Marketing Microsoft

The Perfect Match: Make the Right Offer at the Right Time

Developing your relationship with clients before you even think of closing the deal.

You wouldn't ask someone to marry you on the first date, right? Of course not. You'd want to establish and nurture the relationship for a while before proposing to improve your chances of getting a "yes" when you finally do pop the question.

Similarly, as a Microsoft partner, you must first develop strong relationships with prospective customers before you can expect them to say "yes" to your sales proposals.

Before they'll accept what you're offering, prospects must clearly understand what they'll gain from choosing your company and its products or services. They need to believe that what you're marketing will help them achieve their goals, and they must trust your company to deliver on its promises.

Getting to that point requires making the right offers or calls-to-action for each stage of the buying process, from awareness and inquiry to consideration to purchase.

For example, if you've just identified a prospective customer -- let's call it the "first date" stage of the sales cycle -- you'd offer educational materials such as case studies, white papers, how-to articles and decision-maker kits. At this point, prospects aren't ready to meet with salespeople -- but they're comfortable requesting information that they may use for later decision making.

In the "middle date" stage, offer self-assessment tools such as technical white papers and webinars. Such materials and presentations require more time and effort from potential customers, but they're also more closely linked to each prospect's specific situation, which helps with relationship building.

When you know each other well, it's time to make offers or calls-to-action to move prospects toward choosing your company. For instance: Invite them to all-day seminars delving into implementation details. Do demos or offer low-cost or free needs assessments. Or ask whether your salespeople can meet with their decision makers to present customized proposals or quotations.

One more possibility for this ready-to-buy stage: Consider making "buy now" deals offering discounts or additional products or services bundled in for a lower cost.

What if you don't know where prospects are in their buying cycles? In that case, make offers appropriate for every stage and let people select the ones they want.

As you think about building sales-winning relationships with prospects, keep in mind these points about offers and calls-to-action:

  • They must be genuinely enticing. The best offers are educational, geared to helping people make good buying decisions. Titles containing phrases such as "How to ..." or "10 Ways to ..." tend to be most effective.
  • They must move the buying process forward. This requires directly (and satisfactorily) addressing your prospects' questions and concerns.
  • They should be "self-qualifying." Who, other than a qualified prospect, would really be interested in a white paper about your company's solutions? On the other hand, many people-including some who will never turn into qualified, sales-ready leads-will gladly accept an offer with a freebie such as an MP3 player or a digital picture frame.

So how do you put together offers and calls-to-action?

  • Use what you've got. Review your existing information; repackage or update it as needed.
  • Lean on Microsoft. Visit the partner portal and search for white papers, analyst reports, brochures, evaluation guides and other materials that you can use.
  • Combine your resources with Redmond's. For example, incorporate relevant information from a Microsoft newsletter into your own proposal to create an interesting, customized sales piece.

Making the right offers at the right time can go a long way toward helpfully guiding prospects through the stages of their buying cycles. Along the way, you'll build strong, valuable relationships that will last for many years to come.

About the Author

M.H. "Mac" McIntosh has been providing marketing and sales consulting services for Microsoft and many of its partners for more than seven years. More than 1,000 Microsoft Partners across the United States and Canada have attended his Marketing Boot Camps and Marketing for Leads (tm) live and Web seminars. You can contact Mac via