Marketing

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. 

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

Brand Can Affect Tele Prospecting Results by an Average of 30%

I recently conducted an analysis of work done for ETI clients since 2001 by categorizing them into 2 buckets … “Well Know Brands” (WKB’s) and “Lesser Known Brands” (LKB’s). We then evaluated the number of first calls which resulted in a substantive conversation with each prospect. Results showed that the WKB’s beat the LKB’s by some 30%. Moreover 25% more of these WKB records converted into opportunities than the LKB’s.

You might say it makes good sense that top Brands like American Express, Google or Motorola get more attention than XYZ No Name Brand.

Of course this makes sense. But one must bear in mind that top Brands spend millions if not billions building their brand equity. Smaller lesser known brands simply do not and cannot match these resources.

What actually happens in the real world is that many of the initial calls being made to prospects by LKB’s are actually Brand Building by their very nature. True there’s always some low hanging fruit, but successful Tele-Prospecting efforts relies on an interactive communication process to develop a trusted relationship.

Only when a prospect’s pain (or need or problem) is acknowledged and a level of trust has been attained - that an appointment could be setup for a sales person to become engaged.

So yes there is additional cost to the LKB in terms of the extra time needed to generate a lead. However, that investment is razor focused on the prospect company you want to do business with. It soon becomes evident that the LKB does not need to invest millions in media and brand building activity to achieve that. (In fact I’d hazard a guess that if you factored in the real cost per prospect touch of the WKB’s against the LKB’s you will find that the cost for LKB’s is substantially lower.)

That being said, one can also supplement go to market strategies with these low cost highly focused activities.

  • Be sure that you have relevant content for prospects who may request it.
    • A “send me an email” request may be regarded as a is a fob off, but as long as the prospect has a need and you are persistent, positive and professional in communicating with the prospect you will have an impact.
    • Also leverage Marketing Automation tools track content consumed on your web site or via promotional emails sent
    • Leverage contacts on social media (such as LinkedIn) to get entry to a prospect company through a recommendation?
    • A personal letter drafted by a professional copywriter can often be very effective.
    • Other activities such as PR, Trade Shows, Webinars can help but may also be costly.

Finally, remember that the only people who matter to your company are those you want as customers. Focusing your brand building activities exclusively on prospects can be effective and will lower your overall costs.

Recently I was interviewed on this subject by Jim Obermeyer of the Sales Lead Management Association. Click below to listen.

Successful Sales and Marketing Strategies for Both Good Times and Bad

Ever notice that, even in the very toughest economic environments, 20 to 25% of companies still manage increase their sales? These winning companies are successful even in the face of the most punishing economic conditions. Their competitors, often with the same or even superior products and services, struggle and all too often fail.

What’s even more telling is that these very same companies thrive to a greater degree during good times. When everyone else is selling successfully they far outsell their competition and steadily increase their share of market.

Clearly, their success is not based on having a better solution. It’s really based upon the application of time-tested, solid sales and marketing strategies that keep them headed in the right direction regardless of the environment.

At ETI we've worked with many of these world class companies over the past 25 years. We have been witness to the strategies they employ that have created the most success. We've also learned from their failures.

We've distilled some of the insights we've gleaned from our clients' successes and many of the best practices employed by these winning organizations in a new eBook entitled Successful Sales and Marketing Strategies for Both Good Times and Bad. As a business leader with an interest in strategic business development, we'd like to share with you those strategies for success.

The eBook is yours to download for FREE by clicking here. There’s no obligation whatsoever, so click here to get your copy.

If you find it interesting, please feel free to share it and discuss it with your colleagues. And if you have any questions or comments when you’re done reading, feel free to give us a call.

Are you losing business because of your choice of words?

Today’s Guest Blogger is Joseph Olewitz .  In addition to being Founder and Principal Consultant at 22nd Story Strategies, Inc., Joseph currently shares experiences derived from years of pitching large professional services deals to major corporate brands on his blog: Intentional Growth. How precise is your business language? When Shelly Sachs of ETI Sales Support asked me to write a guest post, I immediately thought of the lesson I learned from him earlier this year. Even though I always operate as though word choice is critical, in a joint presentation we were making to a client of mine, Shelly pointed out that I had represented a core part of my recommended strategy as promoting the “USP” (Unique Selling Proposition) when it seemed that using “UVP” (Unique Value Proposition) as a title for the same presentation would be more customer-centric and a much better focus on benefits. I have not only used this term with other clients until now, but I also had recently written a blog about using USP to increase revenue.

Mea Culpa: Shelly was right of course and that caused me not only to immediately correct USP to UVP but to realize that I had been using a lot of terms in my vocabulary for a long time and that regular re-examination and consideration of language is imperative. “Sales” in my universe is a powerful and useful term – but not always! In services sales, when talking about the relationship between my offering and my client’s they want to know how I will help them increase sales or revenues. However, their customer wants to know about the “Value” that’s being brought to market and that’s the term that should be used when describing your unique positioning.

