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Posts Tagged ‘leads’

Are You Taking These Steps to Qualify Your Pipeline?

You’ve probably experienced it before—any mention of the word pipeline during a meeting and the mood of the room immediately changes, most of the time for the worse. But we see pipeline development as more than putting down names and contact information into a spreadsheet. A pipeline is a reflection of what you want to achieve and conveys the rewards and opportunities it can generate for you.

There are many steps to take in order to build a rewarding pipeline, but one that is often overlooked (and so important in today’s technology-driven world) is investing the time to research and qualify your list. Sales expert Jill Konrath said: “Learning how to qualify my prospects to ferret out those opportunities where it was worthwhile to pursue low-hanging fruit was hard… But by doing this, I saved myself lots of hard work. And, I had more time to spend on prospects where I could win.”

So, how do you get started? Here are some suggestions to consider:

  • Utilize LinkedIn to search for prospects and their companies. Make sure to identify what groups they are a part of or any connections that you have in common. This is a great way to seek out introductions.
  • If you’re leading with Workers’ Comp, procure their experience mod history.
  • Access state insurance databases for X-dates.
  • Set up Google Alerts to notify you when they or their company make news.
  • Conduct calls to share the research you’ve gained and determine who is responsible for managing risk and buying insurance within their organization.

Using these activities to augment the data you already have can help you better understand your prospects and narrow down your list to include 100-200 suspects that are likely to be right-fits to work with you.

What other strategies do you use to qualify prospects in your pipeline? Share them with us in the comments!

Break Through the Noise

If you’re looking to break through the noise in the marketplace to attract new clients, one of the tools in your attraction toolbox, and a powerful component of your lead-attraction strategy, should be case studies. According to marketer Lee Odden, “Effective case studies are stories that connect with the reader on an emotional level and at the same time, provide intellectual justification – data”. Buyers today are armed with the technology to research you in the same way that you are researching them, so making detailed case studies available to them showcases successes, builds credibility and conveys the value you provide. How do you develop one? Consider these 4 steps:

  1. Identify Advocates: Do you have clients who are passionate about you and are willing to highly recommend you? If so, then you have found your advocates. Give them the opportunity to share their experiences
  2. Ask Detailed Questions: Don’t wing the interviews you have in the development process. Each question should be thought-out, focused and detailed enough to encourage answers with quantifiable metrics. Be sure to touch on all points that would be important to your ideal client.
  3. Spend Time Formatting: Be aware that there are various types of readers—those who crave details, those who skim headlines and look for graphics and those who fall somewhere in between. Make sure to incorporate something for everyone in your study.
  4. Deploy: Use it on your website, in targeted messaging content and during the sales process in conversations with prospects. It is especially useful to bring case studies to your conversations in order to better align with decision-makers and to be used as a catalyst for dialog around the issues or risks they are facing.

Are You Setting Yourself Apart In These 4 Areas?

We often talk about differentiation as one objective high on the list for producers. But, when does differentiation happen?

Here are 4 opportunities to differentiate along the sales continuum:

1- The first opportunity comes with your agency’s website and marketing activities. Buyers are busier than ever, and they’re resistant to self-focused marketing content and empty sales jargon. It’s important that the content you push out has a fresh design, piques the employer’s curiosity and always remains outcome-focused.

2- The second opportunity is in preparation for your first face to face meeting, where you will either take control of the sale by leading the buyer to follow your process, or you’ll begin following theirs. So, don’t wing it. You should always have goals in mind for every conversation.

3-  The third opportunity is when you’re positioning the exchange of value in the sales process. Will you engage with the prospect honestly and establish mutual accountability? It’s important to share the hard truth of what will be required of them in order for the relationship to be successful as well as your own commitments.

4-  Last is the opportunity to continue to prepare your existing clients for the constant changes that will occur throughout your business relationship. Part of your stewardship of the account is to provide them with as much insight as to what can be expected as the marketplace shifts and evolves.

The bottom line is that it’s your process—the way you engage across the entire customer experience—that ultimately differentiates you from your competitors, not your products or services. As HBR contributor James Allen wrote on differentiation: It “isn’t what you own or what you say you’re going to do, it is what you do, every day, through repeatable activities to serve your customers better than the competition.”

