There are a lot of challenges in business, with a predictable revenue generation process almost always taking top spot. It’s kind of like oxygen for your business – without it, you die.
To get predictability in revenue, you need to have predictable lead generation. And to do that, the authors of this book suggest, we need to have dedicated prospectors who feed experienced closers.
So while there are thousands of books written about the sales process as a whole, there are very few that have created a detailed process for keeping the top of your funnel full of prospects that have a high likelihood of buying from you.
And here’s the kicker – it’s based almost entirely on phone and email based outbound prospecting. No, the authors argue, social selling isn’t the panacea that some people would like to make it out to be. If it’s successful at all, it’s certainly not predictable.
So until a book comes out that suggests a predictable and dependable process to fill the top of your funnel, you should take what you are about to learn very seriously.
Step #1: Internalizing Your Competitive Position
The first thing you need to do before you reach out to your prospects is to determine how to position the value of buying from your company rather than the competition.
The Six-Factor SWOT Analysis
The best place to start here is to run a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis on six different things.
1. The 4 Ps: Product, Price, Promotion, and Place. This is a marketing mix framework created by Michigan State University Professor Edmund Jerome McCarthy back in the 1960’s that has stood the test of time. So you would first take a look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your product. Then move on to your price, and so on. For the “place” analysis, keep in mind that your website is most likely going to be included, which obviously wasn’t in the consideration set when the 4Ps was created.
2. Reputation Factors: one of the best ways to assess your reputation in the marketplace is to use the Net Promoter Score (NPS), a tool developed by Fred Reichheld while he was a consultant at Bain & Company. It measures customer loyalty by asking, on a scale of 0 to 10, “How likely is it that you would recommend [company X] to a friend or colleague?” You should be analyzing your reputation with both your customers and partners at this stage.
3. Internal Resource Factors: each company has four pools of internal resources to pull from – (1) financial resources, (2) intellectual property, (3) human capital, and (4) physical assets.
4. External Forces: there are 3 forces at play here – (1) customer (how much bargaining power do your customers have), (2) competitive forces (how much competition do you have today and in the future), (3) bargaining power of suppliers.
5. Trends: social-demographic and technology.
6. VUCA factors (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous occurrences), which include things like natural disasters and other important forces that are hard to predict.
If all of this sounds daunting, keep in mind that all you are looking to do is to come out the other side with a very clear picture of what your company provides, and how that fits into the marketplace both today and in the near future.
Step #2: Developing an Ideal Account Profile
So now you’ll have the ability to clearly communicate the differentiated value proposition your company offers.
Now you need to identify the ideal accounts to target. You are looking for the segments of the market that have both a high lifetime value and a high likelihood of purchasing.
You should also keep in mind that whatever segmentation you land on should (1) give you a large enough market to target, (2) give you targets that have a specific set of needs, and (3) allow you to communicate with that segment easily in a consistent way.
Here are the different ways you can create target segments.
1. Firmogrpahic fit. This is where you should start, and will get you 80% of the way to your Ideal Account Profile. This will usually include factors like the industry, company size and geography. If you are focusing on company size, keep in mind that there is a tradeoff to be made. Large companies generally control much larger budgets, but smaller companies are generally much easier to sell to.
2. Operational Fit. Next, we are into looking at the prospect’s medium to long-term business operations. For instance, one thing that might impact your ability to sell to a prospect is what “equipment” they are currently using. Generally, you’ll have a very hard time selling to somebody who just bought from your competition. You might look at their purchasing policy and how they make their buying decisions. If your sales process isn’t a good fit for those things, cross those prospects off your list.
3. Situational Fit. Finally, we look at things that are more “opportunistic” in nature. For instance, finding out that a prospect just launched a strategic initiative that requires the use of your product or an alternative, that’s a good fit. You might also look at things like executive transitions.
Step #3: Crafting Ideal Prospect Personas
Now that you know what companies to target, you need to hone in on the ideal prospect persona – understanding the specific people in the organization you need to sell to.
This includes knowing who the buyers are, what they care about, and how they communicate.
Here are some of the items you’ll need to know:
1. Job Title – which includes both job level and job function information. For instance, VP of Marketing is probably the final decision maker when deciding on their marketing agency of record.
2. Professional Objectives – these are the goals, critical initiatives and KPIs that those people have. A pro-tip here is to look at any job descriptions your targets have posted for key hires – if done well, it will usually include all of this information.
3. Influence Map – obviously, many people in a company influence a buying decision. Understanding who the influencers and gatekeepers are in your sales process is key, as you’ll want to include them in your outreach.
The next thing you need to do is to find the “pain” that your prospects are facing, especially as it relates to their overarching objectives.
There are a few ways you can do this, but two of them stand out.
First, interview 10 people who you would consider good prospects for what you offer, and simply ask them to talk about the their objectives, what they are doing today to achieve them, and what the biggest challenges standing in their way are.
