Lead Qualification

Is there such a thing as Sales and Marketing Harmony?

Some say they have accomplished it, but they infrequently share how (if they really know how).  Many marketers say that sales and marketing harmony is an oxymoron.  Salespeople refuse to think anyone can produce sales but them. We know that those that achieve S&M harmony are said to perform wondrous deeds in the name of revenue.  In this CRM Radio interview with Giles House of Callidus Cloud, we tackle sales and marketing harmony building. The CRM Radio host is Jim Obermayer.

 

About the Guest Giles House - SVP and CMO of Callidus Cloud  

 

Mr. House is an experienced marketing executive with a proven track record of successfully marketing and selling business software and technology. At CallidusCloud he is responsible for the company’s global marketing activities, communications, product strategy, brand and sales enablement programs.  As a thought leader, House regularly speaks on sales and marketing, and has been interviewed by leading publications such as Inc., VentureBeat, MarTech Advisor and CRM Magazine.

 

About CallidusCloud

 

CallidusCloud is the global leader in cloud-based sales, marketing, learning, and customer experience solutions. It enables organizations to accelerate and maximize their lead to money process with a complete suite of solutions that identify the right leads, ensure proper territory and quota distribution, enable sales forces, automate configure price quote, and streamline sales compensation — driving bigger deals, faster. Over 5,000 organizations, across all industries, rely on CallidusCloud. 

 

About CRM Radio

 

CRM Radio is a weekly live internet radio program on the Funnel Radio Channel.  It is broadcast at 11 AM Pacific time GMT +6. 

How Effectively Are You Managing Your Valuable Leads?

Know Your Cost of Leads

Do you know how much it costs your company to generate profitable sales leads? The emphasis here is on profitable - because not all sales leads are profitable. Nor do they each cost the same. However, they represent good money you’ve spent to buy more sales opportunities for your sales force. 

Of course not all sales leads are born equal. They come in many shapes and sizes. From advertising, trade shows, seminars, direct mail, email promotions, teleprospecting and other promotions. Each lead costs you, and someone in your organization is comparing cost with revenue generated.

Effective Lead Qualification Essential

Generating an inquiry is of course the first step. The purpose of lead qualification is to turn them into prospects. And prospects into customers – hopefully lifelong customers.

All leads (at some point) must be qualified whether we like it or not. The sooner the better!  More often than not the most effective way is to outsource to an experienced sales support agency with a history of sales qualification success.  Why?  Because it’s unlikely you will develop an in house resource staffed with a dedicated and professional Business Development Team of the highest caliber that are focused entirely on the lead qualification process.  If you have (or create) an in-house resource to do this then your actual operational costs will be higher and profitability therefore will be lower.  

Some companies believe they can avoid the cost of qualification by turning the leads over to individual salespersons (or in some cases to the salespeople of their Channel Partners). A more effective solution is to pre-qualify and only have a salesperson engage once the potential exists for a sale. The salesperson - whose time is far more costly - can then focus his or her time entirely on the job of selling.  

Impact on sales force sales productivity can be as high as 400% when a salesforce is focused entirely on pre-qualified leads!

Leverage your CRM - Require feedback from your Salesforce

While many opportunities require immediate follow through (and the sooner the better!) others require multiple follow ups over an extended period of time before they mature. Salespersons without the support structure (i.e. a functioning and workable CRM) to manage and control future sales appointments may permit many of these qualified opportunities to gather dust and die.   On the other hand few companies who have CRM’s actually leverage them to maximize sales force productivity (a subject covered in other articles and blogs on the ETI site)!

Are you in control?

  • Do you know exactly, at any time, what happened to each sales lead you distributed ? To every salesperson or salesforce, VAR, channel partner, distributor? To every office in the U.S.? Worldwide? Last month? Last quarter? Last Year? Year before?
  • Do you know exactly how much each sales lead cost?
    • Per ad source?
    • Per VAR?
    • Per distributor?
    • Per salesperson?
    • Per area?
    • Do you know exactly how much sales volume each sales lead or source produced?
    • Which source generated the greatest number of sales? Per ad? Per month, season, period? Highest to lowest?
    • How much you profited?
    • Do you know which VAR, distributor, salesperson, is most efficient in terms of number of sales leads converted? Over any period? Highest to lowest?

Feedback, Feedback, Feedback

Feedback is the crucial element to successful lead management and tracking. Yet there are many salespersons, both in your direct and indirect sales forces who don’t understand the importance of disciplined feedback. As a result, they don’t provide the necessary status or progress reports on each sales lead for which they are responsible.

The consequence of this is that no CRM or equivalent will work for you. An exceedingly high price for a company to bear. Leads are the lifeblood of business. And since you’ve already incurred the high cost of generating and qualifying the leads, it is intolerable to lose the immediate and future business they represent. And you lose the rewards of lifetime sales. Worse, you aid the competition.

Are Inside Sales Departments good at Lead Generation/Lead Qualification?

Should you consider outsourcing to complement Inside Sales?

ETI clients often have Inside Sales (IS) departments.  

Typically Inside Sales are tasked with a range of responsibilities including (but not limited to) Supporting Field Sales, Customer Service, Account Management, Order handling and Processing as well as some Lead Generation, Lead Qualification and Lead Nurturing.  In some instances they also play a role in building and maintaining Partner relationships.  

IS reps are for the most part involved in passive activities such as responding to the needs of accounts and supporting field sales.  

When most managers spec out the job requirements for their IS staff you will find Lead Generation/ Lead Qualification high up on the list of requirements.  Yet, proactive Lead Generation and Lead Qualification somehow gravitates over a period of time to become a small(er) part of their actual activities.  

Now let’s define the typical traits of the IS staff:

  • Hunters are great at identifying and either bringing in new business - or at least generating and qualifying leads.

  • Farmers’ strength lies in nurturing and helping grow existing accounts.  In addition they frequently function in a ‘customer service’ role.

