Qualifying in an era of changed buyer behaviour.

Imagine this scenario…

Five years ago you were recruiting a new employee and you weren’t sure what your options were for finding someone. You asked some colleagues how they find people with very specific skill sets. A colleague you trust suggests the name of a recruiting firm that specializes in finding the type of person and skill set you require. So you go to their website, read some content and then, because you have a very specific and immediate need, you call them. (After all, there is not much else you can do on their website.)

After a lengthy conversation and trying to understand how they recruit and what it costs, you realize that:

  • You don’t have the budget for this solution
  • You don’t think the solution is for you

value propositionWhat happens next?

Now that you have raised your hand, the company in question starts calling you once a month. Even though you are polite in the beginning, you make it very clear with the company that you are not interested. They keep calling and suggest a revised calling schedule of every quarter. You firmly tell them no but now you are on their list and they keep calling.

Everyone has experienced this scenario. It happened to us recently at Marketing CoPilot and despite the fact we unsubscribed from their mailing list and every person in the office has communicated the same thing when they get us on the phone, they keep calling.


What if….

What if this same company had called us in the fall to ask about our hiring plans? When they received the answer, instead of calling again three months later to ask if we were ready to “buy something”, they had sent a template for budgeting for new hires. Or even better, they had emailed us a best practices guide about how to onboard new employees. Or best yet, they sent salary research about what people are getting paid in 2016 for the type of roles we were considering. They could have sent useful information to me as a manager to see what mattered to me and where I was in my hiring process. Instead, they are bugging me and the team about whether we are ready to buy.

Useful, value-add content changes the conversation. It makes it about my prospect and not about me. So why are so many companies still working from the same old script?

We have a theory at Marketing CoPilot, and it goes something like this… Changing behaviour is hard especially when direction comes from the top and your boss told you to do something. I actually feel sorry for the person who has to make the annoying phone call to someone he/she has on a list when management is judging their performance by how many calls they make a week and how many sales are made.

What if…

What if performance was measured by how many people they helped sort through a business problem? What if they were measured by how good their content was in its ability to engage and how many people commented on a blog or social media post or responded to an email about how useful they found a particular piece of content?  What if this content led to a happy and engaged prospect who was not ready to buy yet but was ready to keep talking because the conversation was useful? In this case no means not now but I like your story. In the case of this particular recruitment specialist, we never want to hear from him again and have sent strongly worded emails to this effect. No definitely means no based on the way we have been treated.

Today’s sales funnel needs to change.

In an era of changed buyer behaviour, when customers can control far more than they used to because of the internet, we need to rethink the sales funnel. At the end of the day there are only three categories that matter:

  1. I like your value proposition and you are helping me fix a problem I need to fix RIGHT NOW.
  2. I like your value proposition but I don’t need to fix this problem right now. However, I may need to do it shortly.
  3. I don’t like your value proposition and I never want to solve this problem.

These are the only three categories from a pipeline perspective that matter. As marketers, we need to support the sales process by understanding how to test each one using content and decide what content can be used and when.

In a previous post we talked about Avinash Kaushik’s brilliant approach to a modern pipeline in his “SEE, THINK, DO, CARE” model. I have created a table for people to consider how to use modern online marketing tools to test out each of these categories.

value proposition

The trick is to know the appropriate way to correctly identify where people are at and move them from one category to the next in a way that does something for them.

And for CEOs or entrepreneurs reading this post, I have a special message for you…

  • Names on a list you cold call does not create a real pipeline.
  • “Follows” in social media does not equal sales.

I would love to hear from people on this topic and their thoughts on today’s modern pipeline and qualifying techniques. And if anyone has any strategies for getting me off the duct cleaning calling list, I would be most grateful.