Active Demand Generation
FEEDING THE ENTIRE MARKETING AND SALES FUNNEL
AKA “How sales and marketing organizations build stronger marketing funnels and sales pipelines without increasing the budget.”
What most business-to-business organizations need is a growth plan. Period. The question then becomes, “How?” The sales and marketing team has many resources at their disposal to achieve their revenue goals. These resources usually consist, at a minimum, of time and financial budgets.
In today’s over-marketed world, business leaders have a seemingly endless list of software, consultants, and service providers bombarding them with messages competing for these precious limited resources. So, what is the right move? Where should a business deploy their resources for the greatest Return on Investment?
THE BEST GO-TO-MARKET INVESTMENT FOR A B2B BUSINESS
The reality is that there are many ways for a business to grow revenue. There isn’t a perfect answer. Most of the software tools, consultants and service providers today can add real value to an organization. But the question remains, what is the best investment for your situation?
A QUICK PRIMER IN SALES FUNNEL HISTORY
The Sales Funnel was first developed in 1898 by the American advertising and sales pioneer, E. St. Elmo Lewis. It was developed as a practical tool to explain the mechanisms of personal selling. Lewis argued that the most effective salespeople understood that they must take a potential client through four cognitive stages that buyers follow when making the decision to purchase a product or service.
THE AIDA MODEL
Lewis labeled these four stages Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action (AIDA). This AIDA model explains the fundamental process all buyers go through as they become motivated to act on a purchase.
The motivation to make a purchase depends on the following:
- AWARENESS of the existence of a product or service;
- INTEREST in paying attention to the product’s benefits;
- DESIRE for the product;
- ACTION to take the next step. Lewis held that the fourth stage or mental state, ACTION, was a natural result of moving through the first three stages -- that desire leads to action, i.e. Are you talking to me? Why are you talking to me? Good idea, but do I really need it? What will have to do to get it?
ALIGNING THE MARKETING INVESTMENT TO THE 4 STAGES OF THE SALES FUNNEL
With a common language for the AIDA sales funnel now clearly defined, there is an opportunity to identify the marketing investments needed to help move potential clients through the sales funnel. This will take them from Awareness to Interest to Desire and ultimately to Action when a decision is made to purchase a solution.
Given the physics of a funnel, it is understood that as a potential client moves through the funnel. If they cannot move to the next phase, they either need to be removed from the funnel (disqualified as a potential buyer), or they simply remain at their furthest progression until the timing improves or the prospect’s circumstances change. Prospects that “stall-out” should be added to a nurture phase where they are regularly engaged with relevant, value-added, informational content delivered across multiple channels like email, phone and social media until Attention becomes Interest or Interest becomes Desire. The business leader should be thoughtful in how investments are being made to ensure new potential clients are added to the top of the funnel through mass Awareness campaigns, as well as quickly moving prospects though to Interest and Desire with more Active Demand Generation strategies.
THE TRADITIONAL APPROACH TO LEAD GENERATION OR SALES APPOINTMENT SETTING
Regardless of the marketing and business development strategies and investments an organization makes, there is always a role for proactive, outbound communication with a target market. Given the diminishing open rate of emails and the popularity of “social selling,” the traditional phone call continues to be a highly effective means to connect with influencers and decision-makers that a business has identified as targets.
ACTIVE PIPELINE GENERATION: FILLING BOTH MARKETING AND SALES FUNNELS
Active Pipeline Generation is an Active Demand Gen approach that is uniquely able fill BOTH the marketing funnel AND sales pipeline for B2B organizations with complex solutions.
For most Sales Appointment Setting or Lead Generation firms the objective is to generate a one-dimensional deliverable - a lead. Leads are usually defined as a prospect that has responded favorably to a few profiling questions but has little or no interest. And, usually an acknowledged business need is not contracted criteria. An effective marketing firm can generate more leads than sales meetings, because the criteria is so basic. However, leads are too high in the sales funnel to make an immediate or short-term impact on the business. * Organizations that need their marketing investment to contribute to the bottom-line more quickly may seek a provider to generate sales meetings for the sales team to attend. The idea is that these meetings will be more qualified and are either already further down the sales funnel or have the potential to move through the funnel at a faster rate.