  • Gatherers’ wait for the low hanging fruit to fall into their lap.  

Rarely are IS reps highly effective at all aspects of Hunting, Farming and Gathering.  Most are more often excellent at the latter two with only a small percentage having the strength to undertake the grueling work of Hunters.  

Now let’s consider the traits of the personnel needed for the various types of Inside Sales activities:

   Traits
    Hunter Farmer Gatherer
A
c
t
i
v
i
v
t
i
e
s
Account Management Not a Match Good Match Not a Match
Customer Service Not a Match Good Match Good Match
Lead Generation Good Match Not a Match Not a Match
Lead Qualification Good Match Somewhat of a Match Good Match
Lead Nurturing Not a Match Good Match Somewhat of a Match

Another consideration is the IS Management Team.  It’s safe to assume that the team they build will be around their core competencies.  If their competency is in Customer Service and Account Management and not in Lead Generation then you will probably not have a department that is meeting its Lead Generation / Lead Qualification goals.  

It is rare to find an IS operation that is good at everything.  It is even more rare that it will be staffed with adequate resources to fit all its requirements.  

  • If you need it all then consider allowing the IS team to focus on a specific core competency - rather than trying to be all things to all people.  You can then outsource the missing elements to a company that has those core competencies and that can deliver results in quick order.  This can result in a major positive impact on your ROI.

At ETI we’ve had unparalleled success working with Inside Sales departments to maximize their productivity by providing the solutions they need to maximize their resources including all of the above activities.

We’d be happy to engage with you and explore how ETI, might compliment  your IS department.   Please call 1.800.466.4384 - select option 1.

Can your company boost sales through productivity gains?

In a given day week or month ….

  • What percentage of sales time is spent prospecting (i.e. developing highly qualified leads) versus selling?
  • How many sales visits (to qualified prospects) do your salespeople make?
  • Or how many conversations (cold or warm) do they have with targeted prospects?
  • Or how often do your salespeople reach out to their top 50 / 100 / 150 targeted prospects?
    • And what happens with those targeted prospects in the next range(s) (151+)?

No two sales forces are ever the same.  Neither are any two salespeople ever the same. However, whatever your existing resources you need to ensure that the focus should always be on those prospects the company has targeted (i.e. go beyond the low hanging fruit many salespeople focus on) … and are ready to buy.  This should be priority number one.

Having worked with some of the most sophisticated selling operations in the world in High Tech, Healthcare, and many of the world's largest Financial Institutions for some 27+ years, I can attest to the fact that almost none have a practical game plan to address selling productivity.  

So you may ask … “If these large and successful companies do not care about sales productivity then maybe it’s not that important?”

Let’s examine the following scenarios:

Realistic circumstance - No optimization

In scenarios where a salesperson role is to find, qualify and generate awareness among the prospect universe at least 66.66% of their time, then it’s likely that each salesperson will only close approximately 2 sales per month.  

New Sales Visits per week Average no. of sales visits per month Assume 20% Sales conversion ratio
2-3 10 2 sales per month

However, in an ideal scenario, a salesperson could potentially close 8 sales per month (400% more sales) if his/her role were to focus on highly qualified leads (HQL’s) 100% of the time .

Ideal circumstance - HQL’s provided for optimized sales productivity

New Sales Visits per week Average no. of sales visits per month Assume 20% Sales conversion ratio
10 40 8 sales per month

Primary benefits of maximizing sales productivity (in the above scenarios)?

  • 6 additional sales (8 total) or more sales per month per salesperson (300%+ more than the non optimized scenario)
    • Significant revenue gain
    • Reduced lost opportunity factor
  • You probably employ more sales persons than you need
    • Field salespeople are your most expensive sales resource (even if solely commission based)
    • Costs per sale potentially increase 4 or 5 fold because of low productivity

Sure nothing is straightforward.  No doubt Marketing and or your Website help to partially fill the sales lead pipelines with qualified prospects.  Rarely however, (I’d hazard a guess - NEVER) are salespeople provided with sufficient HQL’s so that they can user their time more productively.

And of course if a percentage of their time is involved in other activities such as Account Management and other Administrative activities you can bet the result in real terms is worse than outlined above.

ETI offers a free sales productivity analysis.  In full disclosure we do it (for free) because inevitably the rationale to use our services becomes more than obvious when you see the reality.  

Are you ready to measure your sales productivity levels and explore ways to potentially increase sales velocity by 400 to 500%?

Please call.  We’ll be happy to discuss.

 

Outsource or “do it yourself” B2B lead generation?

Certainly, the ability to develop in house resources to match the ability of a specialist company like ourselves appears to offer more potential.  Typically, the thinking is based upon the assumption that doing it in house offers …

  • greater control
  • greater expertise
  • a methodology for training/identifying future sales resources
  • and other significant cost savings.  

In other words the prevailing thinking is ‘we can do it cheaper and better’ in house rather than outsourcing to a 3rd party specialist!

On the surface, that seems like a simple cost-effective decision, especially when comparing with an outsourced operation.  However, the practical issues are far more complex with the result that most in house attempts never achieve the desired objectives.  And it is this failure that in effect reduces sales instead of increasing your profits.

The fact is that most organizations don’t have systems in place to control and track and manage in house tele-services / tele-prospecting activities.  That’s especially true for startups.  Success in winning new customers is far more complex than simply having you insist on a certain number of calls per day and providing a basic database (CRM) into which the results can be recorded.  The need to actively manage personnel and the processes required are often overlooked.

