One of the most striking statistics in DemandGen's 2017 Demand Generation Survey was that 31% of respondents said they expected between 26% and 50% of their annual revenue to be attributable to marketing-sourced leads.
What's even more striking to me is that 69% of respondents are still relying on their sales professionals to generate the majority of their leads. While referrals, cross-sells and up-sells are great ways to generate high-quality leads for your business, many businesses still rely on their salespeople to generate sales leads with cold calls, long-winded emails and intrusive social media techniques.
Let me ask you business owners and executives out there a few questions.
Do you answer cold calls from people you don't know?
Do your respond favorably when someone invites you to connect on LinkedIn and pitches you within milliseconds of you accepting the request?
Do you read long emails from sales people extolling the virtues of their company?
I'm guessing the answer to all 3 questions for most of you is NO. You're just too busy to waste time on that.
If you need something, the first thing you probably do is a few google searches to educate yourself and see what options you have to meet your need.
You then probably talk to a few peers to see if and how they've dealt with a similar issue.
When you think you know enough about that problem and what you're options are, you then might reach out to a sales person.
At least that's what the statistics say - according to the Corporate Executive Board, the average B2B buyer has completed 57% of her sales process before contacting a sales person.
How you should change your lead generation tactics?
Think about the buying scenario described above. If you reverse engineer it, how should you be selling to match how your buyers buy?
The first thing you want to do is to be found when your buyers are searching for information on the web. That means content marketing should be one of your primary lead generation tactics - particularly for information-based industries like technology and professional services.
Here's a very simplified description of how you can generate leads with content marketing:
You start producing blog posts, infographics and videos that address the questions that your buyers are asking and searching for answers on Google. Looking for a place to start? Get together with your team and make a list of the top ten questions you hear from your customers and prospects. Produce at least one piece of content for each question.
When you publish the content (most likely on your blog,) make sure and include lead generation offers that take a deeper dive into the topic covered in the content piece. It could be an eBook, whitepaper, webinar, checklist or video - something that helps the searcher get better educated on that topic.
In order to access the premium content, the potential buyers shares contact and demographic information with you by means of a form. The content you are offering has to have enough value for the buyer to voluntarily share information with you in order to access it.
Here's a graphical depiction of the inbound lead generation process.
The dirty secret that most marketing agencies won't tell you is that takes time for content marketing to work. It takes time to build domain authority for Google to index the content you're producing and start sharing it with qualified buyers. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be doing content marketing - every day you wait is another day that your competitors are getting ahead of you.
Here are a few tactics to fill your sales pipeline while you're ramping up your content marketing.
- Use paid social and pay-per-click advertising to get your content in front of potential buyers. Paid advertising is like renting your audience; once you stop paying for it, the audience goes away. You own organic search traffic to your web site resulting from content marketing. As long as you keep producing good content, you will consistently generate leads from your organic search traffic.
- Create a consistent process to generate referrals, cross-sells and up-sells. Keep in mind that you have to ask for these types of leads. In order to create an environment where you can comfortably ask for more referrals and deeper business relationships, you must deliver a stellar customer service experience. If someone's not happy with your service, it's highly unlikely that they will refer friends or buy more and different products and services from you.
- Respectfully generate leads with outbound marketing. Use concise emails that offer your content in a context that helps the recipient of your email. Don't send long emails that can't be read on a smartphone without scrolling. And don't use hokey tactics like: what works best for you, tomorrow at 1:45 or Wednesday at 9:15.
Where do salespeople fit in this paradigm?
Salespeople in information-based industries should be consultative problem-solvers, not lead generators.
They need to understand the needs and problems of the industries that you serve. Ideally, they should be able to challenge established thinking and present new ideas to business owners and executives. If you're not challenging the status quo, you sound just like everybody else and become a commodity in the eyes of the buyer.
They need to transition a new buyer into a happy customer by making sure all of the issues and proposed solutions that were discussed in the sales process are understood and addressed by your service delivery team. They need to check in with the buyer (and the service delivery team) regularly to make sure things are on track. Remember, you want referrals, cross-sells and up-sells from this new customer.
They need to be visible within the industries you target by attending networking events, being active and helpful in the appropriate social media forums (e.g. - LinkedIn Groups,) and working their networks to generate new opportunities.
In short, salespeople need to be helpful to potential buyers before they spend a penny with your company.
If you're one of the 69% of B2B sellers that still rely on your sales team to generate leads, I challenge you to change your thinking. Those that resist change are doomed to failure. Those that embrace it are on the path to success.