This guide will help you develop leadgen offers that will generate high response rates and the best qualified sales leads your sales force has ever experienced. While the guide is geared toward B2B industry, the very same performance marketing tactics described here will work in the B2C sphere as well – as long as the consumer product or service is a big-ticket one.
(B2C marketers of premium educational courses, stair lifts, walk-in tubs etc. seem to be the most fervent advocates of the simple model described here.)
Please note that this guide is not about the obvious content marketing tactics, creating ebooks, or overcomplicated lead scoring models that in reality just the largest enterprises may afford (in both time and money).
Instead you will learn here:
- How to define a good lead and explain why it is so difficult to get salespeople to agree about lead quality.
- What are the common mistakes made in most lead generation campaigns and how you can avoid the most likely pitfalls to success.
- What are step-by-step guidelines for identifying lead requirements before you begin designing your lead generation campaign.
- What are critical issues that you should consider about what motivates prospects so you can create the most successful leadgen offers.
- How to use one-step, two-step and multiple step lead generation campaigns to ensure the highest quality B2B lead.
- What exact techniques you can implement to design and create lead generation campaigns that will produce the best qualified leads your B2B organization has ever experienced.
The Elusive Good Lead
Like any performance marketing program, next to the prospect database (or “the list”), offer is the most important element in a lead generation effort.
Unfortunately, little or no time is spent creating the lead generation offer.
The offer can play a significant role in qualifying respondents and producing high quality sales leads.
Salespeople will often ignore many leads because the leads they followed up on in the past were low quality. They find it difficult to believe that any new lead generation program will be better.
At the same time it is difficult to establish the definition of a qualified lead as each salesperson seems to have his or her own perception of the lead they desire.
The only characteristic they can agree on is that a good lead is one that closes.
It is as if you have been assigned the mission of finding qualified prospects interested in your company’s products, even though your salespeople cannot seem to agree on what constitutes a qualified prospect. This is not an attractive mission.
Salespeople will view your actions, or any marketing-related actions for that matter, with skepticism. They have been promised good leads in the past that turned out to be merely information, “special reports”, ebooks etc. collectors who have no authority or desire to buy.
4 Issues Concerning a Qualified Lead
There are four issues that need to be addressed in creating a qualified lead:
Hopefully, if the prospect is interested in your product or service, he or sche can afford to purchase from you. In reality, there are three areas that can help financially justify almost any business decision:
- Current expenses. Dollars already being expended for similar or like services. You may find current expenses in related areas of the business, as well as in the primary area you are trying to address.
- Avoidable expenses. Dollars that the company can avoid having to spend in the future, if they buy your solution.
- Increased revenue and business growth. Dollars the company might generate due to better, i.e. optimized or new, approaches to its business.
Example. Many business decisions are made on emotion and based on the intangible value to be derived. For example, a customer support service that allows instant response to customer complaints will improve customer satisfaction.
How to Establish Lead’s Quality
As you try to establish the ability of a company to buy your solution do not get bogged down with unnecessary details. Sometimes it is nice to have additional facts, but they do not really improve the quality of the lead.
Sales managers often forget that the salesperson will generate their own level of information. You invest too much time getting unnecessary details just to qualify the sales lead.
Authority is often difficult to establish. To determine if the person to whom you are trying to sell has the authority to buy from you, is tough. Ego being what it is, some business people cannot admit to people outside their own company that they have limited power.
Lead quality normally suffers the most in this area. Many techniques can be tried to subtly establish buying authority. However, the best method is to ask the prospect directly if they can make the decision to buy your product or service.
Establishing need is the area we all tend to overcomplicate. Try to limit your questions and probes to one or two major criteria. Keep in mind that you are trying to qualify a sales lead that will be followed up by a salesperson.
The salesperson will sell the product or service. Many companies perform too much market research under the guise of trying to determine prospect need.
In most situations, the salesperson will want to confirm the information and will probably ask the same questions again.
Finally, a lead is not qualified until the prospect has accepted the lead offer and agreed to see a salesperson.
The whole process of establishing lead quality should be decided on together with the salespeople. Write the four major categories on the board and ask the sales force what one single question in each area, if answered, would help to confirm the quality of the lead.