I am now regularly reviewing words chosen for business communications with an additional POV perch – that of asking the question: “How powerful and how appropriate is that term in this specific context?” And I think we all need to do that much more often.

Some thoughts:

  • Ask some of your clients to read and comment on existing promotional material – with no sacred cows (include website, one-sheets, signage and more).
  • Have someone who was not involved in the writing review the proposal before it’s sent out.
  • Carefully look at how the client will respond to the pitch language (is it culturally appropriate?)
  • Remember to keep revising as time goes on, things change – and you do, too.

I’m now more attuned to the downfalls of complacency – how about you?

Rethinking BANT: How to better define a qualified lead

Part one of a three-part blog Four commonly accepted parameters are almost universally used to define a qualified lead.  The folks at IBM are widely credited for the development of an acronym for those parameters – BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe).

More formally, the acronym is applied as follows:

  • Is there a Budget allocated for a solution (and is it sufficient for your solution)?
  • Has the Authority for the purchasing process been identified (and are you in touch)?
  • Is the Need for a solution well defined (and does it match your capabilities)?
  • What is the Timeframe for purchasing and implementing a solution?  Is it in the next six months, 12 months, or over a year?

Many companies use this paradigm as the heart of their lead scoring process.  It helps them decide how and where to focus their resources to bring revenue into the pipeline.  So it’s important to confirm that the BANT approach is both valid and sufficient to meet that need.

I plan on exploring these issues in detail in this three-part blog.  You can think of it as my three-part BANT rant, starting with this segment as an overview.

From my vantage point, there are two obvious problems with BANT.  First and foremost, it is seller-centric.  And, as every successful sales person with experience knows, it’s never about you (the seller), it’s ALWAYS about them (the prospect).

If you fail to look at the relationship from the prospect’s (buyer’s) perspective, the likelihood of making a sale is diminished – unless, of course, your offering is so far superior to the competition that the decision is a no-brainer.  But if that were the case, then your closing ratio would be very close to 100%!  Correct?

The second problem is that this seller vs. prospect perspective pushes BANT off the mark.  You do need money, a decision-making process, a need and (assuming it’s important), a time frame for making a decision and implementing a solution.  But the BANT parameters themselves are only tangential to what’s truly important in selling.  And, as a whole, while these parameters are arguably necessary, by themselves they are not sufficient as qualifying criteria.  They lack essential characteristics that are, perhaps, even more important than those four.

Let me offer one simple example as “food for thought” (sorry in advance for this).

Food is a universal need for all living things.  No argument there, I presume.  We can survive without food for a reasonably long time; maybe even weeks.  But, without food, we will end up just a dead as we would without oxygen.  There’s the “N” in BANT.

So let’s consider this scenario:

You’re walking down a busy city street around lunchtime.  You’re hungry, but you’re also on your way to a very important meeting with a new client or a hot prospect.  You’ve got plenty of money in your pocket and a budget reserved for lunch (there’s the “B”) and you need to make a decision (you are obviously the “A”) as to whether or not to stop to eat before the meeting.  You’ve got 30 minutes until your meeting starts and you’re five minutes away from the location, so time is more than sufficient (“T”).

You pass a multitude of restaurants and street vendors along the way.  How can the owner of a food establishment predict how likely you are to stop and eat?  And, what, if anything, can the proprietor do to get you to eat at his or her establishment?  (By the way, this example would be just a valid if there were only one food source along the route – and it was your favorite.)

If you think about this dilemma from the perspective of the proprietor as well as your own, you’ll begin to understand the case I plan to make over the next two weeks.  I plan to focus more directly on why I think BANT is only part of the story and, specifically, what those shortcomings are.  And then, I’ll explore ways to add value to BANT so that you are more aligned with the buyer’s perspective.

Finally, I’ll offer an alternative viewpoint on how to better define a qualified lead – identifying the factors that are both necessary and sufficient – and one that should enable sales people to focus their energy on opportunities with greater potential for success.

 

The value of traditional outbound direct marketing

B2BOnline has just published an article written by me entitles 'The value of traditional outbound direct marketing'. Client here to view it.

 Michael Falkson

MIT Sloan Sales Conference 2009 - Sell or Sink: Navigate the Crisis

MIT Sloan School Of Business Sales COnference We're pleased to announce that I will be hosting a workshop entitled Tough Times Demand Smarter Sales Strategies at this year's MIT Sloan Sales Conference which is to be held on April 17th, 2009 in Cambridge, MA.

Workshop Description:

Keeping your business afloat in tough times requires disciplined sales strategies to prevent being overwhelmed.

Most companies have areas of weakness in their sales and marketing processes.  When times are good, no one wants to upset the applecart so there’s less incentive to be introspective.

