I first met Stephen in 2009 in Bristol and I was impressed by his approach to helping businesses grow through a combination of marketing basics and new techniques, particularly around international marketing. Since then he’s been extremely busy with consulting and speaking engagements in the UK and abroad. I caught up with him when he […]
AIDA, Next Step, Qualify, Close, Deliver etc.
Selling, and buying, can be looked at as a series of events.
An event driven selling approach helps when analysing what is taking place within the sales cycle, and also in the buying cycle.
It enables improvements to be made, in effectiveness and efficiency.
What is a selling event?
There are several things that can be termed ‘events’ in the sales journey, such as:
- Face-to-face meeting opportunities are events – including exhibitions, network meetings, presentations, first meetings and so on.
- Online meetings – such as webinars, conference calls, skype presentations, etc.
- Smaller touch-points – like phone calls, email, sms, that might build relationships
- Commercial activities such as quotations, proposals, negotiations, contract signings
- Product or service events, such as announcement of a new product or service, or the launch of a new release
- Vendor calendar and accounting events particularly period end points, such as month, quarter and year end
- Buyer calendar events such as their sales peaks, renewals, financial year, budget submissions, regulations
- Buyer process events such as ITT issue, response deadline, short-list of potential suppliers, taking up references
- Competitor events, such as release or discontinuation of a product, arrival or departure of key staff
These are just some of examples, and there may be many more that are specific to your company and your customers.
The compelling event
One thing that vendors are on the look out for are specific, time based, reasons why a buyer needs to make a decision, rather than allow a situation to drift on and keep with the status quo. There might be a compliance aspect to this, such as a new law or regulation.
In the absence of external deadlines the vendor has to work hard to make their events ‘compelling’.
Event driven selling framework
Looking at your sales cycle as a sequence of events can help you create a blueprint, template or framework for marketing and sales.
It is a way to identify the ‘next step’ that you’d like the prospect to take, and your call-to-action.
Disconnect events from time
While there can be advantages to having a specific time in the diary, for a conference or a meeting, there are advantages of allowing the prospect to attend an event at a time of their own choosing. Making a recording of a live webinar, and making that recording available for people to watch subsequently, is one way to re-use content and create additional events.
The new connected world that has been created by the Internet and new systems and applications can increase returns and reduce the costs of live events.
More significantly, especially for smaller businesses, it creates massive new opportunities, by breaking the constraints of time and place. Running an ‘event’ for one prospect, at a time of their choosing, is now a realistic sales opportunity.
Event-driven selling provides a structure and focus for many marketing activities that otherwise might not be showing a clear return for cost and time.
Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing and Attraction Marketing are just some of the latest techniques that can make a significant contribution, when aligned with a structured, sales-focused plan.
However, an end-to-end approach is far more effective overall than individual, isolated, disconnected activities, no matter how attractive they may seem.
The Wurlwind event driven selling blueprint provides a framework, methodology, and roadmap to help founders, directors and managers of small and mid-sized businesses (SMEs) in Business to Business (B2B) to respond to market challenges by taking advantage of new opportunities in a joined-up and focused way.
It will help you to identify and take advantage of new selling techniques, new technologies and applications, sort out the substance from the froth, and build a stronger pipeline and sales infrastructure.
Simplicity can be much more powerful than complexity, especially in selling, and buyer emotions have a dramatic impact on sales success A eureka moment occurred for me recently, at a workshop run by internationally acclaimed public speaking coach Topher Morrison. He shared a simple four step model to tap into the emotional states that buyers […]
Since you are reading this you probably have a challenge in the lead generation area. If it’s any consolation you’re not alone.
- MarketingSherpa: Over 80% of companies surveyed said a lack of “quality sales leads” is their single biggest challenge. (Up from 70% last year!)
- CEO Insights: found the lowest percentage of salespeople making quota ever tested.
- Sirius Decisions: found that companies with fewer, better qualified leads sold more than companies with lots of leads.
So, what can be done about it?
Define what a good lead and opportunity looks like
Whether you run a marketing and sales team, or if you’re on your own, a vital step at the start of B2B lead generation is to decide and agree what is actually a ‘good’ lead.
Also, since there are many terms used, such as; suspect, prospect, inquiry, lead, opportunity and others, agreement to a common vocabulary across the marketing and sales team removes misunderstanding.
A ‘qualified opportunity’ is more specific than a ‘lead’, and will need to meet many criteria that you identify as right for your business.
Lead qualification – The MAN
A simple approach is to check you are ‘Selling to the MAN‘ – Money, Authority, Need.
