Business Intelligence

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.


Effective Customer / Prospect Profiling (Part 2)

Imagining Business Profiling Nirvana

Sing along …

  • Imagine all those salespeople selling all the time.
  • Imagine their pipeline that is constantly being topped up with fresh “sales ready” opportunities.
  • Imagine if real ROI is positive.
  • Imagine your salespeople could be held to account for focusing on the prospects and accounts you want them to focus on (not just the low hanging fruit).

Let’s be honest.  You can imagine all you want but unless you have and own the business intelligence (data) to know the makeup of your account and prospect base, you have no real chance of attaining any semblance of Nirvana.

Nirvana (or something close to it) requires a determination and a commitment to deploy resources to achieve it.  Above all it requires a salesforce that is disciplined to focus their efforts on those prospects and or accounts that you (i.e. management) want them focused on because that is where the business and sales growth is going to come from.

Why do you think the military places such an emphasis on good intelligence? How about the importance the US government places on it by spending trillions on the CIA and NSA?  Why does the Financial Industry spend billions on analysts to research the companies they want to invest in?  They do it because if there is any sure way to winning a battle it’s knowing the enemy, their resources, their location/s, their tactics and their operational plans.  

So why is it that when it comes to business, so few companies invest significantly in business intelligence.  Some do research gathering statistics for trend analysis but very little is invested in deep strategic data about targeted and strategic accounts and prospects.

Ask yourself …

  • How well documented is your database (CRM or other database system) with strategic information of your top accounts?
    • Do you know the names and contact details of the key stakeholders?
    • Do you know all relevant locations / geographies that the account operates in?
    • Do you know the potential account size (not historical value)?
      • How confident are you that part of your marginal accounts are not in fact LARGE accounts purchasing from a competitor?
        • If so which competitor?
    • How much do you know about adaptation and potential usage (or the number of installations)?
    • Do you know about growth (or contraction) plans?
    • Is the data accessible to all sales and marketing resources?

If the answer is “.. we know very little” then you have an opportunity to change that by engaging in a structured and ongoing information and business intelligence building effort that will give you a leg up on the competition and will enable your sales and marketing operations to be laser focused by maximizing sales and marketing productivity to increase sales.

See Part 1 of this article

Effective Customer / Prospect Profiling. How well do you know your customers and prospects?

Let’s be honest … 

  • Does your organization know all the important stakeholders (influencers and decision makers)?  In every location?
  • Do you know the potential account size (not historical value)?
    • How confident are you that part of your marginal accounts are not in fact LARGE accounts purchasing from a competitor?
      • If so which competitor?
  • How much do you know about adaptation and potential usage (or the number of installations)?
  • Do you know about growth (or contraction) plans?

OK you’re using a CRM.  And your sales people are supposedly entering some - if not all - of this data.  However, the vast majority of organizations that engage with us find it very difficult to encourage their CRM users to participate and engage in actively building comprehensive profiles.  Truth is, most CRM users generally put in as little data as possible - either because they are lazy,  or they are focused only on selling and don’t want to be bothered or it's because they prefer not to be accountable.  The latter is most often the case and management just lives with it.  

Additionally you may find that even your sales and account management assets know (very) little about your customer and prospects because they focus very narrowly on the easy short term opportunities where they believe that can get quick hits.  Good salespeople (generally) only focus their efforts on the 20% that potentially will produce 80% of their revenues.  However, when you dig around in the remaining 80% there will always be some large potential that is not known to sales at all.   

Information is power.  A salesperson’s mindset quite often is … “If I have the information and you want it, then I can leverage that to my advantage.”  And many salespeople do in fact just that, creating a situation whereby the salesperson is the lynchpin in your company's relationship with your customers and prospects.

If this is the case in your business then relationships with the customer or prospect base are going to be controlled almost entirely by the sales assets engaged in developing that prospect or managing the account.  

So who cares (one may say)?  “As long as they make their sales/quotas then I’m happy.”

True - as long as you’re aware of the potential consequences.  

  • What happens when the salesperson leaves?  Could you lose the lion's share of the investment in his or her sales opportunity pipeline?  Especially if he/she leaves for the competition?
  • What about the lost opportunity factor?  Is your salesperson maximizing the potential by investing in new and lucrative revenue streams?  Or cross or up selling?
  • And what about the company not having much ability to manage sales productivity?  Can you focus selling efforts on those prospects and or clients that you want them focused on - not only the low hanging fruit they prefer to sell to into?
    • Example:  You learn that a competitor is having issues.  Do you have any real time ability to reach into your CRM and identify those clients/prospects using that competitor and then focus sales efforts on turning these companies into your customers?

