How Do Prospects Find You?
There is a reason why it is called the complex sale: leads are tough to generate; the process from first appointment to close can be long and involved, depending on the competitive environment. If you take the time to position your firm as an expert, major dividends await you. Results from a buyer’s study could help you shape your strategy.
A revealing study called the “2009 Benchmark Report on Professional Service Marketing and Selling from the Client Perspective” zeroes in on how business-to-business buyers find providers of services:
Source: Raintoday.com and the Wellesley Hills Group
Not surprisingly, referrals rank foremost at 79 percent. Example: a key person in a company with an issue thinks aloud: “I worked with Bill MacDonald on this issue when I was with my previous company. Let’s call him.” Great start.
Referrals from other service providers rank a close second at 75 percent because these respondents created strong “centers of influence”, which is your network of collaborators (refer to my book MERGE) When you position yourself as an expert to this group, your network is more likely to refer in your firm. Observe and learn from other service providers in your prospect’s sphere. See blogpost on the client buying process.
In the complex sale, the majority of buyers think through their decision using their own veiled process What is it? Do you know? Learn by being proactive and help the buyer become aware of existing “value gaps.” For instance, what happens when a partner dies in their business? Need for a buy and sell agreement arises and you are the one to identify that need. At first, a buyer may resist, especially on the spot, and temporarily halt the sales process. Typically, however, in the second phase of the buying process, he wants education, and seeks more information on the issue you’ve magnified.
The buyer will turn to his collaborators, lawyers, accountants or other advisors for their opinion. If the network knows you well, you leapfrog the standard sales cycle directly into closing range of complex sale. The MERGE process teaches you how to build this strategy.
“Personal recognition or awareness” of the provider pulls high marks at 73 percent. How you position and brand yourself and your firm must be guided by a well-researched, well-designed communication and marketing strategy and plan. Your goal is to be perceived as an expert in your field. Your process is a first-rate marketing effort (MERGE). And success is determined in the minds of your target market. To supplement referrals and your awareness factor, add the following activities your marketing mix, ranked in descending order of effectiveness in the study:
Quick note: Five out of every 10 buyers use providers’ web sites and Internet searches, news stories, conference exhibits and case studies to expedite their pre-purchase research and consideration stage. So don’t discount the lower rung actions. If there’s a hint of old school in you, revel in the fact, too, that mail, email, and the phone rank strong in the study.
Like fly fishing for native trout on the Gunnison in Colorado, everything about marketing demands coordination and concentration. Work your plan. Balance your gear. Use the right line. Think like the fish. And whatever you do, don’t sell products. Entice with expertise.