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Getting from “The World” to “Customer” in Only 42 Touches

Frequently, CEOs at my prospect companies will say to me, “We’ve called every prospect on our list once but no one wants to buy. Now what do we do?”

I ask them to tell me about the other 41 things they are doing to move a prospect through the pipeline into a paying customer. You see, it would be great if all we had to do in the business-to-business, enterprise sales & BD world was make one phone call and close a deal, but the reality is that it might take up to 41 more touches to move a one-time unknown prospect to a customer. For starters, potential customers will only buy if they have a relationship with your business. Every time a prospect comes into contact with the business a marketing relationship can be strengthened.
Let’s discuss where the 42 touches occur through the sales and BD process:

Converting “The World” into a “Suspect”:

The “World” includes the tens of thousands of organizations that spend money on “things.” The things might be what you sell or they might not be. We have limited information on these companies and they usually enter our selling process off of lists that we’ve purchased, random names of companies that might have met our firm at an event, or any other lead generation activity. It takes an average of five touches to move from “The World” to Suspect, which we define as an entity that (1) should take action and (2) we have their info.

In general terms, some of the touches in this stage may include mass marketing activities such as emailing, web site content push, e-newsletters, networking at targeted events where your prospects congregate, and low-cost telemarketing. It’s difficult at this stage to devote expensive outbound sales resources, so most of the focus should be on lower cost marketing activities.

At this stage, companies also need to tighten their positioning and vertical market focus. You only get a shot, maybe two if you’re lucky, to make an impression at this stage.

Converting “Suspects” into “Prospects”:

It takes an average of 7-13 touches to move from “Suspect” to “Prospect,” which is a defined as an entity that wants to take action such as “make a buying selection in a certain period of time.” At this point, you’re shifting them from entities that you know little about to real targets that you have data on, have contact information, perhaps a referral partner, or an understanding that there may be a need for the service or product. The marketing strategy here becomes a little more intense and focused. Depending on what we offer, we need to develop the relationship deeper. Perhaps we combine targeted marketing efforts, such as in-house seminars or specific-topic webinars into the mix in order to get the suspect to meet our sales people face to face. Maybe we get deeper with our referral partners here to get introductions or to conduct joint meetings.

At this stage, we should really have some specific information on these organizations and their needs and how likely they are to need our solution.

Going from “Prospect” to “Proposal”

It takes an average of 9-13 touches to move from “Prospect” to “Proposal.” Depending on the size of the deal, you will have multiple people to influence. The marketing activities give way to more involved sales tactics, such as demonstrations, referrals, and executive meetings, which are still touches. Marketing can play a big role here by producing evidence that might sway a specific target, such as directed white papers or case studies. The reality is some customers might be more demanding than others at this point, however there may be a dozen or so tactics that might have to happen for the deal to move to a realistic proposal.

“Proposal” to “Close”:

As the great Alec Baldwin said in Glengarry Glen Ross, “Always be closing.” In her seminal piece, “You Submitted the Proposal. Now What?” Ilise Benun noted, “Once you submit your proposal, there is more work to be done. There is more marketing, more nurturing of the relationship, and more showing what a pleasant and productive experience it would be to work with you.”

We agree. The customer may ask for more referrals or conversations with your developers, engineers, or other partners. You may need to do a little more proactive networking to get the customer to select you as well. In this stage, it may require as many as eight more touches to move to the final stage.

By understanding that there are at least 42 touches required to move the prospect to a customer, you’ll be able to implement a more realistic sales and marketing plan of attack.

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