Welcome to the South Florida CEO Podcast. Today we're going to dive into how to find qualified leads and opportunities.
When you're looking at how to improve, generate, and increase your volume of more qualified leads and more opportunities, one of the most important things is to recognize the correct order in which you should approach things.
Typically a lead has to exist before it can become an opportunity, right?
So why would you think to look at opportunities before leads? You wouldn't. However we want to start even further along in the buyer’s journey -- or further along in the sales funnel and work backward from the bottom to the top.
So think about your ideal client and start all the way at the bottom of the sales funnel, all the way at the end of the buyer's journey.
Defining Your Ideal Client: Start at the Bottom of the Sales Funnel and Work Backwards
What exactly does an ideal client look like? All too often, when you take a marketing-centric approach, everything starts with generating a visitor and generating a lead. And because of that, you tend to spend way too much time talking about things like Google AdWords, SEO, social media, and landing pages.
In reality, those are all just a means to an end, right?
It's about creating awareness with the right people, in the right places, at the right time, and in the right context -- to begin building trust and educating someone, so they can at some point become an ideal client.
Well then, let's start with what an ideal client is all about and how it helps your company grow. When you think about who the best kind of clients are for your company, you probably want clients that best utilize your company's unique resources, your unique talents, and what you do best.
You more than likely want clients that are profitable -- unless you’re running a nonprofit organization. But the overwhelming majority of CEOs in South Florida that are listening to this podcast are looking to have profitable client relationships.
These kinds of Ideal clients should also align with your core values, with the mission of your company, and the culture that your employees have created.
In addition to that, don't overlook just how important leads, opportunities, and clients are to employee happiness, employee retention, and recruiting
Clients That are SOB’s Scare Good Employees Away
These ideal clients need to be gratifying for your employees to sell to and service.
If you end up recruiting a bunch of customers that are for lack of a better word miserable SOB’s and if you insist on continuing to have those miserable SOB's on your client list, at some point some of your best and brightest employees will simply leave and not put up with that crap.
So there is a tight relationship between finding the right kind of clients that your employees are going to be happy working with, that are fun to work with, that are professionally gratifying, and profitable.
Ideal Clients as Valuable Source of Referrals
Another big thing that a lot of people don't think about often enough:
Do your ideal clients have friends, family member, colleagues, or co-workers that could be a good source of referrals to you?
Are they willing to be a good source of referrals to their peers?
It takes a lot of time and resources to acquire new clients, right? So make sure that when you're doing a great job for them that it also leads to additional referrals.
I think that a big mistake that people are making in the modern buyer’s journey:
They're being over-dependent on word of mouth referrals and doing very little proactively to try to generate interest among the people that are most important to the future growth of their company. And they're just hoping that they essentially win the lottery without buying lottery tickets.
If you’re thinking that everything's going to rely on your professional networking and word-of-mouth referrals, but strangers just don't know that your company exists, how are you going to generate qualified leads and qualified opportunities?
Finally, these ideal clients should help your company get to product/market fit. Or if you already have product/market fit, these ideal clients should help enhance your product/market fit.
And if that term product/market fit (PMF) is new to you, here’s a really simple way to think about it:
Product/market fit is all about knowing
- Who your ideal clients are
- How often they buy
- The quantities they purchase, and
- At what price points they purchase
Once you know who those ideal clients are and how often they buy, how frequently and at what price points they purchase, you can begin to assess whether you have strong demand for your company to be able to scale up properly.
If you're not able to answer those basic questions and you think that everyone and anyone is a potential customer, a potential client for your business, you more than likely do not yet have product/market fit. And this will be a problem if you decide to seek outside investors or go for venture capital (VC) because that’s one of the first things they are going to ask:
“Tell me about how you acquire new customers. Who are your ideal customers? What does that process look like?”
Essentially, they’re asking you if you have product/market fit.
So start at the bottom of your sales funnel and work backward.
We talked about your ideal client. Next, let's talk for a few minutes about your sales opportunities.
How are we going to increase, generate, and improve your overall sales opportunities?
One of the most important things -- as you talk with your sales team and sales director, or think about these things if you wear that hat among others:
Think about what knowledge you want a lead, a potential client of yours, to have in order to be successful as a paying client.
In other words, in between the time when someone first learns about your company and when that person becomes a paying client, what at the handful -- the 5 or 10 -- most important things that person needs to understand to be successful as a client of yours?
Proactively Answer the Questions “Everyone” Asks
And ideally, what would you like them to know before you even get to that first conversation?