Tough times present a good opportunity to examine areas within your company most likely to benefit from introspective examination.   In the current environment, where fewer dollars are chasing fewer prospects in smaller and shrinking marketplaces, some questions virtually ask themselves.

In this session we’ll explore:

• Whether the sales organization is coping with the downturn.

•  Whether the sales opportunity pipeline is filled with genuine sales ready opportunities.

• Whether there is a solution to decreasing New Customer Acquisition (NCA) closing rates.

• Whether the marketing teams are fully aligned to sales’ needs.  

• Whether marketing and sales are ROI accountable.

• Whether there are leaks in the sales opportunity pipelines and, if so, how you can minimize their impact.

We’ll also take a hard look at marketing activity, lead generation, lead qualification and lead nurturing and how they can have a marked impact on maximizing sales productivity. 

To register click here.

How A Client’s Insistence That We Uphold His Company’s Brand Image Changed the Nature of Our Business

You may wonder what the process of acquiring new customers has to do with upholding a client’s brand image. We first learned to understand the importance of BRAND in the early 90’s when working on assignment for a Fortune listed 500 company.

Their executives made a serious point of informing us their company was much concerned that we should not do anything which might hurt their company’s carefully cultivated image.

On the contrary they went on to explain . . .

  • that in speaking with their prospective clients we should speak with esteem for the way their company does business
  • that we should convey their company is one which appreciates the customer as king
  • that they value the opportunity to pay attention to the needs and values of their customers
  • that they can be relied on to carry out their promises and offers
  • that they should be admired for their products and respected for their services. 

We immediately realized the essential truth of this client's definition of their brand, their company image, and the real value of their advice. Before long we decided to make changes in our business that would result in setting us apart from the average telemarketing service vendor of the time.

This decision required us to internalize that client’s priceless advice and to review eti’s company persona. It also affected our hiring objectives. The education and business experience of our phone agents would become one of the most important factors in our hiring decisions.

We would need to look for persons with an executive manner who easily and naturally spoke the language of their prospects. We would need people capable of understanding the need to uphold the client’s brand image whenever they spoke in their name. And scripts were thrown out in favor of Call Guides enabling us to engage in consultative and meaningful conversations with client prospects.

In due course our staff would be defined as Business Developers (no longer telemarketers or phone agents) in keeping with our clients’ objectives. These were, by and large, to acquire new customers via sales lead generation and lead qualification efforts. 

When we work for you, you’ll know that we are conscious of the fact that you too want respect for your company image and admiration for your products or services. You’ll get both.

Here is what clients have said about our approach:

  • “You don't describe yourselves as being in the business of generating leads. You defined your mission as New Customer Acquisition and Retention and maximizing sales/force productivity.”
  • “You sold us on the lifetime significance of new customers rather than the value of their first orders.”
  • “You have a basic brand image mindset which is very important to us.”
  • “Your Business Developers are graduates and have business experience. They adapt and converse freely because they are not bound by scripts.”
  • “You’re not the most competitive price wise. But if we wanted low costs we could have gone to any of the commodity type agencies that abound.”
  • “What we can’t get from your competitors are people who will be concerned to uphold our brand image.”
  • “You appreciated the concern we have for our brand image. You spoke our language.”

eti is concerned to convey the respect we have for our client’s brand image. This concept does not lend itself to a set of rules which can be prioritized and numbered. Brand image is not upheld or maintained or enhanced in this way.

In Tough Times more Effective Marketing will Increase Sales Force Productivity

Tough times require all expenditures to be examined for possible reduction or elimination. Marketing is not exempt from such investigation and will undoubtedly reveal areas where cuts can and will be made. One example is Brand Advertising which for the most part is not an immediate result producing expenditure. On the other hand it would be unwise to cut advertising oriented to generate demand activity for your goods/services. Or to generate inquiries for goods/services since such sales leads can effectively be converted to new customers.

The following strategies should be implemented:

  • Focus on generating quality inquiries as distinct from large numbers of inquiries.
  • Analyze inquiry response by media to check on the effectiveness (front and back end) of both ad and media. Save money by canceling or revising ineffective ads and/or media.
  • Cancel advertising that is not generating satisfactory revenue and invest the funds in strategies that are creating revenues.
  • Analyze effectiveness of costly Trade Shows and Webinars and other Event driven activities. Not only by volume of actual inquiries but more importantly by actual conversion rates.   (Typically the return on investment from such activities is lower than other more organic marketing tactics.)
  • Be cautious about offering free or premium offers. These often drive high volume of inquiries.  That’s natural - but they are seldom effective in helping the sales force to sell more.
  • Large volumes of email can be sent at very low cost but actual readership is in doubt. Too much depends on factors over which senders have no control.
    • Use sparingly and wisely to maximize the impact.
    • Make sure your messaging is targeted to applicable prospect companies.
    • Personalize if possible with TEXT (not html) based content.
    • Where possible mail only to OPT IN contacts.
    • Track each and every email open and click through to ascertain readership and traffic driven to your website and or micro-site.
  • The management of inquiries and follow through is complex and requires a strong database infrastructure for effective control. Outsourced CRM solutions may well be helpful. ETI clients derive immense benefits using our thoroughly reliable in-house CRM solutions - provided at no extra cost. An advantage worth its weight in gold!

