Cast your mind back to a time before cell phones, iThis and iThat, and even the Internet. Yep we are talking ancient history in technology land or approximately 20 human years. This is where the story starts, with Chris Price as a freshfaced new recruit ready to sell up a storm hawking commercial printing to those unsuspecting souls in East Tamaki.

Anyway, during my early days doing this, I was shown a strategy that I’m now going to renovate and present back to you as something super smart to apply to your online lead generating efforts. Think of it as a matt, dull object from the past that is probably a bit more valuable than its usually shiny, bright cousin we come across each and every week.

Anyway, this business had a rather crude but effective way of generating leads. It involved sitting its sales force down at their desks, arming them with phones and phone books and then yelling at them repeatedly to cold call prospects in their chosen territory to make sales appointments.

OK, so perhaps the yelling part is overstating the fact a bit. But still you were expected to be at your desk from 8:00am until 10:00am calling up purchasing managers (remember that role) and convincing them to see you either that day or sometime soon over the week. It was a soul-destroying task but, surprisingly, a reasonably effective one.

Printing was a fickle business then as it probably is now. Printers came and went, service levels were up and down, and staff churned away. So if you were fortunate your call could coincide with someone who was so annoyed with their current supplier that you got a hearing. If you were lucky.

I really hated this cold calling part of the sales process. So I would arm myself with as much coffee as my body could contain and then work through my call list as fast as I could. I repeated my sales script in a jabbering caffeine-fueled way – in what was probably so much of a blabber that no one could tell what I said and as such any chance of success was quickly snuffed out.

So as the clock struck 10:00am I was evicted with the rest of the sales force. They bounced off to their first call. I drove down the southern motorway just knowing what was coming up next. Now as sales people we were only allowed back in the office after 4:00 pm and then only to write up our orders from the day’s calling. So if my phone cold calling drew a blank then I had a day ahead of an even worse experience – door knocking.

Yep, picking some unsuspecting street in industrial East Tamaki and working from one end to the other asking to see the person in charge of printing. I hated this even more than the phone. After the first month, it was obvious to everyone that I was not the company’s best hire. So it was no surprise when my boss called me into his office and sat me down “for a chat about my future.”

Clyde told me he could see some promise but things had to change – and fast. He then pulled out a pen and paper and began to map out my progress to date. Their sales process required us to complete daily call reports that showed exactly who we had phoned or visited, what was discussed and a nice space to list down the orders we had achieved.My reports had a bunch of stuff in the activity areas, but very little in the place left for orders. Between us we tallied up the orders made – that didn’t take too long – then the number of phone calls and sales presentations I had made.

The numbers for the two weeks just gone were something like – 200 agonizing phone calls made – 10 appointments made – 9 sales presentations delivered resulting in 3 orders collected with sales worth $6,000. As a rookie sales person I was on a very small base salary, which was topped up with a commission on gross sales – so I knew the dollars but the activity numbers were new to me.

Clyde then broke down each step of the sales process and assigned a dollar value to it. So the orders were worth $2000 each and on average I needed 3 presentations to make an order – which means each presentation was worth $667, while each appointment was worth $600 and each phone call – hold on – was worth an amazing $30.

This changed everything. Now, whenever I picked up the phone I didn’t just think fear, doubt and extreme worry – I also thought three nice and shiny $10 notes – just waiting for me to grab them. And when I was presenting to a prospect, while I thought features vs benefits – features vs benefits – features vs benefits, I also thought $667 is very close now so listen hard and don’t blow this.

I would have liked to say that this epiphany changed everything and overnight I went from a cold calling disaster to become king of the phones. But it didn’t. Nevertheless, it made things a bit easier – the phone wasn’t so scary; the appointments were not so haphazard.

So how does this apply to your lead generation website?

First, let’s kick off with the general agreement that there’s a multi-stage process people follow before they buy. For printing it involved me calling and convincing them to let me in their office for an appointment. That was all I was told to present. Nothing about what I could offer – just the benefits of sitting in a room with me to discuss their printing needs. That was step one. Some agreed and booked a time. Others fobbed me off and asked me to send a brochure in the mail (sort of like a step 1.5). Anyway, I did what was asked of me and then called back politely but persistently to get that appointment.

If all went well then step two had me placed eyeball to eyeball across their desk – pitching them what I could offer. And all going well, one in three would buy.
Let’s now apply this to lead generation on the Internet. Some prospects will come by your website, immediately like what you offer, and complete your “Contact Us” page form. Now, this “some” could be between 2% and 5% of your total visitor traffic depending on your industry, the content you offer, and your standing in the market. Think of these as the purchasing officers who were absolutely fuming about their printing supplier and were very happy I called that day.

But there are not a lot in this group, so you have the remaining 95% to 98% of your website visitors who do nothing. Some of this group will be mildly interested. But how do you entice them to linger a bit longer and eventually transform themselves into a lead?

Before we talk about some options, it’s worth remembering that the Internet is a cruel, harsh environment when it comes to prospecting. As a rookie sales person, very rarely did I have people slam down the phone on me within the first 30 seconds of my phone pitch. Nevertheless, prospects visiting your website could arrive, not like what they see and read, and be off in half this time. They are truly a fickle and demanding bunch that needs a selection of enticing “stuff” to capture and hold their attention.

So for “stuff” you could offer blog posts, free reports, newsletter subscriptions, pre-recorded seminars, and teleseminars – all containing content that your prospect would deem as being very valuable. For example, you may offer a PDF report they could download without registration, a recording of a webinar they can stream off your website and an information-packed Free Report they could register for. Now some prospects will grab all three options, while others will pick just one that suits them. And by reading, listing or viewing it they will become a bit more likely to contact you rather than your competitors.

Once you have these available on your website you can sit yourself down and calculate the relative values for each content piece that prospects consume just as Clyde did with me. As an example, your figures could tell you that out of 10 web contacts you will make 6 appointments, which produce 3 sales worth $1750 each. So your appointment sessions are worth $875 ($5250 / 6) and your web contact requests are worth $525 ($5250/10).

Now working back through your analytics data you can see that out of the 80 visitors that decide to take up the option of your PDF download only 2 go on to make a web contact, so that action is worth $6.50 ($525/80). Delving further into your Analytics data you find that of the 130 visitors that look at your webinar, 1 makes a web contact – so that action is worth $4.00. Meanwhile, of the 30 that register for the free report, 4 have gone onto make contact, which makes this action worth a whopping $70 ($2100/30). Now I realize that the numbers are rough and there is room for some double counting BUT you can start to see how all this helps to prioritize your efforts so you spend time optimizing your website for more prospects to register for that free report before you try and get them to watch the webinar. There’s gold in that there strategy.

Plus, if you are content to live with the “rough edges” of the relative amounts of these action values you can then include them in your Google Analytics account so the totals are tallied up each day. For instance, seeing that your website produced a relative $2500 worth of lead generating actions (PDF downloads, free report registrations, etc.) during the week just gone – all without you having to make a single cold call yourself – should be something to smile about.