Here are some of the required elements:

  • A systematic methodology for recruiting, hiring and training qualified people.
  • The more complex your subject matter and value proposition, the more difficult it will be to find the “right” people.  
    • Some considerations:
      • University Graduates?
      • Significant Business experience?
      • Familiarity with selling to and navigating complex (and large) corporations?
  • Complex products and services cannot be handled in a dialing for dollars mode using a script.  This means you need smart people who can engage in a consultative dialog, think and probe, listen and “peel away at the onion.”
  • Personnel management is an ongoing process because there will inevitably be turnover.  Meaning more effort recruiting, hiring and training (with lost opportunity cost during the ramp up period).  And that’s true even if a career path is established, because you’ll need to replace them when and if a promotion occurs.  These substantial indirect costs are often not considered when a company considers going down the in house path.
  • Making sure that your brand is being represented professionally
  • Rigorous quality assurance
  • Lead distribution and management
  • Record Management
  • Need to ensure that the notes related to the progress of each opportunity are sufficiently detailed to enable someone else to take over the record should the current business developer be replaced.  
  • Maintain focus:  Often the Business Development team, once in place, often gets sidetracked with other duties (administration, account management, customer service etc.).  Allowing this to occur dilutes the effectiveness of the entire effort as productivity drops dramatically.

So there is far more management time needed than is typically accommodated for.  And on top of having to provide systems and dedicated management resources, you’ll need to provide efficient and quiet workspaces and phone systems that will support phone-intensive activity.  Those costs are also usually overlooked.

To further complicate matters, because dedicated people are likely to be doing the same thing day in and day out, all day long, they are significantly less productive later in the day than earlier.  The smarter and more sophisticated the people you hire, the greater the likelihood that boredom will soon set in.  This inevitably leads to shorter tenure and higher churn rates.  And then there’s vacation and sick leave with the lost opportunity costs associated with those periods as well.  

At ETI we expect our productivity to be at least 100% more productive than that of a dedicated in house effort (deploying similar resources). Fact is on average we’re about about 200% more productive.

So, while on the surface it seems that doing it yourself may be better and cheaper it rarely works out that way.  Once you take all the direct + indirect costs into account - and measure this against the actual outcomes - insourcing is usually substantially higher than outsourcing.  And far less effective!


Client Quote:

"Over the years I’ve analyzed what it would take to duplicate what they provided for us with internal resources and we always came up short on our analysis. It was always more economical to leverage a relationship with ETI."



Sales Leads are a Perishable Asset

How you manage leads makes the difference between a wasted investment and a solid return on investment!

Once your company spends money to find a prospect, the clock starts ticking; each inquiry has a life span.  Some of the leads may take a year to buy something, some may take six months, and some will only take a few months, or a few days.

We know that nearly half of any group of leads will buy; however, the perishable asset issue arises when leads are not followed-up promptly, or at all.  The facts (research) show that just because some sales leads are six months to a year old, half of any given group of leads with the same age is still in the market to buy.

As the great hockey player Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”   Companies are not immune from the same issue.  No (or slow) follow-up, no sale.

Far too many companies experience sales lead asset losses because their sales and marketing people do not follow up and contact prospects.  Sometimes it occurs because follow-up is slower than with their competitors or follow-up fails and the prospect doesn’t hear from the company at all.

Michael Falkson, CEO of eti Sales Support, said, “ETI's experience shows that 80% of inquiries that will convert into Market Qualified Leads will do so within 18 business hours.  Thereafter your chances of success will fall off dramatically“.

It makes sense to understand that buyers have a timeframe to buy.  Eventually they:

    • buy a product from you,
    • buy from your competitor,
    • decline to buy the product category (a different product entirely),
    • lose funding and don’t buy anything, or
    • never had an intention to buy in the first place (students, prisoners, competitors, etc.).

Regardless of the reason, the reality is that any group of leads from a given month has a life span.  Each month a few make a decision and disappear; they are dead to you.

However, how these inquiries are handled, contacted, qualified, and entered into the pipeline is vitally important. B2C marketers and salespeople know response to consumer inquiries is a race - - response times from inquiry to that first call from the lead holder can be down to less than a minute.

In B2B, response times are more often within an hour or two, or ‘same day’ for best of breed sales departments with inside salespeople.  Those who are asleep respond in days or weeks, and then wonder why the marketing isn’t working for them. The company’s investment in marketing is lost, and the potential asset has failed to buy.

Why it matters:

First, fast responders sell more than those who are slow, sluggish, unhurried, leisurely, and dawdling in pursuit of a prospect. In other words, those who take days  or weeks to contact a prospect.

In B2C and B2B, the best salespeople understand that faster is better and slower is also-ran.  The first person to speak to the inquirer creates an expectation level for others to follow.  The sales rep who is first to answer questions directs the conversation; he or she often becomes a “trusted advisor” and steers the inquirer to the features and benefits unique to their product and not so unique to competitive products. The subsequent delivery of pricing (a proposal?), literature, white papers, articles, case studies and other educational materials further cements the first responder in the leadership position.  Great first responders deliver pricing and answer questions the same day, before competitors make the first call.

Delayed response means a higher rejection rate. Prospects often ignore delayed responders as they no longer need information.  Plus, they see the delay as the first indication of the value of the business relationship: slow to respond, slow to deliver, slow to service.

Some leads may never mature for these ‘follow-up slow-pokes’ because budgets can be canceled, the inquirer changes jobs, the committee never meets, and what appeared so promising dies in a whimper.

Will You Be a First Responder or a Dawdling Responder?

The decision to be first is within your hands.  You can put the tools and the people in place to accomplish this within a few days; it’s a series of simple steps.