We want to try to address those questions and issues as proactively as possible. Because one of the most important things that you and your sales team need to do when you're talking with potential sales opportunities, before you decide whether there actually is a sales opportunity there or not, is vetting them -- to make sure that they're actually a good fit and qualified to do business with your company.
For some companies, that ideal client definition has to do with
- Where they’re geographically located
- Whether they're part of a business or a consumer
- How big or small that business is
- Certain industries that are better fit for your company than others
All of those should be baked into helping you come up with that ideal client definition, whether you have product/market fit, who your primary buyer persona is, and who your secondary buyer persona is.
A lot of what you want to be doing when you're talking to sales accepted leads, sales qualified leads, is figuring out whether you have an opportunity or not, and vetting them to make sure they're good fit and that they're qualified to be doing business with your company.
The last thing you want to do is invest a lot of meetings, sales conversations, and resources in someone -- where it was clear cut that they are never going to be a good fit.
Influencer Polygraph Testing and Interrogation Avoidance
In addition to that, we want to make sure that we’re talking to the right person, the right decision maker. And the tricky part with that: a lot of times people in that mid-level role fib, lie, BS, bluff, whatever you want to call it. That person is not giving you the straight answer as to whether they're empowered to sign the agreement, request the check, take out the company credit card, whatever it is that consummates and finalize that purchase.
So do a little bit of digging even before you get to that conversation. Especially in a business-to-business (B2B) context, there's no excuse for you to not spend at least a few minutes on LinkedIn understanding what their org chart looks like before you ever get there. In some cases, the website about us page or the management team page can help you answer some of those questions. But you positively want to make sure that you understand that you're talking with the right people within that company.
Got Budget? And Urgency?
Also make sure, before you get too far along, that this decision maker has a budget that aligns with what you expect the investment in your product or service will be. It does you no good to spend lots of time having meeting after meeting, only to discover that their expectations were completely out of whack. And this person simply hadn't done their homework for what your product or service costs and the budget is very far off.
Along the same lines, the person could have the budget, but maybe it's not urgent. Maybe it's not a priority -- it's just something that they're thinking about doing in a year or two or three years down the road.
The challenge with that: you’re investing all that time and resources now, but your products and services may change in between now and then. Your price points may change in between now and then. Your minimum investment levels to get started with your company may change between now and then.
So it's very important to understand:
- Are you talking with the right person?
- Does this person have a budget that's in the range of what a typical investment would be for your product or service? (It’s all part of that exploratory conversation.)
- And does timing line up?
Deal Stages and Pipeline Forecasting
When you have all of that in place, another big area where a lot of small- and medium-sized businesses in South Florida are dropping the ball:
They're not very well organized with where people are within their sales cycle, within the buyer's journey, within the sales process.
If you've been using a CRM system (customer relationship management system) for a while -- maybe you have a deal board, deal stages, or something like that setup.
Think about the distinct steps that someone goes through in between that initial conversation and when they become a paying client.
Typically the more considered the buying cycle is, and the higher the price point, the more steps someone would typically go through. It's critical to understand that journey that each kind of buyer goes through in each kind of scenario for purchasing your products and services -- so you can well organize, catalog, and Identify where each person is at.
So that way, if things need to be handed off to a colleague or a co-worker, or someone's working on your sales team, and they suddenly leave the company, you have a pretty good handle on what the pipeline was looking like.
Also, you’ll have a better ability to forecast what is likely to close this month, next month, and next quarter -- and which deals are even further out.
So these are things to think about if you're trying to improve, increase, and grow your sales opportunities.
What ultimately feed sales opportunities? Leads right?
The challenges: leads is a very broad definition, a broad term.
Everyone has a different idea of what leads are. At the absolute minimum. You need to be able to segment your leads between whether they're just plain old ordinary leads or whether they’re marketing qualified leads (MQLs).
Do they meet the basic definition of what it looks like to do business with your company? Are they showing some signs of interest?
Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) / Sales Accepted Leads (SALs)
Are they sales qualified leads (SQLs), what’s sometimes called sales accepted leads (SALs)?
SQL or SAL means that someone from your sales team has manually looked at the lead and determined that this person's at least in the ballpark. So it's worth a conversation.
In addition to segmenting your leads, for most companies that are using a marketing automation platform or CRM system, they're going to want to customize some of their contact properties, some of their fields, to support things that are unique to their business and the kinds of clients they work with.
This is critical because anyone that's on your sales team, that's investing a lot of time and resources nurturing leads and buildings relationships -- they're going to want to qualify early, and you’re going to want to segment those leads early.
