I was researching CMS options for a client. I asked my assistant to get a few white papers and brochures from a list of vendors I created, read through the materials to learn what each one offered, and then I'd work with him to create a feature matrix to compare the options and narrow down the list to 3-4 vendors. It was a fairly straightforward project.
Late one afternoon, I got a call from one of the vendors, asking for my assistant and wanting to discuss the white paper he downloaded. I said he was tied up and that this wasn't his number - it was mine! Then I called him to find out what happened.
All he had to say: "I didn't want sales to call me."
He didn't want to talk to sales (it was funny that he didn't consider that I didn't want these calls either). I didn't want to talk to sales, either. We weren't ready. But somehow, the companies he got content from weren't convinced that we weren't ready. They were tyring to make us ready, using the old model of sales guiding us through the sales process. But I didn't want their help--I wanted to guide myself.
We have all heard the analogy before, but it is true - sales is like dating. A guy in a bar has the goal of getting a girl's number and have her say yes to a date. It's not just about getting the number, getting a number is easy. Anyone can collect a bunch of numbers without a lot of conversation. That doesn't guarantee a date at all. It does guarantee a lot of potentially fake numbers.
Now a guy can have a conversation with a girl, build some rapport, find out what they have in common, buy the girl a drink and most likely - the guy will get a date. He has to show that he cares about who she is and what she's all about just a little bit for her to definitely say yes.
I guess its about your goal. Is it the number or the date?
Back to sales...gating an asset and asking for a phone number doesn't make a sale - it means you got a number. We wonder why these forms don't perform sometimes; but if we go back to the dating analogy, offering a white paper after a form is like that "smooth talker" at a bar, who uses a bunch of pick-up lines and doesn't seem to care who the girls are. And then he wonders why he constantly gets fake numbers! (As does the company that offers the white paper after a form, using them as a lead.)
Early in the process, most prospects aren't looking to talk to sales. Sure, they may want a conversation, but most likely not. Today people want to research in silence and they will call when ready to buy.
I know it is hard for companies to hold back a little and let a customer get to know them. Letting a customer get to know your company doesn't bring a phone number or a sale. It will - but not now. This is such a different paradigm for any lead generation team.
In the past without the Internet, prospects would realize that they had a need, and they would call a list of companies to have some conversations. Sales spent time helping people thru the pre-sales process, providing knowledge and information as needed. They typically helped the prospect figure out what he really wanted.
Today, people can do the research part online (most times coming to a company 60-90% through the sales process, at least according to Gartner). The challenge is that customers sometimes go too far in the research process to think, "I want THAT!" when in fact, they NEED something very different. But they avoid sales because, well, sales can be pushy.
And a pushy sales guy is like the grabby guy who tries to fondle the girl on date #1, when she clearly wants to go home. Icky!
Now that customers are doing this research and calling "when they are ready," marketing and sales don't feel that sales have as many contacts to call.
- First, sales always wants more people to call. Many times, they don't call them, but they like having them around. It's the thought that counts, I guess.
- Second, they have more targeted prospects if they wait until later in the process to get the lead - a better chance of a real "date," or sale. If they wait a little, sometimes sales has people who are ready to dig into the details and be guided in the decision making process. Sure, they may be 50% through it, but they are ready - and it should go quickly.
Companies need to get beyond thinking that collecting a bunch of phone numbers or email addresses is an activity unto itself. It can be, but most of the numbers are typically trash - either fake or people who aren't ready to do anything. A company is better off finding ways to get to know these prospects - find out what they are looking for, see if there is a way they can help them, and give them that info for free by posting it on the Web site and in PDFs.
Basically, get to know that girl in the bar buy her a drink.
And if the girl feels like there is a bit of a match, she will say yes to the date. Just like a prospects will say yes to call if it seems that the company can help them.
My next post will go into ways to make this happen. Stay tuned for more!