    1. Outline the sales stages required to make a sale.  Get agreement from salespeople.
    2. Outline the buying stages of the prospect.  Talk to customers.
    3. Meld items one and two as much as possible so that Sales is aware of and delivers information the prospect needs.  You now have the sales stages for the CRM system.  If the prospects expect pricing in the first call or proposals immediately, give it to them.  Read Zero-Time Selling by Andy Pauliii.
    4. Drive inquiries into a CRM and marketing automation system within a minute of the prospect submitting their form.  The CRM tool has to deliver the lead to Sales within your agreed-upon parameters.
    5. The marketing automation system swings into action and delivers information and content based on the buyer’s needs (form) or actions while on the site.   Many systems grade the inquiry by website actions, forms submitted, where they have been on a site and for how long.  Some new systems use machine or artificial intelligence to understand the buyer’s profile, accuracy of the address, email and phone numbers, previous buying history, etc.
    6. The inside sales department must jump into action as soon as the lead hits the CRM system and they are notified. This often means in less than a minute.
    7. If you do not have an inside sales or qualification department and the volume of leads is substantial, go to a qualified outside service. First responder service, qualification and nurturing are what they do. They make the call, pursue the prospect, and develop a lead into a qualified status or an immediate need.   They also nurture unqualified leads until they are sales ready, which frees up your salespeople’s time.
    8. Send the sales-ready leads to the salespeople.
    9. Eventually close out those names in the database that are not buying.

For B2B, certainly there is a fast, first responder requirement even if the inquirer takes weeks or months to make a decision.

Why It’s Important:

Leads that are followed up fast will buy at a higher rate. He who is a first responder sells more than he who is not.

The issue is that leads that are followed up fast will buy at a higher rate than those that are contacted within days or weeks, or sometimes even months after the initial contact.  He who is a first responder sells more than he who is not.

About the Author

James W. Obermayer is a four-time book author (two on the subject of sales lead management), is the founder of the Sales Lead Management Association; membership is free.  He is also the host of the weekly SLMA Radio Program.  In his spare time he is the principal of 20-year-old Sales Leakage Consulting, located in Washington State.

________________________________________________________

  1. James Obermayer, Managing Sales Leads: Turning Cold Prospects Into Hot Customers, (Mason, Ohio, Textere, an imprint of Thomson/South-Western, 2007), and Racom Books, Page 10
  2. James Obermayer, Managing Sales Leads: Turning Cold Prospects Into Hot Customers, (Mason, Ohio, Textere, an imprint of Thomson/South-Western, 2007), and Racom Books, Page 12
  3. Paul, Andy, Zero-Time Selling, Ten Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales, Morgan James Publishing, 2012

Be Smarter About Your Lead Qualification program

You have a fixed budget with little flexibility for expansion and want to develop a Lead Qualification effort to support your company's marketing inquiry generating activities (top of funnel) to maximize sales (force) productivity. Your choices:

  • Touch all inquiries by deploying a low cost agency and risk losing significant opportunities
  • Or ... Maximize Inquiry Conversions to HQLs (Highly Qualified Leads) i.e Optimize the budget to maximize ROI.

Let’s take a look.

Assumptions:

  • Annual budget of $200k
  • Monthly volume of inquiries (hand raises) - 2,000 from a variety of sources:
  • Inbound calls
  • Webform Posts
  • Whitepaper download
  • Email responses
  • Webinar attendance
  • etc.

Two agencies

  • Agency A: Best of Breed company
    • Higher cost  (See details below)
    • Agency B
      • Low cost
      • Possibly offshore

Let’s examine why what costs less might actually cost more.

roisimulation
roisimulation

Conclusion:

  • Agency A nets almost 100% more revenue that Agency B
  • Double the ROI

Note:  The variables and circumstances in your case may differ.  However, in my own experience a B type agency has never bested ETI (a best of breed company) on ROI.

Interested in evaluating your lead qualification program?  Or plugging your variables into this model? We’ll be more than happy to give you a fair analysis of how working with a Best of Breed company like ETI will impact your bottom line.  Please call 1.800.466.4ETI and we’ll be happy to provide an analysis of your existing program.

*Agency A

  • Best of Breed
  • Higher cost basis with greater deliverables
  • Smart well educated (university graduates)
  • Little - or no - significant churn
    • Stable Business Development staff
    • Onshore
    • Deep understanding (and experience) with business culture
    • Great familiarity navigating large enterprises
    • Very comfortable interacting with high level executives (C Level)
    • Not scripted
      • Approach is consultative
      • Results in identification of larger sales opportunities
      • Shorter sales cycles
      • State of the art technology platform to support the effort
      • Realtime visibility to all activities on your behalf
      • 24X7 Reporting Portal
      • CRM and Marketing Automation Platform integration
      • Promote and extend your brand

**Agency B:

  • Lower cost
  • Lower quality staffing usually referred to as “agents”
  • High staff churn
  • Frequent need to provision additional training
  • If product is complex (i.e. not a commodity) then is this agency capable of communicating your value proposition
  • Do not know how to navigate across large enterprises
  • Highly scripted
  • Not comfortable with consultative conversations
  • Limited technical capacity
  • Poor brand representation
  • Possible (irreparable) harm may be caused due to non-professional representation

*** MQL - Marketing Qualified Leads ****SQL - Sales Qualified Leads

Giveback for Feedback Pilot Program - First Year’s Success

logo Closing the loop with Sales Reps is one of the biggest challenges facing companies engaged in sales lead generation programs. To assist ETI clients win more new customers and higher initial orders ETI launched (with a limited number of clients) our unique “Giveback for Feedback” test program last June.

With the clients’ cooperation to this end we extended an offer to each salesperson that in return for feedback on the leads assigned to them, ETI would make a contribution to their favorite selected charities.

I’m happy to report that success became evident in the first 6 months. The amount of feedback showing the back-end results was phenomenal and as - a result because of the great participation of the sales forces involved - ETI has already contributed over $2,000 to the nominated charities!

In most cases the feedback confirmed the quality of the leads being handed over, and in others the feedback highlighted some areas of possible improvement (which enabled ETI to immediately take pro-active action). Furthermore, the process has enabled us to build closer relationships with all the stakeholders involved.

Here is what one Sales Director wrote to his sales staff ...

“Hello,

I wanted to share with ALL of you in regards to the charitable contributions made by ETI based on your joint efforts in 2nd half of 2014. The gesture by ETI to offer donations to multiple charities is a testament to the quality of the group we have been working with for the past several months and no doubt has a special impact this time of year.