You will ultimately get more than one question. To eliminate the other questions, try to determine if the information is absolutely necessary to establish the qualification of the lead.
You can often resolve the money, authority, and desire issues with one question that introduces the price of your product within an offer.
Prospects may respond that they cannot afford it or that they have to talk to someone else before deciding. Remember, such a prospect is not qualified unless they agree to become at least a referral.
B2B Lead Generation Common Mistakes: 4 Pitfalls to Avoid
Many lead generation programs suffer from similar shortcomings. These mistakes will often cause the lead program to fail.
No Measurable Objectives for Lead Generation
The lead program is often a result of a sales executive telling a communications manager to do some traffic generation to an online lead form or do some direct mail because the sales force needs leads to increase their activity and ultimately their results.
There are no measurable objectives and therefore it is impossible to measure the success of the effort.
Inconsistent Expectations to the Lead Quality
The lack of measurable objectives will also cause salespeople, sales management, and performance marketing management to have different expectations.
Without identifying the quality of the leads required, the number of orders and the leads required per day, week or month, it is almost impossible to satisfy everyone’s expectations.
Leadgen Offers Are Never Considered
The two most common offers used to promote from business to business are send for additional information or have a salesperson call. Neither of these “offers” is exciting or descriptive.
Most of us have a fear of being sold by a salesperson and will avoid meeting with them if at all possible. As the lead generation program is planned and implemented, there is little or no thought given to the lead offer that will be promoted.
Leads Are Generated Ad Hoc
Many lead programs are executed to satisfy short-term requirements and are rarely planned in advance. Programs are often executed locally by branch offices with little coordination between headquarters and other field offices.
Even when the program is controlled and executed centrally, the leads are typically generated in a single burst with no consideration given to sustaining a constant lead flow to satisfy resource availability.
Lead flow is sporadic and inconsistent. Salespeople may receive a large burst of leads and then no leads for weeks or months. These peaks and valleys will create significant follow-up problems for the salespeople and will ultimately make them unhappy with lead quality.
The common mistakes are directly related to improper planning of the lead program.
Most lead programs are created in reaction to a sales problem. This places a great deal of pressure on the lead generation efforts and will almost guarantee failure.
Lead programs have to be optimized in a structured, regular manner to be really successful. You have to learn from each effort to ultimately produce leads that will satisfy the salespeople and sales management.
How to Identify Lead Generation Requirements
As you begin to develop your lead program you will have to first identify the number of leads required. The number of leads is directly tied to the number of orders you need, and the number of orders that the sales force will generate without any lead activity.
I suggest you use the Lead Requirements Worksheet below to establish the number of leads you will have to generate for each salesperson.
|A) Annual sales quota / objective per salesperson||$712,500|
|B) Percentage of sales quota achieved without leads||60%|
|C) Sales revenue achieved without leads (B * A)||$427,500|
|D) Sales revenue required from leads (A – C)||$285,000|
|E) Average revenue per order from leads||$4,660|
|F) Number of orders from leads required (D : E)||60|
|G) Percentage of leads that become orders||20%|
|H) Number of leads required per salesperson (F : G)||300|
In this example, the average order is $4,660, and this program has to generate 60 orders per sales representative to achieve its objective.
This translates into five orders per month from lead efforts. The worksheet also identifies that a lead will close 20% of the time, therefore each salesperson will require 300 leads or 60 leads per month.
Specific objectives like these make it easier to develop the leadgen offer that will provide the quantity and quality of leads required.
For Best Results: Model Your Salespeople And Their Selling Methods
I always suggest that the best way performance marketing people can identify how to find leads that will meet your requirements is to really understand how salespeople are currently selling and closing their customers.
An analysis of the customer base can tell you the personality of both the individual buyers and their companies. You can also learn how long the buying decision took and the approach that the salespeople used to convince prospects to buy their products.
Once you know your current customers and successful selling approaches, you can create a respondent profile and ultimately a lead that looks similar.
Quality leads should provide an opportunity to close at least 20% of the time. In my experience, leads that do not close at a rate of at least 1 out of every 5 or 6 generated, are ignored by the salespeople.
You have to use current selling activity information to determine a customer profile that would buy at this rate.
