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Wednesday
Mar082017

Increasing Close Rates on Marketing Leads

Many times your company’s products or services provide great value to your prospective customer, but you still don’t get the business.  Often times, this is due to your prospect’s imperfect business decision process. Common process imperfections include:

  • Lack of an internal champion to push through the decision process
  • Internal champion does not have institutional authority, skills, or knowledge to drive decision process
  • Decision maker is immersed in latest firefighting activities
  • High priority project is demanding everyone’s attention
  • Prospect is distracted by projects with lower ROI than your offering
  • No forum for exploring the economic value of your solution
  • Only a portion of the economic value of your solution is understood by the prospect
  • In competitive situations, the process focuses on a laundry list of features (i.e. some RFPs) as opposed to the capabilities that will provide the customer the greatest business benefit

 In these situations, converting the lead into closed business is dependent on the ability of your sales team to improve the prospect’s business decision process.

Let’s take a quick look at the typical abilities of three categories of sales people:


1. Order Takers

This is the only level that does little work, and simply acts as an administrative order taker.

 

 2. Information Providers

The majority of sales people fall in this category. Anyone whose has had a job picking apples knows this is very hard labor, even if your range is limited to low hanging fruit. Level 2 sales people follow up on leads and respond to all requests emanating from the customer’s business decision process.

If the fruit is within reach, they are able to convert the lead into closed business. If any of the common decision process imperfections like the items above exist, these sales people are unlikely to get the order.

They require large numbers of qualified leads to meet quota, and success depends heavily on finding an existing internal champion within the prospect’s organization. Since these internal champions are likely to already be looking for solutions, they have likely contacted a number of your competitors. Count on a lot of competition.

In addition to low lead conversion rates, these sales people have a difficult time forecasting odds and close dates. They are merely providing information to the decision process, and have limited insight into what is happening within the prospect’s company. Great amounts of sales time are lost pursing “high” odds opportunities, which are in fact are low odds opportunities.  Typically, time allocated to developing new leads suffers, which can result in months of missed sales goals.

“Information Providers” need a different approach; they need ladders and other tools to reach the higher fruit.

 

3. Decision Process Contributors

Contributing to a prospect’s business decision process is analogous to using a ladder to get at the fruit higher up in the tree. The sales person’s deeper involvement through improving the prospect’s business decision process increases lead conversion rates, and results in more reliable forecasting of opportunity odds, revenue, and close dates. Accurate forecasting has many benefits, and saves significant amounts of sales resources wasted on opportunities with inflated odds (see Opero Partners article “Highly Accurate Sales Forecasting”).

The following is a partial list of approaches used by “Contributors” sales people use to address the process imperfections mentioned in the first paragraph of this article.

  • Using business information to frame the conversation, versus product/service/feature/demo information
  • Helping prospect identify and structure all of the steps of a complete decision process
  • Helping prospect identify the participants in the decision process and their roles
  • Working through prospect business issues essential to effectively utilizing your company’s product/service
  • Contributing to the prospect’s internal recommendation document with high-value items such as ROI materials
  • Assist the prospect’s champion in navigating their internal decision process

Prospects will only let sales people contribute to their decision process when they provide clear value, and some processes (e.g. RFPs) are highly structured and resistant to improvement. However; even in these highly structured process there are opportunities to contribute to the prospect’s business decision process.

Often times level 2 sales people sequence activities in the opposite order of level 3 salespeople. For example, Level 2 sales people often rush to present product demos on the hope that an attendee will champion the decision within their company. Prospects are forced through long presentations of product features and functions, and then do all the work to sort out which features may be of value to their business. Level 3 sales people work with their clients to identify the business value by focusing on capabilities of their solution that contribute value to the prospect’s business.

While this article strongly advocates the benefits of Level 3 selling, in the real world each opportunity requires an assessment of how likely you are to close the business without contributing to the prospect’s decision process, and how much process involvement is required to substantially increase your odds of success. Getting involved in the prospect’s decision process has risk and requires executive level conversations, which is the principal reason many “Information Providers” are stuck in level 2. To minimize risk top sales people find incremental opportunities to deliver their value, and gain the prospect’s trust.

While all companies strive to hire the best sales people, “Decision Process Contributors” have many job opportunities and migrate to the hottest companies. Fortunately, companies can develop and teach level 3 selling to their existing sales people. We have had considerable success in growing sales people from “Information Providers” to “Decision Process Contributors” using a set of practical tools and processes.

Summary

Remember, your prospects deserve the opportunity to fully understand how your service and products can improve their business. Get involved, and add value.

If you would be interesting in other articles or to discussing B2B sales over coffee, please feel free to contact me:

Phil Solk

650-854-2846

email phil@operopartners.com

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