with those people consistently.

Try and avoid people who you will never do business with unless there’s a personal reason like it’s a friend or colleague – you choose your policy on that.

But importantly, focus on QUALITY, not QUANTITY!

4. Talk to People on LinkedIn

Now you MUST start conversations with people daily so it’s not just a list of connections, but a platform where you are always messaging and taking the connection deeper!

The key is to ask questions about them.

Don’t just instantly pitch!

My favourite way of describing social media is remembering that the clue is in the name…

It’s SOCIAL!!!

In any conversation, it’s a two-way street!

If you ask questions, some people will answer them...

So then LISTEN and ask some more!

Engage in a dialogue with your new connections and build rapport

The process of building relationships isn’t limited to just one message after you connect with a prospect. 

You’ll want to send additional messages to continue the momentum and begin to add value to them and their business.

The content of these messages will depend on your industry and goals but should NOT include anything that could be perceived as sales materials or a sales pitch of any sort!

Doing so is the fastest way to kill a potential relationship.

The amount of times I have experienced first-hand a connection request, followed by a MASSIVE PITCH!!!!!

These people don’t even know if I have any interest whatsoever in what they do!!!

5. GET THEM OFF THE INTERNET AND SPEAK TO THEM!!!

I have typed this in CAPS it’s the most crucial aspect and the goal of this WHOLE PROCESS!!!!!

Social selling isn’t about staying online and expecting sales to just happen which is the biggest mistake I see people make. 

It’s about DEVELOPING RELATIONSHIPS that lead to OPPORTUNITIES!!

Just because you are connected to someone does NOT mean they will instantly buy from you!

You still have to make the relationship develop!

It’s offline that you convert a prospect to a client.

The primary goal social selling that you initially find the right people that you want to talk to, you connect with them and through your digital profile (your personal profile and the content and credibility you have created) enables you to earn the right to have a conversation OFFLINE. 

SUMMARY

In my experience it's always better to build quality relationships when you are selling than try to sell to EVERYBODY and end up pleasing NOBODY!

The high volume leads approach almost always waters down the quality of the relationship.

Go deeper into your marketplace, rather than broader!

Ultimately, test what works for YOU by continually refining your approach.

If you haven't got time to do this all yourself, either outsource it or hire someone to do it for you as you have to be relentless and fitting around your high value tasks can be tricky!!

Social selling WORKS if…

  • You show up consistently creating omnipresence to your connections.
  • You stimulate conversations through messaging.
  • You are not afraid if once in a while someone tells you to stop messaging… most people are polite, apologise and move on (it's very rare to have anyone complaining if you are professional and courteous at all times).
  • You focus on taking the conversation OFFLINE asap.
  • Keep doing this on an ongoing basis and you will get results if you refine your target and how you approach those people!

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