Is the PHONE a marketing medium?

The origin of telemarketing (TM) may be lost in the mists of time. Lots of folk credit Murray Roman for being the father of telemarketing but I don’t believe he ever confirmed parenthood. As an executive for the Ford company however, he was involved in the first mass telephone campaign in 1964. Vance Packard in his “The Naked Society” wrote about the 20 million phone calls which Ford then made. Packard was not altogether complimentary even though the campaign produced a magnificent result for Ford. Ford’s success quite likely sparked the entry of business into this direct marketing medium. 

The basic concept of TM was much like that of direct mail … deliver a consistent message to a generally uniform audience and the response will be measurable.  If you sent out 10, 000 advertising packages and received 200 responses you could extrapolate that 2% by mailing a million to the same quality list and geography.

This applied equally to outbound telemarketing.  If one called 1000 similar prospects with a similarly consistent message (script) then this too became a measurable marketing medium.  And it worked, sometimes better, sometimes worse depending on the ability of your callers to conduct proficient conversations with decision makers.

The medium was embraced early on by consumer direct marketers who built large phone banks to organize their calls. And it did not take long for the medium to start irritating consumers. Calls were being made during the evenings and weekends.  They were rigorously scripted and for the most part high pressured. There were also many scams. Sure enough everyone who operated a TM service was soon tainted with the bad reputation of the medium. 

Newspapers whipped up a frenzy of fury – partly due to a loss of revenue no doubt. Ironically, many of them were later to become the biggest users in an attempt to build subscriptions, to regain lost subscribers, and even to solicit advertising. In 1996 my company, Effective Telemarketing Inc. changed its name to ETI Sales Support simply because it just became pain-in-the-neck embarrassing to be tainted by the consumer side of the medium. Especially as we never operated in the consumer sphere.  Our focus was and has always been in the domain of B2B.

With the advent of the ‘Do Not Call’ lists initiated early on by the Direct Marketing Association and later endorsed by the Federal Government, this negativity has markedly decreased.

So is the phone a marketing medium?  Especially as it pertains in the B2B marketing space?

The answer is definitely a huge yes.  And an enormously successful one too.

When looking to generate B2B Sales Leads here are some pointers to bear in mind.

  • Messaging: – Although in our world (B2B Lead Generation and Lead Qualification) the communication is consultative (i.e. not scripted) in nature it is still consistent from prospect to prospect and market to market.  This allows one to measure results and data accurately.  Furthermore, these results are fully projectable.
  • Interactive medium:  No other form of direct communication allows for instantaneous two way communication with a prospect.  All other media facilitate an entirely one sided communication.  Take a moment to consider the power of such personal  interaction:
    • Best way to identify and talk to the decision making authority
      • Only dynamic medium that allows you to navigate within an organization to identify the true decision maker/s.
    • Best way to motivate purchasing interest of the decision maker
    •  Best way to respond to questions or objections
    • Immediate ability to probe for need and pain
    • Immediate ability to confirm
      • Real interest
      • Appointments
      • Orders
      • Webinar/Seminar registrations
      • Etc Etc.
  • Brand: You never get a better chance to make a first impression.  (While many may think that brand might be compromised by a phone call, it’s my firm opinion that when handled correctly, brand image can be enhanced by such a communication.)
  • Actionable Business Intelligence:  Because the telephone is interactive in gathering business intelligence and data in real time, one can measure the data quickly and effectively. This effectively allows clients to manage follow up processes (by sales or sales lead nurturing systems).
  • Flexibility:  With a smart nimble business developement team one realign and modify call guides.  One can also customize the message as it pertains to different market segments and audience types.
  • TM will produce about 4-10 times the result of direct mail alone. And as much as 1,000% more than permission based email blasts.
  • Testing is possible and desirable.
    • Test various messaging approaches.
    • Testing different market segments can be quick and effective.
      • By vertical (SIC classifications)
      • Company size (employee and or revenue)
      • By product usage.
      • By geography
      • Etc.

So yes … B2B Telemarketing is a marketing highly effective medium and one that should be preferred when the objective is New Customer Acquisition.

Increased Business Development Starts with Accurate Business Intelligence

The tail that wags the dog. Any military commander will tell you that intelligence is probably the most significantly important tool they have when developing a winning strategy. Good intelligence helps, bad intelligence doesn’t.

Interestingly enough when we look at Marketing and Sales groups it is seldom Sales (the foot soldiers) who understand the value of business intelligence and how it can contribute to successful selling.

