The Double-Edge Sword of Lead Generation: Attention and Action
Run by founders, most financial and professional service firms capitulate to the founder’s beliefs on how to sell. Usually, he or she launched the practice with key contacts, and the panache to open and close business. The firm may exhibit good technical skills, bring in new clients, and enjoy a solid reputation but, as a whole, I observe many firms stumbling to grow beyond their books of business.
No Impulse Buy
To avoid fits and starts of erratic revenue streams, the steady flow of high-quality leads is one sure path to business longevity. Let’s be honest. Complex sales in financial or professional services are not impulse buys. Buyers must see a specific need and agitate with a sense of urgency to solve it. Too often, buyers stay in their comfort zone, impervious to change.
We all want to shorten the sales cycle; however, there’s no getting around one fact about our profession: It takes considerable time to sell and buy complex solutions to key business issues. Buyers will only move forward if the issue becomes a priority.
Who among us can reliably predict through a long sales cycle when sales will close? Complex sales are not only hard to predict, but costly to pursue. Cahners Research cites that in the B-to-B market, it takes an average of 5.12 sales calls to close sales that exceed $35,000. More than 75 percent of the 23,000-plus companies surveyed by Cahners said that it tool a combination of direct and indirect marketing and sales efforts to get to the sale.
“It Didn’t Work For Us”
Why do many firm partners, advisors, agents or consultants struggle with consistent lead generation?
Consider this from decades of experience and observation:
- Partners and key associates are all not on the same page; worse, they’re slow to make decisions.
- Business already in pipeline takes full attention to close; advance planning is left in the dust.
- No one initiative is given sufficient time; without instant results, firms flip to something new.
- Firms fail to devote time and resources to process; if results lag, they abruptly stop.
- Firms don’t muster up the motivation to execute lead generation programs; when I discuss certain strategies with prospects, I often hear: “Oh, we tried that and it didn’t work for us.”
- Conflicted messages run rampant across websites, newsletters, and sales materials.
Please don’t mistake these negatives as commonplace. Many firms deserve admiration for their keen abilities to sustain lead generation. Those frontrunners operate with commitment, focus and dedicated resources. You’ve read this many times from me, yet it merits repetition:
You need to develop a solid communication and marketing strategy within the structure of a clean and consistent process. Begin with the right market, and coordinate your message around your firm’s value proposition.
I was amazed to learn from the BPM Forum that the fate of more than 80 percent of generated leads falls to mishandling, failure to follow up, or they’re dropped altogether. How can we afford to do this?
A Yankee Group research study found that in B-to-B selling, “an 11 percent reduction in dropped/lost leads, combined with a one percent improvement in lead-to-order conversion rate, increased annual gross profits by 136 percent.” Think you need more leads?
In fact, your firm will experience improved results by better handling of the number of leads already generated. By example, you target a market and host a webcast on a hot topic for your industry. The webcast produces 50 profile prospects to follow-up on. By simply offering some call to action, your lead follow-up can improve. Offer a white paper or research report on the subject. Of course, based on how people buy, all 50 will not be current prospects.
Often leads are then dropped from the pipeline, due to no coordinated data base or follow-up system. Again, according to Cahners Research, 89 percent of B-to-B buyers take more than 90 days to purchase after emerging as a firm lead. And even though that first purchase may only be a small fee-based engagement, green sprouts grow into majestic oaks.
In upcoming posts, I’ll review with specifics on the most effective methods for consistent lead generation and conversion. Stay tuned.
See you on the upside,