Are You Discriminating Against Your Sales Leads?

This is another great post by my client Greg Brown of Hubspot. One of the great things about sales rock stars blogging is that they write from experience rather than theoretical musings. Enjoy!

Have you ever signed up for an eBook, webinar or a trial and then started to receive more relevant marketing messages from that company as a result? It was almost like they knew who you were and what you are interested in and started sending you more and more relevant content. Did a sales rep follow up with you too? If not, did you ever wonder why they didn’t? Could it be that they are discriminating against you?

There is a lot of discussion about persona-based marketing and why it is so important in regards to lead generation today. Plenty of articles, like this one, that will tell you how to setup your personas and market to them.  While I agree with the principal, what is often left out of the discussion is how sales should handle those persona-based leads.  If your organization isn’t fully prepared to market AND sell to different personas, you could end up with some serious “lead discrimination” issues.

Today’s sales reps have access to more information about prospects than ever before. Thanks to powerful internet marketing software tools, sales reps can see when someone visits their website, what pages they look at, what emails they are opening, how they found you, what they are saying about you or your competitors online, and more.   But all that information doesn’t always lead to the best sales behavior. Humans are wired to process large amounts of data. We are able to take the data we’ve collected, and, based on previous outcomes, start to identify trends and determine what the most likely result will be for a given situation.  These are known as heuristics, and are the foundation for things like ‘rules of thumb’, ‘guestimation’, ‘common sense’, and stereotyping, among others.  (You can learn more here if you’re interested.) Noticing these trends and processing the situational data faster is a good thing, but taking action on it (or not taking action on it) isn’t. 

As a result of all this information and how we process data, it’s very easy to form ‘stereotypes’ about your leads. While it’s important not to waste time with unqualified prospects, you should be careful to not discriminate against your leads. Deciding not to call a lead because they identified with a certain persona who usually can’t make a buying decision or they said their business is very small is a missed sales opportunity and a waste of company resources.  (There are tactics like Lead Scoring that can help identify “hot” prospects for the sales team, but I’m not going to explore that now).  “Lead Discrimination” can lead to missed sales opportunities, negatively impact your brand image and create friction between sales and marketing.

So, here are a few ways that sales reps can prevent “lead discrimination”:

  1. Curiosity without intent – being genuinely curious about their inquiry or business

  2. Attitude Change – You’re not calling too early, you’re beating your competition. Following up with leads who aren’t the “hottest” can be a good thing. It gives you the chance to be the first person to call on the account and get in before your competitors. You can become a trusted advisor and help them make the right decision

  3. Seek to understand and to help, not to “sell” – Many of your leads have an identifiable pain, which is why they are engaging with your materials, but they may not realize the size or scope of their problem.  By understanding what their situation is and trying to help them, you put yourself in a better position to sell your solution.

  4. Research but verify – look at their behavior on your site, check what resources they are downloading, who they know on LinkedIn engagement on Twitter, etc.  Do a bit of research on your prospects but don’t rush to judgment based on that information alone. Don’t assume they aren’t a good fit lead because they didn’t put their job title as “executive”.  You know what they say about people who assume….

  5. Branding & Networking– Leads aren’t always ready to buy today or in the near future. Creating a positive experience for a lead that isn’t ready to buy now will improve the company’s brand image, as well as your personal reputation.  It’s very much like networking at an event:  If you knew that spending 15-20 minutes with an unqualified prospect would lead to a referral, would you consider that time well spent?

Here are a few ways that Sales and Marketing leaders can help prevent these traps:

  1. Create Marketing Personas and Sales Personas - Who you are marketing to and who you actually sell to can and will be different personas.  You might be marketing to “Executive Eric” and “Marketing Mary”, but you’ll have to sell to “IT Tony”, “Sales Rep Sam”.  Make sure your organization has personas for the different stakeholders involved in the process, not just the ones your marketing material is aimed at.

  2. Proper Expectations for Sales & Marketing - Set the expectation that leads need to be followed up with a certain amount of times in a certain time frame (a proper SLA). Marketing will have other expectations to meet, like generating a certain number of leads per month.

  3. Sales Training & Coaching– Have you read Sales Shift by Frank Belzer?  Are you confident that your sales team has adapted to the new research and buying cycles? Just like older marketing tactics aren’t as effective as they once were, the same holds true for sales tactics. Get your hardest working rep to hire a personal coach to make them the smartest working rep (that's what I did)

  4. Feedback Loops – Make sure the lines of communication are open between the sales and marketing team. Getting continuous feedback will help both teams become more effective and efficient.

  5. Read this article - Why Your Sales Team Should Accept “Lower Quality” Leads

  6. Implement Lead Scoring

What other ways can you think of to prevent “lead discrimination”?

Topics: sales and marketing alignment, personas, modern selling

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