As a group Marketing certainly does … but in my experience they rarely make effective use of the valuable information they have at their fingertips.

Too few companies are willing to make a specific, sizeable investment in gathering business intelligence as a strategic tool in their sales and marketing arsenals.

Contrary to that lackadaisical attitude we at ETI take the business of intelligence gathering very seriously.  We have long learned that there is always an opportunity to garner something of value during every business conversation.

We have also learned that such business information (intelligence) can be a key element in our success in the initial task of targeting and qualifying sales leads as definite and worthy new customers for clients.

And how our clients’ sales force can use this information in their presentations aimed at converting prospects to new customers. 

Business intelligence is too wide a subject to be classified into a handful of columns/titles in the database.  On the contrary it is the cumulative knowledge of what we know about the prospect and his needs.  Some intelligence is gathered simply by engaging in an interactive discussion. Or through the electronic communication behavior of prospects (.e.g, what links they clicked, or which web pages they visited, and the white papers they requested etc.) 

It’s the ability of a business development solution provider like ETI to deliver a 360 degree of data to empower your sales people to know how they should approach each prospect or customer. 

To see a demonstration of how we achieve this result please call Shelley Sachs, ETI Global VP of Marketing, at 1.800-466.4384. Select option 1.

Value of Trade Shows Leads/Inquiries in Acquiring New Customers

Trade Shows are an important marketing tool for many companies. Aside from the obvious PR need to be seen at notable exhibitions, companies also hope to conclude business deals. The basic objective however, is to gather high quality sales leads resulting from conversations with prospects who’ve stopped by for information.

These leads need to be contacted and qualified for the sales force via a proper lead qualification and intelligence gathering process.

It’s essential to ascertain that all those important trade show leads return a positive ROI.  You need to know whether the result of your investment in trade shows to generate leads are worth it. Because not all sales leads are equal.  That maxim surely holds true for:

  • trade show attendees who’ve actually engaged your staff in discussions, and . . .
  • those who’ve mostly thrown business their business cards into the bowl for the free prize.

You’ll not be surprised to learn that those who’ve spoken to your sales personnel at the booth turn out to have the best sales potential.  But that does not mean there’s not a whole raft of profitable opportunities in other categories. Pooling some results from some of eti’s major accounts over past years, here’s what we’ve found:

  • Prospects who’ve actually talked with sales personnel convert at the highest rate. Our results have fluctuated from 10% to as high as 50%!
  • Attendee lists produce a conversion ratio of up to 2-5%.
  • Incentive related inquiries (Business Cards in the  bowl for a free prize) produce the lowest result, as may be expected. Their interest is mainly the incentive or prizes on offer … not (necessarily) in the benefits of your products or services. Nevertheless our clients have found 3-5% profitable prospects in this category.

It’s all a matter of economics.

Much depends on what you’re selling and the value of the average new customer to your company.  (See my related opinion item “What Costs Less Costs More” in this blog.)

Here are 5 suggestions you may want to consider when next exhibiting at a show:

  1. Invite your best prospects to a pre-scheduled meeting at the booth.  (Yes an appointment.)
  2. Remind prospects and clients that you’ll be exhibiting.  Maybe offer them an incentive to stop by and say hello.  Or create excitement by announcing a new/improved product launch etc.
  3. At the booth make sure your sales staff have the ability to quickly scan in prospect names into the computer and be sure to document any important information about their needs. a. Identify and record decision making authority. b. Quantify likely purchasing volume. c. Budget
  4. Speed of follow up is critical because your prospects are visiting competitor booths too. So follow up immediately next day, to qualify and confirm the sales potential.  You can electronically upload these prospects to ETI for example for next day qualification and fulfillment.
  5. Prospects not yet ‘ready to buy’ need to be held in a formal structure for lead nurturing purposes until their real sales need becomes evident.

Incidentally, we’ve recently started promoting the idea to our trade show clients to have another glass bowl available for business cards from interested attendees who would prefer the exhibitor to send the company’s information, rather than burden them with more stuff to carry. This bowl to be very clearly labeled with a message reading:

" Drop your business card here if you'd prefer us to send you our information. Thank you."

Similarly you could have a bowl offering to have a sales person contact them.  Not great but a suitable conpromise if you're short staffed.

For more specific ideas on maximizing your trade show investments call us at 1.800.466.4384.

MIT Sloan School of Management Sales Conference update:

sloanconference

 On April 25, I was honored to serve as the moderator of a stimulating panel discussion at the 2008 MIT Sloan School of Management Sales Conference entitled Enterprise Sales: Winning Complex Large Accounts.  The panel consisted of some industry heavyweights including:

  • David Chan, Chief Operating Officer, Rainbow Semiconductor

  • Lee Levitt, Program Director Sales Advisory Service, IDC

  • Michael Lock, Director, Enterprise Sales, Google

  • Steven Meyers, Director, Sales, Pega Systems

It turned into a spirited discussion.  After I kicked things off with the first question, the audience took over asking question after question until our time was exhausted.  In the end, we covered as best we could, three areas of interest to attendees:

  1. Identifying and managing diverse stakeholders

  2. Techniques for winning large and complex accounts

  3. How to turn those sales into long-term relationships

Some brief observations from the panelists:

  • The sales process has changed.  Customers know more about your product and or service than they ever will.

