The Doctor Will See You Now

We should strive to manage the process of taking leads from Marketing to Sales so it operates a little more like Doctors’ offices do.  No, this doesn’t mean you get to wear a white coat! 

What if there was a way to apply a more effective approach to the long in the tooth lead management process typically employed by many B2B marketing and sales organizations?  What if you could find more people who were genuinely interested in having a conversation? 

Probably, the last time you called or visited the doctor’s office the doctor didn’t answer the phone nor was he in the parking lot waiting to walk you into the office.  The reasons for this are pretty obvious, but still instructive.  The doctor’s time and talents are the most precious, and not coincidentally, the most expensive in the office.  So there’s a system in place to maximize his time.  There are receptionists and nurses and a host of other back office roles in place.  When you call the office the receptionist asks you questions to ensure it makes sense to even schedule an appointment.  He or she will cover mostly mundane stuff like making sure you’ve even called the right kind of doctor or that there are times that work for both parties.  When you get to the office someone then gives you forms to fill out about your situation.  Next, the nurse visits with you to understand your situation a little better, effectively starting the diagnosis process.  Bottom line, the doctor is much more prepared to maximize his and your time.  Put another away, there’s a level of rapport, of understanding, already in place before you’ve even met.  And guess what hasn’t happened?  No pitch.  No prescribing.

In sales we call this “qualifying.”  No, doctors and Enterprise B2B salespeople are not the same in a lot of ways.  But in at least one respect they are very similar: their time is some of the most expensive and precious in the company.  Spending lots of time filtering leads and doing early stage qualifying is not a good use of their time.  Sales people still have to do some cold calling; some early qualifying.  But today, in most cases, they do way too much of it.  There are many reasons sales people are not spending enough time actually selling, but poor lead qualification is probably the biggest one.

Sales wants leads that make them feel more like a doctor.  No, this doesn’t mean sales people should strive for the days when they’re waiting for prospects to call them to make an appointment.  But marketing, and sales “operations,” should be doing whatever they can to qualify leads before handing them to expensive complex B2B sales people.  The problem is how.  What’s a good lead?  What is the profile of an ideal customer?   What do they care about?  Where do you look?  What do you ask?

Getting lists with titles and phone numbers is a start but it’s simply not enough today.  Social Media can certainly help.  Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and such make it more likely that prospects are volunteering things like key initiatives they’re working on, work related ambitions, pain points, complimentary technologies, focus metrics, peer groups, etc.  While marketing automation can help manage the lead process, it’s mostly focused on people who’ve somehow already opted in.  Many great prospects haven’t.  And because marketing, unlike sales, deals in 1000’s this system has to take into account all these disparate criteria in a high volume manner.  Looking up a profile on LinkedIn doesn’t scale.

What are you doing to build your ideal customer profile?  And is there a way for you to take that profile and easily and efficiently apply it across all your leads?  Trust me, your sales people will thank you if you do.

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