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Are leads ‘falling out the bottom?’

Submitted by on Friday, 5 November 2010

I’ve been reading articles on marketing automation/sales enablement that discuss leads ‘falling out the bottom’ of the funnel. What, exactly, does this mean, and how is this different from what has happened in sales for the past, oh – I don’t know – the past forever? And what’s the difference between leads  not closing after 4 months of a seller’s sales efforts, and a webinar sign up that never actually makes a purchase?  Are they both not considered in the same category of ‘not closing’ regardless of how you define ‘the bottom’? Or, for that matter, ‘the funnel’?

ON YOUR FIRST CONTACT, DO YOU KNOW WHO WILL CLOSE? WHY NOT?

It’s possible to know at least 50% of the time (90% by the second contact) if a buyer will close. Do you know why you don’t know this? I’m going to take a wild guess here: it’s because when you assume a need that your solution fits, and all of your communications are focused on placing your solution, you aren’t helping the buyer address the behind-the-scenes decision issue they must manage before they can buy. You are focusing on content, needs assessment, and info sharing/gathering, ignoring the non-needs-related buying decision issues that buyers must handle before they can buy.

How is that working for you? Is there really a direct parallel between what appears to be a need and a fit, and a sale? No? So why do you continue on that path?

And, while we’re on the topic of leads and closing, what’s the difference between leads that come in through marketing automation, and those that come in directly to sales folks? How does lead differ from the other? Are you providing different data – is your solution different? Is there a need different? Are their buying criteria different? Do you know the answers to these questions?

In each sales effort, you provide a different buying experience in the way content is driven. But net-net, until or unless buyers recognize and manage all of the internal decision elements they must address, and get the appropriate buy-in, it doesn’t matter how they come in or what sort of sales method you’re using. So long as you focus merely on providing content, or addressing ‘needs’, you will always, always have buyers ‘fall out the bottom’ because they are not going to buy according to your plan. Not to mention that you have no way of walking them through their own decision path.

BUYERS CAN’T BUY UNTIL THEY HAVE BUY-IN, REGARDLESS OF YOUR SOLUTION

Buyers buy using their own criteria. They buy when they get agreement from the right people. They buy when they cannot resolve their issue on their own. Buyers buy when they cannot get their old vendor to resolve their problem. They buy when their business partners are willing to share the cost. They buy when two teams finally speak, or when they agree to share budget.

Do they know any of this when they start looking at your site data, or talking to you directly? Probably not – otherwise they’d just call and give you an order. But they know some of it, and you can use Buying Facilitation™ to help them figure out the rest.

We lose prospects when we merely focus on providing a solution (oh, and the ‘understanding needs’ part that goes along with this). We lose prospects when we ignore their internal, unknowable stuff that has nothing to do with their need or our solution. We lose prospects coming through ‘the funnel’ when they are just seeking data for some unknown purpose and we have no way of helping them with their buying decision issues so they never meant to go further than a bit of data gathering (i.e. they haven’t fallen, they just got what they needed and left).

Of course, you need to sell, gather data about their needs, discuss your solution — but not, not, until the buyer manages the off-line stuff. And you enter with your content and assumptions far too early. And the marketing automation/sales enablement funnels do not handle what really needs to happen for a buyer to buy.

There is no way to know who will fall out the bottom, or why, so long as you focus on content and solution and ignore the capability/need of helping buyers when they are  making those behind-the-scenes decisions, or when there is a conversation with the old vendor. So long as you continue to base your sales activity on placing solution, you will have a very high percentage of your prospects fall out the bottom, whether they fall out of the marketing automation/sales enablement funnel, or the sales process you are engaged in.

Marketing automation/sales enablement has merely replicated the failed sales model. Why would you expect different results (Remember what Einstein said about this?)?

Change the top of the funnel. Begin your sales processes by enabling the change management issues before discussing need or solution. It would be adding a new focus to the current sales/content/solution model, but then you won’t have leads falling out the bottom.

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Learn more about this: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it.

Learn how to formulate Facilitative Questions and help buyers make their decisions:

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