  • Sales cycles are longer.

  • More decision makers are involved in decision making than ever before.

  • It’s still personal.

  • Speed of business has increased.  Large companies are not built for speed and have trouble keeping up.  Yet they have a desire to be fast.

  • Google trying to make sales less complex.  Smaller transactions and grow the accounts.

  • Always formulate ROI.  Why should they buy?  What’s the USE case?

  • Maximize existing relationships … opportunity management.

  • Walk away if it is not a fit.

  • After the sale, handholding is an essential component.

  • In Government sales, secrecy is a problem.  Develop an ally and feed them all the information so that they can help you make the sale.

  • Foreign companies selling into large US enterprises don’t face the same hurdles as US companies selling internationally.

  • If you don’t ask the question, you won’t get the sale.

  • Prioritize sales opportunities.  Focus on high probability prospects.  Get rid of those that have a low probability of closing.

  • If there is no pain, there is no opportunity.

The session can be heard here.

The entire conference can be heard at http://www.sloansalesconference.com/media/media_player.htm.

Sheldon Sachs

Does Lead Scoring work?

Recently I posted an article on the ETI website entitled “Leads don't sell. Only sales people do” that focuses on how important sales people are to the lead generation process. This got me thinking about Lead Scoring.  Many service agencies as well as CRM systems offer the ability to score leads.  The thinking here is that if a lead gets a higher score then the sales person should have an easier time closing the sale.

Lead Scoring Methodologies

While methodologies vary between systems, the basic premise is the same.  Essentially a score is attached to various pieces of information.  Some score all the elements.  Some score only 3 or 4 critical ones.  Some weight the elements in terms of importance ... some don’t.  (eti Sales Support has offered a sophisticated lead scoring facility for some 15 years that allows for scoring any numbers of data elements including weighting as outlined above.)

Mostly however, regardless of the method used, the majority of the leads will fall into a broad band in the middle.

bellcurve

So how effective is lead scoring?  In our experience – very little.  First if the score is provided to sales persons then what happens next becomes virtually obvious.  If the score is high they will pursue the opportunity with vigor.  If it is low they will hardly bother to make the call.  If however, it is in the middle then we are faced with the regular sales behaviors as discussed in the “Leads don't sell. Only sales people do” article.

If on the other hand the rep is not provided with a score you can then measure the effectiveness of your sales force according to the actual results. This would be a useful metric to identify strengths and weaknesses both in the sales process as well as that of each individual sales person. Based on our experience however, few clients show much interest in such performance metrics.  (This is probably a good subject for another blog.)

So is lead scoring worth it?  In our experience rarely.  It’s just another gimmick that focuses on process rather than on real sales force productivity.  We have not, in the 20 years we have been in the Lead Generation / Lead Qualification business, found Lead Scoring to be a practical or an effective sales management tool.

So what works?  Without divulging some secrets, ETI has a far more effective “Bubble Up” Technology as well as comprehensive Lead Rating systems which has a far greater impact on the positive outcomes of lead generation and lead qualification projects.  If you are interested in this aspect please call 1-800-466-4384 (option 1) We’ll be happy to elaborate.

Michael Falkson

eti Sales Support sponsors MIT Sloan School of Business Sales Conference

eti Sales Support is proud to again sponsor this spectacular sales driven leadership event to be hosted by the MIT Sloan School of Business. The conference focuses on proven science and strategies of champion rainmakers from leading experts and prominent academics.  MIT Sloan School Of Business Sales COnference 

The conference offers you the opportunity to participate in lively panel discussions, learn powerful new sales strategies, and network with senior executives and top business students.

Join over 400 senior executives, entrepreneurs, professors, and graduate students from leading business schools at this unique event. This event will sell out so Register now to reserve your spot at this event.

Who: Anyone who understands the critical importance of sales.

Attendees: C-Level Executives, sales professionals, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and professors, MBAs, PhDs, and graduate students from leading institutions in a fully interactive forum to learn network, and share ideas and best practices.

Features:

  • Prominent keynote speakers, including
    • Andy Mattes, SVP of Enterprise Sales, Hewlett Packard
    • Greg Schofield, EVP of Global Sales, Novartis
  • Panel discussions with leading sales executives and management experts
  • Highlights include topics such as ...
    • Lead Generation
    • Lead Qualification
    • Lead Nurturing
    • Sales Automation and Management
    • Enterprise Sales: Winning Complex Large Accounts
    • Leading the High Performance Sales Team
    • And much much more

For more information or the register click here.