Second (this is the only place in this book you’ll see social media mentioned), spend some time in LinkedIn groups or other social networks where your prospects hang out, and look at the questions they ask the community.
Step #4: Crafting the Right Message
Now it’s time to take all of the work you’ve done up until this point and employ what the authors call the Compel With Content story framework.
Basically, there are five distinct stages in the buying cycle we’ll be focussing on, and you are going to craft messages to bring them through each stage.
Before we start, it’s important to keep the “tone” of the messaging in mind. Messages designed to move prospects from unaware to aware and from aware to interested are primarily if not wholly emotional. Messages designed to move prospects from interested to evaluating and from evaluating to purchase are predominantly rational.
1. From Unaware to Aware. Keep in mind that starting with the assumption that prospects are ready to buy from the first moment of contact is a relationship killer. So, the relationship should be initiated by the salesperson sharing resources that are brief, high value, and product agnostic such as blog posts, infographics, and video clips.
2. From Aware to Interested. At this point, the prospect is willing to invest more time digging into the problem and potential solutions. This is where more detailed content like reports, trends, best practices, diagnostic tools and webinars come in handy.
3. From Interested to Evaluating. Assets at this stage include case studies, testimonials, product reviews, product-centric webinars, and discovery meetings.
4. From Evaluating to Purchase. At this stage, we are down to emails and voicemails that are completely personalized depending on the situation. You’ll most likely find yourself offering trials (free or paid), ROI calculators, references, or anything that will help your prospect come to a final decision.
Finally, as you are crafting your emails, keep in mind that you should personalize your communication as much as possible while still being able to run your program at scale. Why? The higher the personalization, the higher the response rate.
Here’s an example to give you a sense of what a mass personalized email to an unaware prospect might look like:
Subject: Mobile Optimization Renaissance
I thought you’d find this article on mobile optimization helpful – about 50 percent of consumers say they won’t return to a website if it doesn’t load properly on their mobile device, meaning nearly half of potential customers could be turned away if a website isn’t optimized correctly.
If you’d like to learn more about our approach to optimizing and creating breakthrough mobile experiences, I’d love to set up a short call. Are you available anytime in the upcoming weeks? Or, if you don’t oversee the digital agency selection process, would you please refer me to the best contact?
* is a digital agency that lives at the intersection of marketing and technology. We design and develop award-winning mobile solutions for clients such as FreshDirect, IDT, and Hewlett-Packard.
There are some best practices here to keep in mind. First, it appears to have been sent by a real person because it has a real sending address, it is written in simple text without images, and has a normal signature. Second, it is written in normal text, the way normal people format their emails. Third, the subject line tells people exactly what they’ll find inside.
If you want samples of emails you can use in each of the stages, well, you’re going to have to buy the book for that 🙂
Step #5: Getting Meetings Through Prospecting Campaigns
Now it’s time to put all of this together into a campaign that can help you predictably fill the top end of the funnel with prospects.
There are two sources of outbound leads which you can and should explore.
The first and obvious place to start is with your organization’s house list. Usually the most valuable prospects are former clients, followed by prospects that were formally lost after qualification. However, even prospects who were disqualified or who didn’t reply to previous outreach are good candidates for this process.
The second place to look to are places where you can rent a list. The best lists in the B2B space are supplied by trade publications since the prospects are fresher and have opted in.
No matter which source you get your data from, they must be cleaned and validated before sending.
Now that you’ve got your data, it’s time to start executing your campaigns. As covered in Predictable Revenue, it should contain 8 to 12 touches over 22 business days (or a calendar month.)
Here’s what an 9-touch campaign – including 7 emails and 2 phone calls over 20 days – might look like.
Day 1 – send an email asking for the right person to speak to about the pain points you’ve uncovered in your research.
Day 2 – send an email referencing a survey you produced that’s relevant to their needs, and again asking for the right person to speak to.
Day 3 – email an infographic to the prospect, asking them to click on a link to get it (if they click this link it lets you know they’ve moved from unaware to aware).
Day 8 – email and attempt to secure a meeting, either through an online calendar you use or by asking them to reply to the email.
Day 8 – call (if they don’t pick up leave a voice mail) and let them know you sent them an email about securing a meeting.
Day 11 – send an email with a diagnostic tool to the prospect, asking them to click on a link to get it (if they click on this link it lets you know they’ve moved from aware to interested).
Day 13 – send them an email with a product demo, asking them to click on a link to get it (if they click this link it lets you know they’ve moved from interested to evaluating).
Day 18 – send a “breakup” email, asking them to respond to let you know if there’s any interest in talking further.
Day 20 – call (if they don’t pick up leave a voice mail) asking them to reply to the email you sent on Day 18.
Note, that if there is any dialogue or replies during this process, you obviously handle it on a case by case basis, moving them from aware to evaluating as quickly as you can.
Becoming a pro at filling the top end of the funnel with predictable leads that have a high likelihood of creating a great customer is an involved process.
But if you follow the process, and fine-tune it as you go, you will find success.