So, you’ve just completed your first outbound lead generation campaign. You now have a couple hundred freshly generated leads and, like a lot of marketers, you’re wondering where to go from here. Obviously, you want to monetize these leads and realize ever-important ROI, but unfortunately, the leads aren’t jumping off the screen to buy your offerings.
Handling a large batch of outbound leads can be intimidating situation – especially for smaller organizations. Most companies are used to dealing with inbound leads, which have an entirely different have a tempo and context compared to their outbound counterparts. Many fall into the trap of treating all leads the same. The number and top-of-funnel nature of outbound leads means they require a more defined strategy in order to be monetized.
Outbound leads share common (targeting) characteristics and enter at the very beginning of the buying process. While this means that they will often take longer to convert, it also means that marketers are able to shape the buying vision and establish firm, repeatable, and predictable processes. Below, we’ll take a look at the five fundamental steps of processes that onboard and convert outbound leads.
Step #1: Organize
Upon arrival, the best course of action is to put outbound leads into a CRM or marketing automation system – preferably one with the capability to score leads. These systems are valuable because they act as the ‘single source of truth’ for the organization. In other words, leads are standardized and monitored independently of individual campaigns and reps. Such systems make it easy to collect, find, and utilize engagement and contextual data for each individual lead (which becomes very important later in the process).
Though it’s not impossible to succeed without a CRM or marketing automation system, employing these systems is highly recommended. If such systems are not an option, success will depend on detailed recordkeeping and strong communication between the sales and marketing teams.
Step #2: Warm
Warming is both the most crucial and commonly neglected steps of this process. It’s a complicated combination of connecting, familiarizing, and educating – with the overall goal of making the leads more receptive later in the process. Warming is not pitching. Seriously, don’t pitch at this stage. It’s the digital equivalent of be swarmed by sales associates when you walk into a car dealership.
The key to warming leads is to present lasting value and, by extension, credibility. This is done by offering a variety of opportunities to engage across multiple channels. With ample opportunities to engage, leads will naturally sort themselves based on the actions they choose (or choose not) to take. It’s up to the organization “hot” and “cold” leads.
A successful warming campaign will provide a full range of lead scores. Those with the highest scores – the hot leads – are the most invested in the offering and most likely to be receptive to future messaging. The top leads are the only leads that should move forward at this point. It may seem counterintuitive to limit the number of leads going forward, but a more manageable number of leads becomes very important in later steps.
Step #3: Transition
The transition between building credibility and leveraging credibility is an important one in the process of converting outbound leads. It’s here that marketing communications become sales communications and the general branded emails used in earlier steps become one-to-one communications from individual salespeople or personas. These communications utilize escalating call-to-actions (CTAs) to eventually set an appointment.
This step is enabled by warming leads. It would be neither practical nor effective to execute personalized sales communications to entire delivery of fresh outbound leads. Warming surfaces the most sales-ready leads and reduces the overall volume moving forward. This reduced volume allows reps to dedicate more time and attention to each lead. Salespeople can make use of additional bandwidth by studying each lead’s history of engagement. This information provides insights into content preferences and the most active channel(s) for outreach.
In addition to catering to the preferences of each lead, the transition between marketing and sales can be smoothed by aligning brand-specific information to the top-of-funnel assets that have already consumed. For example, if the prospect downloaded a white paper and best practices document about webinars, you might provide an asset that compares your webinar process to other vendors. Continuing to deliver targeted middle-of-funnel content – buyers’ guides, ROI estimators, trials, etc. – will help to build rapport with leads and secure live conversations.
Step #4: Outreach
Getting the lead to agree to a conversation is a major step in the relationship. Person-to-person communication provides the irreplaceable ability to communicate important information on the fly. Calls can fill in gaps in understanding, answer questions, cement value, and address resistances as needed for each lead.
This is time to let the salespeople do what they do best. Empower them with continued use lead-specific insights based on engagement history.
Step #5: Close
There is no sale without the close. Closing gets a lot of attention on its own, but in reality, it’s just the culmination of all the work that you’ve already put in. Is closing important? Yes. Is it going to make or break most deals? Probably not.
If you make it the closing stage, chance are that you’re one of only a couple of alternatives. Overcoming the final hurdles requires understanding your customers and your offering in relation to your competition. Plan for common resistances – especially those that are often unspoken. Social proof, like case studies and testimonials, is a powerful tool for overcoming late-stage resistance.
Once the final resistances have been overcome and the lead has decided on your offering, all that remains is to negotiate terms and finalize the deal.
Let us know what you think:
- Which stage do you find most challenging?
- What content have you found to be most valuable in converting leads?
- What technology do you use to help manage leads?