Why bother with RFP’s

Seth Goldin just posted a very insightful blog concerning resumes.

“A resume,” he says, “is an excuse to reject you. Once you send me your resume, I can say, "oh, they're missing this or they're missing that," and boom, you're out.”

I believe Godin’s insight applies equally when a client notifies you that he intends calling for RFPs and asks you also to participate.

I can understand this when the sale of commodities is involved. But it has to be different where services are being bought. Because services involve standards and these do not lend themselves to straightforward comparisons.

Take a very simple situation of the business we’re in. The essence of our service is to investigate the target market for clients and to qualify and define the ‘ready to buy’ new customers. This involves much research, phone discussions, questions, answers and evaluation. All of which take up scads of time and one can simply not enter the cumulative set of activities into columns on a spreadsheet.

Godin’s point holds just as true for RFP’s.   It’s just an excuse to pigeonhole you as another commodity.

He goes on to say ….

“Great jobs, world class jobs, jobs people kill for... those jobs don't get filled by people emailing in resumes. Ever.”

The same goes for selecting a new service provider.  Rarely are great solutions delivered by those who present well written responses to RFP’s. Offer and execution are not the same.

Michael Falkson

(See also Purchasing Business Development Services by RFP).

The Art and Science of Lead Nurturing

Brian Carroll recently posted a blog on Lead Nurturing in which he makes the following comment:

It’s surprising how many marketers now say they do “lead nurturing” but in reality they are just sending monthly email campaigns or monthly newsletters with some call to action.

If all you do is send generic email marketing messages to your early stage leads over and over and over again, you’re missing the point. Consistency is good but being relevant and then consistent is even better.

To be truly effective, we need to find a way to get over the “automated” or “campaign” only approach to lead nurturing. The point of nurturing is to build relationships and to do that we need to have a dialog that’s relevant and consistent. We need the human touch.

While I agree that sending out campaign related messages is not a substitute for personalized lead nurturing, I believe automated (yet non campaign related) activities are essential in the nurturing process.

“The human touch” is a fine phrase and makes the reader feel good, but the problem is the decision maker does not want someone keep touching him unless perhaps they have something new and helpful to communicate. From a practical standpoint however, this is unlikely. So too many additional calls (if this is what Mr. Carroll means by “human touch”) might not be welcome.

In our view it is as wrong to rely on personal nurturing calls only, as it is to rely on an automated electronic process only. ETI offers a sensible mix of the two methods in which low cost, automated, electronic, personalized messages, together with relevant content, are interspersed with higher cost phone communication.

eti’s i*collaborator system has an automated feature to manage follow up activities. It is capable of triggering individualized lead nurturing activities based on the each prospect’s actions and reactions. And also when there are no reactions.

When a prospect for example, receives information related to his inquiry … and this results in a click on an embedded link, i*collaborator will trigger a series of time based activities relative to the interest of the inquirer.  This might include ….

  • A relevant personalized email follow up 7 days later.

  • Followed by a personal phone call 7 or 14 days later.

  • Followed up by a relevant 3rd party white paper 15 or 30 days later.

  • Followed by a relevant link to the client's blog.

  • And so on.

Different triggers result from:

  • Click throughs

  • Email Opens

  • Email Bounces

  • Event Registrations

  • WEB Form Inquiries

  • Business Intelligence gathering activities

  • No reactions.

  • Etc.

It is impractical to handle the complexity of such a range of “if he does this, we do that” interactions manually (on a large scale). It can be way too costly if not hair-raising to track and respond, relevantly and timeously, to so many different responses. Unless the complexity has been logically automated.

Moreover, such complexity can only be successfully programmed when there is an integrated, tried and tested technology in place. And to the best of my knowledge there is no CRM with this trigger based technology integrated into their systems.

Nurturing is a time and content based activity, linked to a goal. Lead nurturing is an aspect of Lead Generation (i.e it’s not an activity unto its own) and the ultimate goal is mostly to get prospects to the point where they are ready to hear a sales rep’s presentation. It is not just to build a relationship, as Mr. Caroll suggests, but a series of confidence building activities to earn the trust as well as the agreement of the prospect to meet with a sales representative. 

And lead nurturing does not stop once the lead has been generated.  For unless the decision maker says ‘no’, he remains a prospective customer.

So there’s room for further nurturing based on logical response to whatever the situation is.  All is not lost – even if the prospect has decided not to buy. The type and nature of nurturing will obviously be different - but the system remains the same. A sensible mixture of personalized electronic communication interspersed with personal phone calls.

To learn more about eti’s lead generation and lead nurturing capabilities please call 1.800.466.4384. Alternatively please visit www.etisales.com for more information.

