CEOs and CSOs consistently cite demand generation as one of their top barriers to top-line growth. So what’s the solution?
According to Robert Kear, SPI’s chief marketing officer, the lead generation challenge stems partly from the erroneous view that lead generation is a quantity problem; that the more leads you can get, the better. Instead, he says, the lead generation challenge is about maximizing value awareness with the right potential buyers. To accomplish this, you must address these six areas.
1. Messaging. Everything starts with a good story. “We often see good companies with product-centric messages that are just not relevant, compelling, or differentiated,” says Kear. When you develop a compelling story that incorporates trends or issues in the market and ties into the prospect’s unique situation, you’ll be heard. When you can’t do that, says Kear, you’re just noise.
2. Targeting. Most companies don’t do a good job of aligning the problems they solve with potential buyers. They target market segments instead of individual companies/divisions and their unique issues. “You have to be much more precise in your targeting,” says Kear. “We are constantly amazed at how few companies have implemented any type of targeting methodology for salespeople.” Initial data shows that reps who have learned how to target precisely within their territory achieve 20 to 30 percent higher quota attainment. Think: fewer leads, highly qualified.
3. Communications. Marketing departments need to stop launching products to the masses and instead launch “problems solved” to specific targets. And they need to be compensated on quality of leads instead of quantity of leads. Giving a bonus for generating a certain number of hits to a Web site, for instance, is useless if those hits aren’t from qualified buyers.
4. Systems. There’s a general lack of necessary metrics, systems, and tools for tracking and measuring “return on leads.” Companies must get a handle on what correlating factors they should be assessing or monitoring. Kear says SPI is constantly evaluating the source and quality of their leads; you should be doing the same.
5. Sales process and methodology. Often, marketing generates many leads that sales never act on. And the leads that do get acted on are often selected intuitively, by “gut feel.” Reps need concrete processes and methodologies so they can use science, not intuition, to separate the wheat from the chaff and prioritize their efforts.
6. Individual skills and knowledge. Many salespeople lack the situational fluency to cultivate qualified leads. In other words, when they finally get an appointment, they don’t have the skills to carry out good, consultative conversations. When a rep lacks the ability to move a sale forward from the initial conversation, he not only loses out on that particular piece of business, but on all the potential referrals that might have resulted from it. The bottom line: salespeople must have the situational fluency and problem diagnosis skills to cultivate leads into opportunities.