Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Kelvin Francis, LSS BB @apptpros. Kelvin is President of LeadsBIXample. He has been extensively involved in the strategic, operational and managerial aspects of the Lead Generation industry for over 10 years. He is fanatical about an Efficient Process and also a Client Enthusiast. For more information, visit: www.leadsbixample.com
SmallBizLady: HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE A GOOD SALES LEAD?
Kelvin Francis: A good lead may mean different things to different people; however, that definition will determine the length of your sales cycle and the probability of a close. They could range from being a qualified target to expressed interest. However, whether that lead comes as a referral, as an inbound inquiry or a result of a cold pursuit, a good lead should have some basic characteristics.
- It should be qualified and based on your criteria.
- It fits within the fulfillment capabilities of your company.
- Your contact is a champion or decision maker.
- Your lead has legs. There is a reason and opportunity to have a next step conversation.
If these elements are present, then it can be considered a qualified lead and is worthy of moving through your sales process.
SmallBizLady: WHAT WOULD YOU CONSIDER AN EFFECTIVE STRATEGY FOR UNCOVERING QUALIFIED LEADS?
Kelvin Francis: Anyone with a small business knows how hard it is to get found. One great source, but a limited one, is your customer base. If you provide excellent service to them, you should expect a referral from them and you client should know that you feel that way. Don’t be afraid to ask for it if you’ve earned it. Another option is to partner with a credible external resource where providing qualified opportunities is their only function. Do ensure it is cost effective, presents an ROI, and is referenced. If you do it internally, you embrace all available options afforded to you and multitask. Today we must do 3X as much to achieve 1/3 of our past results. Email campaigns, cold calling, networking events, LinkedIn all apply. Keep in mind that doing it yourself requires a level of honesty about you or your team’s capabilities. Getting a good measure on what’s working and effective will help you prioritize those activities.
SmallBizLady: WHAT IS THE BEST NEXT STEP AFTER GETTING A GOOD LEAD?
Kelvin Francis: “Get another one” my mentor would say. Understanding that this is the start of a chase that requires a follow-up strategy should be your first thought. How and with whom you proceed will determine how long you are in chase mode and not in negotiation. A well-organized set of events should occur between documentation of that lead and the next conversation. These should include getting familiar with your client through their social and published media; preparing to have a ‘benefit them’ conversation with your prospect; accepting that the gatekeeper can be your best friend or a formidable foe and to have planned for that; and know that you have to be able to track the progression of your activities because you should have a few opportunities working simultaneously.
SmallBizLady: IT IS GETTING INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT TO GET PAST A GATEKEEPER; DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR THAT?
Kelvin Francis: Yes and you can start by not thinking of them as gatekeepers. Think of them as the keepers of your window of opportunity. They possess more than just voicemail skills and are as human as everyone else who decided to take their job seriously. So you now have a choice to make. You can treat them as a stepping stone or door mat and pay the price for that mistake or treat them as Royalty and reap some benefit. Finding out their names or asking how their day is will be noticed and appreciated. Remember to use genuinely that information on your next attempt – a good lead will require a few attempts – trust me. Now you can ask for a favor like the best time to reach your prospect or plead for a few minutes on his or her calendar. They will easier put you through an admin than a CEO, so find out if your prospect has one. You should also try to reach your prospect before normal hours and after the close of business.
SmallBizLady: YOU MENTIONED A WELL-ORGANIZED SET OF EVENTS, WHAT SHOULD THAT MEAN TO ME?
Kelvin Francis: Great question. Any lead that has not yet elicited a proposal is still in pre-sales status. Like your sales process, pre-sales is also a process, and you should treat as such. Further qualifying your lead is necessary and can save you time. Verifying the contact information, if they fall within your coverage area, and fulfillment model, and whether you have the right champion or need to reach another decision maker is the first step. Lead nurturing is part of that process as well. If you have to make multiple touches or follow their buying cycle, timing, staying current and touching relevantly will matter. Imagine you have 10 or 15 good leads in pre-sales status with different sales cycles, audiences, and service requirements. Having them organized and well documented with status in a CRM will be imperative if you are going to navigate these leads efficiently and effectively. So unless you work only one lead at a time, organization (CRM) is a must for prospecting.
SmallBizLady: WHAT IF A PROSPECT BLOWS OFF THE FOLLOW UP CALL, WHAT SHOULD THE NEXT STEP BE?
Kelvin Francis: Life happens, and most serious professionals move at the speed of business. A blow off can be for a legitimate reason or just a legitimate blow off. If you are working with an external resource, they should re-calendar that event so let them. For the others, stay professionally relentless. If you were effective and presented value on your first call, getting back in touch shouldn’t be difficult. A reminder email that includes a reschedule request can be the first step. Also gleaning information from an admin or assistant could further shed some light and guide your next steps. To avoid being perceived as desperate or bothersome, gap your attempts 3-4 days apart and vary the method you use (call and email). This will always happen, and you should prepare for that. A strong pipeline helps fill in the gaps.
