Building a funnel of good, qualified, sales-ready leads isn’t easy. Even when you identify good leads, converting them into sales takes effort. We have found that having a disciplined process is the most effective approach.
Too often, leads generated from marketing may not always be good leads for sales to follow up on. Even when sales receive quality leads, we find that sales doesn’t always approach the prospect in a way that will move the prospect through the sales funnel effectively.
In this article, we outline a 7-step approach to converting a new lead, and show how and when sales should follow up on marketing leads, and how to try to sell to the prospect from the very first contact.
1: Act fast
Time is of the essence when a new lead comes in. If someone has enquired about your services, the chances are that they have a pressing need for them now, or are seriously considering them in order to scale up their business. If your firm is not prompt to respond, this interest may cool off altogether, or the person may simply turn to one of your competitors if they have not done so already.
Either way, that person’s experience of your firm needs to be one of prompt professionalism right from the outset, and the first job is to make it clear to that prospect that you want and are keen to win their business.
Naturally not every lead that comes in will be suitable for the services you provide, or for sales to convert. It’s important to establish an efficient and effective way of qualifying leads to ensure that your sales team doesn’t spend time on the wrong type of lead.
An effective way to do this is to categorize your leads into the different stages of the sales cycle so you can effectively communicate to them based on the maturity of the sales cycle – you wouldn’t give pricing to a prospect at the beginning of the sales cycle, just as you wouldn’t provide basic product information to a prospect ready to buy. Dividing leads into Marketing-Qualified Leads (MQL) and Sales-Qualified Leads (SQL) is a simple way of doing this and will lead to much higher conversion rates.
An MQL is someone that has downloaded some of your content such as a whitepaper or an e-book to gather information and find out what you have to offer. Research has shown that a prospect will engage with 11.4 pieces of content to do their research prior to making a purchase.
So at this stage, it’s best not to over-sell to these leads as it may be off-putting; instead simply nurture them by providing regular information, and suggestions as to further reading that may be interesting based on what they have already downloaded.
SQLs are the people to focus on more direct sales approaches with. By definition, an SQL has already initiated contact with your firm, and now wishes for further contact and specifics on your service options and pricing discussions.
3: Structure your sales team
Converting leads is a crucial part of an effective sales strategy, and each team member’s responsibility should be made very clear to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Do you have a more junior sales person focused on qualifying inbound leads? Or do you expect your more senior reps to qualify leads for leads that fall inside their assigned domain? There are pros and cons to both models, but it’s crucial to establish roles in order to ensure effective lead qualification.
You don’t always get through to a potential prospect at the first time of asking, even if they have requested contact or a demonstration of your services. But people are busy, and even if you don’t get through to a lead at the first few times of asking, it’s still worth trying to establish contact.
Try to call them at different times of the day, and build more ways of connecting with them such as offering to add them to your newsletter, or requesting a connection on LinkedIn. It’s not about bombarding them with too much information, but you want your communications to speak to your value proposition and differentiators. At this stage you want your brand to stick in their mind to maximize the chances that they will convert when they are ready to buy.
5: Shift the focus
Rather than trying to share as much information about your services at the early stages of the sales process, select some key pain points that your firm can solve for them. Do this based on your experience with prospects with the same job role, seniority and business segment. In simple terms, this shifts the focus from being about your firm and the services you provide to the prospect and how you can help them solve their pain points and achieve their objectives.
6: Listen to the prospect’s feedback
Do not focus rigidly on a pre-prepared sales pitch when speaking with prospects. As with the previous point, this makes the whole conversation about your firm, and not about the prospect’s needs. Let your prospect speak, and listen carefully to what they have to say.
In addition to making the prospect feel as though your firm has time to listen to their needs, it’s a great way to pick up information about their pain points and problems. From this, you can then tailor your proposition based on their specific needs rather than hitting them with a cookie cutter, generic proposal.
7: Use the data
Data is a goldmine for understanding how your firm can convert leads, and how it can improve. Continuing to Improve and refine your lead process with historical data should be an ongoing part of your processes.
A good CRM system enables you to keep track of how many leads are coming in at different stages of the funnel, and the conversion rates (how many of them actually become paying customers). By creating dashboards to clearly analyze which parts of your lead handling processes are effective, and which need further fine tuning.
Discuss the data from your lead dashboard in your sales team meetings and gather suggestions for converting leads at different stages of the sales funnel. It’s also important to review with the sales team what’s worked and what hasn’t – develop your own best practices and implement them continuously
Find out more
If you would like to hear about additional insights, sign up for our newsletter or look for future blogs and articles on our website. And if you found this post helpful, feel free to like and share it on social media.
