Get in your prospect’s comfort zone: The right offer at the right time

“Will you marry me?”

This offer will get you a chilly reception from someone you’ve just met. You’d sound half-crazy popping the question unless you nurture the relationship at the right pace and offer what the other person is looking for.

Same thing goes for B2B marketing. Sure, a salesperson can get lucky with an occasional prospect, but counting on the magic happening instantly isn’t the way to build a stream of sales-ready leads. Build trust by developing the relationship.

“Will you go out with me?”

Here’s the “first date” of the sales cycle. You’ve just identified a prospective customer and you need to provide background information and answer the questions that are important to that specific customer. Offer educational materials such as case studies, white papers, how-to articles and decision-maker kits until they’re ready to go to the next level.

“Here’s what we’re really like.”

In this “middle date” stage, the interest has been shown and you can move into more details. A self-assessment tool, technical white papers and webinars require more participation from potential customers, but they also target the solutions to each prospect’s situation. Show you’ll be there for them to help build a sales-winning relationship.

“So how about it?”

When the prospect gets comfortable with your company, start to make more serious advances: offers or calls-to-action. Although it’s not time to pop the question, smaller commitments move prospects toward choosing your company. For instance:

  • Invite them to all-day seminars delving into implementation details.
  • Offer demos or low-cost or free needs assessments.
  • Ask whether your salespeople can meet with their decision makers to present customized proposals or quotations.
  • Consider making “buy now” deals offering discounts or additional products or services bundled in for a lower cost.

What if you don’t know where prospects are in their buying cycles? In that case, make offers appropriate for every stage and let people find their own comfort zone.

How to propose

What makes a good offer or call-to-action?

  • They must be genuinely enticing.
  • They must move the buying process forward. Satisfy prospects’ key concerns.
  • They should be “self-qualifying.” Don’t offer something anyone would want. Provide what a qualified prospect is looking for.

How do you put them together?

  • Repackage or update the information you already have.
  • See if your suppliers have white papers, evaluation guides or other materials you may use.
  • Join forces with your suppliers to provide combination sales pieces or newsletters.

Prospects must clearly understand what they’ll gain from choosing your company and its products or services. They need to believe that what you’re marketing will help them achieve their goals, and they must trust your company to deliver on its promises.

Getting to that point requires making the right offers or calls-to-action for each stage of your prospect’s buying process, from awareness and inquiry to consideration to purchase. You’ll build strong, valuable relationships with your customers that will last for many years to come.


How long should you keep people in your marketing database?

Database marketing‘Tis the season to send out holiday cards to relatives, friends, and business contacts. Maybe you have some friends on your list that you haven’t spoken to or heard from in ages. How long do you keep sending them cards at holidays?

The practical folks would probably cut them off after a year or two of no contact or response. Some of us probably can’t bear to ever drop people off our list—just in case…

A similar thought occurs to us marketers when we think of doing a direct mail or other marketing campaign. One important difference, though, is that we’re spending money out of our precious marketing budget. We expect not only a response, but also sales and revenue far and above what we spent. So let’s cut these slackers off our list, shall we?

Hold on a minute. I’ve found that companies often remove people from their databases far too soon–especially considering the potential lifetime value of the prospect and her company.

Sure, if they can only buy your product once, take them out when they do. But for the rest, consider keeping contacts in your database forever, or until they opt-out, or at least as long as it’s still cost-effective to contact them. My clients frequently tell me they are closing sales from prospects that have been in their database for two, three, four or more years.

How about running some numbers? If it costs $250 to get a new inquiry and $25/year to keep in touch with a prospect, you can afford to keep a prospect for up to 10 years at the same cost.

If you do want to trim your lists, ask the contacts if they’re still interested in hearing from you. Keep the “yeses,” and I recommend keeping the rest in the database but flagging them so they are not included in campaigns. That way you can still find them later if you need to.

And how about those friends you don’t keep up with? You may get a warm response from a hand-written personal note instead of the cookie-cutter photo greeting card.  Or just keep doing the same thing…just in case.



Integrate sales and marketing to focus your efforts

Integrating marketing and sales is a valuable process for companies to keep lead generation and nurturing productive. Many organizations look for a quick fix such as sharing data sources or changing incentive plans without looking at the whole picture. Instead, create a plan to address a complex set of barriers. Here are some ideas to

Start with common ground

I suggest starting the integration process with common ground: leads. Begin by identifying who is charged with defining types of leads. Your company can form a task force to agree upon a definition of a lead, lead prioritization, information to be captured, and when the hand off to sales will happen. In doing so, both organizations must recognize they have a common goal — to facilitate the buying process.

Bring in qualified people from each part of the process, not just top-level executives. The sales representatives who are in direct contact with prospects and customers provide valuable insight into what works and what doesn’t. Plus their direct involvement encourages buy-in. Those in marketing who execute the plans have the experience with the overall marketplace and corporate strategy. Having them on-board also provides an opportunity to directly hear and respond to the results of their efforts.

Encourage cooperative team members

At times there is finger-pointing between marketing and sales, and the unspoken habit they each have of “looking down” on one another. Is it myth or fact that the two groups think differently, act differently and approach the customers with very different points of view?

True or not, you can integrate these cultures by having both marketing and sales both report to the same department head. Just by working side-by-side, with joint department meetings and problem-solving teams, helps break down barriers that no new technological fix could achieve. Managers should look out for the personalities who actively cooperate and encourage them by mentoring, increased responsibility and reward.

Develop prospect and customer messages together

Training on joint messaging development for both sales and marketing pays off. Independent messages cause chaos, internal conflict, bad service, and duplicate expenses. When departments come together to create a common approach to working with prospects, the company benefits directly with time savings, cost savings, and a better-informed customer base.

Set up incentives for actions that boost integration

To help change attitudes and actions, reward behavior that increases collaboration.

Set up incentives to marketing for:

  • interviewing prospects and customers consistently to produce better marketing messages
  • going on sales calls to keep up-to-date on what tools are needed for demonstrating, proposing and closing sales

Set up incentives to sales for:

  • reporting back on the results of sales leads from marketing to show what works and what doesn’t
  • following up with prospects with a longer buying cycle so previous leads are not abandoned prematurely

Take one step at a time

You know if you do nothing, there is little hope for improvement. By taking small steps to address the big picture of needed changes, you can be assured of making great strides. Sales and marketing integration needs an evolution, not a revolution. Take a long-term view. One step at a time will get you there.


Want to build a great brand for your company?

Instead of investing a bundle financing a snazzy new logo, or spending too much of your marketing budget on brand advertising, invest in making sure that all the touch points your company has with its prospects and customers are enhancing the brand… rather than hurting it.

Need help with B2B lead generation, marketing and sales?
For more information, please call Mac McIntosh at +1-401-294-7730, send him email at or visit