SmallBizLady: WHAT PERCENTAGE OF LEADS SHOULD ONE EXPECT TO CONVERT TO AN OPPORTUNITY?
Kelvin Francis: Assume that you are a competent sales person, and your lead is qualified. There will be a difference in the conversation rate between a referral and an outbound effort. The general wisdom is to have a very conservative estimate that also accomplishes your sales goals. So on an outbound business development model, a 30% conversion rate should be a good place to be. If you end up converting above that, then you’re exceeding your sales goals. I would advise that your conversion rate is estimated on an outbound model as opposed to an inbound or referral model. Although a referral is a much better lead with a higher conversion rate, it may not be the most predictable or sustainable model to base that statistic on.
SmallBizLady: HOW CAN MARKET RESEARCH BENEFIT A SMALL BUSINESS DURING THE LEAD GENERATION PROCESS?
Kelvin Francis: Any forum that can give you a glimpse into the minds, requirements, habits and appetite of your prospects, especially as it pertains to your product or service is advantageous. If you can ‘know before you go’ you are ahead of the game. This will allow you to direct you marketing efforts and dollars in the direction that the intelligence has identified. You will save time and money as a result but more importantly, you gain the ability to engage your prospect more efficiently and meaningful than you would have otherwise. The challenge is that a formal Market Research project today comes at a premium as a standalone product and not all of the activities within are applicable or relevant to a small business. During your outbound marketing efforts you can arm yourself with a few intake questions for your prospects, and if done consistently, can provide some valuable intelligence whether or not it was a good lead or turned into a sales appointment.
SmallBizLady: ANY ADVICE ON AN EFFECTIVE FOLLOW UP STRATEGY AFTER AN EVENT?
Kelvin Francis: A lot of folks invest more time and resources in these events than they gain benefit from. Whether it is a webinar or tradeshow, what you do before the event has as much impact as the activities performed after it. Selectively invite a relevant audience that are either buyers of your product or service or should be. Try your best to have them commit to attending with an expressed desire to meet during the event or maybe an incentive to do so. If your presentation or exhibit is compelling, making feedback your first ‘ask’ is one way to have them engage you instead of you chasing them for a sale. What you learn will allow you to effectively follow up on the opportunity because they will no longer be a cold lead and you’ll have intelligence to work with. Remember to input these contacts in your CRM and status them accordingly and immediately after the event. If you do get a good turnout, having the ability to follow up effectively could mean the difference between a good contact and an opportunity.
SmallBizLady: HOW CAN YOU MAINTAIN A GOOD FLOW OF OPPORTUNITIES AND QUALIFIED LEADS?
Kelvin Francis: One of the best ways to do this is to get very serious about your pipeline. Patience will dictate the quality of it. Some sales people prematurely push for a sale rather than allowing it to mature into a buy. It’s ok to accept that timing matters and allowing a lead to become sales ready is also a good strategy. A sound goal can be to have many opportunities in different stages of the sales or pre-sales process and spread over your sales cycle, their buying cycle and beyond. Maintaining that pipeline should focus on a few things; being ‘top of mind’ with periodic touches; being relevant and beneficial during these touches, and documenting each activity to ensure that each good lead is addressed appropriately when they are sales ready.
SmallBizLady: WHAT IMPACT SHOULD MY BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT PROCESS HAVE ON MY CLIENT ACTIVITIES?
Kelvin Francis: Excellent question. Getting new business is great but keeping existing ones is even better. They should not only fit in your fulfillment model but also your retention model. Often the mistake is made that once you do a great job and offer high-level access and accountability, the product or service will take care of them. Not always the case. A survey of your clients to ask their opinion of your services, price point, and other requirements is very necessary. You can rest assured that they are being asked the same questions and presented attractive options by your competitors and not for your benefit. Knowing their satisfaction level and desires could allow heading off any poaching if you can accommodate, but more importantly to not be caught off guard by a client leaving because of dissatisfaction or a better offer. You’ll at least have a chance to do something about it.
SmallBizLady: CAN YOU SUGGEST A GOOD WORKFLOW TO TARGET AND FOLLOW UP ON GOOD LEADS IN AN OUTBOUND CAMPAIGN?
Kelvin Francis: Start with identifying a target market or industry you’d like to prospect in. Set a timeframe with parameters and define what success means for that initiative. Procure a good marketing list not to exceed 250 at any time. Allow yourself to add to or shift from target lists based on feedback. Think of your first round of calling as research and your objective should be a qualification, fielding objections, creating rebuttals and most importantly understanding your prospect buying cycle and appetite. Continue to build a pipeline while refining your message to accommodate market feedback. As your lists get reduced to viable targets, purge your database to allow ‘ease of use’ and execute on the pipeline developed. Execution means nurturing long-term opportunities and setting qualified appointments to discuss your offerings with the sales ready ones. Documentation and organization will help you efficiently navigate this process.
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