Creating a constant flow of new deals and revenue month after month is challenging for most companies, especially in the life-sciences and biopharma market. Sales teams often struggle to meet their targets for surprisingly similar reasons. Prospecting is done in batches, typically ahead of major industry conferences and meetings. This is followed by a steep decline in prospecting, which inevitably leads to a sharp drop in meetings before the next pre-conference sprint. Irregular flow is bad, but irregular flow in sales strains business development teams with unpredictable workflows which dramatically impacts performance. While some quarters are understandably more taxing than others, more often than not, the blame lies squarely on inconsistent lead generation.
To optimize your sales funnel, the goal is to find something that works and then do it regularly. As Aristotle put it, “we are what we repeatedly do.” Excellence doesn’t come from a single act of distinction, but from practice and consistency.
Let’s jump in and review a few approaches we’ve discovered over the years to filling up the top of the sales funnel in the life science industry.
Conferences and events
Conferences and other types of meeting events have been, and still are, the backbone of any sales funnel even though it’s usually a tedious (and expensive) endeavor for small teams and startups. You have to decide which conferences to attend, prepare marketing materials and then wander the halls tirelessly all day. We’ve all been at the booth, hoping the prospects that stop by aren’t just there for another freebie. While I’d argue events are a mainstay for sales teams, they won’t offer much in the way of ROI if you don’t plan ahead and expect your booth to miraculously generate high-quality leads.
This is something more and more event organizers have begun to offer, ostensibly to help vendors approach the biopharma industry. This can work well at times, but it requires really well written and highly personalized introductions for busy pharma-execs to respond. The quality of the match-making systems also tends to vary a lot between events. If you’re looking for a predictable, recurring inflow of new leads, this likely isn’t your best bet.
Inbound marketing is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the fuel of every great marketing engine. Inbound marketing can be extremely effective in filling the top of the funnel over the long run. This means valuable content, typically offered to customers for free. Thinking back to grad school, I distinctly remember the units-conversion table poster in my lab, and it still reminds me of the lab-scale manufacturer that provided it. Of course, content doesn’t necessarily have to be physical, but anything that your potential customers find valuable (and will hopefully share with their friends/colleagues). Publishing useful content won’t fill your sales funnel instantly, but it will help you build brand recognition in the long term. So don’t wait! Start that newsletter, podcast or whitepaper today.
Webinars have been around for a while. In principle, this is just another piece of content in your inbound marketing arsenal, but we believe webinars deserve a special mention. While the initial investment to create and distribute high-quality content is rather steep, and thus typically more affordable to larger vendors, webinars are perhaps the best way to turn your customers into advocates. If you can afford it, make sure the webinar provides real, tangible value to listeners and isn’t just another sales pitch. We highly recommend inviting your customers to talk about their science and the applications of your services and products. You can approach attendees with more sales-focused messages as a follow-up.
Introductions and referrals
These are rather obvious. You probably know a guy who knows a guy. Customers can often introduce you to someone facing the same pain that led them to you, so get in touch. Send an email, arrange a lunch meeting and close that deal! One interesting tactic to systematize this approach is to download CSV files of your team’s/advisors’/board members’ LinkedIn connections, carefully select potential buyers, and ask them for warm introductions. Using this approach, we managed to put one of our customers in touch with C-level executives at Thermo Fisher!
We’ve already discussed why email marketing should be an essential component of any outbound sales strategy here. While writing a good outbound campaign seems easy, what you really need to make it work is a list of prospects who are a genuine fit for your business. High-quality subject lines drive up your open rates, and of course, personalized email content with a clear call to action makes sure you engage the prospects you write to.
Whatever approach you end up using, nothing matters more than meticulously measuring your results, learning from them, and continuously iterating your approach. Analytics, sales, and marketing are the same science in many respects. If you don’t measure it, it doesn’t exist. It’s important to know what works and what doesn’t. Measure. Improve. Repeat.
At Meetings.bio, we’ve found outbound prospecting to be the most effective way to consistently get our customers’ sales reps in front of new prospects, for a fraction of the cost of other approaches.
Need help or simply want to share what works for you? Schedule a quick call with us and let’s chat!