lead-generation-dialThe next chapter in my book on lead generation…

I’ve had a few sales jobs in my life.

Sometimes on the phone.  Sometimes nose-to-nose.  Almost always tasked with the job of going out and getting new customers for the business.

The easiest part of my job — especially when I was selling high-end IT training solutions — was after I got the lead.

It took very little time or effort to follow up with someone who’d already expressed interest in what it was I had to offer.  I’d answer their questions, and stay in touch.  In that particular job, I’d also often help with their purchasing process — furnishing quotes on demand, discussing payment options, and so on.

The hardest work of all was finding folks who were most likely to want to purchase our products in the first place. 

To some degree, in that job, we were spoiled.  Our company had a great reputation in the space, and our products had many advantages that were mostly unmatched by competitors.  We had a lot of customers who came to us, and wanted to work with us, and our sales role with these customers was simply to help them buy.  In fact, much of the sales team was able to get by primarily on helping those customers.

But to really succeed in that job, we had to find more opportunities than our reputation alone was bringing our way.  One of the biggest breakthroughs I was able to make — prior to learning what you’ll discover in this book — was that I could get our best potential customers to raise their hand and invite me to contact them.

Our website had a ton of traffic.  Simply because our company had been in existence for about 10 years, and had that big reputation plus a lot of weight with Google, we’d get regular traffic in nearly every corner of the website.

Because I’d also done marketing with the company, I was able to dig into the analytics data and see that there were a large number of visitors to our corporate training solutions pages on the site.  These were high-dollar products, and every sales person there would have loved to have more of those sales.

I chose to turn that desire into reality.  I looked at the amount of traffic to those pages on our site.  And I looked at the volume of sales of those solutions.  There was a big gap — there were a lot more people visiting the web pages than buying or even inquiring about those solutions.

I knew that there’s always some web traffic that arrives there for other reasons, who will never buy.  But I also figured that somewhere in there, there were a bunch of people who had unanswered questions, who might become buyers.

And so I worked with our website team to create a form on the site allowing visitors to our training solutions pages to request a consultation.

When they requested the consultation, their information would be sent directly to me, and I’d reach out to them to schedule a phone call.

I’d conduct the consultation to discuss their training needs, and legitimately qualify or disqualify whether our training solutions would be a good fit.  (I would sometimes recommend they go to competitors with whom they’d find a better fit — so in that sense this was truly consultative.)

This turned into a lead goldmine.

The sales team continued to get its regular flow of leads, coming to us because of our reputation, contacting us to get their questions answered.

But I also suddenly had this stream of extra leads coming directly to me, for the highest-value sales I could make.

We were still doing all sorts of other lead generation.  But with a little up-front work, I took what was difficult and inconsistent and made it effortless and consistent.

I gave myself this extra set of leads that — in the long run — required almost no additional effort on my part to close.

If your goal is to increase sales, this is a magic moment.

When you suddenly realize that you can replace all the manual labor of lead generation with these automated systems, selling becomes much easier (and more fun).  You can spend a lot more time working with only the most interested potential customers, offering them a solution that you know they want.

With the right positioning (more on this to come), closing the sale becomes easier, too.  Because the people who you are speaking with are predisposed to choosing your solution over the other options available to them.

The more I’ve reflected on this experience, the more I’ve realized…

There are certain jobs which sales people should do, and others they shouldn’t!

Since that sales job, I’ve spent a lot of time working with big consumer publishing companies with zero sales force.  They sell their products and services through direct response marketing, where their sales and profits live or die on the strength of the selling message.

And yet for many businesses, that is not an option.  At least some human interaction is required to close the sale.

My own consulting business is a great example — I don’t think I’ve closed a single $20,000+ consulting and copywriting contract without first speaking with the client.

Selling a $30,000 IT training solution was much the same.  Our individual training programs that sold for anywhere between $100 and $1,000 would sell all day long through our website.  But it was extremely rare that the big solutions ever sold without a human touch.

Most businesses are in this boat.  Your most expensive, most valuable sales almost always require phone calls, in-person visits, or some other direct interaction with the customer to close the deal.

Getting started, it’s often the owner making those sales calls.  Once the owner grows too busy, a sales team is brought on board.  But there’s almost always some level of human interaction.

What I discovered though in that last sales job is there were parts of the sales process that took place long before I ever spoke with those customers.  There were parts of the sales process that could walk the customer down the purchasing path, without me lifting a finger.

The more of the sales job I could take off my own plate and make automated, the better off I’d be.

Here’s what I found. 

I was almost always needed when it came time to close the sale.  There were final questions that needed to be answered, and objections that needed to be addressed.  Sometimes I was required to help with paperwork from purchasing.

While some of the questions and objections could be fended off with better FAQ materials, it was inevitable that some person-to-person interaction was required at this point in the sales cycle.  And that’s not a bad thing!  Adding a human touch to your business goes a long way toward making customers happier with their purchase, and more likely to come back to buy from you again.

