By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company

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One of my favorite Mark Twain quotes is: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Buying behavior continues to change at warp speed. B2B vendor actions/reactions crawl at a glacial pace. It’s not clear to me how many vendors refuse to recognize changes (denial), just don’t know how to respond or both. They seem sure their old selling approaches will still work. 

bingo-cardFor vendors selling complex big ticket items, website leads remind me of the bingo cards from trade shows. Think for a minute of the level of people that attend trade shows. Smart vendors had hardware and gave demos in their booths and gave bags so adult trick or treating could begin as attendees took mouse pads, Nerf balls, key chains, etc. from vendors. Vendors had visitors fill out “bingo cards” with contact information before getting whatever they had to offer. They were distributed to sellers for follow-up after trade shows.

I worked with a telecommunications vendor in the mid-90’s that had signed up for a trade show and was horrified when I walked through who would attend, their levels within organizations and what poor entry points they would provide. All of the company’s transactions were $100K+ and involved several committee members. The engineers or technical levels might be involved in product evaluations, but not in buying decisions.

My suggestion was to create attractive T-shirts. In my experience people will do things to get T-shirts that laboratory rats hesitate to do. The key became designing a questionnaire that had to be filled out and exchanged for a shirt. Visitors were asked to answer 2 questions:

  1. The last time your telecommunications system crashed, who complained the most? (provide the person’s title).
  2. What problems did the outage cause for that person and your organization?

With my help the client realized having their salespeople follow-up with the people just giving their contact information would be a great waste of time. It’s nothing personal. Starting sales cycles with people that can’t buy means talking with layers of people that can’t say “yes” but can say no. We recognized leads would be more qualified if booth visitors provided higher-level contacts and an idea of the business impacts outages had on people higher in the organization. 

Fast forward two decades and realize most website visitors now access your website rather than visiting trade show booths. Volumes of product information are available. Please don’t confuse activity with progress. In most cases website visitors are doing product evaluations, not starting buying cycles. Marketing owns the top of the funnel and visitors are researchers, not buyers. Most are potential coaches to get vendors to higher levels when sellers get involved. Either Marketing or salespeople will have to qualify these leads by attempting to gain access to higher levels. 

Think of the selling time wasted and tepid win rates when starting too low within organizations. If he were alive today Mark Twain might conclude: Buying behaviors ain’t what they used to be.  Electronic “bingo card leads” may not be the path to higher revenue.