Why you can’t afford to undervalue new sales leads

It occurs to me that more and more often, there is a disconnect between how sales organizations are built and how buyers are purchasing. This is especially true in business-to-business segments in Northeast Ohio. Many B2B sales organizations are still structured very similar to the way they were built 15 to 20 years ago.

Typically, these organizations have significant investment in the bottom-of-the-funnel personnel and activities, including a high-priced “closer” as the vice president of sales. They are typically built around success in face-to-face deal-making.

At the same time, buyers have drastically changed the way they purchase. CEB Marketing has identified that customers are now, on average, 57 percent of the way through the buying process before they ever engage a salesperson. The average size of the purchasing group continues to increase, making it more and more difficult to control the variables involved in acquiring a new customer.

The trends show that it is necessary to spend more and more time being certain that you are consistently adding new prospects to the top of the funnel. Yet all too many companies spend a disproportionate level of investment at the bottom of their sales funnel.

How can you make the most of the top half of your funnel?

Make monthly introductions a key performance indicator for your sales team
How many new prospects did you engage with last month? This can include meeting someone new at a trade show, someone who subscribed to your newsletter or downloaded a white paper. No matter the definition, place significant attention on making sure the top of your funnel is growing consistently.

Track, improve your speed to react to ‘hand-raisers’
A prospect is significantly more educated about your company by the time they provide you his or her contact information, so responding to a request in real time is critical. In fact, a lead response time study shows that contacting a web lead in five minutes or less is 900 times more effective than contacting them in one hour.

Provide value to each person in the decision-making process
Instead of just focusing on the executive sponsor who will make the final decision on your product or service, develop content around each of the influencers and why your company is the right choice. The size of buying groups continue to increase and the access to information continues to get easier. Those that target the influencers will have advocates in the discussions you are not present for.

Customers are going to continue to make more and more of the buying decisions without you involved in the process. The best way to offset this change is to be sure you are consistently filling the top of your funnel, and developing improved tactics and content for each stage so you aren’t as dependent on your salesperson to do it.

Sam Falletta is CEO at Incept Corp.