Michael Falkson

 

Purchasing Business Development Services by RFP

Recently we’ve been involved in a flurry of RFP’s.  And this got me thinking about whether it’s a good idea to buy business development services via an RFP. Here are some broad principles:

  • If you’re buying a commodity then an RFP is a good idea.
  • If you’re buying expertise then an RFP is not a good idea.
  •  If you’re buying knowhow and knowledge then an RFP is a bad idea.
  • If you’re buying systems and integration capabilities then an RFP may be a good idea.  It may also be a bad idea.  Depends.
  • If you’re buying all of the above then an RFP is a real bad way to make a good decision.

Let’s examine the process.  Usually an RFP is designed to get prospective “vendors” to provide in writing comprehensive information about the company.  While this is an opportunity to shine, that really depends on their ability to write responses to an RFP.  It does not demonstrate an ability to deliver a great solution.  (Too wit there is now a whole industry of so called experts who make a living helping companies write RFP responses.)

Can an RFP provide insight into the vendor’s ability to deliver a solution?  Yes it can – but side by side comparisons of all the participants – when you’re buying complex solutions – is not going to give you this insight.  The only way to garner a comprehensive understanding of the company’s solutions and expertise is to get under the hood.  You need to understand the players … the environment … the systems etc.  You need to understand how these systems flow … and how they integrate.    And how the synergistic effect of the combined set of solutions comes together for your benefit.  You simply cannot get this from an RFP.  And you will not get this from the well prepared follow up presentations that usually follow.

In truth many companies simply issue RFP’s to protect their backsides.  The protagonists have usually already decided who they want … and are going through this process in order to be able to say they were fair.  In fact one can usually see who is going to win simply by looking at the questions and layout of the RFP.  Why?  Because the RFP is many times written and developed by the “probable” vendor.  Not the issuer of the RFP.

Is this fair game?  I suppose so.  It just depends on whose side of the equation you are on.  If you’re the friend of the decision maker who is issuing the RFP then you’re in the pound seats.  If say you’re the incumbent who is shortly to be unseated, then this is a patently unfair process.  And generally speaking a waste of time for all.  You might as well save everyone the trouble and make a decision.

So what is the best strategy? 

If you really think that other vendors can provide better solutions then you need to test.  Testing is the only way to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.  Give the prospect companies a piece of the action and see who can beat the incumbent.  If they do – then you’re basing your decision on actual results.  Not fancy copy in an RFP.  Or pretty pictures in a well made presentation.  If the incumbent still beats them, then no harm no foul.  And you’ve saved your backside (and your company) from making a poor decision.

Testing however, needs to be done realistically.  You cannot compare apples with oranges.  You can only do side by side comparisons if the criteria for measurement are the same for all participants.  You must look at all elements that ultimately are important to the success of the effort.  This could cover issues such as developing a rating system for every opportunity identified (as rated by the sales force).  Or the conversion rates from “leads” to “opportunities”.  Or cost per new customer acquired which is the ultimate meaningful metric.  (I have written an article entitled What costs less costs more that deals with this topic in more detai.

eti Sales Support has never shied away from a contest.  We’ll be more than happy to be compared side by side with any competitor.  Any time! 

Michael Falkson

Which comes first? The Sales Force or the Sales Opportunity Pipeline.

At our recent Christmas party a consultant friend and past client joined our annual celebration.  He told us an interesting story.  About a year ago a new client of his (a small startup) decided to hire 2 salespeople in order to boost sales.  Our consultant friend advised against this strategy suggesting the company should rather invest in a lead generation effort using a specialist lead generation service agency to develop a pipeline of qualified sales opportunities.  Once that pipeline started filling he should then employ the necessary sales assets productively to close the awaiting business.  In other words, the consultant saw this very much as a productivity issue – not purely a selling issue. 

His client decided against this strategy and opted to rather invest in the new sales people.  About a year later the client met with our friend to review this decision.  The client somewhat reluctantly admitted his strategy was an expensive mistake which cost his company in excess of $250,000. This figure did not factor in the overhead including management, recruitment, training etc.  So the true loss was probably closer to $400k+.

The lesson here is simple.  Sales people are your most expensive assets.  Employing them to undertake work that can be outsourced to a professional lead generation and (superior) lead qualification outfit such as eti Sales Support, is expensive and unproductive. 

Bear in mind that the average cost of a technology or industrial based sales call today is north of $1000 dollars in real terms. It is essential therefore that the preparatory work be professional in all respects: identifying the decision makers … probing for pain … eliciting critical business intelligence … and finally selling the sales presentation appointment.  eti has developed a very useful and easy to use Sales Cost Calculator.  This Calculator will instantly figure your actual cost per sale.  Please give it a try.To learn more about maximizing your sales force’s productivity by developing a pipeline of sales ready opportunities please click here.  Or call us at 1.800.466.4384 (914.747.3030).

Michael Falkson

 

Real Time Web Analytics