Chinese prison methods or how to nurture B2B leads the right way

The greatest example of non-marketing lead nurturing I’ve ever seen was published in Robert Cialdini book Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion.

It was an example of Chinese managed American Anti-communist soldiers to collaborate with them by their own willing.

Here is a small excerpt from the book:

An examination of the Chinese prison camp programme shows that its personnel relied heavily on commitment and consistency pressures to gain the desired compliance from prisoners.

Of course, the first problem facing the Chinese was how to get any collaboration at all from the Americans. These were men who were trained to provide nothing but name, rank, and serial number.

Short of physical brutalization, how could the captors hope to get such men to give military information, turn-in fellow prisoners, or publicly denounce their country?

The Chinese answer was elementary: start small and build.

For instance, prisoners were frequently asked to make statements so mildly anti-American or Pro communist as to seem inconsequential (“The United States is not perfect.” “In a communist country, unemployment is not a problem.”).

But once these minor requests were complied with, the men found themselves pushed to submit to related yet more substantive requests. A man who has just agreed with his Chinese interrogator that the United States is not perfect might then be asked to indicate some of the ways in which he thought this was the case.

Once he had so explained himself, he might be asked to make a list of these “problems with America” and to sign his name to it. Later he might be asked to read his list in a discussion group with other prisoners.

“After all, it’s what you really believe, isn’t it?” Still, later he might be asked to write an essay expanding on his list and discussing these problems in greater detail.

The Chinese might then use his name and his essay in an anti-American radio broadcast beamed not only to the entire camp but to other p.o.w. camps in North Korea, as well as to American Forces in South Korea.

Suddenly he would find himself a “collaborator” having given aid to the enemy. Aware that he had written the essay without any strong threats or coercion, many times a man would change his image of himself to be consistent with the deed and with the new “collaborator” label, often resulting in even more extensive acts of collaboration.

This excerpt demonstrates clearly how consistency and follow-ups with your previous actions can lead to incredible results.

Sam Spurrel underlines in his review of the book:

What makes this process so insidious is the fact that an individual’s self-image can change so rapidly and without them even being aware that they are being manipulated.

At no point did the Chinese torture their prisoners or threaten them with punishment if they refused to sign their name to an anti-American letter. In fact, that would have made it so much easier for the Americans to remain resistant.”

Why I’ve remembered this story?

According to HubSpot, 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up but 80% of sales require five follow-ups!

I don’t speak about the push and pressure methods. This will only make your leads angrier and minimize the chances to close deals.

I speak about lead nurturing.

With every email (or any other communication channel) we should “sell” small ideas, not our product. We should overcome objections and doubts, we should demonstrate the benefits of our product.

We should provoke and let our leads think about our products the way we want.

Depend on the market it can take much more than 5 follow-ups. I work with companies where the length of lead nurturing is nearly 1 year.

But it always pays off!

Lead nurturing example

Let me tell you my story which would be a great example.

It was November 2014 when that company first contacted me.

They were interested in consulting but couldn’t afford the project proposal. We thanked each other and I didn’t hear anything from them for 3 years.

Last July (2017) the owner of that company once more contacted me. I was really surprised because it was the first time somebody contacted me again since so many time went from the first contact.

Usually, if we didn’t agree on the project, I’ve never heard from that leads.

I asked him how did he remember about me?

He responded: “You didn’t give a chance to forget about you 🙂 I read your email newsletter every week :).

That was a real proof how the “deliver value before sale” concept and consistency payout in a long-term.

I checked a CRM and saw that the best customers read my newsletter at least 8 months. They were like a ripe wine: ready to work and implement.

We often look for quick solutions and instant sales but the truth is that if you sell expensive products be ready for a long-term lead nurturing.

At this point I often hear an objection:

How would you calculate the ROI of lead nurturing?

This is an awesome question!

Let’s pretend you have a traditional AIDA sales funnel.

You drive traffic to the landing pages where the leads can schedule a free consultation. After the consultation, you send a proposal and close a deal (successfully or not, doesn’t matter).

With this approach, you generate 100 leads per month and close successfully 5 of them (5% close ratio).

What happened to other 95 leads?

Why didn’t they buy from you?

Maybe, they weren’t ready to buy? Maybe, they need more information? Maybe, they had some doubts?

Or, simply, they were looking for a solution for future?

Let’s pretend you decided to optimize sales funnel because you want to increase sales.

You decide to implement lead nurturing.

In short, the main goals of lead nurturing are to:

  • Demonstrate the benefits of your product
  • Overcome objections
  • Build a relationship and credibility
  • Gather additional information about the lead for sales qualification
  • Drive the lead through the microstages of the sales funnel to sales qualification

You realize that it makes no sense to run a 100 consultations per month because they are ineffective due the major part of your leads are in the awareness or consideration stages.

So, you create white papers for both stages and apply marketing qualification.

Now, when a lead downloads a white paper, you don’t push him to schedule a free consultation. You start to deliver valuable content which helps him to identify a problem and choose the proper solution.

You overcome objections and show in a native way the benefits of your products. You prove the quality of your product by case studies and comparison reports.

You answer all the possible questions your lead might have.

You apply a lead scoring to see whether you lead is ready for consultation.

You add a simple button with scheduling a consultation so leads can schedule it when they think they are ready.

What’s happening now?

Now, your sales team speak to hot leads who know how they’ll benefit from your product instead of talking to cold leads.

Now, back to your question, how I will calculate ROI?

Just start to measure on a quarterly basis how your close ratio will change.

Do you see an increase in sales? Do you close successfully more deals?

Then you’ll be able to calculate easily the ROI of lead nurturing:

(The volume of closed deals in the current quarter – The average volume of closed deals before lead nurturing ) ÷ costs for lead nurturing (email service, retargeting ads, etc.).

Instead of a conclusion

Chinese knew that it was almost impossible to convert American prisoners with pressure and punishment. They also knew they have a lot of work to be done consistently like everyday routine.

But that led to dramatic results.

There is an old Chinese proverb:

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

This is a power of consistency, small steps, and when it comes to B2B marketing, lead nurturing!

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