… Special thanks to those from the ETI Team!!

We are greatly appreciative of all the clients and sales staff that participated.”

Our target for 2015 is to generate a minimum of $10,000 for the charities as we roll and expand the program to all our clients.

If you would like to know how your company can benefit sooner from our “ Giveback for Feedback” program, please call 1-800-466-4384 and select option 1.

Why good sales people should be terrible at prospecting

Here is a simple proposition: When a sales person is selling, he or she is not identifying new opportunities. And that’s a good thing, because you always want your sales people to be actively selling.

The better the sales person, the greater the imperative to focus his or her attention exclusively on selling. It’s not that great sales people can’t prospect successfully. It’s just that they simply shouldn’t have the bandwidth available to do the job well.

Consistent prospecting requires organized, dedicated contact with prospect companies, initially to identify the right stakeholders and then to engage with them, cultivate a relationship, and build an in-depth understanding of their needs, challenges and aspirations. That’s a full-time job; it can’t be done well on a catch-as-catch-can basis. It’s not a “one day a week reserved for prospecting” kind of task.

And, it’s no secret that most sales people hate prospecting. They often find it demotivating and foreign to their primary skill set. Good sales people get “pumped” when they are eye to eye with a prospect, deeply engaged in problem identification and solving, not when they are “smiling and dialing.”

Put them in front of the right people with an identified need and interest and they are smack in the middle of their ideal milieu, with their juices flowing. That’s when they can be most productive — cultivating the relationship, building a foundation of trust and closing the sale — and that’s exactly what you pay them for.

So, if your sales people aren’t engaged in prospecting, how do you get it done?

You can either develop your own, internal, dedicated business development team or you can outsource the activity to a company that specializes in lead generation. The choice is up to you, and it’s a function of how you want to deploy your resources. There are arguments to be made in support of either choice.

The key variables to consider include whether or not you want to take on the responsibility and overhead of hiring employees and the associated costs and, if you go down that path, whether you will then have the flexibility to ramp up and down as needed to meet your seasonal needs — not as easy with an in-house team.

There’s also the matter of lost opportunity costs associated with sick time, vacations and turnover. You pay an outsourced partner only for what they are doing, not for lost time. Along with turnover comes the need to hire and train regularly (it becomes a revolving door).

Then there are the costs of management, equipment and systems (all of which have their own associated indirect costs). Most often, in-house solutions are more costly than outsourcing if you account for all direct, indirect, and lost opportunity costs.

But you may want to spend more to gain greater control, and owning the process internally certainly gives you that. Moreover, it's easier to facilitate communication and teamwork between your own employees than it is if you use an outsourced partner. And that's an important consideration.

And let’s not forget your brand and the image that is portrayed by those who are representing you to your prospect (and customer) base. Whether the solution is in-house or outsourced, that’s a critical variable that is too often overlooked. The cost of a bad connection between one of your representatives and a prospect or client is huge. You can’t overestimate the importance of professionalism and brand and product image.

So, whatever route you choose, be sure that your representation is professional enough to raise the esteem of your brand as well as accomplish the primary goal of generating qualified sales opportunities Ensure that your management structure is sufficient to mandate accountability from everyone involved, from those responsible for seeking out the opportunities to the sales people who must follow up if your investment is to have solid ROI.

Regardless of your choice, the lesson here is simple. Sales people are among your most expensive assets. Employing them to undertake work that can be more consistently and productively accomplished by a competent, dedicated prospecting team is both far more expensive and unproductive. Keeping them in front of the right people as often as possible is the best way to maximize their productivity as well as the return on your investment.

The Seasonality of Lead Generation

Summer

About this time of year, every year, we get questions about the effectiveness of Lead Generation in the summer months. The thinking is that summer is a slow time where decision makers are away and generally things slow down. That’s true - to a very limited extent. To clarify the situation for ourselves and our clients we decided to analyze the results we achieved in the summer months measured against results from the rest of the year - over the last 20 years.

The projects we reviewed showed conversion rates which ranged from well over 30% to as little as 3%. The results indicated that conversion rates in the summer months were practically the same. In other words the research revealed that seasonality made no practical difference to results achieved

  • Summer months conversion ratio - 13.51%
  • All other months - 13.37%

We also wished to know whether the amount of effort (hours worked) required more hours worked in the summer months compared with the rest of the year.

Actually not. Using the same 20 year period we found that on average the exact same number of hours per lead is required when comparing summer months to all other months.

What accounts for this? We believe that the primary reason is that while fewer decision makers are accessible in the summer, there are also fewer obstacles in getting through to them. Buyers appear to be more relaxed and more amenable to engage in meaningful discussion.

Is it different over the Christmas holiday period? Nope. Pretty much the same.

So in terms of B2B Lead Generation we can definitively state that results do not vary seasonally (unless of course your business is inherently seasonal.)

How Good is Your Sales Execution?

We have a valued client company that is expert in what they term “Retail Execution Solutions”. In essence, they enable large retailers to “have the right product in the right place at the right time.” While they do have some very powerful proprietary solutions, very few of the specific services they provide are truly unique. In fact, virtually every retailer is already conducting the standard activities that our client provides as services. They include inventory, space planning, shrinkage and supply chain audits and a program for site design and organization. Retailers may not be doing each of these activities as efficiently or effectively and cohesively as our client would, but these are all essential business practices that every retail operation must conduct to stay alive.

The unique aspect that our client brings is a highly systematic, integrated approach that enables them to link all of those disparate, essential activities, giving them the power to bring the results to bear on the full scope of their operations. Hence, the term “Retail Execution.” As I said before, it gives them the ability to “have the right product in the right place at the right time.”

As I was thinking about all of this, it dawned on me that what our client provides to retailers is analogous to what we provide to our clients. We provide “Sales Execution Solutions.”

Surely every company we work with is already doing the basics: generating leads, perhaps even pre-qualifying them, they have sales forces and, especially nowadays, they may have access to some kind of CRM to track their leads and sales activities.

