At the beginning of the customer lifecycle, there are various methods you may be using to find qualified prospects. Identifying them is an essential first step, whether you purchase a list of prospects, get their names at a trade show, use social media to attract leads (blogs, twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), or capture them directly from your website using a Web form.
The buzzword for this today is “lead generation.” Times have changed, and it has become much less productive to take the same approaches for lead generation that have worked in the past. The numbers show that response rates aren’t what they used to be, whether you use an unfocused direct mail campaign, generic email blasts, or a good old-fashioned telemarketing campaign. It is easy to spend a lot of time and money on things that worked in the past but don’t work today.
A full discussion on lead generation is beyond the scope of this article, but it is important to consider a few of the basics as we look at the customer lifecycle.
Before you jump into a full-fledged lead generation program, it helps to create a plan. Here are some essential questions to help you define the best approach for your business:
- What is the profile of your ideal customer?
- How would you identify your target market(s)?
- What are the needs of this target market?
- What is the content of your marketing message?
- What media do you plan to use in your marketing plan?
- What activity and revenue goals will you use to measure success?
- What system will you use to track the leads that you generate?
- What lead nurturing plan do you have to handle leads not ready to buy today?
A successful lead generation program is an essential element of any company and will ensure your long-term success.
“Don’t spend so much time trying to choose the perfect opportunity,” Michael Dell said, “that you miss the right opportunity.” The goal of any business is to convert as many of the right prospects as possible into paying customers. The more organized and efficient you are in this phase, the more prospects you can effectively move through your sales process so they become customers.
You must be both efficient and persistent in the sales process. Every time I look at a broad set of sales statistics, I am reminded that winning in this stage of the customer lifecycle is not possible without a heavy dose of persistence. You could have the best product and a great value proposition and message, but unless you generate enough “touches” with your prospects, you won’t reach the conversion rates you need to succeed. These touches include actually asking for the order.
It’s estimated that only 19% of sales close in the first four contacts or touches. The remaining 81% close on or after the fifth one. Many businesses I speak to know this, yet few have a plan in place to ensure they are “showing up to the party” often enough to give themselves a chance to break out of the 19% bracket.
According to Dartnell Corp., 90% of businesses follow up with their prospects four times or fewer, and only 10% follow up 5 times or more. It doesn’t take a math wizard to figure out who is getting most of the business. Don’t waste all that time and effort on the front end and stop short of the finish line.
Be sure to get in those 5 or more touches and contacts with your prospects. The only way to ensure success in this area is to have a centralized database that can automate some of these required touches, track the notes and history of interactions with the prospect, and assign tasks at the appropriate time to ensure the sales rep can be visible at the right times to help move the sales process forward to closure.
The more prospects a sales rep must juggle to reach goals, the more precious this commodity of time becomes.