Less Leads May Be Your Lead Generation Program’s New Objective
Do not plan lead efforts that will produce so many leads that a salesperson would have to devote 100% of their time to handling them. Salespeople are already handling their current customers and pursuing prospects they have found themselves.
If you plan to create more leads than the salesperson can handle, the lead program will fail. Determine the number of orders that a salesperson will generate without the lead program, and you will know how many orders you will need the lead effort to produce.
Make sure you know the number of sales calls a salesperson can make each week. You should also understand the purpose of these calls. How many calls are required to close a sale?
If you create a lead program that requires more calls than a salesperson can make, the leads you generate will probably be considered poor quality.
Do not be daunted if you lack the sales staff to follow up on the leads you generate. Instead, focus on producing higher quality leads and use performance marketing tactics to move the prospect closer to a buying decision.
Although this may sound impossible, multi-step programs with lead offers that are perceived as valuable by the prospect can be unbelievably effective.
You can also impact the number of orders and leads required from a lead generation program by changing the average size of the order. Average order size is directly related to the offer made in the promotion.
In the earlier example, if the average order was increased to $6,000, the number of orders required is reduced to 48, and the number of leads to about 240.
Instead of 5 orders per month, you only need 4. Instead of 25 leads per month you only have to find 20. Average order size is directly related to the offer you make.
Lead Generation Offer Motivations
Lead qualification is a dilemma. We often forget that it is not important what the salesperson thinks, it is only important what the prospect thinks.
When lead programs are developed, most use a series of questions to determine if the prospect is qualified enough to justify having a salesperson contact them.
Many managers of lead programs forget how important the perception of the prospect is, and focus on obtaining information to evaluate lead quality from the salesperson’s perception.
When qualifying prospects, it really is not important if we think they have money, authority, need and desire, only that the prospect thinks so.
If you tell a prospect how much your product costs and what it will do for them, and they say, “here is my check, I want to buy your product,” would you deny their order because they failed to meet your qualifications?
This analogy may seem senseless but some of the qualification questions we ask prospects are just as senseless. Your lead offer can do more to qualify a prospect than almost any other single issue you can control.
The “No Offer” Offers: “Send Me More Information” or “Have Salesperson Contact Me”
Unfortunately, these two basic offers do very little to qualify the prospect and even less to make him or her interested.
There are several problems with offering to send prospects “additional information”. The information often:
- Is sent before we know if the prospect is truly qualified.
- Is not designed to create sales leads, but is merely sales collateral material.
- Is often feature-oriented, and does not emphasize the benefits the prospect will realize by purchasing.
- Does not contain a call to action which would create a qualified lead.
Leadgen offers to have a salesperson contact the respondent suffer similar shortcomings. Most people have a natural fear of salespeople and are not inclined to spend time with them.
When a prospect does agree to see a salesperson, the participants may not have similar expectations regarding the purpose of the visit. The prospect’s expectations of the salesperson’s visit are not appropriately set, and the salesperson does not have a clear idea of what their visit should accomplish.
Lead generation offers should address the needs of the person at which the offer is aimed. Prospects will respond best when the lead offer answers the question – what’s in it for me?
Consider this: employees want to get promoted. Yet managers often try to motivate employees by speaking in terms of what is good for management, not employees.
Managers must find ways to save the company time and money, but to do so, they must offer their employees personal rewards. The employees are not that interested in saving the company time and money.
See below some very basic motivations that will affect people based on the role they serve in their company:
Cover their rears
If you are trying to reach business owners, saving time and money will excite them. On the other hand, employees are not as concerned about time and money, but react well to getting promoted, reducing the hassle in their lives, and making safe decisions.
Most performance marketing and lead generation programs are geared to employees, yet the leadgen offers used are geared to owners. Employees have to make decisions that will help the company save time and money but they will respond best to lead generation offers that offer them something personally.
Getting promoted is a very strong motivation to an employee. You can use the actual term getting promoted to generate the prospect’s interest.
For example, this article will give you ideas that if implemented, will set you apart from your peers and may even get you promoted.
We are all looking for a personal benefit in everything we do.
Business life is like standing on a slippery rock in water up to your neck in a swiftly moving stream. You are not going to look for a way to put more water in the stream or carry anything on your back.
We all tend to avoid decisions that will add more hassle to our lives. This is another of those benefits you can state specifically in your lead offer.