Creating a memorable brand voice and tone isn’t always easy and though the proliferation of digital marketing channels has reduced the gap between large professional service firms and small ones, it has also made it more difficult for any one brand to set itself apart. In the quest for differentiation and consistency across different channels, many professional service firms often mix up their brand voice and tone.
If you use different voices, your clients would be confused about what your brand represents and may not recognize it from one interaction to the next. Also, if you do not adjust your brand tone occasionally, you run the risk of being irrelevant at best or at worst offensive.
In order to create a unique and competitive brand identity, you must define a brand voice in your b2b marketing plan and be consistent.
Where Will People Hear Your Brand Voice and Tone?
Once you have personified your brand voice, the next step is to identify every single place where people will hear your voice. Since consistency is so important, you need to think of every single channel through which people might encounter you. Here are some ideas to get you brainstorming.
Your brand voice is naturally communicated through the words you use in video content. Video content includes videos you post to YouTube or other video sites and webinars. Also, when appearing on the videos of others, you should be using your unique brand voice.
Be on-brand whenever you encounter members of the public in a live situation. This includes one-on-one interactions with clients, interviews, presentations, and booths at trade shows or events. This is where having an established elevator speech or training on brand voice will come in handy.
You should consider your brand voice and tone for all print materials. This includes not only promotional materials such as flyers and brochures but also packaging paperwork and packing slips.
Your packaging and the words on them should reflect the core values of your company. This is especially important if you’re a “green” company. Try to consider how your packing looks and reads to your clients and whether or not it is consistent with your overall tone.
Create guidelines for your employees in terms of brand voice when they communicate online or off with clients. B2B companies need to present a more formal image that engenders trust and positions them as a thought leader.
Communications with Other Businesses
You should also keep the tone in mind when communicating with other businesses. Your tone should be consistent with business associates as well as clients.
The Power of Storytelling in Your Brand Voice and Tone
Your B2B marketing strategies should include stories. Storytelling can bring to life the voice and tone of your brand. Stories are great for conveying your values and creating a personal experience that builds credibility and develops a strong connection.
The types of stories you can use include:
Personal Stories – How you created your company or overcame some difficulty
Service Development Stories – The history of your offered service and how it solves a problem
Client Stories – How clients have improved their business or solved their problems by utilizing your services
Employee Stories – A story that takes the reader “behind the scenes” to see the human face of your organization
Case Studies – More involved and detailed stories that explain your services in light of a client’s experience with your company
Storytelling can be used in all of the above areas of your marketing. You can tell a story on your website or social media. Your print materials can feature stories about employees or the founding of the company. Stories are especially useful for videos. A story can really spice up your regular promotional copy.
Stories don’t have to be long. A story can simply be an anecdote in a speech or a bit of humor in a blog post. The point is that they humanize the people in your firm. People don’t buy services – they buy people.
Most importantly, the stories you pick and the words you use to tell it should reinforce the voice and tone of your brand.
To determine whether your brand voice and tone is clear and concise, ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s your brand’s backstory?
- What makes your brand persona unique?
- Why is your brand so passionate about what it does?
Answering these questions provides you a solid foundation to continue building upon.
Staying consistent with your unique brand voice is good, but know that different media require different writing styles and messaging approaches.
The way you write a LinkedIn post should be different from the way you write a tweet, which should be different from the way you write a press release, and so on. However, knowing how to apply your brand voice for different media channels without going off track requires great skill, patience, and experience. In this regard, seek help from experts.
For more ideas, subscribe to our newsletter and get more useful information on how to generate a brand voice and tone.
Most of the time people judge a book by its cover or brand voice. If the cover does not capture someone’s attention immediately, then whatever is inside the book – no matter how intriguing – becomes irrelevant because of their initial perceptions.
Your firm’s brand is the cover page of your company’s “book”. It’s where the connection between your client and service begins.
Unfortunately, many professional service firms spend more of their online marketing resources and time on the visual aspects of their brand and pay little or no attention to their voice and tone.
If you continue to market across different channels without a well-developed brand voice and tone, you will confuse your clients and followers each time they see your messages. Also, your target audience may lose interest – and that’s not easy to get back.
Having a strong and unique brand voice is one of the most important elements in building a successful online business.
