This article discusses how software companies can use lead generation services to help them scale, win against consensus-based sales processes, and add value in all phases of their software sales cycle.
A Tricky Lead Generation vs. Sales Dynamics Problem for Software Companies
It’s essential that your software sales process is properly integrated with the lead generation services you use to fill your sales pipeline.
Due to the unique nature of software solutions and their target buyers, it’s rare that any two lead generation campaigns are directly comparable. The success of your lead generation campaigns are only as good as the messaging and engagement used to convert leads to sales. If the campaign messaging isn’t aligned properly with the needs of the specific software buyers you’re seeking, then the campaign can misfire.
Many software companies try to attract multiple types of sales prospects at once with the same lead generation campaign. For example, prospects can be defined by expected customer value (left pyramid below) and expected relationship depth (right pyramid below). Across just these two dimensions there are 12 different prospect types. Throwing them all into the same campaign in a classic brute force “just get me as many sales leads as possible” approach is not a good strategy.
When misalignments occur in outbound lead generation campaigns it leads to sales failure when those leads start moving down your pipeline. Your lead generation service ends up delivering leads that are misaligned with your sales process or value proposition. This can significantly reduce win rates.
Customer Value Dynamics
The yellow customer value pyramid on the left below shows low, medium and high value potential customers.
To be successful, software lead generation campaigns must target a specific customer value level, because this defines the level and sophistication of work required.
“Get me leads that can buy $50k of software licenses in year 1” will turn up a substantially different lead than if you say “Get me leads that can buy $500k to $1 million in licenses.” The tactics, messaging, scope of engagement and time required to deliver these two types of sales leads are very different.
The highest value potential customers should get the most touches and the greatest value delivered throughout the sales process. You wouldn’t contract a custom 20-page white paper for $15k and run a multi-stage content-led lead generation campaign if the expected customer value was only $500. But you’d do that (and much more) for a potential customer worth $1 million plus.
Customer Relationship Dynamics
The blue pyramid on the right shows different types of customers by the depth of relationship. Many software companies also fail to define the depth of customer relationship they’re targeting in their lead generation campaigns.
A campaign targeting long term channel sales partners should use different language and engagement steps than a campaign targeting transactional buyers. A prospect you intend to develop into a Partnership- or Collaborative-level customer should get the “deluxe treatment” in your lead generation process. There are likely to be many fewer of those with a higher customer value, so the added complexity, cost and time is justified.
A depth of relationship misalignment in your lead generation campaigns can negatively impact your brand. Outbound lead generation creates a lot of activity awareness with thousands of potential buyers. If your messaging is off-base with the type of customer relationship you’re looking for, this creates confusion about your company and offerings.
Complex Lead Generation and Consensus Buying
As software companies migrate towards higher-value deals the complexities of lead generation multiply. Lead generation, content creation, and prospect navigation become more important and specialized.
According to Hubspot, an average of 6.8 decision makers are involved in B2B purchases, up from 5.4 in 2014. This is otherwise known as consensus sales. Consensus buying makes it important to fan out into a prospect’s organization using lead generation activities that are systematic, targeted, content-driven, and well-tracked.
Software companies need to target sales leads who will use the software or be affected by its use – not just executives with “decision-making power”. With an ever-increasing number of users, influencers, purchasing executives, and business function owners involved in the average enterprise sale, there is no such thing as a single “decision-maker” any more.
Lead generation services that fail to engage multiple roles in a decision-making group leave too much in the control of single perceived “decision-makers”. If this single target contact is unavailable, is working on some other strategic project at the time, or does not understand the potential value of the software solution, then the entire deal can end before it starts. A lead generation process that is too rigid and one-dimensional will miss out on these opportunities.
Harvard Business Review goes on to explain why it’s even more important to target and properly engage the multiple leads in a consensus sale situation. As the number of decision-makers increases, the likelihood of a sale decreases:
Whether you are selling niche software to smaller markets or taking on large enterprise sales, successful lead generation services for software companies must engage right combination of people while using the best combination of channels – all at the right time.
The Solution: Multi-Target / Multi-Channel Lead Generation Services
Well-executed lead generation services can move the dial forward on your software sales process by engaging multiple targets in the same prospect company.