Most employees will make the safest decision. When a consumer decides to purchase a product or service they are spending their own money. No one will scrutinize their decision.
If they make a bad decision it will not cost them anything but money. On the other hand, when a business person makes a purchase decision it will often be examined by someone else within the company.
The buyer may have to justify their decision to others. A bad buying decision can cost the prospect more than money, perhaps even their job or the opportunity for a better job within the company.
Many business people avoid purchase decisions for fear of being wrong. This is why lead generation offers should help the prospect reduce risk and demonstrate a way to get out of the decision.
Free trials and money back guarantees will go a long way towards helping the prospect protect their rear.
Example: “Our 30 day free trial will allow you to evaluate our online tools in your office without the hassle of listening to a salesperson or having your IT support engaged. If at the end of 30 days you are not completely satisfied, you owe us nothing.”
Question-Based Lead Qualification: Why It Most Likely Does You No Good
Many companies will develop sophisticated questionnaires to determine if a prospect should be contacted by a salesperson. These companies believe that to be considered a lead a prospect must meet certain pre-established criteria. And they are often plainly wrong.
Case in Point
A few years ago I learned a very valuable lesson. Prospects who do not meet qualification criteria will often buy. This was the case with one of my executive training clients that thought that a business had to have at least $50 million in annual revenue to afford its services. That is, until we uncovered a pool of customers that were much smaller soloprenuers. Should the company have refused the order?
This seems like an absurd question, yet so many lead generation programs focus on data like annual sales, instead of money, authority, need and desire.
These programs try to capture information that will reveal if the prospect has money and need. If the criteria are met, these same lead generation programs will offer the prospect an opportunity to be contacted by a salesperson.
Sometimes, the prospect will not even be offered the opportunity to accept or reject a sales call. Instead, a decision will be made by the empirical value of the data and the lead will be forwarded to the salesperson.
These kinds of respondents are not leads and will tend to destroy lead generation programs. The prospect who does not acknowledge that he or she is a lead is not a lead.
The key to successful lead generation efforts will often rest on the lead offer you make to the respondent. As stated before, the most prevalent offer made in lead generation programs is to have a salesperson contact the prospect. The next most often used offer is to provide additional information. Neither of these offers alone will help qualify a lead.
Lead Qualification Via Prospect’s Self-Assessment
Lead generation and qualification techniques need to improve if you are going to garner support from your field salespeople. All too often, lead programs are designed to produce lots of leads with little regard for their quality.
Let’s examine the typical chronology of a lead campaign. Typically, promotions contain two offers: additional information or a salesperson contact.
- Most respondents request information. Because only a few leads actually ask to be contacted by a salesperson, there are rarely enough of these types of respondents to satisfy the needs of the salesperson.
- To meet the field’s volume requirements, the person responsible for the development and creation of the lead campaign ignores the prospect’s wishes and sends all the responses to the field.
- Ultimately, the sales force complains and management insists that all inquiries be pre-qualified prior to being sent to the field.
- Each respondent is contacted via phone and asked a series of questions to determine their interest and qualification level.
- Qualified leads are sent to the field while the remainder are handled via email, mail, phone, or Skype.
Unfortunately, the “qualified” leads in this scenario are determined by asking a series of questions designed to provide information beneficial to the company, not the prospect.
I do not understand what the prospect gets for providing this information (or what’s in it for him or her?). Most do not respond requesting a salesperson, yet that is the prize they will receive for providing information that meets your criteria!
Questions that allow you to determine whether a prospect is qualified so you can send a salesperson do not help a prospect see what’s in it for them.
Performance marketers that do not understand that seem to lose sight of who is benefiting from lead qualification and tend to focus internally instead of on the prospect.
I am not advocating sending poor quality leads to salespeople, but we have to begin focusing on why the prospect should help you.
With phone prospecting services available (especially from overseas), too many companies are adding phone qualification to their lead generation efforts without considering the prospect.
Such phone calls are conducted by phone sales representatives from outside service bureaus or even by voicebots and robocalls designed to generate enough additional information to determine the quality of the respondent.
And while this is all fine, quite frequently, leadgen managers often forget about the other steps required and attempt to move the prospect directly to a buying decision.
Instead of trying to convince a prospect to buy your products in the first step, begin to focus on what you can provide respondents to help them determine if they need and can afford your solution.
The One Basic Rule to Remember
One of the basic rules I advocate concerning lead generation is:
It really is not important what the salesperson thinks about a prospects qualification, it is only important what the prospect thinks about his or her need of your services and products and their ability to afford making a change.
In any performance marketing campaign, you should attempt to sell your leadgen offer, not products and companies. Rather than asking a series of meaningless questions, tell your prospects what they will achieve by responding, and allow them to understand the relative price of your solution.
Regularly I am asked to help create the important elements in qualifying a prospect as a potential sales lead to be handled by a salesperson.
Inevitably I ask what will the prospect gain by answering the qualifying questions. But all too often I discover there really is no benefit.
If there is no benefit then you are planning to expose your prospects to what is perceived as an unpleasant experience.
The best leads will generate a respondent who recognizes a problem, wants to solve the problem, and has some understanding of how much a solution might cost.
In addition, this respondent will have the authority to pursue a solution to the problem.
Once a prospect is interested in addressing a problem, you should offer him or her an opportunity to self-assess the needs. Rather then offering information or a salesperson, you should offer a method to self-evaluate the size and scope of the needs.
Tools that help prospects self-assess their needs are not as threatening as offering a salesperson and typically draw more responses. More importantly, they allow the prospects to qualify themselves and give them a reason for answering those annoying qualifying questions.
Self-Assessment Examples of My Consulting Clients
- One HR compliance audits company, assessing employment practices, compliance and human resource functions within an organization, produced a simple interactive guide for HR directors. It consisted of a series of expert questions resulting in a scoring model, industry benchmarks, as well as quick-win recommendations.
- Yet another example is an office furniture company which created an “office furniture configuration planner”, enabling office managers to maximize the use of their workspace, using only the advertised company’s furniture, of course.
- Some months ago, a CRM company offered a calculator which allowed the prospects to determine their needs by answering a series of questions.
- A real estate investment company providing residence and building cost data developed an interactive model that provided an analysis of a company’s needs. They offered the prospect the opportunity to provide some limited data from which they would create a valuable analysis.
All of these tools provided enough information for the prospect to determine whether they had a need and should look for a solution.
All of them made it possible to obtain required qualification information and gave the prospect something of value in return.
Each offered a follow-up step which allowed the prospect to receive a professional, expert assessment from the company offering the tool, in other words, a sales call.
Think about the improved quality of these leads where the prospect has already determined their need, has a general idea of costs and wants to take the next step.
You can create self-assessment offers that will allow the prospect to qualify and increase overall response. By adding a follow-up phone call to each respondent, you can convert many of these prospects into highly qualified leads.
All too often the data captured through traditional lead generation questioning is not perceived as accurate by the salespeople. They are suspicious of the accuracy of the information and attempt to verify it themselves.
Quite often, when they find an inconsistency, they use it to “expose” the poor quality of the lead generation program. Gathering the data quickly becomes a no-win situation.
Rather than asking a series of questions which allow you to assess the size of the prospect, self-assessment allows them to verify his or her own needs.
Instead of asking for the annual sales or revenue, why not show the prospect potential savings based on their annual sales or allow them to score their needs based on annual revenue?
Lead generation offer is the ultimate lead qualification element. If you identify a minimum price and convince a prospect that they have a need, if the prospect responds, they will be qualified.
This is why I wholeheartedly recommend designing leadgen programs which allow the prospects to self-assess their needs and understand the basic costs in making a change prior to offering a salesperson.
And when you do offer a salesperson, make sure you identify the benefit the prospect will receive from participating in the sales call.
Multiple Steps – The Key to Lead Quality
While one-step leadgen campaigns, meaning prospects who claim the leadgen offer and are qualified, get immediately contacted to be sold, are all fine but most of the time they are not most efficient.
On the other hand there are enterprise-grade software solutions geared toward lead generation that involves tens or hundreds of small steps before a modicum of salesmanship is timidly presented to the prospect at the very end.
But then, there is the middle ground.
You can use several performance marketing steps, prior to involving a salesperson, to better qualify each prospect. A respondent to multiple steps in a leadgen program has indicated a better understanding of the solution to their problem and a stronger interest in moving forward.
To better qualify these respondents and produce quality sales leads, a fulfillment kit (i.e. quite often in a physical form, sent via direct mail) calling for a second response is often added to the process.
Only those prospects that respond to the fulfillment kit are forwarded to a salesperson.
The technique of using a fulfillment kit to create the lead is often called a two-step program. The first step is the generation of the initial response and fulfillment with an information kit (e.g. an interactive guide for self-assessment mentioned before).
The second step is the response from the fulfillment kit.
Unfortunately, much of the literature used to satisfy the requests for information is designed to describe product features and not to generate high quality sales leads.
But those prospects that do respond to it are acutely interested and should be relatively high quality leads. Many times these leads suffer only because the respondent does not have the authority to make a decision.
Offering a fulfillment kit which actively moves the prospect closer to the buying decision, and then following up with either a phone call or an email will often produce great leads.
Each step serves to eliminate less qualified prospects and encourage those interested and qualified to move closer to buying.
Complicated products like machine tools, electronic equipment, and IT software and hardware solutions or business training, will often require multiple steps to describe the benefits of the product and motivate a prospect to become a sales lead.
Two-Step Leadgen Campaign Example
One software company created a two-step campaign offering prospects “The Accounting Systems Evaluation and Planning Guide”. The subsequent offer made in the guide was a free Business Systems Efficiency Audit.
The guide is designed to explain the benefits of becoming a customer and to make another offer encouraging the prospect to respond again. The second response would become a qualified lead.
A significant effort should be devoted to creating the fulfillment kit. It will become your primary leadgen offer in the initial promotion and it should offer a significant benefit to the prospect as was the case in this example.
After making another strong offer in the fulfillment kit, you can use phone prospecting to further qualify prospects who requested the kit but failed to respond a second time.
This multiple step program recognized the reality of how business executives gradually make a buying decision. This exact leadgen program combined a LinkedIn inMail campaign and telephone to ensure that the prospect was ultimately converted to a qualified sales lead.
As you consider two-step lead generation programs, you should evaluate a first step that attracts as many potential customers as possible. The second step will allow prospects to self-qualify.
Another leadgen offer I have used with great success is the webinar.
A webinar is a seminar conducted over the internet or phone (in the past these were teleseminars, as in telephone-only).
An exciting agenda, targeted to your prospect audience, with information that is relevant to their needs, will probably be effective in drawing the audience you desire.
In advance of the webinar, the prospect receives a package of material, including special reports or guides which can be discussed during the meeting.
Typically you should plan a webinar that will last about 1 hour. I suggest you use about 25 to 30 minutes of the seminar as a presentation and allow about 20 minutes for questions and answers (Q&A).
The remaining 10 minutes or so should be straight selling – do not forget, as many do, this obvious part. An immediate follow-up is in order as well.
- Most lead generation programs seem to ignore the necessity of creating a lead offer to help qualify the sales lead.
- There are four elements in qualifying sales leads: money, authority, need and desire. These elements can often be validated with a well conceived offer.
- Prospects can resolve money, need, and desire issues if the offer identifies the benefits of the product you are selling and a price point.
- There are different lead generation offer motivations prospects respond to depending on their position in the company. The owner of the business is interested in saving time and saving money. On the other hand, employees are concerned with getting promoted, reducing the hassle in their lives, and covering their rears in any decision they might make.
- Lead generation offers should be made to appeal to the appropriate motivation for the individual and the position they fill. Such offers have to answer the question: What’s in it for me?
- Although you are trying to generate a lead for a salesperson, most people are reluctant to spend time with salespeople. Most have a certain distrust of the sales role and are afraid they will be sold something. Rather than offering a salesperson visit, offer the benefit that the sales visit will provide.
- Follow these simple rules when creating an offer for a lead generation program:
- It is not important what the salesperson thinks, it is only important what the prospect thinks.
- Allow the prospects to qualify themselves and avoid asking qualifying questions.
- Sell the benefits of the offer. If a salesperson is the offer, sell what the salesperson will do for the prospect.
- Identify what the prospect looks like and what kind of prospect will close at a rate of 1 out of 5 leads.
- Establish a method to provide the best possible lead. Do not be afraid to use multiple steps.