I’ve worked the better part of the last 15 years with B2B technology companies that sell products with lengthy sales cycles and high price tags; million dollar plus software or hardware solutions that take on average 6-9 months to close. Throughout the course of my career I’ve seen organizations that think it’s enough to simply employ a lead generation effort and sit back and wait for the hot leads to come pouring in. I’ve also seen smart organizations that understand that generating that lead (which usually isn’t hot) is only the first step in a long process of courtship that involves many touches.

These touches do not have to be push communications – direct mail, email – but can be pull efforts in the form of blogging or social media. Most B2B buyers of expensive products and services today look to their social media networks for information and advice, and having your custom content available to them helps shorten lengthy sales cycles.

Smart B2B lead generation is about creating relationships and dialogue with prospects. Once you develop the initial conversation, it’s about having the right information in front of them at the right time. Your blog needs to speak to your prospects and customers with this in mind. Providing information for each stage in the sales cycle, and then sharing this information (not just once) in social media networks and channels, can play a big role in reducing sales cycles. Oh, and by the way, you may not be able to measure this assistance directly, but rest assured it is doing its part.

So where do you begin? Well… start thinking about your sales cycle and what people need to move from one part of it to the next. Let’s use the case of an enterprise software solution that is centered around financial services. The solution will touch at least two areas within an enterprise – finance and technology, so right away you need to speak to implementation scenarios for both lines of business. Check!

Now you need to think about the stages in your sales cycle. There’s the evaluation of potential vendors (how does your solution differentiate itself from your competitors?). Then there’s implementation concerns perhaps involving other, existing software, databases, or legacy systems (5 ways our solution plays well with others…). Then there’s ROI considerations (See how ABC company garnered a 200% ROI…). They may also be interested in ongoing support (2 nightmare scenarios that are easy to avoid…). You get the idea.

This type of customized content (searchable, visible, findable) will differentiate your company from other competitors who continue to send mail and email in an effort to generate leads. Generating leads is great, but it’s only a small part of sales generation.