By Mac McIntosh
You wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on the first date, right? Of course not. Instead, you’d nurture the relationship for a while before proposing to improve your chances of getting a “yes” when you finally do pop the question.
Similarly, as a business-to-business marketer, you must develop sales-winning relationships with your prospective customers before you can expect them to say “yes” to your sales proposals.
Before they’ll accept what you’re offering, prospects must clearly understand what they’ll gain from choosing your company and its products or services. They need to believe that what you’re marketing will help them achieve their goals, and they must trust your company to deliver on its promises.
Getting to that point requires making the right offers or calls-to-action for each stage of your prospect’s buying process, from awareness and inquiry to consideration to purchase.
For example, if you’ve just identified a prospective customer-let’s call it the “first date” stage of the sales cycle-you’d offer educational materials such as case studies, white papers, how-to articles and decision-maker kits. At this point, most prospects aren’t ready to meet with salespeople, but they’re comfortable requesting information that they may use for later decision making.
In the “middle date” stage, consider offering self-assessment tools, in-depth white papers and webinars. Such materials and presentations require more time and effort from potential customers, but they’re also more closely linked to each prospect’s specific situation, which helps with building a sales-winning relationship.
When you know each other well, it’s time to make offers or calls-to-action which are designed to move prospects toward choosing your company. For instance: Invite them to all-day seminars delving into implementation details. Offer demos or low-cost or needs assessments. Or ask whether your salespeople can meet with their decision makers to present customized proposals or quotations.
One more possibility for this ready-to-buy stage: Consider making “buy now” deals offering discounts or additional products or services bundled in for a lower cost.
What if you don’t know where prospects are in their buying cycles? In that case, make offers appropriate for every stage and let people select the ones they want.
As you think about building sales-winning relationships with prospects, keep in mind these points about offers and calls-to-action:
They must be genuinely enticing. The best offers are often educational in nature, geared to helping people make good buying decisions. Titles containing phrases such as “How to …” or “10 Ways to …” tend to be most effective.
They should be “self-qualifying.” Who, other than a qualified prospect, would really be interested in a white paper about your company’s solutions? On the other hand, many people-including some who will never turn into qualified, sales-ready leads-will gladly accept an offer with a giveaway such as an MP3 player or a digital picture frame.
They must move the buying process forward. This requires directly (and satisfactorily) addressing your prospects’ key questions and concerns.
So how do you put together your offers and calls-to-action?
Use what you’ve got. Review your existing information; repackage or update it as needed.
Lean on your suppliers. Visit their websites and search for white papers, analyst reports, brochures, checklists, evaluation guides and other materials that you can use as offers in your marketing. Also look for relevant information in your suppliers’ brochures, web pages and newsletters that you can use as content when developing new offers from scratch.
Leverage your expertise. Write a white paper, special report or case study that helps your prospective customers understand the benefits of your products or services. If you are pressed for time or lack confidence in your own writing skills, consider hiring a writer to interview you and capture your thoughts in writing for you.
Making the right offers at the right time can go a long way toward helpfully guiding prospects through the stages of their buying cycles. Along the way, you’ll build strong, valuable relationships with your customers; relationships that will give you a real advantage over your competitors when it’s time to close the sale.
About the Author: M. H. “Mac” McIntosh is a business-to-business marketing consultant and an expert on the subject of sales leads. His services focus on helping his clients use marketing to cost-effectively and efficiently generate more qualified, sales-ready leads, and drive more new business sales. For more information about Mac and his sales lead consulting services, please visit www.sales-lead-experts.com.