Segmenting and Qualifying Leads
Many times what's holding you back from being able to segment and qualify early is being able to track this data the right way in your internal systems.
Also, it’s critical to track this because over time you want to be able to get smarter about how you do these things. You want to be able to look back at new business that closes, at new clients that close -- and work backwards to see what were the attributes, the contact properties, the different field values, and the different behaviors and steps they went through in between when they first learned about your company and when they became a paying client.
Disqualifying Leads and Negative Buyer Personas
Conversely, for people that did not close, or worse yet ended up closing and became like nightmare clients, work backward and see what they look like. Ultimately, that should help you over time be able to identify your primary and secondary buyer personas, and just as importantly identify your negative buyer personas.
What kind of leads do you want to be able to nip in the bud, very early on, before you invest any resources in them? Simply because you know they're never going to be satisfied with your company -- because there's something that they did, there's something that they said, there's something that they picked from a list that made them fundamentally flawed to be a good fit client of your company’s.
Balancing Lead Generation Form Length vs. Perceived Value and Buyer’s Journey Stage
When it comes to the questions that you ask on the lead generation forms on your website, a lot of times people are asking too many questions or too few questions compared to the value of that content that they're offering, as well as the buyer’s journey stage for that person.
You want the number of questions you ask to go up as you increase the perceived value of what they're getting behind that page. In other words, when someone is getting a free one-hour consultation, that is inherently a lot more valuable than someone downloading an ebook. And someone being able to download an eBook, perhaps a 30-, 40-, or 50-page eBook, or even a 10-page eBook, is inherently more valuable than someone being able to download a one-page checklist.
So as the value goes up, as the perceived value in the eye of the beholder goes up, you generally can ask for more information within reason.
But you need to be aware of what that proportional value is and be asking for something that’s at least commensurate.
Along the same lines, the stage of the buyer’s journey dictate these things.
Avoid Premature Marriage Proposals (On the First Date)
One problem that people run into when they’re new to doing lead generation on their website:
They act as if everyone that visits their website is immediately ready for a sales conversation.
So most of their lead generation offers are similar to
- “Contact Us”
- “Request a Quote”
- “Book a Demo”
- “Schedule a Tour”
The reality: the overwhelming majority of the people that visit your website, if you're doing this correctly, are not going to be ready for that sales conversation on their very first visit.
Along the same lines, think about if you want to purchase a car. How likely is it that the very first time you walked into the very first showroom that you're buying or leasing that particular day?
Some people do that. But for the most part, there's a buyer's journey. For example, I'm 6 foot 1 inches, and I'm always checking out the headroom and the legroom. If I get someone that’s super-aggressive, that's hell-bent on closing me on that day, that's going to do a heck of a lot more harm than good.Make sure that your website doesn't make the same kind of arrogant, boneheaded mistake of assuming that everyone is immediately sales-ready.
Another interesting way to segment your leads, to understand who you’re dealing with, is by asking the right kinds of questions:
“Which of the following best describes you?”
Give them a couple of choices that help you segment.
Email Address Validation and the Tremendous Value of Inferential Lead Research
Another big thing that a lot of people don't think about is the quality of the email address that they're capturing. To do this the right way, you need to be using a sophisticated enough marketing automation tool or email service provider that allows you to have validation going on with that particular form field.
In other words, if you don't want your forms in your database cluttered up with low quality of free email addresses -- such as @yahoo, @hotmail, @gmail, or even ISP email address -- most even relatively inexpensive email service provider and marketing automation software can now allow you to block free email addresses and even certain domains.
And that way, you are a lot more likely when you say company email to get a company email address because they’re not going to be able to go any further on that form if they provide you with their junk or secondary email address.
So by getting their company email address, you can very easily infer -- once you or someone on your sales team looks at the form that’s been completed -- what their website URL is from their company domain name. From there, you can visit their website to learn a little bit more about what their company does.
You can get their company name and look at their LinkedIn company profile to get their company size -- how employees are connected to them on LinkedIn, as well as their declared number of employees.
You can get their location from their website or company LinkedIn profile.
And many times, if you have the name of the person and their company email address, you can visit the website's About Us page or just look at their LinkedIn profile to figure out who they are and what they do for that particular company.
Reverse IP Address Lookups Help to Qualify or Disqualify (Most of the Time)
Another interesting thing that’s become a lot more standard among email service providers and marketing automation platforms is being able to get the IP address of the person who's filling out the form. On the surface that may seem geeky, insignificant, mundane, and technical.
Why would small- and medium-sized businesses CEOs in South Florida be obsessed about getting IP addresses of people that fill out forms on their websites?
