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Monday, August 08, 2016

Are You Avoiding Having Leads Crash and Burn on the Front Lines?








Are you able to see what happens to the leads your organization generates when they get to the live-engagement stage? Many marketing organizations have literally zero visibility of what happens on the front lines in sales; yet this is where the greatest attrition in your pipeline can occur when it isn't managed with some deliberate design.

It's relatively easy to monitor a prospect's journey with their digital interactions; you'll see their score change/rise, you see them more frequently (or not) or responding to the things you would expect them to. You can gauge the topics they are interested in based on their behavior, and then feed them more of the things they are interested in. You can measure and assign a value to most actions prospects do with your content, and you can create messages designed for a very precise response. That is the part you do with more of a hands-off approach.

The breakdown is when it goes to the live engagement phase of the journey. You team(s) may be distributed, segmented by geography, industry, company size, etc. 

The challenge is that the moment it goes to a rep, 5 things happen:
  • Independent decisions made by reps, some may be inexperienced, on how to handle the prospect
  • Individual interpretation of the opportunity/non-opportunity
  • Individual practices to engage. This is where management scratches their heads asking "why does Tracy connect with so many prospects and Brenda is at a 50% lower conversion rate?" or "Why do we never have issues with Tom closing business but Mike is constantly complaining about the leads?"
  • Understanding the prospect is only as good as the knowledge base the rep has personally developed
  • Follow-up is based on the workload of the rep and understanding of prospect behavior

Your best reps understand how to manage these intuitively, you will see that in their results. But all reps don't have these areas mastered or even understand what is going on from a "buyer psychology" standpoint and what their mindset should be at an early engagement stage. 
What this looks like in real-life:
  • Many different approaches with what to say, how to engage, overall attitude about the prospect, understanding and interpretation of the prospect's responses and behavior. Example: One rep may research a prospect, look at their company, get some background on them, and prepare some very specific crisp soundbites to open a dialog. OR, the rep calls and says "I saw you were on the site, I wanted to see if you are looking for something specific" and within 5 minutes ask if they have a budget.
  • Depending on the skills and confidence of the rep, the viability of the opportunity can appear more positive or negative. Example: A prospect says  they will bake something into their budget for your solution the following quarter, they want to have a brainstorm session, and see how to work together the following quarter. One rep may work hard to make something happen ASAP to get in there and add value and lock it up. OR, a rep would say "nothing is going on in here for months, I am not spending time on this." 
  • Engagement can be everything from sending a few emails, to a consistent effective approach that engages a very high percentage of prospects. Example: I didn't reach the prospect, they aren't interested. When asked "what did you do?" the answer is they called once, and sent 2 emails 3 weeks ago. The emails were pasted sections of older emails, and when the prospect opens it, it looks like a ransom note of fonts and colors. OR, a rep can understand people are super busy and it really does take a persistent effort that may entail 5-8 attempts to reach them.
  • Some opportunities need a well-informed resource that can quickly understand their environment and map the problems to the solution within their own environment.  Inability to do that, can leave a vendor out in the cold. Example: One rep may know specific challenges certain industries face, and can speak to those very fluently. OR, a rep can use the one-size-fits-all deck to present, and miss out on key areas to build confidence with the prospect. 
  • Workload of active deals, or late stage deals, has a direct impact on developing newer relationships with prospects. Example: If a rep has numerous active deals at late stages or deals closing that are demanding, new prospects are neglected just because of bandwidth.  

This is just a slice of what is happening out there.  Conversations aren't documented, engagement varies depending on who does it, depending on the reps personal approach or assessment, they may or may not get priority. These major decisions are left to a stage of the journey that can be a total black box, that no one has visibility into.
So what can YOU do?
  1. Find out what is actually happening. Get a sample of results from each team member using an apples to apples comparisons. The records, the discussions, the end dispositions--then compare.
  2. Have a true skills assessment of engagement and make sure everyone is equipped to have a high level of skills to engage. This includes understanding prospect behavior, what it takes to reach prospects, how to interpret responses, how prospects are mentally responding when they do certain things, etc. 
  3. Address the behavioral aspects of sales formally vs. product knowledge and more mechanical content. The real success comes from being able to real-time navigate what is happening during conversations and reading between the lines of what prospects say. Those are the skills that progress leads, not knowing how to explain a widget. 
  4. Equip your team with resources that help them understand the background of leads they get, i.e., what were they responding to, who was targeted, the content the prospects saw, the source list, etc. That helps them to have a vantage point of what they get.

There's much more to do in order to completely fine-tune this; but once reps understand the small things they do along the way make a difference is the first step.  Behavioral perception make zan enormous impact on results. I don't mean how to act right in a social setting, but understanding what is happening on the sales landscape, what kinds of thought responses to prospects have to certain actions, etc. 

This goes far beyond "social selling" in the sense it isn't just understanding how to mine data in the public domain, but really becoming a professional at the undercurrents of engagement and rising about the noise of the high number of approaches prospects get daily. When you equip your teams to really understand how to read between the lines of engagement, then you will maximize return on all of your programs across the board and see increased ROI with all of your efforts.