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The Front of the Funnel
By Dave Stein, CEO, ES Research Group

Great sales execution will not do a thing for your top line if you don't have a continuous flow of qualified leads.

Great sales execution will not do a thing for your top line if you don't have a continuous flow of qualified leads. There is little question that one of the biggest challenges for sales leaders is dealing with an inconsistent  flow of leads coming into the front of their funnels.

There are a multitude of approaches, solutions and tools which, if employed correctly, can make a real difference in your company's ability to generate quality leads. Some areas to consider:
  • A dedicated in-house or outsourced telemarketing function
  • Monthly e-newsletters to a nurtured list of opt-in subscribers
  • Event marketing, such as breakfasts, seminars, webinars, etc.
  • Media relations work resulting in press placements (raising your company's credibility and perhaps generating inbound inquiries)
  • Partner programs
  • Customer referral programs
  • Trade shows
  • Sources of leads for outbound calling, e.g. a purchased database
  • Targeted direct marketing (e- or snail-mail)
  • Advertising and other branding mechanisms
  • Web marketing, including SEO of maximum exposure, affiliate programs, downloadable value, e.g. white papers
  • Tools and processes to assist with qualification and monitoring when prospects are buying
  • Active participation and contribution to industry events and publications
  • Cold-calling by sales reps
With all this in mind, the biggest contributor is not technology, tools, or people.  It's a strategic, funded, measured and comprehensive approach to lead (and demand) generation.  If you or your marketing team doesn't have a documented, up-to-date and realistic plan, you are not going to execute well in this area and you'll leave your sales people high and dry.

One of our clients depends only on trade shows for leads.  The reason is that they feel they must attend the key industry shows and doing that, in their words, leaves them with no funds left for any other type of outbound marketing.  

Another client has a small inside telemarketing team.  The team isn't effective for a number of reasons.  The people making the calls aren't motivated, partially because sales people often don't follow up on leads, and since there is no formal feedback mechanism, no improvement is ever made.  Also, there is no integrated marketing support to enhance their efforts, such as website landing pages, where the telesales team might direct potentially interested parties.

The bottom line here is one of business philosophy.  Lead generation is a critical component to sales effectiveness.  It is not something you do when you have a few bucks or when you're getting panicky because your pipeline appears to be anemic. It must be managed and funded strategically.


Dave Stein, after 25 years in sales leadership positions and delivering his own sales training and consulting worldwide, founded ES Research Inc. ESR offers independent, authoritative advice on Sales Training and Consulting and the Companies that provide it through weekly briefs, in-depth reports, online seminars and advisory services. For more information go to www.ESResearch.com or call 508.313.9585

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