By the way in case you're not familiar with that term, IP address stands for Internet Protocol address. It's kind of like a phone number or serial number that tracks where someone is filling out a form from.
So in other words, if you are sitting at your desk in your office and Comcast Business is your ISP (Internet Service Provider), you have an IP address that corresponds with that.
if U-verse is your ISP at home, you have a different IP address there.
if you have T-Mobile on your mobile phone and you’re on 4G LTE while you’re filling out a form, that's going to have a different IP address -- which is an identifier.
But the interesting part with those identifiers: in most cases, they match up with a location:
Now that reverse IP address lookup technology is not always 100% accurate. In many cases, it may only be 95%, 97%, or 99% accurate. But it’s accurate enough for the time that it's worth using as a good barometer.
So for example, if your company only does business in a certain geographic area in Florida and you're getting a form that's filled out from say Eastern Europe or Southeast Asia, something like that would raise some red flags that you may have somebody who might be interested in your content or learning more about your company. But you should double check to make sure that this person is geo-qualified to be doing business with your company.
Get Leads to Spill Their Guts in Their Own Words with an Open-Ended Question
So aside from asking for a company email address and using basic validation to make sure you're getting a company email address, which allows you to keep your form shorter and have a higher conversion rate, you should definitely make sure if your email service provider or marketing automation provider can provide IP addresses and the reverse lookup on that, you're getting that kind of information.
But other than that, we find it very helpful to generating qualified leads and opportunities when we can understand their mindset of what's going on in their head at the time they're filling out that form.
Depending on what you're asking them to do…
If you're providing an educational resource, planning guide, checklist, webinar recording, breakfast seminar registration, or something along those lines, a simple question like “What is the biggest challenge that you're facing with this in your business? For example, if you're doing something related to technology, you could simply name the form field: Biggest IT Challenge.
If your offer relates to commercial plumbing, add a field for: Biggest Commercial Plumbing Challenge.
As long as you're not in a regulated industry, being able to get those particular words out of their mouths can be incredibly valuable to understand their mindset -- and what they consider to be the big, overriding issue motivating them to fill out that form in the first place.
You can look at that written in data as you're reviewing that lead and ask yourself:
- “OK, does what they wrote in and what’s promised on that landing pages align with the reason why somebody typically chooses to do business with our company?”
- “Does that align with somebody who would be a good fit client?”
- “Is it worth investing resources to better qualify and engage in an exploratory conversation with this person to see how we can help them?
So we talked about:
- The idea of defining your ideal client
- Some best practices around sales opportunities
- Lead generation strategy
Buyer Personas for Generating More Ideal Fit Leads and Opportunities
I think it's also really critical that you know who your buyer personas are.
- Your primary buyer persona
- Your secondary buyer persona.
- And who's a bad fit? Who's a negative buyer persona?
Buyer’s Journey Mapping
It’s super important too that you understand the journey that somebody goes through, that buyers journey mapping, so you can better align that with your consultative sales process like an exploratory conversation where you identify, connect, explore, and advise that kind of person.
But at the end of the day, if you are looking to improve, increase and find more qualified leads and qualified opportunities, the qualified part is the huge part here.
Anyone can generate leads. Anyone can buy spam leads.
There are companies that are dime-a-dozen that will allow you to buy leads.
The reality is: does that person want to hear from you? Are they expecting to hear from you? Are they somebody who looks like they could progress to the point that they become a sales opportunity and a good fit client for your business?
The Bottom Line on Finding Qualified Leads and Opportunities
So to recap:
- Working backward, start with your ideal client definition.
- Moving up the funnel, make sure that you have a good idea of what sales opportunity looks like to your business. What contact fields, what properties do you want to see filled out before your sales team invests a lot of time and calls those opportunities? (Putting that up on your deal board and adding it into projections and sales forecast)
- Above that layer in the sales funnel, make sure that you really understand what a lead looks like: a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and a sales qualified lead (SQL). What form fields and properties do you want captured on some of your lead generation forms? What do you want your sales team to be inferring and doing a little bit of lead research on? What’s worth spending time on?
- Buyer personas and buyer journey mapping are critical. It’s not just about generating leads. It's not just about generating opportunities. It's about generating leads and opportunities which are great fit clients for your company, that are profitable, and that align with where you want to go with your growth plans.
In this episode, we’ve been talking all about how to find qualified leads and opportunities for your small- or medium-sized business in South Florida.
I’m so glad to have had you with us for this episode of the South Florida CEO Podcast.
I’m Joshua Feinberg. And we look forward to seeing you back again next time.
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