For as long as I can remember, I have heard the assertion that "sales is a numbers game." For Brian Carroll, this means that the more qualified leads you have, the more you will sell and that is especially true of the complex sale. However, he acknowledges "unique demands" that limit the process of lead generation: fewer opportunities, commoditization is more difficult to overcome with differentiation (I'm not convinced of that, at least insofar as "big ticket" purchases are concerned), increased selling at the executive level, involving those who comprise the sphere of influence, less selling time (usually in combination with a longer sales cycle), and ROI. To these I would add that buyers are much more sophisticated in what has become a "customer-driven" sales environment. So the challenge is to initiate and then sustain lead generation for the complex sale. More specifically, Carroll, explains how to:
Build an ideal customer profile
Talk to your best customers
Build your personal prospecting engine
Develop a lead generation calendar
Act like a good financial manager
Define your goals for lead generation
Develop a lead nurturing plan
Develop and maintain your own database
What Carroll provides in this book is a comprehensive, cohesive, and cost-effective program to initiate and then sustain lead generation for the complex sale. He has carefully organized his material as follows:
Part One: Fundamentals of lead Generation for the Complex Sale
Part Two: Lead Generation Tactics for the Complex Sale
Part Three: Lead Development for the Complex Sale
For me, some of the most valuable material is provided in Chapter Four as he explains why the ROI of lead generation depends on the quality of data: "There is an old expression that says if you have eight hours to cut down a tree, spend six hours sharpening your ax. So it goes with creating [and then maintaining] the marketing database for companies that specialize in the complex sale. The marketing database is crucial to any lead generation program. Experts agree that it can influence the program's success by a factor of 50 percent. Unfortunately it is still one of the most overlooked tools in many companies' lead generation strategies." Especially now when there is so much information readily available (at little or no cost), there is no excuse for not having all that needs to be known about relevant industries, client prospects, their competitors, key contacts at each prospect company (including those who comprise what Michael Boylan aptly characterizes as the "circle of influence"), the prospect company's history, and its current circumstances (e.g. nature and extent of operations, financials, what it sells and to whom).
Then in Chapter Five, Carroll shares his thoughts about another especially important subject, the value proposition, and its function within the complex sale's purchase process. In this context, I am again reminded of a conversation years ago during which someone suggested that there are three very basic questions anyone in marketing or sales must be prepared to answer. The first two usually pose no difficulties but the third one often does:
Who are you?
What do you do?
Why should I care?
Hence the importance of the value proposition. According to Carroll, an appropriate one "focuses on the contacts within your ideal customer profile. The potential customer has business issues that it needs - and wants - resolved. The potential customer must know the difference between opting for your solution and doing nothing. The potential customer must be convinced that you represent the best solution." (Jeff Thull calls it the "prime solution.") It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of carefully formulating and then effectively explaining an appropriate value proposition, especially when a complex sale is involved. Without one, the given lead generation process - however efficient and productive it may be - will simply increase the number of wasted opportunities.
Obviously, it would be a fool's errand to accumulate lots of ideas from only one source or, worse yet, from a wide range of sources and then attempt to apply each of them. There is much truth in the suggestion that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. That said....
Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out thee books by Thull: Mastering the Complex Sale: How to Compete and Win When the Stakes are High! (2003), The Prime Solution: Close the Value Gap, Increase Margins, and Win the Complex Sale (2005), and Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales (2006). Also these: Boylan's The Power to Get In: A Step-by-Step System to Get in Anyone's Door So You Have the Chance to... Make the Sale... Get the Job... Present Your Ideas (1996 and still relevant) and Accelerants: Twelve Strategies to Sell Faster, Close Deals Faster, and Grow Your Business Faster (2006), and, Anthony Parinello's Selling To VITO (The Very Important Top Officer) first published 1999 and also still relevant and Getting to VITO: 10 Steps to VITO's Office (2005).