what is pre-sales

What Is Pre-Sales?

You already know that you need to have top-notch marketing and inside sales teams if you want your business to succeed. You likely even already have those teams in place.

They’re probably even doing a solid job of helping you keep your business afloat. So, what’s the problem? The problem is that they aren’t helping you to grow your company. 

You know that this lack of growth isn’t due to a lack of effort. Your inside sales and marketing teams work hard, and they keep your existing clientele very happy. You also know that more than 60% of B2B buyers found value in working with salespeople during the conversion process. The problem seems to be somewhere in the gray area between your marketing/advertising efforts and closing deals. 

This gray area is called pre-sales. Hubspot defines pre-sales as:

“…the distinct activities that occur before the sale has been closed. This typically involves qualifying, proposing, and renewing deals.”

Pre-sales, particularly lead generation, qualifying/dis-qualifying, nurturing, and follow-up, as Marketo states, “generates 50% more sales-ready leads at a 33% lower cost.”

Think of it as the warm-up before the pitch. It’s the work that gets done between attracting a potential client’s initial attention and actively closing a deal. This work is a vital component of your conversion funnel. 

pre-sales process

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What is the Conversion Funnel?

The “conversion” funnel has four basic stages: attention, interest, desire, action. Let’s use our baseball-pitch analogy to better clarify how each stage works.

  • Attention: The pitcher takes the mound.
  • Interest: The pitcher and the catcher decide what kind of pitch to throw.
  • Desire: The pitcher plants his back foot and pulls his arm back
  • Action: The pitcher throws the ball.

Your marketing team lives in stage one. They are there to grab a potential client’s attention. The (closing) sales team lives in stage four: the closing of the deal.

Your pre-sales team lives in middle, in the interest and desire stages. They are the people who hold a client’s attention by building their interest and desire for what your company has to offer. 

Lead Generation 

Think of “lead generation” as the second phase of the conversion funnel. This is where you find a way to get a potential client’s information so that you can keep working to build their desire for your company’s products and services. This is different than marketing and advertising because the goal here isn’t just to grab attention, it is to demonstrate the value of your product or service specific to your prospect, and to get your potential client to take some type of action.

The type of action the potential client performs is going to depend on what your pre-sales team does to pique the potential client’s interest.

Where Do I Find Leads?

There are a few ways to find leads. One of the easiest methods for your pre-sales team is to collect information digitally, though some companies do still have some success with analog methods. We’ll talk about both.

Digital B2B Lead Generation

Digital lead generation is, by far, the easiest way to capture a potential client’s information. It is also the most likely method to engage. According to the CMO Council, almost 90% of B2B buyers said that a company’s online content played a role in their decision of which vendors to work with. 

Here’s how it works: ask the traffic visiting your company’s website to input their contact information. Boom! Done! 

Okay, obviously it isn’t that easy. Privacy is a priority in every demographic and in every market. Nobody is going to just give you their contact information, especially if they’re not sure what you’re going to do with it. Make sure that you have robust measures in place to keep your leads’ information safe and secure. It also helps to tell visitors that their information will not be sold to any third parties without their express consent (and then actually keep that promise).

We mention email, specifically because, even in our social media age, as of 2020, email still offers the highest ROI in the B2B sector.

It also helps to offer people some sort of incentive. For example, in exchange for their email addresses, you send clients a free PDF of your most recent Guide-To-[Thing] or a discount code for a future purchase. Basically, you provide them something of value in return for their contact information. As long as your prospect sees value in what you’re offering, they’ll happily hand over whatever information you need to start nurturing them as a lead.

Social media can also prove quite useful in the initial stages of lead generation, particularly during the buyer’s “scouting” phase. People want to know who is selling to them. They want to know how a company handles customer outreach, how they respond to criticism and feedback, and what their social values are before they make up their minds to buy. Social media provides multiple avenues for them to learn what they want to know about you.

Analog B2B Lead Generation

It’s true, analog-based methods of lead generation do work well, and they typically provide a more personal 1:1 interaction than digital methods. You can only personalize so much with AI (Artificial Intelligence), bots, email blasts, or social media posts. As the adage goes, nothing happens until someone sells something is certainly true. It is more important to realize that, in the B2B world, nobody is going to buy anything until they actually talk with someone. At some point, you actually have to speak with and engage your prospects!

Cold-calling works well, although it is not for the faint of heart. To be effective, cold-calling requires a systematic approach; a targeted prospect or ICP (Ideal Client Profile); a specific message designed to highlight the value of your product or service to your prospect; and the ability to think on your feet! No matter how well you plan your message and approach, it all goes out the window as soon as a prospect begins to engage with you and starts to ask questions specific to their situation.

This may be why it takes, on average, 9.2 ‘touches’ with a prospect before they engage. Unfortunately, many sales teams, because of a lack of a systematic approach, typically give up on their outbound calls after 4 contact attempts – for fear of seeming pushy or overbearing. And if your sales team is already busy, it is understandable that they would want to focus their energies on making presentations and closing sales.

Direct mail can be useful, especially to increase or emphasize brand awareness and brand recognition! Fundera reported that direct mail had a response rate of 4.9% in 2019. Fundera also reports that 39% of clients try a business for the first time because of direct mail. 

sales prospecting
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How Do I Know Which Leads Are Worth My Time?

Qualifying and Dis-Qualifying! A bigger prospecting list does not increase your chances of converting leads into sales. It is far more important to take time to ensure your message is targeted specifically to your ICP and that you demonstrate the value your product/service provides for your prospect. How will it make their life better; or the ‘What’s In It For Me?’ question. Just as important as qualifying your prospects is dis-qualifying your prospects. Your time is far too valuable to continue to chase your prospects for 9.2 touches if they are not qualified to purchase or benefit from your product or service!

Because when you are trying to qualify prospects, you aren’t just figuring out who is the most interested in and likely to buy from you, you are figuring out which leads you are the most interested in and likely to sell to. To do this, you have to ask a lot of questions. and you will need to be good at reading people, even over the phone during the follow-up and appointment setting process. If you sense that someone is only being polite or is likely to not be qualified down the road, it is better to cut them loose and move on to your next lead.

Remember: If they are truly a qualified prospect they’ll stay in touch! There is another adage that says someone must be Ready-Willing-and Able before a purchase can be made. If only one of these points is missing the sale won’t happen … now. But it may still happen down the road – stay in touch regularly with your ‘qualified’ prospects.

Make no mistake, pre-sales, particularly B2B lead generation and prospect qualifying, is incredibly difficult and time-consuming. If you want your business to continue to grow, however, investing in pre-sales is the best way to achieve that goal. It reduces your marketing and closing sales teams’ workload, increases your customer base and it can even help improve customer loyalty because your customers will feel more valued as a result of this process and interaction rather than just another potential sale.  

John Dubay

John Dubay is the Managing Partner at Leads at Scale, an outsourced sales support company that helps B2B companies generate well-qualified leads at scale, ready to be closed.

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