I met Mac McIntosh in 2003, when he found me online and subsequently hired me to provide copy for a lead gen project for Microsoft. We became instant friends and colleagues.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that without Mac, I wouldn’t be where I am today. A B2B sales lead expert with over 20 years of experience, Mac introduced me to everyone while also teaching me the fundamentals of lead generation.
While you can find lots of information about the huge shift that’s occurred in companies’ sales organizations due to COVID, I wondered what hadn’t changed. Are the tried and true fundamentals still relevant? Other than content marketing or PPC, what else can manufacturers do to improve lead generation?
To answer this question, I turned to Mac. In this exclusive interview, he shares his advice with what’s working now – and what doesn’t work (and never did).
We’re hearing many stories of how sales people can no longer get into companies due to COVID. This actually started happening before COVID, but now it’s become even harder. Due to this huge shift, many companies actually don’t know what to do – because they didn’t have a proper lead generation program in place.
Mac: Very true. So they turn to cold-calling by phone. I can’t believe how many calls and voicemails, from people offering little compelling information, I’m getting every day.
What are some of the best practices around lead generation that have remained timeless that sales & marketers should be aware of?
Mac: Think of lead generation as being like dating. You wouldn’t ask a person to marry you on the first date. Immediately offering your prospects a demo is like asking them to go on a weekend-away first date with you.
Which tactics still work today – and which should B2B sales people let go?
Mac: Stop cold-calling! Warm calls work better, where your call isn’t the first contact, and you’ve done your homework on their manufacturing company and its products before calling.
To successfully prospect by phone, compelling reasons for making the call are essential. For example, “I’m calling to . . .”
“discuss how we helped a competitor of yours to solve a pressing problem.”
“share information about an opportunity” the prospect perhaps can’t afford to miss.
“contact you at the request of (referrer’s name).”
“offer you a . . . .” [case study, whitepaper, how-to guide, video, checklist].
“ask you, as an expert in your business, your opinion about . . . “ [something related to your product or service].
I recommend a multi-tactic, ongoing approach – nurturing the prospective customer until they’re ready to take the next step:
- An email, followed by a call to “follow up on an email I sent you,” another email, etc.
- A business letter, hand signed, to break through the clutter, followed by a call.
- A direct Tweet or LinkedIn contact, followed up by a call, etc.
Use LinkedIn to research others at the company you may know, and politely ask if they can help you get through to the right specifier, purchasing person or decision maker.
Then, send an email to the prospect saying that a mutual acquaintance asked you to contact them. Ask permission for a “quick call” to ask them, as an expert in their business, their opinion about something related to your product or service.
Use content to bait the hook. As I said earlier, things like case studies, whitepapers, how-to guides, checklists, or free trials in your communications can get people to nibble.
Next ask for a 10-minute exploratory call to discuss “how we helped a competitor of yours” to solve a pressing problem. Or to share information about an opportunity they can’t afford to miss.
Focus on the benefits of your product or service, not just its features.
Offer them information, such as links to articles you read about them or their business, research results, or case studies.
Practice your Zoom or Google Meet presentations, then offer a short online meeting. If weather permits, offer a social-distanced “lunch and learn.”
We’ve always talked about tracking ROI in order to justify the cost of lead generation programs. While digital tools have made it easier to track efforts, outside of fancy tools, what do you think is still a fundamental principle with regard to measuring / analyzing ROI?
Mac: I recommend industrial marketers track the activity and results of all their one-to-many marketing communications. ROI goes a long way to justifying bigger budgets.
I also recommend that salespeople measure everything they themselves do to generate, nurture, qualify or close leads, then use that info to determine what to do more of and what to do less of.
It’s very difficult to get people to respond because we’re all overwhelmed with information. What advice do you have to help salespeople stay motivated?
Mac: In past times, I learned it took an average of approximately 10 touches to get to a sale. So after each touch, I would say to myself, only nine to go, only four to go, etc.
I also recommend tracking your efforts and using what you learn to make your prospecting more effective.
For example, I found that a weekly news update worked well as a polite way to keep in touch and nurture prospects until they were ready to take the next step in their buying process (and it generated referrals as well).
I learned that an email followed by a call worked better than a cold call.
I learned that a call, telling the screener that I was following up on something I emailed to her boss, or a discussion we’ve been having, worked best for getting through.
I also recommend salespeople keep detailed notes in their contact management software to jog their memory about where they left off last.
From the perspective of “tried and true” fundamentals, how can salespeople combine them with video-conferencing technology?
Mac: Unfortunately, online meetings are the new in-person meetings. So you had better get good at them.
You also have to respect people’s time. Everyone is busy as well as distracted.
A personal pet-peeve is when I speak to someone at length about my company, situation and needs before agreeing to a demo or video call.
Then the demo giver, or new person involved in the call, starts by asking, “Please tell me about your company.”
I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like saying, “Why don’t you go take a few minutes to look at my company’s website, then we can reschedule the call after you’ve done your homework.” I don’t do this, but what does happen is that I start the demo or call with a chip on my shoulder – not a good way to establish rapport with a prospective customer.
Last question: What can an industrial manufacturer do right now to improve their lead generation efforts?
Mac: Ask for referrals from happy customers. Start dating your prospective customers instead of asking them to marry you on the first date.
You can learn more about Mac McIntosh and his B2B lead generation consulting services by visiting his website.