Lead gen is not the problem. Engaging those leads is the challenge.


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When we follow-up on marketing’s leads, we enter the discussion with a solution looking for a problem.

We’ve been taught to look for a need that matches our benefits, we share product and solution information prematurely before prospects know what to look for, we hear buying signals that don’t exist and we reject prospects that don’t yet understand why they might need us.

When buyers enter the conversation, they’ve scoped out our website/webinar/content and haven’t yet realized they might need to buy something. In many cases, they haven’t assembled the right voices to weigh-in on the problem, considered what they need to be looking for or determined if a change is even necessary. More than anything else, these people are fearful of upsetting what is already working and will do nothing until everyone involved has bought into the change and coming disruption.

This is where buyers are stuck and we aren’t addressing any of the issues that are important to them.

Need does not action buying!

We ignore the fact that willing buyers with an obvious need might be dealing with internal issues that are preventing them from buying anything. We prematurely toss willing prospects into the “nurture wastebasket” without considering that maybe the extent of their problem is just not that obvious to them.

Maybe there have been so many workarounds over the years to patch-up the problem that they don’t know where to begin, who to get involved or what options/alternatives they should even consider. Their need may inspire someone to do something different but does not constitute the action to get it done.

The problem has never been the buyers need or your solution.

When we enter the conversation believing that someone with a need is a buyer and start qualifying the lead, we limit our opportunities to the most competitive deals and least likely wins.

These are the “sales ready leads”. The SAL’s/MQL’s/SQL’s that represent 4% of marketing’s leads and that David Brock exposes as the most competitive:

we are involved in the smallest part of their buying process, our ability to differentiate ourselves, our ability to create value is seriously impacted, simply because the customer has done most of the work already. David Brock

We’re all playing a numbers game. You, me and our competitors are all fighting to close the same pool of ready buyers. It’s no wonder customers say we all sound the same. We’re all responding to buyers who know exactly what they’re looking for.

More importantly, we’re ignoring 96% of marketing’s leads that are willing to buy but aren’t ready and risk coming across as a stranger who can’t relate to their issues. Why would anyone spend time answering your qualifying questions, listening to your pitch or reading your content since none of that matters if they can’t get over the internal issues that are holding them back from doing anything?

Every purchase, every add-on involves shifting the status quo in some way and causing disruption. Unless the prospect knows how to change with minimal disruption and has the buy-in from everyone involved, they can’t buy anything, regardless of the need or value of your solution.

Recognizing and engaging buyers on the first call

If buyers were fully aware of the extent of their problem, knew what they needed and had the internal buy-in to make a purchase, they would have contacted us already.

To find the real buyers that are hidden in marketing’s leads, you’ll need to stop trying to find a match between your solution and the buyers need and focus the discussion on the buyer’s willingness to change.

Enter the conversation by getting the prospect to start thinking about where change will occur and qualify the opportunity based on their willingness to accept the challenges change will bring. You can bet that all of the leads that marketing has generated will have a need but the real buyers will be the ones willing to accept change.

Your conversation should guide prospects to recognize how, when and if they should make a change and lead them to the internal issues that you know will hold them back from making a decision.

Instead of highlighting recent customers that used your solution and the results they achieved, explain the challenges that those companies experienced bringing change to their organization and how you helped overcome them.

By focusing on the buyer’s criteria for change, you’ll shift the bias from your “need to know” information to the buyer’s true discovery and decision-making process.

Of course, you’ll need to know where buyers are going to get hung up making decisions about your products and solutions and what workarounds they should consider. No easy task since none of these issues are ever revealed in an active sales situation.

A simple fix

Ask recent buyers that found a way through the same or similar issues to share their buying experience. Not why they chose your stuff or why they selected your competitor but what internal issues did they wrestle with, what workarounds did they try or consider and how did they get buy-in to make a purchase?

When we conduct these interviews for our clients, we don’t use scripted questions, so our conversations are free from bias and encourage recent buyers to share their true stories and buying experiences openly. And because we’ve spent over 25 years selling and marketing in the technology business, we understand the buying process and we’ll ask the right questions to uncover exactly what it was that influenced their decision. Influencers at all levels in the organization have revealed extraordinary details as we probed every aspect of their decision to change, their research strategies, internal obstacles and final decision criteria. The insight is pure gold!

The sad truth is that companies are struggling mightily to engage with today’s self-educating buyer. We’ve had many technology CEO’s tell us that “they have the best people” but what happens when you’re eliminated before you even get to make the pitch?


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