They might want or need more leads, or better qualified leads. Or they may need help managing their database and tracking their prospects, leads and sales activities. And they may need to better understand their market or ways to develop new markets or bring new products to market. But the basics elements are there in order for them to survive.

So where does Sales Execution come into play? In the very same way our client supports their retailers: our deliverable is in providing clients with a systematic, repeatable, successful closed-loop process for growing revenue, developing and managing new business opportunities and targeting their marketing investment on vehicles that have the best potential for revenue growth and the successful development of their company.

By engaging with a company that focuses on Sales Execution (or enhancing sales productivity), you are focusing your sales resources precisely on those qualified prospects and customers that are ready to make a purchase decision in the near term (“the right contact in the right prospect company at the right time”).

There are many companies that can provide pieces of this kind of solution on an outsourced basis, some at a far lower cost than managing it internally. But the real trick is in creating an environment in which all of the pieces of the business development puzzle can work together, seamlessly, and one in which they augment one another to create true, powerful sales execution.

So, while “Retail Execution” enables a retail company to have the right product in the right place at the right time, “Sales Execution” enables a company to put their sales people in front of the right prospects at the right company at the right time.

I’d love your comments and questions.

A 25 year Milestone

Little did we know when we my wife Riki and my 2 sons then aged 6 and 4 arrived in the US in 1987, what an interesting and challenging thing it would be to become and succeed as an entrepreneur in the US. From our humble beginnings in a renovated barn in Greenburgh, NY to our current modern facilities in Valhalla, NY, we have continued to grow and thrive. And our family of clients and staff has also grown with us.

I’m happy to say ETI Sales Support continues to be at the forefront, in terms of technology as well as with the maturation of our unique approach to lead generation and lead qualification efforts in the B2B space. We continue to evolve, innovate and stay relevant. And, we are committed to do so in the future.

A word of thanks to all of our clients, employees and suppliers over the years. We may have created the environment, but without your support we could never have been successful.

Last night we celebrated in style at a local restaurant in Pleasantville. A good time was had by all!

~ mf

Is your channel partner selling your solution or someone else’s?

Are you confronted with a situation where a channel partner, who sells your solution as well as that of the competition's is favoring the competition? This happens all the time.

To help gain the upper hand, companies constantly come up with incentives to build direct relationships with channel partner sales people.  Relying on this strategy, however, leaves you at the whim of the channel's sales staff.  That’s not the best position to be in.

The most effective way to win consistently is to ensure you engage with the end user directly, and making sure that, when they’re ready to buy, your solution will be preferred.

That’s where an effective, ongoing lead generation effort focusing on your best targeted prospects comes in. By developing an organized ongoing lead generation effort you will achieve the following:

  • You'll build trust
  • You'll ensure that those involved in decision making are familiar with your solution and how it can best meet their needs
  • You'll lay the groundwork for the prospect to understand that your solutions is the best fit
  • You'll help promote your brand as the industry leader

When you build and nurture personal relationships consistently over time you’ll find that when prospects are ready to buy (i.e., to effect change) your company will be top of mind, the first to receive the call.

It’s an investment well worth making, and one that over time will beat the competition hands down.

Think twice before you grow your sales force!

With the economy picking up, you may be contemplating ramping up sales operations by taking on more sales staff. Some food for thought.

Depending on the additional costs of hiring a new sales person (in real terms probably about double his/her salary), you might instead want to consider investing that money in a professionally run lead generation and qualification campaign to maximize your existing sales force’s productivity.

For example - using only one sales recruit as an example (and you can play with the numbers as they may be applicable to your business): Salary - $60k + commissions.    Assume $75k (low by any standards for most B2B industries.)

Overhead x2 (travel, recruitment, training, social costs, management, etc.).  Real costs are probably in the range of $150k.

If you assume that the cost of identifying a qualified sales opportunity to be in the range of $1,000, then for the same $150k, you could deliver 150 newly minted, highly qualified sales opportunities to your existing sales force. And if the cost were $500 per qualified opportunity, that’ would present 300 new opportunities.

Looking at this conservatively (@$1k per), let’s say your sales team can convert 20% (1 out of 5 of those qualified opportunities) into a new client. That would generate 30 additional sales at your average sales value. If each average sale was worth $50k in revenue, that’s an additional $1.5 million in new revenue. (Not to mention the potential recurring value of that new client relationship).

Let’s take a more optimist tack. If the cost per qualified opportunity was actually as low as $500, and the resulting 300 additional sales opportunities converted at a better rate, such as 25%, this would net you 75 sales (to new clients).  And using the same $50k average per initial sale, this would net $3.75 million in additional revenue.

Not chump change!

So, in lieu of investing in new sales reps who need to be recruited, trained and mentored, and who will take some time and effort to hit the street running, it may well be more lucrative to increase the productivity of the existing sales force.   Also consider your recruitment success metrics.  How many new recruits  succeed out of the block.  What is your cost of failure?  And will an investment of $150k for example net you between 30 and 70 new customers with between $1.5 and $3.75 million in new net incremental revenue?  It’s doubtful.

Of course, your company might be among the very few that has a sales force that is really productive and has no need for additional qualified sales opportunities to work with.  But, in the 25 years we’ve been in business, I’ve never come across one.

Remember that for every minute your high cost field sales people are not out there selling to prospects and customers that have a need for your solutions, you’re losing a selling opportunity!

By the way, ETI has a great Sales Opportunity cost calculator that you may find useful.

For more on how ETI can help you ramp up your sales please call us at 1.800.466.4384 (914.747.3030).

Half of all sales inquiries are no good. The challenge is finding which half.

Guest post by James W. Obermayer, CEO of the Sales Lead Management Association www.salesleadmgmtassn.com. Well, this isn’t entirely true.  The actual number is 45% of all inquiries turn into a sale for someone.   When Mike Simon (founder of Inquiry Handling Service, now Harte Hanks) taught me that number, I was a wee communications manager just out of college.  The information changed my marketing and sales career.