*Not all sales meetings as a deliverable are created equally. Some marketing firms define a sales meeting as simply the prospect has agreed to receive a call at a certain date and time. Not only are no meeting invitations sent to the prospect, but there is no confirmation of decision making authority or confirmed need for the solution.
BEST PRACTICES FOR APPOINTMENT SETTING
Best practice is to confirm the role the prospect has in making a business decision or investment, confirmation of understanding the solution being presented, and identifying a clear and acknowledged need for the solution to solve a pain or capitalize on an opportunity. Once the prospect meets this criterion, the prospect will agree to a specific meeting date and time. Finally, the caller (not the sales person) will send a meeting invitation to the prospect as well as the sales person thanking the prospect for agreeing to meet, confirming the details of the conversation and placing the meeting on their calendar. This is the standard that all “sales appointment setting” firms should use for defining a sale.
ACTIVE PIPELINE GENERATION CONSISTS OF THREE COMPONENTS:
This is the foundation of a successful Active Pipeline Generation program. Without great data to work with, the subsequent stages are less effective. Depending on the nature of the program and the quality of the starting data, this phase may be scaled back or even skipped.
To begin, a starting list is developed or acquired for the program. The data is cleaned and organized to meet the specific targeting requirements. This might involve segmenting by geography or vertical market, or it could be organized around specific target titles and buying personas. Each program is custom developed.
Once the data is organized, it is loaded into the lead management system for calling and a call strategy is developed to capture the desired data as efficiently as possible.
There are essentially three potential call outcomes during the Active Data Acquisition phase of the program:
- Prospect Company is a fit for the client program: it is confirmed that the target company meets the profile of an ideal target company.
- Prospect Company is NOT a fit for the client program: it is confirmed that the target company does NOT meet the profile of an ideal target company.
- Finally, the fit remains unknown: The caller does not connect with a person that can answer the profile data.
At this stage determining “fit” for the client is the key objective. There is no concern for “need” for the client solution. By investing in Active Data Acquisition, all actively gathered information about the target market is captured directly from the prospects themselves through outbound one-on-one communication methods. This intelligent data (we refer to this as smart data) helps companies effectively focus targeted marketing campaigns instead of trying to reach everyone with a broad stroke approach.
Not only will future leads and sales meetings be targeted at companies that meet a basic “fit” criteria, but the client will have access to the prospects that are not a fit for the marketing program. In most cases, this data is extremely valuable to the client.
FOCUSING ON THE DATA THAT DETERMINES THE “FIT”
For instance, imagine a Software-as-a-Service marketing team that wants meetings to be set with Accounts Payable Managers that process over 100 invoices per month. This is the criteria for meetings that will be scheduled for the software company’s internal sales team, however the company has a self-service solution for companies with less than 100 invoices. While the Active Data Acquisition process targets companies that will be promoted to the next phase of the Active Demand Generation process, the calls are also producing invaluable data for the marketing team to leverage an offer on their self-service solution. The calls are also capturing data about what companies are out of business or for one reason or another do not process invoices at all. That’s additional value not achieved through a traditional program.
USING THIS DATA TO FEED MARKETING PROGRAMS
Active Data Acquisition enables the marketing team to improve the data in their marketing database and to a create potentially specific marketing programs for other products or solutions.
The ideal outcome of the Active Lead Generation phase is to:
- Confirm the data previously collected to ensure the company is a fit for the sales team to meet with during this marketing program
- Confirm the contact has interest in the client’s solution being offered
- Confirm the contact’s role in the decision-making process
- Confirm that the contact is willing to receive additional information via email
- Finally, confirm that the prospect is willing to receive a follow-up phone call to discuss the information shared via email
FOCUS ON CONFIRMING DATA
This stage in the Active Pipeline Generation process is not about selling the value of the solution or convincing a contact to meet. Rather, the key to this stage is confirmation of data and general interest. The data needs to be confirmed, the role of the contact needs to be confirmed and the prospect’s interest in the solution needs to be confirmed. Once these confirmations are made the prospect is promoted to the next phase of the process and sent to the Sales Development team.
