Whether you are a global company or a local startup, leads are the lifeblood of your business. The system of qualifying a lead so that it becomes “sales ready” is a burning issue for many marketing and sales teams, hand in hand with the need for effective strategies to help close those leads. From a digital lead generation perspective, there are some very clear parameters used to ensure leads become sales qualified and I share them here. I also invited three industry leaders to weigh in on the art of lead closing. There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s dive into the process.
What is a Lead Funnel
We can’t discuss lead qualifying without making mention of lead funnels, that series of steps that a user has to take in order to evolve from a place of interest in your product or service to an engaged prospect, to a hot lead, to a paying customer. There are multiple stages in a lead funnel. Russel Brunson of Click Funnels fame explains it best in this video:
Defining a Qualified Lead
Without doing a deep dive into the differences between a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) and Lead Scoring (all legitimate lead qualification systems to identify lead quality and each deserving of a blog unto itself) I would like to share in simple terms, the factors needed in order to define a qualified lead through a sales funnel. These factors need to be determined side-by-side with sales and marketing when possible so that both teams are satisfied:
Identify the right platforms and ideal buyer personas. For example, if you are targeting Business to Business (B2B) prospects then you may want to leverage LinkedIn based on it’s extensive professional targeting opportunities including job title, company size, seniority, industry, management level and/or skill base. If you are targeting Business to Consumer (B2C) you may want to leverage Facebook or Instagram based on interests, buying behavior, previous engagement, age, gender and/or physical location.
Tip: Facebook has great B2B targeting capabilities too through industry and job title targeting options.
Engage at the Top of the Funnel
In order for a lead to qualify they will need to have primary levels of interaction with your brand and assets (also called top of the funnel engagement). During this discovery phase the goal is to entice the user to take some kind of action to show “customer intent”. This might include:
- Downloading a white paper or buying guide
- Visiting a landing page
- Watching a video
- Initiating a chat
- Joining a group
- Taking a poll
Tip: Even at the top of the funnel stage some users will be ready to convert into a customer so always offer this option in your lead funnel.
Engage at the Middle and/or Bottom of the Funnel
As discussed above, before a lead becomes “sales ready” a user is required to engage with your digital assets at a number of touch points in your lead funnel. At the middle and bottom of the funnel users are now ready for deeper lead nurturing by testing more assertive Calls to Action (CTAs). Once a user has successfully completed a CTA of this nature (and they have met targeting and lead capture requirements) they are usually “sales ready”. Some bottom of the funnel CTAs include:
- Book a consultation/book a demo assets
- Webinar sign-up
- Click to call buttons
- In-person meeting requests
Successfully Capture Essential Lead Data
Capturing of lead data can happen at many points in the sales funnel, from the very first touch point or after multiple touch points. Regardless, certain basic information must be captured in order to qualify as a lead including name, email address, phone number, company name, job title etc. When capturing lead data only request the most essential fields without hurting lead quality. Typically, the more form fields you request the lower the conversion rate.
Tip: We suggest investing in a marketing automation system to help support your lead nurturing campaigns with a solution like Hubspot, Pardot or ActiveCampaign allowing you to segment. personalize and effectively track your marketing efforts.
Lead Generation Compliance
Lead Nurturing and Closing Advice From Industry Experts
Once leads are handed over to sales a new set of strategies must come in to play in order to close them. While there is a science behind closing leads there is also an art. As such I turned to three preeminent sales experts to get their insights on “closing the deal” which combines emotional intelligence, active listening, storytelling, persuasive presenting and even some sleuthing skills.
Gabriel appreciates how important it is for his potential customers to establish a relationship with him based on trust and confidence. “Ask the prospect what challenges they have had in the past and find out what their current needs are” recommends Gabriel. “I present options and advantages that the prospect values based on their feedback. Furthermore, I won’t sell something to a client until they try it first. This really shows I care and gives them the confidence to move forward. Not only does this remove any potential for buyer’s remorse it builds the confidence essential for the future of the working relationship, including supporting them post purchase as well”. Gabriel does not only rely on prospect feedback but assesses facial expressions as well. “Often their reaction helps you gauge whether you have met (or exceeded) their expectations”.
Dafna Rolls, CEO of DRolls Associates a Boston based agency with an expertise in cold calling, appointment setting, inside sales and lead closing also uses a personalized, prospect focused approach to lead closing.
In fact Dafna suggests “to learn all about your lead (in advance of a meeting)…educate yourself about who they are in order to have the foundation to build a good relationship. Customize and personalize yourself. Don’t make it sound like a regular sales pitch. Do not ask about their budget but ask what their future plans are and what their current needs are”. Dafna also emphasizes the need to share proof of concept. By showcasing case studies and mentioning some of your satisfied clients are competitors in their space.
Don Williams of Don Williams Global is a leading Sales Coaching Expert to top tier entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 leaders. Don shares these tips to successful lead closing:
- Choose the right communication channel for your objective. High value and/or complex conversations should always be done Face to Face. If you absolutely cannot meet Face to Face, then Video enabled Audio (think Skype, Zoom, FaceTime) is the next best option to close deals. Text communication (SMS, email etc) is best for notification and quick communication.
- View your product, service or experience from the prospect’s perspective. Human nature is wired so that for the most part we only care about our own needs and desires. Tailor your presentation (which is everything your prospect sees, hears, feels, touches and smells) from their perspective, not yours.
- On assuming the sale: If you represent a valuable product, service or experience AND you’ve established real rapport with your prospect AND you’ve done a great job explaining the benefits of ownership of that product, service or experience to your prospect AND you are solving a problem or need for your prospect, THEN you have every right and even a responsibility to assume that sale.