Of course, I only half believed him that half of the inquiries I gave our salespeople at Beckman Instruments were as worthy as he contended.   I had to prove it to myself.

After completing several “Did You Buy Studies” (necessary because the salespeople reported back on only 25% of the inquiries given them), sure enough…45% of inquirers had bought something within one year (we surveyed inquirers that were 12 months old).  24-26% of inquirers bought something that were six months old (yep, we went to a different group).   And 12-15% of inquirers bought within three months from a different set only three months old.

Yes, we measured conversion from a single source (tied to avoid mixed sources), but always from a single point in time within 30 days.

Once we had these numbers, I started to report to management on the ROI from various lead generation sources.  That stirred up a few hornets.  Some sacred-cow lead generation sources were proved to be less than stellar, while some thought to be ‘fillers’ were purchasing more than expected.

The variable we found was us.  We knew that our lead generation activities found buyers, but with only 25% follow-up by our salespeople we were not participating in 75% of the opportunities.  Duh!

Simple variable, but oh so hard to change!

Increase follow-up and you will increase sales.   We found that increasing follow-up, by almost any means, increased sales.   Hence, the justified claims from marketing automation software and lead generation and qualification companies that their programs increased sales 200-300%.  No surprise there.

The lesson learned?  If you can’t get your salespeople to follow up 100% of the inquiries, find an outside firm to nurture the leads for you.  No budget?  Think about the lost opportunities.  Begging your salespeople to do the obvious usually doesn’t work.  Spend a few bucks and have professionals nurture the leads until each is sales ready.

Toss in nurturing with a marketing automation program and you’ll be beating 75% of your competitors.  Why only 75% you ask?  That’s because 25% have already figured out that half of the inquirers buy something from someone… and that someone is the person and company that follows up.

James Obermayer, Sales & Marketing 365, A year of wisdom at your fingertips, Racom Communications, Chicago, Il, Number 14 of 365 Tips & Tricks,  http://www.racombooks.com/

The Marketing Automation Donut Hole

One of the key elements of Marketing Automation is the ability to track and then score how prospects navigate your website. The idea assumes that certain behaviors (clicks, downloads, etc.) indicate a relative level of interest in your products or solutions.The problem is that, in many cases, the person doing the research by visiting your site is not the decision maker but, more often, an assistant or surrogate. This is more likely the case if you have complex products being marketed to equally complex companies and decision making environments.In this case, there is some level of interest no question - but just how much interest and the locus of their concerns requires direct engagement in a conversation that allows you to quality and quantify need, imperative and interest as well as who are the relevant decision makers who will engage in any purchase decision. The best time to do that is precisely when the prospect is nibbling, and that may be the best time to have ETI initiate a contact on your behalf. We’ll get in front of the prospects, identify all of the key stakeholders, and engage in a (consultative) dialogue to ferret out all of the dynamics of the situation and fully qualify it.  If you don’t do it first, then your competition might beat you to the punch. Remember, the prospect isn’t waiting around for their score to get higher.

For more information about how we can help you maximize your Marketing Automation investment give us a call at 914.747.3030.  (We already have successful integrations with Eloqua, MarketBright and ActOn.)

And, if you haven’t yet invested in a marketing automation solution, but have an interest in exploring one, we’d be happy to work with you to make that happen.

Marketing automation revisited

Shortly after my last blog post (“Content may be king; relationships are personal”), I came across the September 19 issue of BtoB Magazine. I noticed some interesting graphics on the Opinion Page that provided poll results for some recent Webcasts. I actually found these data fascinating. If you’re seeing them for the very first time, you might well share my interest.

In the first chart we discover that more than a third of those who responded to the August Webcast survey were regularly employing marketing automation technology, and that an additional 20% were in an early deployment phase. So more than half of those folks are using marketing automation techniques, and the balance are considering deployment.

It’s hard to know the degree of overlap between the attendees of the August Webcast and those who attended the one in September, but I think it’s safe to assume that the audience was not all that dissimilar. And, if the overlap was significant, then the results of the survey to the September Webcast are quite disconcerting.

That survey asked respondents to assess their level of sophistication in data cleansing. The clear takeaway from their responses is that three quarters of them have real concerns about the integrity of their data and that fewer than 4% are highly confident that their data are sufficiently clean and up to date.

The follow up question, related to the same webcast, drives that point home with a sledgehammer. Nearly three in five respondents feel they are either merely tossing stuff on the wall and hoping it sticks, or have significant doubts that they really know the audience to whom they are marketing.

I fully realize that the Webcast was designed to drive home exactly that point, and to encourage people to focus their efforts on data cleansing. Nevertheless, I find that result astonishing. Why in the world would a company use marketing automation tools to send streams of automated messages to people about whom they know virtually nothing? How do you think the recipients feel about the companies who are, at best, sending them material in which they likely have no interest and, at worst, are spamming them?

In my view, this is not a ringing endorsement for the use of marketing automation. I am a firm believer in the notion that every time I touch a customer or prospective customer, I need to bring positive value for them to that encounter. I can’t see how I could do that without first knowing something about them, can you?

The Case for and against a Universal Lead Definition (ULD)

There is a tendency by some marketing departments (pushed possibly by some marketing consultancies) to develop a Universal Lead Definition for their organizations.  The idea of course, is to get buy in from Sales to say that if you (Marketing) send me a lead with XY & Z characteristics then this meets our definition of a good lead and that in turn we (Sales) will commit to investing the time and resources in trying to close this opportunity.From the outset let me say I’ve never been in favor of this approach.  Especially if the definition consists of a tight BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timing) definition.  See Sheldon Sach’s detailed blog on this subject.