Apply this to lead generation to help you aim where there is a budget (or current expenditure), high up the organisation (owner, director etc) and to a Need, or Pain, especially if it has a date associated with it, such as a regulatory requirement.
Lead qualification – SCOTSMAN
Another qualification ‘tool’ with a pneumonic that I’ve applied is SCOTSMAN, which is particularly useful for higher value project sales.
It stands for:
- Solution – that the prospect clearly wants what you have a track record of delivering, otherwise there’s a mis-fit at the start
- Competition – that you are competing with similar organisations, if not then chances are one of you is in the wrong race, or the prospect is unclear about what they want
- Originality – once you can ‘meet requirements’ what additional elements do you offer that this prospect values, that differentiate you
- Timescale – to quick or too protracted could be a warning sign, but it also depends on your workload. If you are at capacity then there’s no value taking on another urgent project. If you are not the reverse would apply.
- Size – size of client and size of opportunity, relative to you and the client. If your sweet spot is a £20k initial project with a £500k t/o company then any major deviation could be a warning sign and a risk.
- Money – is the budget assigned, or does it still need to be justified, or is it dependent of other factors, like the client winning a big contract themselves.
- Authority – are you talking to and building a good relationship with the decision-maker – because if not, who else might be?
- Need – is there a compelling business need and justification for the purchase, and if they didn’t go ahead what would be the impact. Understanding this will help when building justification and gaining the go-ahead.
Wurlwind can provide a review to help you keep this in mind when creating your marketing campaigns; to educate the readers of your communication and pre-qualify your inquiries and leads towards your USPs and criteria.
Wurlwind can also help you clarify and develop the criteria of a ‘good’ lead. We can then help you to use this as the basis for other elements of your lead generation campaigns.
Having a clear understanding of your Buyers, their Buying Behaviour and their Buyer Cycle will provide a solid foundation to help you build effective prospecting and sales relationships.
Apply these principles to the next conversation you have with a prospect, to your next email, and to social prospecting in LinkedIn and you could start to see a dramatic improvement in responses.
The emotional side of relationship building can be enhanced by rewarding the behaviour you are trying to encourage. And, if you’re a sales leader you’ll need a number of tools in your bag to use at appropriate times. This could just be a very valuable technique to build into your sales methods, if you don’t already use it.
Simple Buyer Cycle – AIDA
Our starting point is to highlight that there’s still a lot of value in the AIDA pneumonic from the 1960s:
Our extension of this is to add on:
In complex purchase typical of B2B situations there isn’t the instant gratification of ownership or consumption that is the post-purchase reward typical of a B2C transaction. However, the principle still applies in B2B, it’s just we need to be more creative (and ethical) with the rewards offered.
Small steps to make a purchase
Making a purchase can be a straight forward process, particularly with simple purchases. For more complex purchases there are multiple steps and stages to go through. The buyer may well go through some of these stages with multiple potential supplier.
Consider the different ‘ACTION’ stages that a buyer may take is the heart of understanding the process.
- The ACTION may be commitment of attention – to respond to a call for attention, the advert, the email subject line, the ‘Like’ of a friend or influencer and the decisions to investigate to see what they’ve found so interesting.
- The ACTION may be the commitment of time – to attend a meeting, a webinar, to read an article or the many other activities that are needed to investigate and research a solution and a supplier.
- The ACTION may be the commitment of money – the purchase, contract, payment and associated activity. Here there is a commercial commitment which will have a lot of risk associated.
There may well be several ‘ACTION’ steps to make a purchase, especially when there are multiple decision-makers.
Rewarding Action in the B2B Buyer Cycle
Meeting and exceeding expectations is a significant part of winning hearts and minds of customers and prospects.
Having got attention based on an advert, email headline, voicemail or other method there needs to be a quick payback to pass the nano-second judgement of ‘is this worthwhile’ taking the next step.
Having committed time to reading or viewing or meeting etc. there needs again to be a significant payback to the prospect to justify the time commitment, whether this is seconds, minutes hours or days. Time is money for people in business and there is no shortage of calls on time. The message, content or other ‘fulfillment’ needs to amuse, inform, educate, inspire or in other ways impress the reader or viewer.
And then having made a purchase the customer needs to obtain the reward ahead of their expectations, either more quickly, at less cost or higher than anticipated, in order to feel very positive about the decision and investment they have made.
How are you aligning with your buyer cycle?
Take a moment to review a current sales campaign and see if you can:
- Identify the multiple steps that your buyers go through to make a purchase.
- Prioritise these based on number of buyers going through a step and the impact it has on their purchase.
