When your company is doing well, it’s always tempting to take your eye off of sales and marketing. Often this is so you can effectively service (and potentially grow) your current customer base, focus on hiring new talent or double-down on product development. While this is tempting, and makes intuitive sense as it may allow you to ensure you provide quality to your current customers, it is also dangerous. For a number of reasons, it is important to always keep on top of your sales and marketing activities, in particular the activity of creating demand and capturing new sales leads. This is especially true in the life science market, where sales cycles are often long and complex and it’s important to always be nurturing your sales pipeline should sales start to slow down or dip.
I’ve had this conversation a number of times with clients and potential clients, but the occasion when it really hit home was when the shoe was on the other foot – about two and a half years ago, during a conversation with HubSpot about becoming an inbound marketing partner. We’d been following the progress of the software solution since 2011, and felt our team at BioStrata was finally in a position to leverage HubSpot to drive the inbound marketing programmes we were running for our clients. However, HubSpot was more interested in how we would practice and perfect using the tools for ourselves first.
My initial impression was that there was no need – we’d always had a steady stream of leads from word-of-mouth, personal connections, referrals and web visitors. However, HubSpot had a very compelling argument as to why our company could always benefit from attracting more leads (even if we did not feel we had the resource to close and service them). The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. To help define why, our team at BioStrata has compiled a list of the five reasons why all life science companies nearly always need more sales leads.
1. More sales leads gives you more choice
Although it’s tempting to think otherwise, not all customers are good customers for your business. In an ideal world, you’d only bring on customers that are an ideal fit for your offering. By that, I mean those customers where you’ll add true value and they’ll have a good experience (so they will remain customers and likely refer you to their colleagues). A happy customer is also usually much easier and more rewarding to engage with, which is good for your team and for them.
So, what does this all have to do with sales leads? Put simply, if you have an active lead generation and nurturing pipeline, then you get to choose which customers you want to work with (rather than having to take on every customer you can find, regardless of fit). Trust us, your team and your customers will thank you for it.
2. More sales leads means more potential revenue
It sounds a little obvious, but the more leads you have, the fatter your sales pipeline, the more sales you will close and the more revenue you are likely to generate (as long as your sales team can handle the increase in leads and you have the resource to service the new business). For example, if your company produces a life science product or service that is relatively easy to scale, generating more leads may be the key change that makes this your most successful year ever. This is even more true if your product can be sold via your website using an ecommerce platform (as you won’t need to increase the size of your sales team to deal with all the new leads). If your sales team aren’t busy enough or you need to start selling more products, task your marketing team with helping to fill the top of your sales funnel by generating and qualifying more sales leads.
3. The more leads you have, the more data you can collect to optimize your marketing mix
Do you know which marketing and sales tactics consistently produce the most sales leads for your company? Do these channels also produce the highest quality leads? Which tactics produce the highest value customers? And which deliver customers that are easy to close?
All of this information can be used to finely hone your marketing plan to deliver the best possible results. For example, if you know that trade shows deliver a low number of leads compared to other channels, but many of these go on to become big spending customers, then this data can be used to justify your ongoing investment in attending such events. Similarly, if you are systematically collecting this information across your full marketing mix, you can run experiments using new channels (e.g. sponsored LinkedIn posts) to see if they can deliver more quality leads for a lower investment than the channels you are currently focussing on.
Where do lead numbers fit into all of this? Put simply, it comes down to generating believable, accurate conclusions about how to optimize your marketing campaigns. If you are only collecting 20 leads a month across your entire marketing mix, you won’t be collecting enough meaningful data to drive your decision making in the future (it also goes without saying that you will also need to invest in developing systems for tracking this information, such as using a software tool like HubSpot).
4. More sales leads makes it easier to optimise your lead nurturing and sales processes
In a perfect world, your sales pipeline would function like a well-oiled machine, with most prospects progressing effectively down your sales funnel with very few people falling out and no significant bottlenecks. However, this is rarely the case. With a bit of analysis (see point 3 above), you may find that you are great at turning website visitors into marketing qualified leads, but that very few of these leads are closed by your sales team to become customers. In reality, you’ll need to optimise your marketing and sales processes continually over time to improve your conversion rates along each step. There are a number of ways to achieve this, but two powerful methods that can give you a competitive edge are experimentation and frequent repetition.
Experimentation allows you to develop logical hypotheses on how to improve your process, and then test them to see which yields the best results. The opportunity to frequently repeat steps in your sales process effectively allows you to practice each step until you are perfect, while also providing additional data on which things work well and which don’t. Regardless, effective experimentation and repetition both require a steady flow of leads moving through your system.
5. A healthy sales pipeline gives you more control over the sales process and reduces pressure to close
If you don’t have an active lead generation pipeline, the first thing that happens when you lose a big customer, enter a growth phase or suddenly need to bring in more revenue, is panic. You need new customers, you need them now and you’ve got no leads to follow up on. This usually leads to two main knock-on effects. The first is you’re under pressure to bring in new customers, regardless of whether they are a good fit for your offering (as outlined in point 1 above). The second is that you’ll probably be forced to turn to expensive, time-consuming and inefficient outbound tactics like cold calling to get new leads quickly. Put simply, you lose control of your sales process and are forced to adopt tactics and bring on new customers that might actually cost you more money than you make through your ensuing sales.
On the other hand, if you have an active lead generation process (even if just at a low level), you’ll always have options to follow up on, many of which will have been qualified by your marketing and sales process, so that you already know the best people to follow up with first. You’ll be in control. What’s more, when you have a number of leads making their way through your sales process you can often modulate its speed. For example, you can slow prospects down if you are not ready to service them yet or you need to carefully manage stock availability, safe in the knowledge that if they drop out of the sales process as they cannot afford to delay, you’ll always have plenty of other leads to follow up on.
Some important caveats for increasing lead generation
Lead generation is not just a numbers game – it’s also about quality. As such, you’ll need to optimize your marketing and sales efforts to ensure your pipeline delivers the right balance between the two.
Also, don’t forget your current customers in your pursuit of new ones – make sure you are delighting them and finding new ways to offer them value (after all, it’s often faster, easier and more cost-effective to deliver new services and products to old customers than it is to bring in new customers from scratch).
Lastly, be mindful of your ability to deliver for new customers and don’t overstep your limits – if you are currently at capacity, make it clear early on in your sales conversations with new prospects exactly when you will be able to deliver against their needs, or you’ll end up disappointing more people than you help.
Want to generate more leads? Or wish your leads were of higher quality? We can help.
BioStrata is the leading specialist in helping life science companies raise awareness, generate more leads, attract better leads and effectively nurture those leads into customers. To discuss how we might be able to support you, simply request a free, no-obligation consultancy call with our team.
At the very least, we’ll provide you with some actionable tips for improving your sales pipeline straight away, and it could be the start of a very productive partnership that helps drive your future success.