Conventional wisdom suggests that a b-to-b buyer progresses through 70% of their buying journey before engaging with a sales representative. Consequently, inbound marketing is best to be found online by prospects, and thereafter to convert those prospects to qualified lead status.
Au contraire on both counts.
In the context of lead generation for complex b-to-b sales, sales teams offering high-value solutions cannot afford to wait to be engaged. Huge risks lie in overrelying on inbound marketing in the overall marketing mix.
Let's look at how accepting this 70% metric, and an overreliance on inbound marketing, can actually put successful b-to-b lead generation at risk. Following that, we'll look at why proactive outbound b-to-b lead generation using the telephone is the ultimate content marketing for the complex sale.
With a large number of reports indicating that b-to-b buyers are initiating engagement much later, sales reps find themselves in a quandary. Their traditional high-value role is early engagement, positioning themselves as business strategists and value providers. This early participation in education and question-resolution delivers a huge benefit: The rep evolves into the role of the preferred provider in later stages.
But to accept that sales reps wait to become engaged only when buyers reach out is, at best, simply unacceptable and, at worst, delivers deals to competitors. Companies involved in the complex sale will be toast if their reps wait to be engaged in the late stages.
There are a few specific areas where an overreliance on inbound marketing puts successful lead generation at risk. Among them is the fact that many decision-makers have yet to embrace self-education via inbound marketing; that inbound marketing alone takes a long time to identify prospects and decision-makers and, as a result, doesn't address very early and very late buying stages; and that inbound marketing may work best only with products and services with lower price points.
Time and time again I hear from marketing and sales teams that inbound is delivering high volumes of poorly qualified leads that tend to come from lower-level decision- makers and that result in lower-value deal sizes. So how should marketing and sales teams repping complex solutions respond?
Short version: Use the telephone as real-time content marketing to get into deals as early as possible and become a business strategist, delivering exceptional value early in the process.
But outbound calling isn't content marketing, you say? I would respond by saying that outbound calling is a marketing format—like blogs, emails and videos—that engages prospects and delivers high-value, relevant information to drive profitable action.
And outbound calling provides additional benefits not matched by inbound marketing. In fact, there are eight differentiating advantages of live, one-to-one conversations:
t is a personal, real-time connection.
It helps the rep fully understand the buyer's situation.
It provides service in the role of business strategy.
It provides immediate back-and-forth dialogue.
It enables a live Q&A.
It allows for accurate and timely assessment.
It clarifies next steps and accountability.
It leaves the buyer with a memorable experience.
In fact, outbound proactive contact via the phone may be the ultimate content marketing format based on its personal connection and dynamic ability to shift content in real time based on prospect needs.
Rather than buying into the conventional wisdom, marketing and sales teams should make sure their lead-generation mix contains the right balance between out- and inbound marketing. The correct mix is going to include engaging, educational and valuable content that is delivered as the right message to the right person at the right time.
For the complex sale, proactive outbound lead generation is essential to getting into an opportunity early and acquiring more frequent and more profitable outcomes. Indeed, proactive outbound calling may very well be the ultimate form of content marketing.
Dan McDade is president-CEO of prospect development company PointClear (www.pointclear.com), and the author of “The Truth About Leads” (Onsei, 2011). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.