Let me paint you a picture.
Your prospects need you. They know what you are offering is going to rock their world and solve their problem.
You have even helped them sell their wives, their bosses and their bosses’ wives on the usefulness of your offer.
But then you hear these dreaded words…
“We wish we could have signed the contract, but we just don’t have the budget now. But next quarter/year, definitely. ”
As a B2B marketer selling products and services worth thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in a slow economy, you will come up against this grim scenario.
Prospects who are as psyched about your solution as an Apple fanatic is over a new iDevice might not even pick your follow up calls 8 months down the line
Their priorities might change. They might discover a cheaper or better option . Changes in technology might totally eliminate their problem. They might even go out of business.
So what do you do, assuming you are hip to what’s happening in your industry and you keep up with R&D?
The Answer from LinkedIn
I stumbled upon a discussion about this question in a LinkedIn group that I am a part of. As with most good LinkedIn groups, the participants had a lot of smart ideas on solving this problem.
Pay attention to this. Your peers have been doing it, and some have cracked the code.
1. Use marketing automation tools
For selling stuff that depends on sign offs by multiple decision makers and which has a long selling cycle, you need to use a marketing automation tool.
You can use these tools to develop a lead nurturing program by delivering useful content over a period of time. Create content meant for all the personas involved in the decision making process and structure it in such a way that it reinforces the perception of the solution being perfect for the prospect.
Set up marketing cycles, and call or email at the end of the cycle to find out the status of the quote.
2. Ask your prospects how they want to be engaged
When leads are warm, they are more likely to say yes to a dialog with you. But sometimes, your go-to method of “checking-in” might leave a bad taste in their mouth.
Therefore, ask them how they prefer to be engaged. This has multiple benefits, as Shelly L points out
“What is the best thing for us to do together now to get back on track with you and your team?”….you not only open the opportunity for subsequent touchpoints, but you position yourself as a customer advocate and a facilitator of the buying process.
3. Explore alternate financing options
Since it’s budget that’s the sticking point, is there any way you can lower the cost of acquisition?
Volker S suggests options like leasing or use now pay later schemes to reduce the sticker shock.
Peter P suggests a “lite” version of your offering with only the most essential features at reduced prices,
I suggested a different kind of breakdown based on client size (small, medium and big business), along with looking into the licensing option.
4. Change the delivery mechanism
Can you transition to the cloud? While every Gmail or Amazon S3 outage provokes dark talk of data loss and impending gloom, SaaS as a business model is mainstream and well proven.
If you ship your software in physical discs, maybe it’s time to evaluate the business environment and move to a (possibly) cheaper cloud based delivery model.
5. Analyse your pipeline reports
Unless you are starting out with zero sales, you will have data on what percentage of inquiries converted to deals. If you don’t you better start taking notes, and you don’t even need anything shiny- an Excel workbook will do the job just fine.
This analysis will also give you an idea of the trigger events and what you can do to prevent a repeat in future prospects.
6. Show them you are in it for the long haul
Repeated studies have proven that regardless of B2C or B2B, great customer service beats cheap prices every time.
So how are you going to demonstrate that you are not going to take their cash and fly? Here’s how.
Create a library of useful content- whitepapers, case studies, videos, demos, webinars, special reports, FAQ, knowledge base etc. This will assure the prospect that they will not be left high and dry after the purchase. Set up a free 30 minute consultation to build further rapport. (Hat tip Paul H)
Simultaneously, encourage referrals and highlight positive testimonials and customer success stories to demonstrate that other people have good experience with you. Prospects won’t believe you, but they will believe your customers.
7. Test your messaging, and keep measuring
You need to set metrics and benchmarks during this process, and then test. Don’t trust your gut instinct, trust hard data.
Do A/B split tests and multivariate tests on content to find out the optimal click thru rates on calls to action. In case you use video to deliver your content, keep an hawk’s eye on analytics (YouTube’s analytics tools are fantastic).
Platforms like Radian 6 and Hubspot have a robust set of tools that will help you determine how effective your efforts are with social media and content marketing.
And depending on your tests, keep on fine tuning your content.
Are you facing problems coaxing prospects to sign on the dotted line? What have you done about it?
Image courtesy Images_of_Money