by Michael Harrison
Not so long ago, lead generation, which we used to call prospecting, consisted of making a cold call, throwing some money at radio, TV or other media, or sometimes asking for a referral.
Two things have changed. In the digital age the consumer has more power than ever before; and the Internet has significantly opened up the pool of potential prospects.
It’s useful to think about prospects as tiers of a pyramid. Let’s start with the base tier.
1. Prospects who don’t know they need your product or service.
This group makes up the largest tier of The Prospect Pyramid. Whilst the internet has become a huge factor in the increased power and influence enjoyed by the consumer, rather than the seller, it has also provided a new means for the seller to pro-actively reach out to this demographic and position itself as it needs to.
Let’s say you sell a service like insurance or financial advice. You have a fantastic track record, your customer service is excellent and you ensure that you are up-to-date with everything relevant to your future clients’ needs. It makes sense that you should expect to grow your client base, but how do you get through to a group of people that don’t even know they need your services?
This is where the web presents an opportunity to educate this tier of prospects, simultaneously establishing your company’s authority and expertise within your industry.
Outlets include blogs, forums, content syndication sites and, of course, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Here, you don’t sell. You engage and interact, inform, instruct and educate prospects on the importance of having insurance and sound financial advice. You add value to them for ‘nothing’.
Limit potentially confusing insider jargon, industry buzzwords and acronyms when reaching out to this huge pool of prospective buyers. Explain to the uninitiated what they need to know about insurance and financial planning and make it easy for them to contact you online.
2. Prospects that know about insurance and financial advice but don’t know about you.
This is the second largest tier of our pyramid. These decision makers are usually conducting research to learn more because they recognise the need for insurance or financial advice. However, they don’t yet recognise the need for your product or service.
Direct advertising to these second-tier prospects generally delivers the best outcomes. These prospects don’t need an education but they do need some facts and figures to enable them to:
a) learn more about the benefits of insurance or financial advice
b) compare offerings and prices,
c) reach out to your business for FREE consultation, and
d) sign up.
An opt-in module on the “Contact” page of your company web site enables this prospect tier to reach out to you, turning a prospect into an active lead. Consider an email or instant chat function on your web site as this makes contact even easier.
And of course, a toll-free telephone number is a great facility for the aware prospect to call your company or sales team. Once a prospect has interacted with you, that prospect has become a lead and, in time, should become a client or consumer of your company’s services.
3. Prospects that use a competitor’s products or services.
This group already recognise the value of those services so it’s not a matter of educating them, it’s about the benefits of dealing with you.
What makes you better than their current supplier? These are knowledgeable consumers on a mission to find a better product or service than the one they’re using now.
With these clients, personal contact by telephone is the minimum level of engagement and a visit from you or a member of your team makes even more of an impression.
4. Prospects who already know your company.
This group contacts your business with the intent to engage. Reading a quality blog post, for example, on insurance or financial advice, written by your company CEO, can prompt knowledgeable buyers to seek out your company for more information.
These buyers generally know a great deal about your product or service and the benefits it delivers so cut to the chase and avoid long-winded waffle. They may be able to teach you a thing or two.
Get right to the features that distinguish your offerings from all others and start the negotiating process. Offer incentives to switch from the new lead’s current service provider to your services. Highlight any differentiating advantages like being more cost-effective, simpler, or delivering value in a way that competitor products or services don’t.
This approach to closing more sales requires detailed market research so that your sales team has the correct collateral material, facts and figures to differentiate your offerings from all the rest - clearly, quickly and completely.
5. Prospects that have been referred to your company.
These people are at the apex of The Prospect Pyramid; a select group who have contacted you based on the recommendation of a trusted friend or business colleague.
Treat these prospects like old, trusted friends. Reciprocate with value (preferably a referral in return) and prove you are the “go-to” company when it comes to insurance and financial advice, just as that referring client promised.
Very little selling is required although some education may be needed, once the level of “prospect knowledge” is determined. Listen to the questions they ask, as that should quickly give you an idea of their level of knowledge.
Determining what a prospect understands equips you to prepare the necessary collateral from the right perspective.