Your “brand voice” is how you, as a professional service marketer, express your business personality in your writing style, language, and tone. It is the distinct persona or identity of your company that shines through in the words and phrases you use, which allows you to stand out from other firms. If your brand voice is distinct enough, your followers should be able to recognize you in your writing even if there is no name or logo on messaging.
In other words, the voice of your brand is determined largely by the words you use and the sentences that you write. Your words create a consistent persona in the minds of your audience. This is true whether or not you consciously take control of this tone and purposefully decide what it will be – so make sure you create a brand voice that is beneficial to your professional service company. In other words, everyone who sees your messaging will form an opinion of your firm – it’s up to you to craft the narrative.
The Benefits of Creating and Maintaining a Brand Voice
First, a brand voice offers a consistent experience across all of your business touch points with the client. This is absolutely necessary when creating a brand image. It lets your audience know who you are and instills trust. Consistency is what builds your brand personality. It is the element that creates the image in the minds of your audience; whether it’s very formal, sophisticated, casual, fun, highly technical, or even humorous.
Your brand voice should enable clients to subconsciously connect certain words or phrases, ideas, and emotions with your brand. Changes in brand voice might cause confusion about your brand’s identity, preventing your clients from ever making that emotional connection. Whereas, a consistent brand voice and tone makes a firm more memorable, sticking in the minds of clients until they’re ready to choose your services.
A competitive edge
Digitization has leveled the playing field but businesses face ever more competition for client attention, interaction, and loyalty. Your brand voice provides an opportunity to quickly and persuasively tell current and prospective clients why your offerings are different or better than every other brand in your niche.
When a brand voice changes frequently, it loses the opportunity to prove to clients that they can trust the company to understand their pain points and reliably deliver solutions. Your brand voice needs to be consistent to convince clients that the brand is living up to the firm’s mission and following through on its promises to its clients.
Having an authentic and dependable brand voice can inspire employees to fully commit to the firm’s culture and vision. In addition, maintaining a clear and consistent brand will give your b2b marketing team more guidance and confidence in your brand strategy over time and across channels.
While it’s important that a brand should have a clear self-image and convey consistent ideas about its values and what it has to offer, it’s acceptable to change or adapt your brand’s tone to be appropriate to the situation. In fact, it’s often necessary to be flexible with your tone, depending on platforms and channels (for some examples, check out our other blog in this series).
Varying your brand tone from one media channel to another can keep your content on point without appearing to be on the verge of an identity crisis.
There is certainly a strategy behind crafting a strong and effective brand voice, along with other elements that build your overall brand. Learn how to personify your brand voice by subscribing to our newsletter for free.
“Who are my best potential clients?” is a question many professional service and technology firms take for granted until they find themselves playing host to clients that are anything but ideal. In most cases, these firms have either never bothered to formally identify their best clients, or they have identified them incorrectly. In today’s competitive market, understanding who your best potential clients are is critical in order to grow profitably.
“Every company, large or small, does things that make it easier for some customers to do business with it, and harder for others. Selecting the right customers is critical, especially if resources are constrained and the brand is little known.” MIT Sloan Management Review
Here are 6 steps you can take to help identify your best potential clients:
- Bigger Isn’t Necessarily Better: Every firm wants to go after the “whales”. It’s human nature. They think it’s the quickest way to grow revenues and be hugely successful. However, prospects with large revenue potential can be very difficult clients, demanding a significant amount of time and effort at very low rates. In effect, they treat you like a vendor, not a partner. In addition, competition for those high revenue generating clients is fierce. We suggest you avoid chasing whales and focus on prospects that are more likely to buy your products/services and are looking for a true partner
- Not All Revenue Is Good Revenue: You need to overcome the notion that you are obligated to work with anyone who expresses an interest in your business. As you try to drive revenue growth, it’s easy to get caught up in the mindset that you have to take any business that comes your way. Make sure that the business you are bringing on fits the solutions that you offer. There is such a thing as bad business.
- Get Clues From Your Current Client Base: Look at your existing clients. If you’re like most firms, you already have some “great” clients. These are clients that you enjoy working with and where there is a mutual respect between your two organizations. They’re also willing to pay you for the value you deliver. Identify the characteristics and qualities of the clients that you have great relationships with already. What do they have in common? What were their pain points? How did your solutions solve their business problem? Do they refer other prospects to you? Use this information to build (a) preliminary profile(s) for the types of prospects you want to pursue.
- Create Your Ideal Client Profile(s): Once you have developed your preliminary profile (s), make it more robust by collecting and adding demographic data. Look at things like industry segment, revenue size, number of employees, geography to see how those attributes made a specific client better or worse. The key here is to try to identify the key characteristics that go into making a great client. It’s essential to use data, not intuition or “gut”, to make such critical decisions.
