How to Prospect Your Marketing-Qualified Inbound Leads

Sales.jpgAmong all the approaches and methods available, attempting to prospect for leads in today’s world of inbound marketing can feel a bit like Alice; tumbling down the rabbit hole without a clear understanding of what you’re actually doing, what’s happening to you, or why. On the left side of the spectrum is cold calling from a purchased list with maybe some research, and on the right side of that spectrum is an organic-search-driven, sales-qualified lead that has consumed specific content of yours that might be related to a problem they need solved. And then there’s that pesky, hard-to-define middle. So what is prospecting in the world of inbound marketing, and how do you work within its limitations?

Let’s first define “prospecting” and “marketing-qualified leads.” A sales-qualified lead is easy to define: they called you or filled out a form on your site requesting to discuss doing business with you. Marketing-qualified leads are different - they have been extensively perusing your site and have been repeatedly consuming the content that you publish, which means that what you do is deeply connecting with them — however, they have not yet specifically requested any products or services from your company. Prospecting, then, is the process of proactively reaching out to these people, establishing a relationship with them beyond just being a casual consumer of your content, and identifying which of them might have the possibility of becoming a sales-qualified lead in the future.

Now that we’ve defined terms, let’s look at three fundamentals you always need every time you prospect your marketing-qualified leads:

Look for More Than Just a Name, Phone Number, and Email

A name, phone number, and email are not enough to go on. Anomalies notwithstanding, cold calling may be effective for those who have mastered that craft, but that doesn’t mean that the people on the list you call are happy that you called. (And yes, peoples’ increasing hate of receiving cold calls actually does matter). The truth is that today they feel disrespected if you don’t have some intelligent and relevant reason for calling. By and large but not invariably, people who receive some kind of sales call are expecting to be respected (and that includes researching the company before you call). But that doesn’t stop with the manner in which you speak with them on the phone or how efficient your speech is. It extends to how much research you come to the table with, and the relevance of your product/service and questions. In other words, if you can’t or don’t research a contact, you’re wasting your prospecting time.

Establish a Follow-Up Frequency

img_1274.jpgThis will take time to nail down. Accept the trial-and-error aspect of it and work through it. Even after pre-call qualification, the chances of the timing of your particular product or service meeting their immediate need that day are slim at best. If you do manage to speak with the prospect, and they are not anxious to get off the phone with you right away, never ever hang up from that call without asking for a follow up frequency. For a brand new prospect that I’m speaking to for the first time, my default is 3 months, but they may want me to wait longer than that. And, there can be exceptions. Consider whether they’re B2C or B2B, the situational factors, and the context contrast between your goals and what you know about their company at the time of the follow. If you hang up a call without establishing a follow-up frequency, you’ve wasted your company’s time.

Let’s face it. Prospecting today is essentially intelligent follow-up, rather than a mindless, repeatable activity wherein your only goal is to make enough phone calls to demonstrate to your boss that you actually ‘did something’. Buyers today:

  • Read more on the web than you think they do.
  • Are already 60% of the way into defining their problem, solution, and time-to-decision by the time you talk with them.
  • Are more educated than they were during pre-Internet days, perhaps more educated even about your own product/service before they even speak to you.
  • Are getting more aware of, and thus more annoyed, with traditional selling processes and traditional selling efforts.

Tweak, Adjust, and Master Your Introductory Email Script and Phone Script

Start with a script, but be mindful that each prospect might require alterations in the language you use. How much do you know going in? Given their industry and space, what might be the best thing to lead off with? Long buying cycle or short? Big company or small? Does that require a shorter intro or a somewhat longer one? Depends on the space. There’s no science to this. It’s somewhat an art that simply comes from understanding how to master the interpretation of publicly available knowledge about a business. Will you always hit the mark? No. Sometimes the perfect email or voice message gets a non-response. But you won’t feel good about your efforts unless you’re putting intelligence into the way you’re reaching out via prospecting. Remember, if you’re not in the attitude of ‘always be helping’, most of the time your competitors ARE.

Conclusion

Remember the old way of prospecting? Without researching the prospect, just get a name, phone number, and email, then call, then leave a voice message, then email them, and then repeat that process over the course of a couple weeks. New way? Identify, understand, read about, and then follow up intelligently on your lead or prospect. Read over the website and don’t skim it. Make whatever critical observations of the website that you can. Where possible, read over LinkedIn profiles of the people you’ll be calling. If and where available, read news pieces and press releases for the company, looking for triggers. Start with an email script, and tweak it based on feedback over time and lead criteria that you discover. Make a note of what works, record your efforts so that you know what the conversion rate is, and blog about your successes and failures with it. If it’s time to prospect again, now would be a great to time to consider the information environment you’re now in when you do prospect.

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