CREATING ACTIONABLE LEADS
These actionable leads are far more valuable than leads collected by traditional (passive) methods because these prospects are much earlier in the consideration process. In fact, many may not have even considered the solution before. Said another way, they have a latent pain, a pain that has until now, not been acknowledged or admitted. This is the opportunity to be the thought-leader and the trusted-advisor to the customer.
It is common to be frustrated with a process or system within an organization for years before ever considering that there may be a better way or a new technology that has eliminated that frustration. It is not until a person becomes aware of an alternative process or tool that the frustration becomes an admitted pain. As an illustration, imagine an employee drives one hour every day to and from work. She thinks that is the only route possible, but one day a co-worker mentions that they have discovered a route to the office that has cut the drive from an hour to 45 minutes.
However, this person does not share the new “secret shortcut” with her. The next morning, when she starts her one-hour commute, what was once a simple frustration for how long it took to get to work is now a full-blown admitted pain. What was the difference? Her drive didn’t get any longer. The difference is now she is aware of an alternative route that will take less time.
POSITIONING YOURSELF AS A TRUSTED ADVISOR
By being the first person to share the new information, they will forever be an authority and trusted-advisor on all things concerning her route to work. This is the type of relationship all solution providers want to have with their valued clients.
FUNNELING MORE VALUE TO ONGOING MARKETING PROGRAMS
At the Active Lead Generation phase, some percentage of prospects will not agree to a follow-up call and therefore will not be promoted to the Sales Development team for an attempt to schedule a meeting. However, these prospects still have significant value to the marketing organization and can be enrolled in a lead nurturing program by the marketing team that is designed to keep their solution top-of-mind. These prospects are now qualified for fit and are keenly aware of the company and solution; they have simply stalled out in the Awareness stage of the sales funnel. These leads may, in time, proceed to the interest stage, but the timing is not right currently. The companies are researched to identify contacts that are involved in the decision-making process of the target organizations. Active Lead Generation has a high conversion rate and the generated leads will supply valuable fuel for the sales & marketing funnels for many months to come.
The final step - and arguably most important step in the Active Pipeline Generation process - is the Active Appointment Generation phase. This is when the power of the process really shines. If you have truly leveraged the first two phases, then securing an appointment/meeting becomes a relatively straightforward process.
THE KEY IS AN EXPERIENCED SALES DEVELOPMENT REPRESENTATIVE
Certainly, to capitalize in this final stage, the Sales Development Representative (SDR) needs to have talent and be skilled in leading the conversation, but because the SDR knows the company is a fit and the contact has at least some level of interest, the call can be laser focused on uncovering a need and securing the meeting. In this phase all the actionable leads from the previous stage are brought to bear and the Sales Development team seeks to convert these leads into high quality sales appointments for the client’s sales team.
THE REAL IMPACT: BETTER CONVERSION RATES
Because of the multi-step process, the conversion rate on actionable leads can be as much as 20-times higher than a typical 1-step prospecting call employed by most sales appointment setting firms. Most leads that are not converted into meetings immediately usually convert into qualified meetings within the next 12 months.
The Active Pipeline Generation process when executed carefully will not only generate highly qualified sales meetings for the sales organization, but unlike any other sales development process, the process generates market data and targeted leads. This will improve the marketing database as well as feed the top of the sales funnel for the sales team.
All high-powered organizations understand that businesses run on systems and the efficiency of those systems and processes is what drives growth. The Active Pipeline Generation process is a great example of how over time an organization that is focused on creating the most value possible for their clients can reengineer a process for the future.