Are You Riding the Revenue Rollercoaster?

We see it all the time—producers become obsessed with a group of prospects they’ve hooked and are trying to reel in, and they let their lead nurturing activities go by the wayside. They spend all of their time focusing on them, they’ll even spend a day or two in the office just thinking about them. In the end, a few of these prospects do become clients, but, when it’s time for the producer to get back to work prospecting, he or she realizes that their pipeline is empty. When the business doesn’t come they move on to a new set of prospects to blitz, and the cycle of peaks and valleys continues.

What if this producer had spent only 3 to 6 hours per week, in the weeks leading up to these sales, on lead nurturing activities? Even better, what if these activities were already on his calendar as part of a client-attraction program focused on the long-term? 

When producers focus solely on managing their book, they are setting themselves up to be trapped in this cycle. If they consistently take the time to develop, qualify and nurture leads through a pipeline they will grow steadily and organically and see greater success.

“Lead-nurturing is having consistent and meaningful communication with viable customers regardless of their time to purchase.”—Brain Carroll

Segment Your Opportunites & Customize Your Message

In today’s difficult market, if producers want to experience organic growth, the development of a sound pipeline is necessary to consistently generate new business and track sales. A pipeline is frequently described as a list of leads in different stages of development, and traditional pipelines often divide leads into two categories: suspects and prospects. In our organization we divide the pipeline into three distinct categories: suspect pool, suspects, and prospects. In order to successfully fill a pipeline and develop leads into “client-ready” prospects, producers must approach the lead nurturing process with a long-term plan. The frequency and type of messaging strategies deployed to leads should be different in each stage of the pipeline.

Here is a breakdown of the three categories and what messaging strategies can be deployed in each stage:

Suspect Pool- Leads in the suspect pool have not been fully qualified, but the potential for them to become a right-fit client is present. The goal is to deliver value based messages to these leads frequently and at a low-cost in order to see who shows interest. If a lead who shows interest shares similar business goals and objectives with the agency but isn’t ready to develop a business relationship, they move from a Suspect Pool to a Suspect.

Suspect-The leads in the Suspect stage of the pipeline receive specifically targeted and more frequent messaging than those in the Suspect Pool. This allows both the producer and the suspect to learn more about each other and to continue assessing the potential for a business relationship.

Prospects- These leads continue to receive frequent and targeted messaging, but the communication between producer and prospect should be occurring in both directions. The prospect already recognizes the value of the producer’s capabilities and is considering engaging in a business relationship. In turn, the producer recognizes that the prospect meets the criteria of their perfect-client type and is ready to guide the prospect through the sales process.

Inc. contributing editor Donna Fenn discusses the value of segmenting your opportunities and customizing your message: “As time passes, you can begin to track what share of sales you close. If that share is consistent, you should be able to forecast sales with greater accuracy.” A well-managed pipeline will prevent producers from employing ineffective sales strategies, and will allow them to better forecast and close more sales.

Nurturing Leads- What’s your process?

As we’ve discussed in the past, it’s not simply the producer’s responsibility to manage, develop and nurture leads. Agency leaders need to be part of the process in terms of developing a strategic and measurable plan in order to hold producers accountable.

According to author, Ruth Stevens, lead generation “is less about marketing breakthroughs and silver bullets.  It’s more about process.  The company with the best process wins.”

The days of managing prospect data on spreadsheets are over, and it’s important for agency leaders to drive the process of adopting and implementing technology as a way to attract and nurture leads. How often is your agency using technology tools to touch prospects? A producer’s typical touch tactics should include email with valuable content attached, phone calls, invitations to seminars or workshops and voice-mail messaging. Today, email addresses are especially important. If you don’t have an email address, you don’t have a prospect.

Frequency of touches is the key ingredient to success. If your producers are using these tools to touch the right-fit prospects frequently and, if their approach is customized depending on where the prospect is in the buying cycle, your agency is on the right track. The goal is to nurture your prospective relationships often, consistently and effectively.