Generate B2B Sales Leads Online, But Sell Offline

As anyone in B2B business development can attest, generating quality B2B sales leads is an uphill struggle.  With the nature of complex sales, many factors come into play, including brand reputation, length of buying cycle, multiple decision stakeholders and ultimately, price tag.  For all of these reasons (and more), quality B2B sales leads do not generally ‘fall out of the sky’ in traditional lead generation efforts.

And, now that technology offers more lead generation channels to reach leads – email, websites, and social media – there are more ways to reach your leads.  But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the leads will just start flowing in any quicker.

The same challenges to obtaining quality sales lead exist online as they do ‘offline’.  And ignoring these challenges can cost you time and money — and perhaps your ‘faith’ in the potential that online lead generation represents.

Here are some of the main sales issues, that exist both online and offline, and how you can address them more effectively online.

Primary Lead Generation Issues

  • Finding prospects
  • Educating prospects
  • Nurturing prospects
  • Influencing prospects

These are sales issues that have always existed – long before the internet came along.

How are online lead generation efforts better than ‘offline’ methodologies at addressing these issues?

  1. Finding (and engaging) prospects has become harder than ever, primarily because of the same technological advances.  Call screening, spam filters, Tivo, etc. represent many of the ways that your sales message never reaches your audience. Online strategies can help to circumvent these hurdles.
  2. Educating your prospects is primarily done by their online ‘community’, not your sales team. Before the internet existed, one of the larger roles of a company’s sales team was the ‘education’ of clients.  Your content efforts online can help to add your ‘voice’ back into that education process.
  3. Nurturing your prospects is nearly impossible if they don’t let you know that they are ‘shopping’.  Today, most of the buying process occurs when your salesperson is NOT there.  Some online strategies help you to ‘discover’ these buyers as they go through their education process.
  4. Influencing your prospects to buy your product/service is now performed more by your current/past clients than by your sales team.  The recommendation of a salesperson pales in comparison to the ‘ratings’ of peers.  And now, with online social networks, this sharing of recommendations can be done so much easier… and quicker, between buyers and prospects. Your best bet is to engage in the online conversation.  You can’t control what is being discussed online, but you have the opportunity to influence that discussion.

For these reasons, online lead generation efforts can be much more effective (and cost-effective) than more traditional, ‘offline’ methods.

So, where is your salesforce while you are developing online leads?

A skilled salesforce is trained to present, sell and close the B2B business service/product.  And if the LTV (Lifetime Value) of your customers is high, they need to be investing major time converting the qualified leads, rather than ‘running the roads’ trying to find someone to talk to.

This does not deny your salesforce the opportunity to network and uncover lead. (Some salespeople have trouble dropping that role, based on past experience.)  Lead generation just shouldn’t be their main job.

Your salesforce should be closing business, or ready to respond to new leads that come in from other sources, such as your online lead generation processes.

Set Realistic Expectations for Online Sales 

It is sometimes thought that online B2B marketing is replacing the salesforce.  And I believe that it is — as it regards traditional lead generation.  And if it is not completely replacing the salesforces’ lead generation activity, online lead generation is certainly becoming a more cost-effective means to accomplish it.

But, where a B2B salesforce continues to be critical is in the finalizing and closing of the business.  And that is where some B2B companies get confused.

Your online marketing activity will rarely ‘close’ any B2B business.  Don’t have high expectations for direct sales from the internet activity.

But, look for more lead conversations to begin on the web.  And if you approach it correctly, those added conversations will translate into more qualified prospects that your salesforce can convert to customers.

Done correctly, your online marketing and lead generation can have a measurable ROI.  You just might have to connect a couple of ‘dots’ to see the real relationship between your online marketing and sales revenue.

Let us know if you would like to look more closely at your lead generation strategy.

[Enterprising salesman’s name here]

What is in this communication that benefits the recipient?

First of all, the subject line and the first half of the email body focus exclusively on the prospect’s industry. The email attempts to be helpful with information.

If the prospect DOESN’T already knows about this info, you become a ‘strategic resource’ for them. And if the prospect DOES know about this info, they at least know that you are ‘in tune’ with their business and industry. Either way, you potentially elevate yourself in the prospect’s eyes.

Also, an email like this second version, only mentions the product/service as a solution to THEIR need… not yours. Otherwise, why are you bothering them with this ‘touchpoint’ email?

The ‘Bottom line’ is the Bottom line.

We must remember that the business world has changed enormously over the last decade. Most executives have more administrative and organizational ‘stuff’ on their desks to deal with. Their time is limited. They don’t have time for ‘time wasters’.

Ultimately, your touch point activity should help that prospect do their job better, or inform them of information that they haven’t had time to gather. And that impact should happen from the very beginning of the communication. IF, they can not see a potentially positive impact on the ‘bottom line’ of their business immediately, your touchpoint message will be deleted.

Don’t let your sales communications get deleted.

Add your ideas below for making sales touch base emails more effective.

I have that constant desire for knowledge about new strategies and technologies that help businesses successful grow their businesses. And I really enjoy sharing that knowledge with my clients and business associates. It is second only to my love of lazy days on the coast with my family.

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