I’m a bit late in reviewing this book and sharing the great insight that Brian Carroll shared with me in our phone interview, but don’t let that stop you from buying this book. If there’s one book out there that all businesses must have no matter what they’re size, this is it!
Lead Generation For The Complex Sale by Brian Carroll, is a fantastic and insightful read on how to truly understand the complex sales cycle.
Brian is the CEO of InTouch and the former President of Carroll Communications. Brian is a leading expert on lead generation. He has been profiled and regularly quoted in publications such as Business Week, BtoB Magazine, CMO Magazine, The Wall Street Transcript, Inc. magazine, Marketing News, DM News, MarketingProfs, MarketingSherpa and RainToday.
The daily experience of bringing order to lead generation produced Brian´s unique wealth of knowledge and led to his first book,Lead Generation for the Complex Sale (McGraw Hill, 2006). He speaks to 20,000 people a year on improving sales effectiveness and lead generation strategies. His acclaimed, B2B Lead Generation Blog, was recently named Best B-to-B Marketing Blog of 2006 by MarketingSherpa readers and is read by thousands each week.
Brian’s book is expansive in what it offers to readers in terms of understanding sales. The book also features several insightful case studies and tips to help you take action on the ideas. And thankfully the book serves up practical and directed wisdom on how to really succeed in the complex sale.
I had a chance to do a short phone interview with Brian and that follows here.
NH: Why did you write the book?
BC: I wrote it to address what’s changed in the last ten years, and to really focus specifically on how a business can best take advantage of and capitalize on the lead generation process.
Customers meet with sales people much later in the buying process, so where you can make the biggest difference for people is engaging the right people as early in the buying process as possible.
NH: Who are the right people to engage?
BC: What we found is that it’s important to understand and identify what is an ideal customer and what does their profile look like? You really need to target, and that’s not new but what is new is that the idea of lead generation in and of itself is that people think that it’s a marketing or sales process and what we found is that 80% of leads that are being generated right now are lost or discarded. And that’s because sales and marketing are disconnected from two simple ideas. The first is what does an ideal customer look like? What are the companies that we hope our competitor sells to? What are the companies that are easiest to do business with and help us meet our goals?
First, it’s the customer piece and then it’s marketing and sales. It doesn’t matter if you have a company of two people, unless everyone agrees on what a “sales lead” means then it’s harder to capitalize on lead generation.
You need the collaborative process, the Universal Lead definition. It’s the definition of what an ideal customer looks like and what an ideal opportunity looks like regardless of the source. The key is it’s like a relay race where you determine at what point is the person ready to speak to our sales person? If you think that way, then you only send leads that are sales ready, and build relationships where the people are ready to talk to the person. It means that marketing has to go beyond its traditional role of throwing things over to sales and hoping that it will stick.
And the process to do that is called “lead nurturing.”
NH: And no matter what size your business, you have to understand the buying cycle?
BC: Yes, and in my estimation, understanding as part of this process is that how you sell only matters to the point of how your customers want to buy from you. Most people are only learning sales process and what we actually need to learn is what the customer’s buying process is and where do they go when they’re very early in their buying process. So what we found is that inviting someone to a seminar is not a good use of their time, but sending them an article, case study or other “thought leading” content is actually what people first want to look at when they’re searching for Google or other newsletters.
NH: Would you give your definition of “lead generation”?
BC: Identifying the right people in the right companies, initiating a conversation with them, and then nurturing that relationship regardless of their timing in buying. It’s not about instant gratification. You can’t get leads immediately, and people need to understand lead nurturing.
Lead nurturing is about having consistent and meaningful communications with viable potential customers regardless of their time to buy. What that means is that every touch has to be a plus to their day. So when someone downloads a white paper, and you hand that off to a sales person, if they’re not ready to buy, what happens is “oh they’re too early” and that lead just sits there. What we advocate is for companies to have a lead nurturing function in place so these potential leads are not just discarded and lost. Somebody needs to manage cultivating these relationships with people and be a plus to their day.
If someone downloads a white paper and they’re feeling pretty good about the value they got from the white paper, and they aren’t ready to buy yet, you need to identify “what are the other things that can help them” and this is why it’s important to understand in nurturing that lead where they’re at in the buying process.
NH: And it’s so important going back to what you said about identifying your ideal customer?
BC: Yes, because that helps you manage the nurturing aspect. There are only so many relationships salespeople can manage at one time and it’s like a teeter-totter, you’re moving forward or backward and that’s where the teamwork and collaboration with both sides come in.
Companies should always be asking “how can we help the salespeople sell?”
NH: Thanks Brian!