Three Reasons Why Advisors Shouldn’t Generate Leads
In most financial or professional service firms, lead generation programs are built around websites, e-mail campaigns, trade show attendance, even direct mail. If this is your firm, and you are anxiously waiting for better results, don’t hold your breath.
Research proves that a scattered, old-school approach offers little value in pursuing the complex sale. Today’s effective lead strategies stretch far beyond the ability of your sales teams or outside telemarketers to book appointments. Even buying so-called qualified leads outright can waste already squeezed-tight marketing budgets.
In reality, a successful lead generation strategy can’t originate from tactics implemented by your advisory/sales force. Even if you assign lead generation to multiple “talented” advisors, your value proposition message will be inconsistent. Whether you represent a one-advisor firm, or point to a full sales or consulting staff, the business of lead generation must be well conceived, organized and implemented as a firmwide endeavor, particularly in complex sales.
Lead generation must be coordinated between marketing and sales in a way that creates a seamless pass-forward of the lead to the advisor at precisely the right time in the prospect’s buying cycle. Your marketing team generates qualified leads to help improve your advisors closing ratio and firm revenue. However, some organizations still plant responsibility for lead creation solely with advisors. I disagree with this approach; it is not the most effective way to generate leads.
Advisors need to spend the majority of their time working through the decision making process alongside their prospects or clients. And here’s why:
- Trends show more and more commoditization of complex sales, along with eroding margins;
- Sales cycles for complex sales lengthen with more decision makers in the buying process;
- Time-deprived, advisors work hard to overcome formidable obstacles to the goal of trusted advisor as the intricate acts of prospect engagement unfold.
Up Against It
Adding to the challenges, companies possess many more provider choices to solve their needs. What’s more, time languishes in committees while companies work to build consensus. Desire to hold onto status quo seems more entrenched. And every aspect of business grows more competitive. That’s why advisors find themselves in the throes of problematic RFPs: Companies streamline vendor searches ostensibly to gain pricing efficiencies, but more likely to simplify the complexity of doing business today.
In my opinion, advisors are not well equipped for this new paradigm, and their firms are equally challenged to adapt their selling process to these intense realities. As stakes rise, so does the challenge to demonstrate a clearer value proposition. That’s why your firm’s strategic marketing initiatives must also rise to support the pivotal role of the advisor’s ability to sell. In short, marketing must push well beyond the scouting the standard sales lead.
Focus your firm, and its marketing initiatives, on solving the critical issues your target client faces. I have found it helpful to study the potential client’s buying process through due diligence at each buying step. To that end, the lead funnel chart below shows how the prospect buying process and your sales effort can track together with tactics that can reflect prospect interest at each stage.
Adapted from Lead Generation for the Complex Sale, Brian J. Carroll
Consider this scenario: We create an advertisement, direct mail series or e-mail campaign that makes a clear offer to readers how to receive a free booklet on the “10 Things You Need To Consider in Selling Your Business.” Okay, it generates a lead. Is it valuable or not?
If we targeted our list well, we should have a prospect who meets our ideal profile. Hopefully, we’ve connected to him at just the right time, during his educational and research phase. But we need to qualify him further. Moving down the funnel, and following his buying process, we invite him to a webinar or seminar that reflects his interest. We continue to qualify him through research and contact as he evolves into a qualified lead. And as his thinking ripens, your advisor can step in to interact and help move the prospect/lead through his buying process.
The Match Up
Don’t underestimate how simple these actions may appear. The skillfulness with which companies connect lead generation messages to prospects at the inflection point in the buying cycle is the ultimate power of marketing. By contrast, if you are too early in his buying cycle, he will be receptive only to information or content, and not yet the solution you want to present.
This position warrants repeating, lead generation programs must match your value proposition to the prospect’s need at the right time in his mind.
As you progress through each of these lead generation steps, remember that the key business issues for each decision maker in the buying process must be distinctly understood and addressed. Each touchpoint in your process must bring relevancy and add value to the targeted individual.
Consistency trumps cleverness. Your style of delivery creates perception of your company. The conscious care your marketing and sales teams put into communication will make or break your success at client relationship building.
Kristin Zhivago in her book Rivers of Revenue: What To Do When The Money Stops Flowing writes: “Consistency leads to reinforcement; reinforcement leads to familiarity; familiarity leads to trust. When people have a problem, where do they first turn? To someone they trust. First to their friends, then to the companies they trust.”
The purest objective is to wedge that kind of trust into the affiliation between your advisors and their economic buyers and influencers. Time and time again it has been proven that clients want the advisor they deal with to understand their business, their needs, and the pressures under which they operate.
Think twice before you expect your advisors to generate their own leads. Consider the true power of their knowledge and expertise applied during the exact window of time when the prospect realizes he or she needs help with a decision from a trusted advisor. Free them up to do what they do best.
See you on the upside,