Generate BTB Leads With Conversation

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The caller says, "Hello! May I speak to the person in charge of (whatever you're in charge of)?"

You grimace but admit in a monotone, "Here I am."

The caller continues, "Cool! My name is (they mumble it). I'm with (an outfit you never heard of.) We're calling businesses in your area to find out if you'd be interested in our new, state-of-the-art, double-glazed heimelbeffer. Are you the decision maker?"

Your eyes roll and you reply, "We don't use those in our business. Never have and never will."

Undaunted and tightly scripted, the caller asks, "Well, is it OK if I send you our full-color, 432-page heimelbeffer catalog and call you back in a week?"

Not that far-fetched, is it? Let us hope it's not your callers committing such lead generation malpractice!

Most business prospects dislike phone-based lead generation because so often it sounds like that example and detracts from their business day. It doesn't have to be that way. Here is what you can do to distinguish your lead generation calls favorably.

Do your homework. A list shows names, not leads. That's why an ounce of pre-call research, such as a quick Web site visit, is worth a pound of script. At the very least, callers must learn beforehand what their prospects' companies do for a living. Don't merely allow your reps to prepare, insist that they do so.

Earn the right to have a conversation. At the outset of lead generation phone calls, your callers have 18 seconds at most to convince recipients that it's worth it to converse. Anything that slows down getting to a compelling "reason for my call" decreases the likelihood of a conversation.

Don't make your reps waste precious time with lines like: "We provide products and services that help our customers maximize efficiencies and make it easier to conduct business with their customers, vendors or partners." Stuff like that stops calls dead.

Begin with an introduction using first and last names, your company name, a verb or two about what your company does and an upfront statement of why a conversation is merited based on what the homework revealed. Then confirm that the time is right to talk.

Clarify the business premise. Reinforce with your callers that the business premise for lead generation is to locate and develop viable new opportunities. It is not to conduct a satisfaction survey about the product or service the prospect uses. Nor is it about "just gathering information." Monitor calls frequently to ensure that all callers conduct their dialogues accordingly.

Position calls correctly. In lead generation, your reps are making calls of business inquiry or exploration. Train and direct them to learn, by asking, what the prospect is doing or considering that might make your product or service viable. Never position lead generation calls as administrative data capture.

Seems pretty straightforward? So how come in recent years lots of BTB marketers have conducted poor lead generation? The main reason: the economy. When the economy headed south, many companies headed to the phones with questionable strategies, poorly crafted calls and awful results.

Here are examples:

· Strategies mismatched to circumstances. Customer retention almost always is easier, quicker and cheaper than customer acquisition. But instead of striving to develop present accounts to cushion the downturn, many companies went trolling (i.e., cold calling) for new leads. ented calling lists became popular but could not deliver short-term results. Not necessarily because the lists were faulty, but because in a downturn, legitimate lead generation and new business development take longer. Also, with many companies dialing the same lists, prospects were deluged with lead generation calls and stopped accepting them.

· Assigning freshmen and JV callers to varsity accounts. Many firms outsourced lead generation cold calling to service bureaus. In turn, some of the bureaus staffed up with freshmen and JV temporaries. Real prospects don't want to talk with freshmen because freshmen talk like freshmen. Real prospects don't want to talk with the JV, reps who may be adept with a prequalification call guide but who add little value. Real prospects, those who can authorize "yes" despite budget constraints, want to talk with the varsity: first-string callers who have the content knowledge, skills and prerogative to choreograph the business process. Not necessarily to consummate the sale, but at least to conduct substantive dialogue and arrange the next definitive step.

· More isn't always better. The story: lots of identical, high-intensity calls to multiple lists, including present customers whose account history was unknown to or ignored by the caller. The result: It didn't work. The side effects: caller boredom, exhaustion and turnover.

· Fudging the lead qualification factors. When the behaviors described above failed to produce enough genuine opportunities, some marketers passed the leads into the sales channels anyway. They will be paying for that no-no directly and indirectly for quite some time.

Lead generation by phone is grueling at best, a money pit at worst. To make it less grueling, apply the approaches here and train your callers to implement them. Be especially diligent while the economy recovers. To avoid the money pit, seek out and consider some of the new "heresies" about lead generation, account vs. territory realignment, multimedia opportunity development and so on.

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