- Test, Test Test: Up to now, this has been a data collection exercise. It’s time to implement. You now need to test your profile(s) to see if they are going to work. Start small – pick 5-10 targets that fit your profile(s) and begin your sales process. See what’s working and what’s not. Learn from your test targets and adjust your profile(s) based on your calls. Continue to test until you are comfortable in the knowledge of who your potential clients are and which ones you should prioritize to target first.
- Go Like Hell: You now know the best targets to call. Develop your sales messaging and marketing strategies against those targets and Go! But remember, stay on track. There will always be bad prospects and bad engagements out there just waiting for you to say yes – consider each and every deal, how they stack against the profile you built, and how similar they are to the other ideal clients proven by data.
Once you identify who your best potential clients are, you will instinctively approach your business with a renewed sense of purpose. Focusing your marketing efforts on such clients will have a huge impact on your business.
Now that you know how to identify your best potential clients, let us know how the exercise goes in the comments. Also, feel free to share this post on social media for any colleagues you think could benefit. If you’d like to take a deeper dive into marketing strategies in general, grab your copy of the 6 Tips for Accelerating Your Growth to uncover insider marketing secrets.
Over the past several years, the advertising industry has undergone a series of paradigm shifts. The era when radio, television, and print were the perfect trifecta is no more. Digital advertising is now the disruptor with billions of dollars invested in digital advertising worldwide. That’s why you need to bring it to your business.
Why you need to consider advertising:
There’s an old saying, “you need to spend money to make money”.
Whatever type of business you are in and regardless of how big or small your firm is, you need to advertise. Relying solely on reputation, in-person events and word of the mouth referrals will only help you to maintain and bring in very few clients. It’s also not a scalable strategy as you grow.
Advertising via different channels (e.g. social media, content marketing, email) to promote your services greatly increases the pool size of potential clients, and in turn, boosts sales and better positions your business.
Without advertising, the chances of prospective clients knowing about your firm and services are greatly reduced.
Then why do professional service firms doubt the effectiveness of advertising?
First of all, most professional service firms are small to mid-size and have a smaller advertising budget. This means creating brand awareness of the firm will be challenging. In addition, when you are selling a service you are largely selling a relationship and this is very difficult to convey in an ad, no matter what the format.
With online advertising, you have the options of search or display ads and social media ads. With click rates for display Ad campaigns averaging only 0.35% and 1.91% for search Ads, it’s easy for many professional service firms to quickly dismiss paid advertising.
As a result, the need for effective advertising is undeniable, versus less strategic approaches which tend to be hit or miss.
The effectiveness of your advertising campaign depends on:
- Your objectives – is the ad meant to generate website traffic or sales
- The aspects that are specific to your business like your target audience and advertising budget
- The type and medium of advertising you choose
- Past experience — what has worked in your business before?
- Your competitors
Advertising channels that are impactful for professional service firms:
Paid search ads
Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) is a form of advertising where professional service firms can pay to drive traffic to a website and subsequently generate leads, but if executed incorrectly, you run the risk of getting undesired results.
PPC is one of the most effective means professional service firms can use to promote a landing page, promote a thought leadership piece, tool, checklist, etc. and then follow up with an email drip campaign to build brand trust with current and future clients.
One of the advantages of using Pay-per-click ads is that by spending $X in PPC ads you can get $Y in sales each month. Also, you can incorporate PPC costs into your pricing and be perfectly comfortable spending X percent of your revenue on advertising.
However, due to high competition for certain keywords, you need heavy financial investment and a planned, sustained strategy around campaigns to really get noticed.
The downside to PPC ads is that they may not work for every professional service firm. For example, if you are a niche B2B consulting business that typically has a complex and long sales cycle, your potential clients are probably not looking for a solution on Google, Yahoo or Bing. Rather than buy immediately based on a click, they have to get comfortable with you before hiring your services. In such a case, your money could be better spent on other forms of advertising like social media advertising, or sponsored content.
Social media ads
Social media ads are less expensive in comparison to PPC ads and tend to have a higher engagement and conversion rate. According to the global web index, 4 out of 10 internet users say they follow their favorite brands on social media. This is perfect for professional service firms.
In terms of usage, Facebook is still the dominant social media platform in the United States but LinkedIn is better because it is as good as the personal network you create at in-person events.