That said there are some positives.  If Sales accepts and commit to this arrangement and do actually invest time and resources then the alignment of Sales and Marketing is greatly improved and even if the leads are not what they might be then overall result will be more positive.  And from marketing’s standpoint they now have an agreed to formula to perform to. But there are lots of negatives.

First having worked with both marketing and sales departments for some 24 years I can tell you that in all this time I have yet to see a sales operation that will dance to marketing’s tune – regardless of the upfront commitments.  The one time I’ve seen some success is when management made a huge commitment to implementing a strategy and when the sales force balked – they fired 50% of them.  Are you ready to do this?  Most companies are not. The fact is a good sales lead involves a lot of subjectivity.  There are inevitably countless nuances that cannot be quantified of scored in any way.

Here is a list of some factors that are beyond the usefulness of a ULD:

  • Some sales people are good closers.  Some are not.
    • Some sales people feel a lead must be an order taking opportunity while others understand that it’s just a foot in the door.
  • The Pareto principle applies as much to Sales – as it does to Marketing
    • 80% of sales are brought in by your top 20% salespeople
    • Only 20% of leads provided by Marketing closes
    • Only 20% of leads provided by Marketing are worthwhile
    • And so on.
  • Some leads may have long lead times … others will close in the short term.
    • Typically the larger more complex sales take longer to close and many sales people cannot be bothered because it will not affect their quota in the short term.
    • Yes sales people for the most part do not see the long term.  And even if they do they do not manage a pipeline for the long term.
  • More and more there is no one decision maker.  Even in the smallest companies decisions are now being made by (formal or informal) committees.
  • If the lead fits the BANT model you’re probably too late for the party.

At ETI we’ve opted for a more customized approach.  We prefer to work with individual sales people and deliver tailored leads that work for them.

Can one effectively do this?  Of course and we’ve done so for many years.   Which do you prefer? Do you prefer pushing a standard lead model (a round peg) down a square (sales force) hole?

Give us a call at 1.800.466.4384 (914.747.3030).  We’ll be happy to discuss this and other needs you may have in more detail.

 

Generate more qualified leads by increasing prospect engagement with LiveChat

In today’s tough times we are all trying to do more with less and maximize our assets to the greatest degree possible. In sales one can only have one conversation with a prospect at one time.  However, if you integrate Live Chat into the equation with a team of well trained Business Developers who can properly interact and communicate to determine need and or pain, you can extend that reach by factors of 200% – 400%.   That’s a meaningful impact!

LiveChat enables the BD to quickly assess the need and get the Prospect into the right process for follow up.  This may include moving the prospect into a more detailed Lead Qualification call, a Sales Lead Pipeline, a nurturing track or  other non sales (technical support) tracks.  Yes, utilizing Live Chat will divert a number of Prospects from the Contact Us forms on your site. The benefit is instant communication with these constituents.

You will also not be in a race with your competition to see who can reach the prospect first.To ensure success the Business Development team needs to be not only well versed in all that you do, but must also be proficient in identifying need/pain and sales opportunity. They need to have a detailed knowledge of the organizations roadmap and access to information to pass to the visitors. Using “Operators” that are reliant on canned messages that shoehorn all visitors to fit or merely have them ask if you want a salesperson to make contact does not make for a good or productive experience. In fact, it could be a huge turnoff.

Here are 4 pointers to keep in mind when using LiveChat to build your prospect pipeline:1.

  • Understand that Live Chat is a dialogue just like a phone call.
    • Because this is a dialogue, make sure the Business Developer is smart and can respond quickly and intelligently to each post by the prospect.
    • Canned responses if used must be well written and focused.  Use of canned messages that do not relate to the question can turn the Prospect off quickly.
  • Make sure your Business Developers have the tools to move those ‘chatters’ who do not have needs for your products and/or solutions quickly to the right department or information.
  • As in any sales call, one should always be moving the relationship toward greater levels of engagement and commitment.
  • Your brand is important, make sure the chat helps build it:
    • Be respectful of the prospect
    • React to their needs and interests rather than pushing your agenda.
    • Articulate responses in proper English.  Spelling and grammar does count.
    • Be polite and take no short cuts.

If you’d like to learn more about how this works and how you can leverage your website to generate highly qualified leads call us on 1.800.466.4384 (914.747.3030).

Make rejection a thing of the past

When you work in sales, it sometimes feels like rejection is part of the deal. When you call dozens of people every month, you generally can't expect all of them to be on board with the product or service that you're selling. But if you feel like you're striking out more often than you're closing deals, there might be something you can do turn things around. That's right – if you thought getting rejected was just a part of the sales profession, it's time to think again. While you may never be able to sell to everyone you speak to, you can dramatically up your chances of closing a sale by avoiding certain behaviors that turn prospects off of your products and services. There are two ways to approach sales: by focusing on your product and by focusing on the prospect. The former will turn your prospects off, while the latter will keep them intrigued – and here's why.

If you focus too hard on convincing someone to buy from you, you begin to sound disingenuous – no matter how pure your actual motives may be. No one likes to pushed into making a purchase, which is why you need to be careful not to get overeager or forget about the prospect's concerns and questions. Remember: Selling isn't about moving, it's about finding a product that's a suitable match to someone's needs and desires. When you put prospects first, they'll be more apt to trust, respect and just flat-out like you – which will put you in their good graces, whether or not they decide to buy from you.

Of course, not every prospect you talk to is going to need the product you're selling – and that's all right. If you're honest with them, they'll walk away from the interaction knowing that you're a trustworthy resource to whom they can turn at a later date, should they ever develop a use for what you're offering. Both of you leave the conversation with your relationship in tact and the possibility of a future meet-up remains open.

After all, closing sales starts with opening relationships. When you create lasting bonds with prospects, you don't just make a sale today – you create the possibility and opportunity to make more money in the future.

Salespeople who put their prospects ahead of their quotas keep their dignity and integrity intact. Those who focus too hard on pushing a sale, even when it's not the right fit, are the ones who end up experiencing rejection.

 

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