More from my lead generation book!
It’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty.
It’s time to look specifically at how to build out an automated front-end for your selling process. To generate a steady stream of pre-qualified, pre-educated, even pre-sold leads.
The reality is that this is — at its core — a very simple process.
There are parts that may require more effort to figure out, or to implement. But the process itself is simple. We’ll start by walking through that.
Big picture, what does a lead generation system look like?
I like to think of this just like any other sales situation. Imagine that you weren’t doing marketing, but rather selling one-to-one.
— First, you have to get the attention of members of your target market.
— Then, you have to get them interested in what it is you’re saying.
— You connect with them, and have a conversation about how your product or service will fulfill their needs.
— You answer any questions they have, and overcome objections if possible.
— Finally, you close the sale.
These are the same steps, whether you’re selling one-to-one (with sales people) or selling one-to-many (with marketing). The big difference is in how you walk your prospect through those steps.
Selling one-to-one, getting the attention of members of your target market is painful. Usually, it involves cold-calling. Or traveling, and long hours spent on exhibit show floors. Or any of a dozen different high-effort, low-result manual prospecting and lead generation efforts.
Done with marketing, it’s all about finding where they hang out. Maybe you can reach them through Google AdWords or Facebook advertising. Maybe you find them through trade journals, or other print media. Maybe you can buy lists of them via direct mail. I’ll save the details for now, but you have to find out where you can reach members of your target market. (Maybe you do still go to trade shows, but with a completely different strategy this time.)
The next step is to get them interested in what you’re saying. When selling one-to-one, most often this is where you begin your pitch. You either ask questions to establish a need, or make promises and gauge response to see if you have interest.
Done via marketing, this step requires more finesse. It’s far easier to ignore marketing than a live sales person. A click away or a toss into the trash can, and the marketing is gone without guilt. And so you have to pinpoint a pressing pain point, problem, or desire of your target market, that you can address. Your marketing must make it clear that you will give them a solution, if they engage with you further.
It also helps to specifically call out the type of prospect who is a fit, as well as who is not. We naturally want to know, “Is this for me?” By giving prospects a set of criteria to know this in advance, you can weed out bad leads early, and reinforce to good leads that you are speaking directly to them.
This is where you must get them to raise their hand. It’s one thing to simply put a bunch of education out into the marketplace. In fact, that type of content marketing can be a strong supplement to your advertising in step one.
But when it comes time to offering to solve their problem, you must get them to exchange their information (or more) for the solution.
There are many ways you can do this.
The classic method of internet marketing, now a bit over-saturated in most markets, was to offer a free report or white paper — a free PDF download. Free PDF reports have become so commonplace at this time though, that they’ve lost almost all perceived value.
Videos, audios, and webinars also make great media for this. They take a lot of skill to pull off well, but they can make a compelling way to present the problem and solution.
My favorite, which I’ll talk about more in future chapters, is a physical book. There’s nothing that gives you credibility like offering a physical book. And often, leads generated through a book offer are far more valuable than leads generated in nearly any other way. (Plus, it’s way easier than you may think to get a book written and published!)
You got the prospect’s attention. You got them interested in what you have to offer, by offering to solve a pressing problem.
Connecting with them, and educating them about your solution…
For your solution, they raise their hand and give you their name and contact information. Or, in some cases, they may pay a nominal price for the content you deliver, such as paying shipping and handling to get the book for free.
At this point, it’s time to educate your lead. When done via one-on-one selling, this is often a product demonstration call, needs analysis, or other in-depth conversation that can take up an hour or more repeating the same spiel given to every other potential customer.
If this is the case with you and/or your sales staff, record that conversation. Record a few of them. Take notes. What are all the main points that are always covered? What are the most compelling ways those points are presented? Is there a specific order the content must be covered to build the prospect’s interest in your solution? What are you doing to establish buying criteria, and position your solution as superior to other options available?
Building this into your marketing is surprisingly easy. Using these conversations, you put together a presentation of the product, and how it is the perfect solution for your ideal customer. This is the basis for the white paper, report, webinar, or book I mentioned before.
Since you now have their contact information, you should also build a follow-up system to deliver this content in multiple ways.
Important points can be broken out of the main content, and worked into email follow-up. The main points could be summarized in a separate printed report, sent out via direct mail to unconverted leads.
Very few prospects are ready to buy immediately after they inquire about a product or service. The buying process takes time. They need to feel like they’re making an educated decision. By educating them through multiple channels, over days or weeks or months, you’re helping them gain confidence in you and your solution.
All of this, I should note, should be automated if possible. The tools and resources exist today that most of this can be done with very little human intervention. While it shouldn’t be hard for your prospect to reach a human if that’s what they need to buy, taking the human effort out of the equation on your side ensures this process will be smooth and consistent, and yield better results.
Answer questions and overcome objections…
Here is where — for many businesses — we move the automated lead generation, education, and nurturing, to personal, one-to-one contact.
In your education and follow-up sequences, you add a mechanism for the lead to raise their hand once again. The previous time, they expressed interest in what you had to say, by raising their hand and requesting your education-based marketing content.
This time, they’re raising their hand to say they’re a potential buyer. Here’s where you duplicate the consultation approach I implemented when selling IT training.
Throughout your education and follow-up process, your prospect should repeatedly be pointed toward an opportunity to get their questions answered, and to move forward.
Ideally, you have an automated application and scheduling system in place, that allows them to book time with a sales rep (although I like the term “advisor” or similar — this should really be an advisory role, and it feels better to the customer than feeling like they’re being handed over to “sales”).
Here you gather critical information to ensure you have a good lead for your product or service. This varies by business, but there are probably 5-10 things you need to know about a prospect to really understand where they fit with what you offer. Ask for that as part of the application. Then, use a system like TimeTrade, Calendly, or one of many other automated options to allow them to schedule an appointment with you.
This appointment is the critical hand-off, from automated marketing system to one-to-one selling. It’s the transition from them taking everything at their own pace, to them handing some control over to you in the final stretch.
The goal of the conversation should be to set up the sale. Answer any remaining questions. Overcome objections. Clarify any final details. Be consultative — not pushy. Ask questions, and let them tell you why they’re a fit.
If you’ve done everything right up to this point, your prospect is pre-educated, pre-qualified, and even pre-sold. You just have to help them cross the finish line.
Close the sale…
Last step, you ask for the order. Since I’m primarily talking about automating everything up to this point, I’m not going to spend a lot of time here.
If you’ve left the fee presentation out of the previous step, this is where you initiate it. If you need to get them to generate a purchase order, here is your opportunity to send the information directly to purchasing. If you simply need to ask for their payment, now is your chance.
What role does this play in the selling process?
On a very fundamental level, what you’re looking to do with this is to replace as much of the manual labor of selling with automated systems and processes.
If you don’t have a consistent and effective system for selling, you’ll be forever at the mercy of your prospects’ inconsistent and ineffective system for buying — which won’t necessarily favor you.
Further, if you — like too many businesses — deal with the many pitfalls of managing a sales force, this will make your entire selling operation far more consistent and effective.
Done right, this also allows you to eliminate the inconsistencies and ebb and flow of manual selling, replacing it with a steady, controllable, predictable source of leads that requires minimal sales team effort to turn into consistent deal flow.
And finally, if your educational selling tool is considered to be of very high value, the positioning and “brand” benefits you get from this approach are tremendous. This is so crucial that I’m going to spend the next few chapters really digging deep here, before coming back around to help you build out the system itself.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,