- Consider each of the marketing and sales elements you have created.
- Evaluate each element for how well it meets one or more of the buyer steps above.
- Focus more time and resources on those high impact activities.
- Back your winners, and look for more ways to develop and enhance them
- Reduce time and resources on those activities that do not produce a healthy result.
- There’s no value in continuing to do things that add little or no value to your prospects.
- Consider learning from and eliminating those elements that are low value and low volume.
However, innovation is important, so do spend some time and resource to evaluate and pilot new approaches, and keep in tune with changes on the buyer cycle that your prospects and customers go through.
Rewarding Action through LinkedIn
A good way to do this in LinkedIn is to have some valuable content to direct people to. This could be on a broadcast basis, through Status Updates, to smaller groups through LinkedIn Email-shots, or 1:1 using the LinkedIn messaging system.
Another is to thank people in a public way, especially if they have added comments and shared your content with their connections.
What ways do you use to reward your prospect and customers?
The B2B sales cycle should reflect the process the buyer or buying team goes through, in order to improve conversions and reduce cost and effort.
The Wurlwind sales funnel framework works on a 5 step sales cycle:
- Attract – use various techniques so prospects find you
- Engage – where you gain permission to communicate
- Nurture – develop a simple interest into a qualified opportunity
- Transact – the actual selling process
- Deliver – where you fulfill the order and the customer gets value
- Recycle – collaborating with customers to feed the sales funnel
The first 4 stages are covered elsewhere on this website and need less introduction than the last two.
The B2B sales cycle from Wurlwind
Deliver – providing value to clients
The Delivery stage is included in the sales cycle for several reasons.
- Customer expectations have been set through the early stages, and it’s essential to at least meet these.
- Thinking through ways to deliver value to customers quickly after they sign up will help to meet and exceed expectations.
Social Media has given customers a route to express their feelings in a way previously not possible.
- Positive customers can share their praise and high opinion of your company and its products or services.
- Dis-satisfied customers also have a channel to vent their unhappiness.
Recycle – turbocharging your sales funnel
In addition, there is a sixth activity that does not follow the linear progression, but has an impact on all five stages.
This activity could feed back into any stage through the sales cycle.
- It may be triggered because a potential customer has not responded to some of your messages or offers and has not chosen to move to ‘the next step’. Therefore it’s appropriate to recycle through a sequence and try again.
- They may have taken action, bought something, and now be receptive to remarketing, as an upsell or cross-sell.
- Or they may have shown commitment at any or all stages above and be prepared to endorse and support your efforts in one or many ways that are now possible, particularly by providing you with content to share, or by sharing content with their connections.
Designing these options to recycle into your own sales funnel will create considerable returns. It may not be such a high volume activity as customer acquisition, but it can have such a powerful capability to accelerate sales other activities and results that it justifies the effort, even for lower volumes.
Lead generation using content marketing is evolving rapidly. HubSpot is a market leader and sets the standard for best practice. Here are 11 lessons I pick out from their campaign ’11 examples of online marketing success’.
From business card to second invoice – what are the steps you and your potential customer go through, and how can you become as effective as possible in achieving the best result for both of you?
Lead nurture activity is an increasingly important stage in the B2B sales cycle. Lead nurture itself isn’t new, and many activities in the traditional B2B sales cycle contribute to moving the sale along. What is new are the tools and techniques available to even small and mid-sized companies, to respond to the changes in buyer behaviour and the information explosion.
Lead nurture is also referred to as drip-marketing, lead follow-up, precision marketing, marketing automation and similar terms.
Multi-pack lead nurture
To use a super-market phrase, you may be aware that we’re moving into a multi-touch, multi-media and multi-channel nurture environment.
- Multi-touch – maybe your prospects need to hear from you 7, 17, 27 or even more times before it’s ‘right for them’ to be ready to invest time and commit to a purchase, especially if they have to align things internally.
- Multi-media – do your prospects tune into and relate better to text, diagrams, detailed reports, audio, video, webinars and so on.
- Multi-channel – do they may prefer to hear from you via email, social media, telephone, mobile phone, post, online, face to face or a mixture.
What is clear is that potential buyers will hear about potential solutions and benefits through multiple communications channels, and they have a huge choice.
Lead nurture benefits the prospect
Your prospect or potential buyer benefits by receiving timely and relevant information from you since, as a lead, they have an interest in what you offer. However, at this stage in the buying cycle, the prospect is more interested in solving a problem or developing an opportunity, and how you can help, rather than your specific products and services If it’s a complex, occasional and significant investment, on a personal, professional or company level, the prospect benefits from the experience of how to go about purchasing, rather than what the purchase actually is.
