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Are You Over-Automating Your Sales Process?

sales-automationThese days, more and more companies have jumped aboard the automated marketing train, using processes such as online lead tracking, email follow-up, and social media communication to enhance and improve their marketing efforts.

When done well, automated marketing systems offer a number of benefits. They allow companies to track and measure the effectiveness of marketing activities such as websites, webinars, online lead generation programs, and email campaigns. They make it possible to manage the sales pipeline more cost-effectively. Automated marketing systems can respond to leads more quickly, which can translate into higher conversion rates. And they can lower the cost of staying in touch with prospects and customers.

Despite all these benefits, automated marketing may not be right for your business. Unless you have a huge number of leads flowing into the top of your sales funnel, the return on investment may not equal the time and money you invest in marketing automation technology. That’s why it makes sense for most small businesses to manually follow up sales leads with personalized, pertinent content rather than with an automated lead nurturing campaign.

This doesn’t mean to abandon new technology and go back to the old days of phones, faxes, or hand-written sales letters. The key is to use today’s communications technologies appropriately.  For most small businesses, that means following up in more personal and intimate ways by providing content specific to each prospect’s industry, business, and marketing initiatives.

More than anything, prospects want to know that you understand their business problems and challenges, and that you offer a cost-effective solution. Automated lead nurturing programs may allow you to send content to prospects in a very efficient and cost-effective manner. But each prospect has unique needs, and unless they feel you truly understand their most pressing issues and concerns – which is often not the case with automated lead follow-up – they will look elsewhere for a solution.

To get the most out of a manual follow-up process:

  • Segment your prospects. Manual follow-up takes more time and effort, so it’s important to invest your resources wisely. Start by dividing your prospects into A, B, C and D categories, depending on their level of interest and where they are in the sales cycle. Focus the majority of your attention on A and B prospects.
  • Get personal. Prospects can spot mass emails a mile away. Even if those emails address the prospect’s issues and concerns, they have less of an impact than a personalized response. Sending individual emails to each prospect will go a long way toward building the relationship.
  • Focus on educating rather than selling. To goal is to become a trusted advisor for your prospects, especially with companies that have long sales cycles. Providing valuable ideas, insights and solutions will help to move prospects through the sales cycle until they are ready to buy.
  • Adopt a soft-sell approach. Coming across too strong after the initial contact can drive away interested prospects. After all, you don’t ask someone to marry you after the first date. Instead, follow up with series of personalized emails that gradually educate the prospect and build their trust over time.

Marketing technology can only do so much. So once your firm is positioned as a thought leader and advocate for your prospects, don’t be afraid to ask for the sales consultation. If you’ve done a good job educating the prospect and building the relationship, they will want and expect you to do it.

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