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    How Tech-Enabled Professional Discovery Will Revolutionize Your Sales Funnel

    By Janis Krums | Yahoo Small Business

    Sales Funnel

    Sales theory hasn’t changed much over the years, but the channels certainly have. Most notably, social media has presented a number of ways to find quality leads that are primed to enter your sales funnel.

    Leads can originate from a number of channels, but they all need to be qualified — that is, show potential to become customers — before they enter the sales funnel. To prevent a waste of time and resources, sales teams determine lead quality by understanding where a lead originated and why that lead has a need for the product or service.

    The objective of a typical social media lead qualification system is to get people to interact with your social media pages and lure them into your sales funnel by engaging them through relevant content and discussion. By simply garnering “likes” or follows, you’ve connected with potential customers, obtained contact information, and enabled yourself to communicate directly with leads on your pages.

    Newer developments, such as customer relationship management software, help make qualification processes more efficient. They allow salespeople to remotely manage prospects in real time, communicate with leads through the CRM, attach notes, and more.

    But is this level of engagement enough to ensure that only quality leads are entering your funnel? Social media continues to evolve and introduce new ways to connect and engage online. As such, marketers are taking the lead qualification process full circle, leveraging the channel to study lead quality through actual human interaction.

    Professional Discovery

    Despite the virtual nature of social media, mobile technology and marketing initiatives have allowed social media marketing to move beyond the desktop and into the real world.

    Professional discovery is an emerging concept. It increases your chances of converting leads before they even enter the sales funnel. Professionals are introduced to new opportunities in a process of “engineered serendipity” — essentially bringing together people with common interests for the purpose of adding them to a sales funnel.

    Professional discovery can happen anywhere: at networking events, tradeshows, or even the grocery store. The salesperson can identify leads that might otherwise be hidden.

    With this type of discovery, professionals are alerted when people with mutual potential for a business opportunity are in their proximity, so they have the option to meet face-to-face. Each party can review the other’s background prior to meeting. This enables them to communicate more effectively if they decide to meet.

    Wearable Technology

    One early pioneer in professional discovery (believe it or not) is the mobile app Tinder, which allows users who are near each other to communicate and meet face-to-face. This is a fun and efficient way to vet the most basic type of lead: potential dates.

    While the app isn’t often used for business, the primary goal is the same: connecting people through common traits, interests, and needs. It’s only a matter of time before an app like this finds its way to Google Glass.

    Imagine yourself a few years from now, sitting in a coffee shop wearing Google Glass. Using facial recognition software and social networking data, a quick scan around the room could identify leads and provide valuable information on those around you.

    In the near future, professionals will have a wealth of information in front of them as soon as they enter a conference room. In fact, an app called NameTag is already working on this.

    Released in beta for Google Glass in December 2013, NameTag scans the faces of those present and then accesses social media to determine who they are — from their names and occupations to their latest Instagram post and every piece of data in between.

    Sound invasive? Perhaps. But consider that not long ago, it seemed equally invasive to type a name into a text field and find a wealth of information about a person in just seconds. While professional discovery tech and tactics might be a bit Orwellian for the average user, marketers are lining up to put this technology to use in their lead-qualifying efforts.

    Once these platforms are optimized, there’s no limit to the amount of information marketers can get — and no limit to the amount of previously undiscovered, highly qualified leads they can add to their funnels.

    Janis Krums is the co-founder of OPPRTUNITY, a lead generation tool that looks outside your network to find you qualified leads.

    The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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