Lead nurture benefits the vendor
As a vendor this creates an opportunity to educate the prospect or lead in such a way that you develop leads into sales ready opportunities that are more pre-disposed to you as a potential supplier. There is also the potential to do this in a more timely, lower cost and more measurable way than previously.
B2B lead qualification
By tracking, recording and consolidating the responses of your prospects to your contact and communication with them you are able to build us a much more sophisticated profile of their interests and purchase intentions. This is an opportunity to qualify out as much as it is an opportunity to develop leads until they become sales-ready.
Building on qualification at lead capture stage, a good lead nurture program will enable you to identify more accurately those leads that are ready to ‘buy now’, to nurture those that will ‘buy sometime’, and to avoid wasting time on those who will ‘never buy’.
By developing and executing an appropriate lead nurture program it helps you as the vendor to allocate resources where you are more likely to gain a positive return and ultimately some additional business or a new customer.
Tips to develop a Lead nurture program
To be effective,lead nurture needs to become integral to your business, so consider:
1. People – think about both potential buyers and you and your team. How will buyers respond to a more advanced lead nurture campaign. And what attitude, training, skills and buy-in will you and your team need to have for success.
2. Process – what is your current nurture process, how many touch-points are there, what works, what doesn’t, what could improve, and where is there potential to automate based on rules. Consider also the lead capture and selling steps too, and how they inter-relate, for example when someone doesn’t buy how you recycle that contact into nurture.
3. Technology – with the explosion of cloud-based and hosted applications for marketing and sales there is now an enormous choice of lead nurture and marketing automation solutions at a variety of price-points.
To find out more about drip marketing and lead nurture sign up to ‘Wurlwind Wand’ on the right and we’ll send through what we hope is timely, informative and entertaining hints and tips to you. And do give us feedback too.
Being able to attract people who have a problem, issue or need that you can solve is a very effective way to feed your sales funnel.
There are literally dozens of new options available, which makes it confusing, complex and costly, (especially in terms of your time), to make choices. And then implementation takes time. And results can be disappointing. Increasing traffic to your website, and to other points of engagement, can take a concerted and sustained effort. Meanwhile there are still targets to hit, and you’d like some time at evenings and weekends for other activities.
How marketing and sales is changing
Attraction marketing and inbound marketing are terms that mean roughly the same. Sales 2.0 takes these concepts and extends them further through the sales funnel, through to sales-ready leads and beyond.
New applications made possible by the Internet and World Wide Web, particularly Search and Social Media, mean that people now go online to do their research when they have a question, problem or needs and they want to find information, advice, products and solutions. And since you’re reading this you are doing the same.
Traditional marketing and lead generation is based on Interruption, where the vendor puts their message infront of someone whether they want it or not. This is becoming less effective, and turns many people off, and they put up physical and mental barriers to protect themselves, and their time. We block out time to do what’s essential and important to achieving our goals, and find ways to batch-up communications and handle them all at the same time, because it’s also more effective. Picking up and responding to voice-mail messages and email between meetings is just one form this takes.
Attraction marketing is about being Found when someone is looking for information on a topic related to what you offer.
Three steps to attraction marketing:
To be successful this means that the vendor really needs to understand, and take action based on, three things about the buyer.
1. What the buyer looks for before they find the solution that the vendor is offering.
2. Where the buyer would go to look.
3. What would persuade the potential buyer to give up their contact details, ie. email address, in order that the vendor can follow-up with additional information, which is the next topic, about engagement and gaining permission.
Content Marketing is a powerful way to be found. Creating and publishing content which displays your knowledge in a way that helps the reader understand a topic better or outlines a way to solve a problem is the first step. The content could be in the form of articles, videos, slidecasts and many more.
Where you don’t yet know the name of the business or person you are communicating with is referred to by some as Inbound Marketing. Publishing your content in many places where the prospects you want will find it means you need to understand where those readers will find it, visit or hang out.
This might be through search engines, so your content needs to rank well and appear high up on the page listings, it might be through forums and discussions, or on social media, or several other places online. Offline may also be part of the equation for your market, such as trade publications.
There are some basic questions that need to be addresses, or reviewed and reconsidered
• Can you define who your potential customers are?
• Do you know where your potential customers hang-out these days?
• Are you present and actively participating in those places, channels and communities?
Where you don’t yet know the name of the business or person you are communicating with is referred to by some as Inbound Marketing.
Sign-up for the hints and tips and let us guide you through the process.