The only thing better than a lead is a sale. Yet, for many businesses, there is a disconnect between sales and marketing. Great leads often don’t eventuate to anything except disappointing performance results for both the sales and the marketing teams. For B2B businesses with long sales cycles and high average sale values, relationships are everything. Turning a lead into a customer is very much like a courting process. You wouldn’t ask a person to marry you on a first date – you’d spend time getting to know them and building a relationship of trust. Similarly, in B2B sales, having a multi-touch, strategic plan to follow up on leads and build a relationship of trust is critical. It’s also why cold calling without a prior relationship (or mutual connection) or mass email spamming isn’t recommended.
Start with Qualified Leads
A critical component to converting leads is ensuring the leads you generate are actually qualified. The best way to do this effectively, inexpensively, and en masse is through the online promotion of strategic, gated content. This content should be something that only a person interested in what you are selling would read. For those unfamiliar with the term, “gated” means to offer content – usually in the form of an eBook, industry report, or template – in exchange for personal contact details.
For example, while reading this article on our website, you will have noticed (or will soon notice) a popup in the bottom right-hand corner for an eBook on B2B campaign strategies called the B2B Marketing Playbook. We created this specifically to target B2B businesses because that is our niche. Including the term B2B is a form of qualification (and disqualification) since only B2B professionals will interact with it. In 10 days of promotion, we used it to generate 81 qualified leads.
Build Strong Relationships
Once you’ve got a steady stream of qualified leads coming in, follow this step-by-step process to convert them:
1). Within 24 hours, connect with the prospect on LinkedIn and send a personalised email directly from a salesperson or account manager. Thank them for showing interest in your content and attach the document to the email. Realistically, leads will either skim content or only read the first page or two. This means it’s important to provide them with a copy for future reference. If you automate this email, make sure it reads as though it has been sent manually – remember that relationships with real people are important!
2). After one week, send a follow-up email with a link to a blog article on your website that gives more credibility and substance to the initial gated content. For example, after promoting our eBook, we sent out an article providing data on how much businesses should spend on advertising. The article explained how many leads they can expect from their investment when using one of our campaign plays. You can read it here.
3). Wait another week, then email out a case study of a real-life example of how your product or service helped one of your customers. By this stage, after just three follow up emails, you will have built a level of trust and the beginnings of a relationship without so much as a conversation. By the time a sales team member sits down for a meeting with a prospect, half the work will have already been done.
4). Finally, after an additional 3 – 5 working days go in for the close and ask for a meeting. At this point, the foundations of a trusting relationship should be forming. We recommend first sending the prospect an email. If there is no response after a few days, try sending them an InMail via LinkedIn. Leads will sometimes provide personal email addresses when they don’t yet trust a brand, so your emails might end up in their junk folder. If this is the case, mention that you’ve sent a few emails over the past few weeks. Often a prospect will courteously respond, and you can resend your emails to their work address. If you don’t hear anything back after all of your attempts, go ahead and give them a call.
By this stage, your sales team will have a few good meetings set up. However, you’ll almost certainly have a few other prospects on your list who haven’t yet responded – and that’s okay. Don’t push them any further, but instead gently nurture them by emailing them relevant and educational content every 1-2 weeks. You should also drop them a personal email or call every 2-3 months to touch base. When the prospect is ready to engage with you, they will – as long as they remember your brand. This is why keeping in touch with them is so important.