Do you struggle to keep your pipeline full of the right quality and quantity of prospects? Are you not getting "in front of" enough potential buyers? Are you missing your sales target because you lack a strong sales pipeline?
2: Lead Generation
“By far the most efficient approach to deal with your leads is always
to use a process that automatically brands you, supplies worth to your
prospects follow up with them, and sorts out the uninterested people”.
– CallBox Inc –
Jeffrey Gitomer is famous for saying, nothing happens until a sale is made. While this is absolutely true, without a lead, no sale can take place, however. This meaning is simple. If sales is the driver of economic movement, then leads are its fuel. If sales is the grand building towering over the city, then leads are its foundation. If sales is the head on the body, then leads is its neck. Thus, lead generation is the single most important element in generating sales and ensuring business survivability.
According to Marketo, a leading marketing automation platform, lead generation “describes the marketing process of stimulating and capturing interest in a product or service for developing sales pipeline. As the buying process has changed, marketers need to find new ways to reach buyers and get heard through the noise. Instead of finding customers with mass advertising and email blasts, marketers must now focus on being found and learn to build continuous relationships with buyers.” I assert that Lead Generation is much more than that. Lead generation includes both the inbound marketing process described by Marketo and the traditional interruptive type typified by advertising and PR. Lead generation also includes that universe of goals, strategies, tactics, and processes for piquing prospect interest and converting that interest into qualified opportunities for the funnel. These sales opportunities must ultimately result in new customers. Regardless of whether you accept my definition or Marketo’s definition, lead generation is clearly a process that requires preparation, precision, and persistence.
Two Broad Approaches to Lead Generation
Over the years, I have come to conclude and accept that there are generally only two major ways of generating leads.
Because of this distinction, I have often been tasked with clearly defining
promotion relative to or versus prospecting. When you think about it, promoting and prospecting are both outbound efforts that a company or sales professional pursue. I often state that all marketing is outbound. Even inbound marketing is outbound in its initial efforts. There are, nevertheless, some subtle differences. For instance, promotion is tasked with generating enough awareness, enough interest, enough demand that the buyer initiates the all-important sales conversation. In other words, promotion is used to attract prospects. While prospecting seeks to achieve the same goals, it does so with the intention of the sales professional initiating this same all-important sales conversation. This means that prospecting is about finding and discovering prospects. To reiterate, promotion results in the buyer initiating the sales conversation while prospecting results in the sales professional initiating this conversation. Promotion is about attracting while prospecting is about finding. Is one better than the other? Is one a better fit for a particular company? A particular type of product? A particular type of salesperson? Depends, depends and depends again.
Many inside sales organizations in the SaaS (software-as-a-service) space, plus other companies from a host of different industries, increasingly rely more on the promotion approach, especially the inbound marketing variety, to generating leads. These companies are increasingly moving away from prospecting. This is due in part to the evolution of the seller-buyer relationship and the challenges associated with perfecting an effective outbound prospecting strategy. While I do understand the environmental factors that have caused this shift, I do believe that such a move is short-sighted. I don’t believe that this conversation is one of either or, but instead one of both. Hence, part of my mission is to explain why prospecting is still a viable option especially for those companies suffering from anemic prospect pipelines.
What to learn more? Want to find out the key differences between promoting and prospecting?
To find or to be found, that is the question. Or at least that sounded great when I thought about it. In all seriousness, this does seem to be the great debate of our time when it comes to how to build a pipeline of qualified prospects. You might be more familiar with the framing of this debate with such terms as inbound marketing versus outbound prospecting. While I understand the premises of each side of the debate, my practical question is this: “Does it matter?”
Consider this situation. If you are hunting for food to feed your family, wouldn’t you capture your target more efficiently and effectively if you used bait? Of course! But what if you had no effective bait? Or what if the target does not take the bait? What do you do? Would you sit there all day waiting? Or would you go out looking for that target?
Let’s consider fishing. My grandfather is an avid fisherman. While I have never gone on a fishing trip with him, I have often heard him speak about the importance of using the right bait. What would happen if you had the wrong bait? Or if you were unsuccessful in your quest to catch any fish for your family to eat?
The answers to the above questions depend on how much your family needs food, or how much help you had in capturing this food, or the resources and tools available to you. I don’t hunt, nor fish for my food. I simply go to the local grocery store and purchase my food. Be that as it may, my point here should be obvious. I don’t see the pragmatism in this debate, because from my experience it is not a question of either or, but rather one of both. Because depending upon your unique set of circumstances (unless you buy “qualified prospects” for your pipeline, which is a viable option for many companies) one way of obtaining qualified prospects may, in fact, be better than the other. However, in most situations, a combination approach of inbound and outbound is the best “broad strategy” for efficaciously generating qualified prospects for your empty pipeline.
Granted, I know that my fundamentally sound points above will not cease this debate. One can only try! While I understand that this book is more about finding qualified prospects rather than having them find you, my aim is to help you open your mind and expand your options to include strategies from both inbound marketing and outbound prospecting in your quest to generate more qualified opportunities. This is extremely important since it has become progressively difficult to do so for many businesses.
Learn 2 super easy tips on how to determine in seconds if your buyer is a qualified prospect or a suspect.