The smaller but focused user base on LinkedIn means there is less noise than on other social media networks. This makes it easier to get to your target audience. In contrast to Facebook, on LinkedIn, you can still generate lots of leads and business without spending a cent.
However, both platforms still remain important advertising channels for many professional service firms.
Due to stiff competition, your ads need to be very targeted and have a specific objective and call to action (CTA). Consider Re-targeting prior visitors based on the exact page(s) that they visited during their time on your website. Make your ads dynamic by creating tailor-made content and messaging for the exact visitors you want to target. For example, consider targeting people who went to your pricing page.
Another important factor to consider is how persuasive and creative your ad needs to be to attract the attention of prospective clients.
So, Does Advertising Work for Professional Service Firms? The simple answer is yes, but its success largely depends on your advertising objectives, budget, and message.
Good advertising will create interest, generate public enthusiasm, and grow your business. The more effective it is, the more clients it draws in and the greater the profit will be for your firm.
Let us know in the comments which advertising channels you use, and which ones work best for you. As always, if you found this information helpful, feel free to share this blog post on social media.
Thought leadership is essential to making a professional service or technology business successful. In fact, 75% of professional services and technology firms see thought leadership as their greatest source of differentiation.
That’s because, in professional service firms and technology companies, the knowledge you possess and the guidance you can share are your products. We are operating in a hyper-competitive environment where you need to stand out in a sea of competitors. Establishing credibility and subject matter expertise is the best marketing strategy you can implement. Potential clients are looking for an expert to guide them through their business challenges – your goal is to show them that you’re that resource. According to a Hinge Marketing report, experts within high-growth firms are viewed as being highly skilled at speaking, writing, and networking. Potential clients want to work with subject matter experts, and by reading content that your experts contribute to, your firm is viewed as offering more expertise.
Perhaps you haven’t focused on this area in the past. That doesn’t change the fact that you need to appear as a thought leader and trusted advisor in your space. How can you do so if this was not your focus in the past, or if you want to improve your position in the marketplace?
Through our research and work with clients over the past two decades, we’ve found 5 key tactics that help companies position themselves as an expert.
1. Perform better than your peers.
Outperforming your peers is an incontestable way to prove you’re the expert to be heard. Remember that it’s not just outperforming them once, but over and over again. Clients want to become educated by the best there is and if you can prove you exceed your competition, you’ll be seen as a thought leader. This will help you earn repeat business, as well as referrals.
2. Produce successful results.
If you consistently strive to do point number one, this tactic will come naturally. For each engagement you have with a customer, document clear goals and then the various ways you met those goals. Build upon this step to move onto the next tactic, where you’ll define measurable results that you’re proud to show off. Measurable means quantifiable – use real numbers wherever possible.
3. Define and showcase measurable results.
One way that you can “prove” your success is by writing case studies. Ask key clients for testimonials , and be sure to include quantifiable results whenever possible. Your goal is to share authentic, measurable, and legitimate client results. Institutionalize the process of creating a case study as soon as you complete your work for your clients..
Consider where potential clients will look for information on your company, and highlight results there. Mostly, that will be in digital sources like online, but also keep in mind word-of-mouth, events, or professional directories. It’s worth noting that your results needn’t be perfect for you to showcase them. In fact, if you have a 10 out of 10 client satisfaction score, that can come across as inauthentic.
4. Create unique, relevant content.
Generate eBooks, white papers, marketing strategy checklists, POVs, and any other professional content that is fundamental to educating your target audience. To develop a trusting relationship between you and your customers, start with topics your clients believe you are already an expert on to reinforce your role as a trusted advisor. Create a professional persona online while remembering what’s important to the business and what your ‘why’ is. Keep to marketing strategy by continually reminding yourself and those you employ of the ‘why’. In a recent article on Forbes.com, Bruce Rogers, Chief Insight Officer, shared that companies who consistently create thought leadership content “become the go-to providers for their expertise. They make it dramatically easier for clients and centers of influence to refer new qualified prospects to them.”
5. Make it personal.
When you create content about yourself, include a biography, write in the third person, emphasize your experience history and do so for the rest of your team. Blog content should consistently highlight the credibility of the authors, while also positioning them as relatable people. Help prospective clients to see the real individuals behind the face of your company – the actual team who will roll up their sleeves and solve their biggest business hurdles.
You built a business. That means you have the talent and mastery to position your firm for success. It can be hard to promote that expertise to clients without a laundry list of past success stories – but these 5 top tactics are a great start.
To remain knowledgeable on these topics and others like it, sign up for our newsletter today!