And yet, there was a lot of the selling cycle — especially early on — that was most efficiently done through marketing.

There were sales people in our department that had come up through the old “dial for dollars” school of sales.

They would go through lists of IT decision makers, trying to get appointments, and mostly getting big fat “no” answers.  They’d spend days or even weeks of manual labor with little to show for it in terms of new customers acquired through these efforts.

My leads were much better, and my time spent yielded much greater sales.

My leads had been first introduced to our company through marketing and reputation.  They’d found their way to our corporate solutions, finding out that we had a solution for their problem of needing to train a department (rather than an individual).  The marketing copy for these solutions (that I’d written while doing marketing for the company) did a good job of presenting these solutions as uniquely suited to meeting a certain kind of training need.

At that point, the marketing I added once moving to the sales team got these leads to raise their hand and express interest, through requesting a consultation.  By the time they came to me, they’d self-selected as interested in our brand, were educated on at least some level about our training solutions, and expressed interest in learning more.

Compare my conversations with these leads (which yes, I did eventually share with others on the sale team) with the cold-call conversations my colleagues were having.  Mine were warm, friendly, and more likely than not to eventually lead to a sale.  Theirs were cold, challenging, and often led to either a perpetual parade of “maybes” or flat-out rejection.

By developing what I would today consider a crude, inefficient, and poorly-optimized system for lead generation, I was in sales heaven.

I relegated the most difficult and inconsistent part of the selling process to marketing automation, and was able to spend my time dealing with only the best leads who were predisposed to buying by the time they spoke with me.

There are plenty of opportunities beyond getting and nurturing the lead that you can automate in any business.

And yet, this is definitely the biggest point of leverage.  This will create the most dramatic shift in how the entire selling function in your business gets done.  It will have the biggest impact on your top and bottom lines.

This is how you truly sell more, without more sales people.

And in fact, this can actually turn into a huge competitive advantage.

As I mentioned in the previous chapter, most sales people are lazy and mediocre at best.  They will work to reach quota, but are not likely to extend themselves beyond that.

In my sales department, there were many sales people before me who hadn’t found a way to bring the best leads to the surface.  And after I left, the system I’d developed for getting those leads to raise their hand disappeared in the course of a website redesign, and was never replaced.

That’s how it goes in most sales departments, and most businesses.  They’ll never create this system.  And if someone does, it won’t stick for long (even if it works).

If you’re smart enough and willing enough to put in a little bit of extra work to automate the lead generation, education, and nurturing process, you will be creating a huge advantage competitors will likely never copy.

By taking that weight off your sales team, your entire selling function will generate more revenue and higher profits.

For one, this will allow you to outspend your competitors, to bring those leads in the door.

Also, you’ll be able to afford to hire the best sales people around, who will appreciate both the better pay, and the fact that you make their life easier by giving them a steady source of high-quality leads.

And you and your staff will actually find it more enjoyable to be at work.  Constant rejection from cold-call lead generation is emotionally draining.  Speaking only with prospects who want to speak with you is rewarding and fun.  The shift in energy will be felt through your entire organization.

Finally, you as the owner and your management team will feel a weight off your shoulders.  By systematizing and automating your lead generation, it will become more controllable and predictable.  With a steady source of leads coming in, you won’t feel as compelled to constant meddling in the business, and you can probably even start to enjoy even more time away from your business (a rarity for most business owners).

One more secret: your customers will appreciate this, too.

Your customers don’t like cold-call selling any more than you do.

We’ve seen all sorts of regulations come into play in recent years, that reflect the consumer’s desire to be sold to less.  Do Not Call.  CAN-SPAM.  And so on.

We live in a world where it’s increasingly harder to reach prospects, through just about any contact method out there.

You call.  They stare at their phone and watch it ring as they simultaneously check Facebook, their caller ID telling them it’s an unwanted sales call.

You email.  If you get past the spam filters, you don’t get past their own internal filter which deletes your message the moment they realize you’ve got something to sell.

As consumers, we’re over sold, over advertised, over marketed to.  We’ve learned to tune it out, so as to avoid overwhelm.

We enjoy buying as much as ever, but we don’t want to be sold to.

That’s the really important part here: we don’t want to be sold to, but we still enjoy the process of buying.  In selling, the seller has control.  In buying, the buyer has control.

Today, consumers want to feel like they’re in control.

The internet has only enabled this (mostly for the better).  All the world’s information, at our fingertips.  Reviews of your company and your products.  Seemingly endless information about your solutions, and that of your competitors.

For an important buying decision, the buyer wants to be confident they’ve “done their homework” before purchasing.  They want to feel like they’re making an informed decision.  They want to be large and in charge.

The good news is, when you develop the kind of lead generation system I’m going to teach you about in the coming chapters, you’re actually building that education into the selling process.  By helping them to make their informed decision, you give them all the confidence in the world that their best decision is to choose you.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr