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Sales Leads Made Easy

by Mark Levit

Generating qualified leads is a discipline that’s been honed to a science by many companies. Lead-qualification offers great potential for increased sales. Is your company good at it?  Major banks, technology firms, insurance companies, securities firms, consulting firms and other organizations develop customized process models for lead generation–and constantly refine them to increase their efficiency.

Effective marketers recognize the value of qualified leads.  They understand the sales function is a continuum: Suspects (unqualified prospects) must be converted into prospects (inquirers).  Prospects must be qualified.  In turn, qualified prospects must be cultivated, nurtured and converted into paying customers. Lead qualification is all about filtering prospects so resources are deployed against those who are most likely to become customers. 

It’s that easy!  The sales continuum can be broken down into four broad-based steps:

Step 1:  Create Awareness, Elicit Inquiries
Suspects can only be guided through the sales continuum after they know about a service or product and determine they want or need it. Suspects can be made aware of their want and need states in a number of ways. The best way is through frequent advertising in efficient media because of its broad reach. Media relations and event marketing are also possibilities. 

In business-to-business marketing, the approach is slightly different. Several different people within an organization generally have responsibility for deciding on purchases. Each has a different stake in the purchase (economic, productivity, status, safety, etc.).  Some of these players are "invisible" to sales people. To make these contacts predisposed to your brand, the advertising you select must be broad-based, industry-specific and reach all executives who influence the purchase.

Step 2:  Convert Inquiries
When a company advertises, it is, in essence, making an offer. When interested, suspects inquire for more information and become prospects.  A marketer will invest considerable resources to convert suspects into qualified prospects. How do you make sure your resources aren’t wasted on dead-end inquiries?

A bit of research and analysis will help you determine your most likely customer’s profile, which would include appropriate characteristics (e.g. functional title, industry, interests, purchasing role, income, age, personal interests, etc). According to those parameters, you can filter your prospect to retain those who are more likely to become qualified prospects and, in turn, customers.

You can often also determine the level of a prospect’s interest by the way they inquire.  A phone call from a prospect could be a sign of high interest, for example. If you are interested in pursuing only highly qualified leads, you should customize your plan to allow people to inquire via phone or have them indicate their level of interest on a business reply card or web response form.  That ensures resources deployed to convert the most fertile prospects into paying customers are not wasted on those who, at the end of the day, are not prepared to buy. In other words, you generate more sales for your investment!

Step 3:  Get Inquirers to "Experience" Your Brand
Simple brand awareness is generally not enough to close a sale.  Initiatives can be implemented to enable prospects to experience a brand.

Sampling can be instrumental in getting consumers to buy your product. However, other options are also available. Depending on the product (and especially in the B2B category), informative seminars can help develop relationships with prospects and allow you to establish trust. Financial services and software companies have found seminars very effective in this sense. Another way of establishing relationships is by organizing promotional events. Street marketing events we’ve developed and managed for Sprint PCS increased sales by nearly 15%. And business seminars we produced and managed for First Bank increased loan applications by 12%!

Step 4:  Follow-up and The Close
Experience with a brand helps make prospects comfortable–and often leads to the immediate sale of lower cost goods and services. Such is the case with sampling, seminars and events.

But for major purchases and in business-to-business marketing, it’s often necessary to follow-up to close a sale. Follow up is best accomplished by a trained salesperson. However, some prospects may not be ready to speak with a sales representative yet, and should be exposed to additional marketing activities to cultivate your prospect and keep your brand "top-of-mind." That will ensure each salesperson’s time is spent most efficiently.

It’s important, therefore, that a "qualified lead standard" be established throughout your company so your sales people know the interest level of each inquirer. Then they can adapt their sales approach to be appropriate and effective in each situation.

Lead generation made easy
Lead generation involves research, testing and analysis. It requires a long-term commitment from senior management.

Partners & Levit has managed numerous lead generation campaigns for organizations in a range of business categories. Our deep understanding of the psychology of the sales continuum and our rich experience in lead generation has enabled us to share some of our knowledge with you.

Perhaps Partners & Levit can partner with your company to conduct a lead generation campaign–or other marketing initiative. Just contact our Managing Partner, Mark Levit at 212.696.1200.

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