Moving a lead to an opportunity, for many small-to-medium B2C and B2B companies, is still heavily reliant on sales or business development reps reaching out to prospects to try and set a meeting – most often virtual versus in-person today, which is further complicating an already challenging sales cycle. One of the biggest initial challenges they face is to overcome low (or no) brand awareness. Contacting a stranger to immediately request a meeting is the business equivalent of randomly emailing someone to ask them for a blind date. Some industries, including insurance and financial services, face the additional hurdle of convincing the prospect to end a current business contract and replace it with their offering. This is the business equivalent of asking a stranger to break up with their boyfriend to go on a blind date with you. It is easy to understand why so many cold-prospecting calls and emails are ignored, politely declined, or even completely blocked.
Dive deeper into your customers’ mindset to understand how traditional sales practices could be setting you up for failure.
Every consumer, whether B2C or B2B, experiences a similar Customer Buying Cycle from Awareness through Knowledge, Consideration, Intent, and Purchase. Large businesses have the luxury of allocating marketing budgets across stages in the buying cycle, with specific dollars, messaging, and time dedicated to the various stages. Their prospects are more likely to have at least a base level of awareness or even familiarity with them before they are approached. Leads might not want to take the call (or meet in-person) because they assume it will be a high-pressure sales situation that will make them uncomfortable and will be difficult to end.
On the rare occasion when a prospect responds, it is often with an objection and polite rejection such as, “I’m happy with my current partner and I have a long-term contract.” But many people in sales are trained to keep pushing past the first “no” and will counter the objection. Sometimes this works, but it can also be extremely awkward and lead to a no-contact request or email/call blocking, cutting off communication for months, if not permanently.
Learn how to effectively nurture your business leads and widen your sales funnel without getting “ghosted” or shut down.
Another reason why a prospect may not respond positively (or at all) is simply due to inertia. They feel fine in their current situation and don’t want to put forth the effort to change, even if it means they might get a better user experience through a new product or save money in the long run. When the only choice you give a prospect is to have a conversation, you are gambling on an “all or nothing” decision for something that can feel like a big commitment to your lead. Too often, you end up with nothing. A better alternative is to allow the prospect to choose between a “fast track” route or a “nurture” route that may require a series of smaller steps and a lot more patience on your part. This approach may seem to contradict the “ABC: Always Be Closing” mindset adopted by some salespeople, but it can actually be faster compared to sending a couple of aggressive emails and getting ignored or blocked.
Nurturing a lead to become a true opportunity requires a solid email strategy, content, and technology. The technology might be pretty straight forward, like a basic CRM or Email marketing platform, or really sophisticated like a full stack marketing automation platform or Channel Partner Marketing platform. Regardless of which email deployment platform is being used, considering how value is provided to the prospect will help keep the lines of communication open. This requires content but the content can take many forms:
Offering the prospect an opportunity to take smaller, but very easy (and trackable) next steps coupled with offering to continue the conversation via a call or meeting, if they would like one, is a classic nurture campaign.
When you are able to keep communicating, you have the opportunity to follow up and build credibility through more content sharing, like a case study, current client roster, or highlighting client testimonials. If your prospect can engage with your business at their preferred pace, it will help build awareness and familiarity as well as increase comfort with a live conversation. It could even lead to referrals.
Lack of media budget is no excuse for failing to activate awareness initiatives.
Prospecting emails and calls will work best in harmony with other marketing support. Awareness and thought leadership initiatives can be developed and shared without a media buy. Organic and earned media are extremely important elements that support email engagement before AND after deployment. Prioritize and approach thought leadership, press, and social activities with systematic intentionality. Each initiative increases opportunities for exposure and “to be found” in searches.
Leverage client FAQs, client situations, or topical news stories to inspire content. Feature on your own website, post to LinkedIn Business and personal profiles, and reference in emails. Investing time here is well worth it to create synergies with your prospecting (and retention!) efforts.
Use a critical eye to examine your own prospecting tactics and communications to look for opportunities to incorporate some of the strategies outlined above. Ask for feedback on your communications from a trusted advisor or colleague. A few small adjustments might make a significant impact on success with your prospects.
Want an expert opinion about how your emails stack up?
The content in this blog post covers only a fraction of potential email strategy and content optimizations. If you would like a FREE, no-obligation, evaluation of one of your prospecting emails, send an example email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Ansira FREE email evaluation request.” In turn, you will simply receive an email response with the completed evaluation. No call or meeting required.
…See what I did there?
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