Driving Prospects to Your Demo
A proper lead generation campaign designed to drive engaged prospects to a software demo should target both end-users and people upstream and downstream of the software use case.
For example, you could target several roles for an information security software demo: security analysts who deal with breach attempts on a daily basis, IT managers affected in terms of manpower and budget, and risk managers who need visibility to threats and historical attack data. By targeting three user personas, rather than just the IT manager (aka the old-fashioned “decision-maker”) the likelihood that one participant will invite the right people into a group demo increases.
As stated before, an average of 6.8 decision makers sign off on software purchases. Lead generation activities should reach and educate as many of these targets as possible.
More targets = more time and faster qualification.
Engaging multiple potential prospects leads to better quality pre-sales conversations and demos, as well. When multiple prospects in different roles are involved, they can provide significantly more information about their company’s needs, budget, timeline, etc. And your demo team receives more questions that are higher quality, uncovering the prospect’s real needs. Your demo team will naturally prepare better and should include a senior subject matter expert and potentially a software engineer to field technical questions.
A coordinated lead generation campaign will keep the process efficient and organized, so you don’t end up reaching out to these people randomly, or after a demo has already occurred or a buying decision has been made.
How To Execute Multi-Target Lead Generation Campaigns in Consensus Environments
There are a few key elements of lead generation campaign that can help get results with consensus-based buyers. These are techniques we use with our clients to good effect.
#1 Generate and distribute function-based case studies that build interest and momentum prior to the software demo.
This can be done in a two-stage campaign, leading with a case study, then following up with people who’ve elected to receive it. The lead generation service reps present this case study information to key targets as part of a systematic content campaign. The creates the opportunity for potential buyers and influencers to share the case study with other people in that functions (IT, accounting, HR, finance, etc.) who will manage or use the software. A consistent, content-driven, and tracked lead generation campaign will help develop interest in your software long before the demo, and your prospects will be far more engaged when they arrive.
#2 Ensure you have the right people involved in the software demo.
Lead generation services help identify and qualify the best leads for a discovery call or demo. Your role is to assign well-trained experts to run the software demo that can answer specific questions about functionality and technical capability on the fly. These people should be able to articulate at least 3-4 case studies from the lead’s industry, and how the software helps solve those problems in the specific industry’s language. If your prospect brings technical staff and analysts to the demo, you need to involve engineers that can walk through technical scenarios / use cases relative to the prospect’s needs. If your demo team is weak, this can seriously undermine the investment you’ve made in lead generation services. Consensus can work for you or against you. Make sure you’re prepared for deep conversations early in the process.
Lead Generation Channel Selection Is Essential to Reaching the Right Prospects
Lead generation services targeting consensus-based buyers must engage the right people using multiple channels in an orchestrated way.
Software companies need to use lead generation channels targeted for executives and various stakeholders who will sign off on, manage, and use the software. For example:
- Targeted LinkedIn lead generation campaigns. Building your company’s value proposition through content creation and sharing is the first step in getting your targeted message out to the right people. For example, authoritative articles that speak to your product’s impact on ROI to your prospect’s industry establishes trust and engagement. When combined with targeted LinkedIn network building, lead list building, and engagement activities, this increases the likelihood of positive responses.
- Outbound Email lead generation campaigns. Coordinated email campaigns can be used to reach the right people using the right messaging. Email allows your company to demonstrate the “why”. This process also facilities the sharing of targeted case studies and use cases for your software which deepen your prospect’s engagement. Key targets receive on-point and customized messaging that increases response rates while giving them another means of communication that they may prefer.
- Appointment setting (phone, voicemail, email) lead generation campaigns. Direct phone and voicemail outreach campaigns add a more personal channel that can be coordinated with outbound email and LinkedIn. A well-trained Sales Development Rep targets, reaches out to, and qualifies leads. Then he or she schedules discovery calls for your sales team, enabling them to focus on key parts of your sales process.
Outsource Lead Generation for Your Software Company
FunnelProfit delivers outsourced onshore Lead Generation Services for software companies that leverage multiple outbound channels. Our experts deliver high-quality sales leads for your team while conducting business with integrity and quality.