A company needs to manage its customer and prospect relationships.  The long term benefit gives it the ability to keep its finger on the pulse by controlling, managing and building client / prospect relationships positively and pro-actively.

And to do this the company needs to make sure that customer and prospect data is managed and kept up to date in your CRM system.  

How can you foster such a structure?

…we learned more about our market penetration and position in 6 months than we did in over 30 years of doing business.
— Client quote / Financial Institution

Profile building and helping companies and sales forces understand their customers and prospects better is complex and time consuming.  Generally it’s not in the sweet spot of activities for salespeople or inside sales and generally the major CRM systems require customization in order to store and effectively use the data.  

Let us know if you’d like learn more how profiling can impact sales and marketing productivity and help grow sales by allowing you to improve and manage relationships with both prospects and customers.

See part 2 of this article.


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.


Can Lead Nurturing via Marketing Automation system beat ‘Phone’ based Lead Nurturing?

The buzz around Marketing Automation Systems is heating up. It’s quickly becoming the hot new ‘gotta have’ software just as CRM was earlier in the decade.

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.

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.

Lowering marketing budgets will lower sales lead performance

In a post to from the Sales Lead management Association John Obermayer makes an interesting and timely point:

While most C-level managers realize that build-and-ship schedules are tied to sales performance, few understand that sales performance ultimately is tied to sales lead performance and the marketing budget.

Reduce your lead generating marketing funds and within 30 days inquiries will slow down in proportion to how much you have cut the budget.   The frightening subsequent sales failure happens within 60-90 days when sales plummet because the pipeline of prospects has slowed to a trickle.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is a prime example of cause and effect.

In difficult times many companies make cuts without thinking through the consequences of their actions.  I have seen this time and time again ... sometimes with disastrous results.  In difficult times it's precisely the investments you make in lead generation, lead nurturing and lead qualification efforts that will keep you in the game.

Qualities Clients Look for in Teleservices Providers

Edited transcript of a telephone conversation initiated by Michael Falkson, Pres. ETI Sales Support Inc, with Mr. Ostrow 08/02/08. The Aberdeen group recently undertook a study of the B2B Teleservices Industry - the first of its kind to my knowledge.  I recently had an opportunity to talk with Peter Ostrow, the author, about some of his findings.

Mike:  In your view Peter, what are the critical elements a best in class company should look for when seeking an outsourced business development partner?

Peter: They should look for a partner who offers flexibility around deliverables.

The overall deliverables should be carefully quantified and reevaluated on a regular basis.  They should look for flexibility in compensation methodology, which we've ratified through our research, and that too should be reevaluated on a regular basis.  They should look for a company which allows them to micromanage the process. 

Now that may sound counter productive to efficient program execution, but on a personal note when I look at my career, I have been least successful when I did not have the customer fairly closely involved in my day-to-day activity.  Going away with a script and a list and then simply coming back with the results is in my opinion least likely to satisfy the client.

There are some vendors in your space who don’t worry what their clients think of how they work, whose customers don’t get involved or want to know how you produce their results. They're just concerned with the final outcome. And that there may even be an implication that “we use a special ingredient or a secret sauce.”

To be honest Mike, I think there are some proprietary best practices unique to various providers, though not patent worthy.  I think it’s interesting that some companies try to figure out how you get the job done and I’m ok with that. I also believe it’s wrong to keep the customer from accessing the callers, the messaging, and some of the processes. These are bad signals to clients.

Finally, I think clients should certainly look for domain expertise. That’s very important.

However, it's not always feasible that the provider of teleservices can say, " Yes! We have exactly the experience your company needs. We’ve worked for companies with the same demographics and which faced the same challenges. In fact we’ve scored a wonderful success story."  That would be too tall an order.

But for a small versus large company, for a less or more costly solution, for a situation where the brand was not well known -  or some less specific criteria, I would imagine it’s permissible and acceptable to tell a particular story which provides a little insider domain expertise to indicate we have been there before.

Mike:  How important is longevity, breadth and depth of an outsource partner's experience in establishing desirability of the vendor?

Peter:  I would say moderately important.  People want to get in bed with someone that they know or heard good things about, but being in the business for 20 years or five years doesn’t really matter that much.

Mike:  What are the vital personnel qualities of a top notch outsource partner?

Peter:  I would say staff who are strong enough to do without the script and speak from the heart about the value proposition, will be preferred,   Callers with advanced degrees,  maybe multilingual, they’re usually very good. Still these qualities are not uniformly essential as you know. 

Probably the most important quality one needs are folks who are comfortable getting on a phone on a regular basis and interacting with the sales force.  That’s probably the #1 criterion that end-users look for. Turnaround is not that big an issue.  If people trust the outsourcing company and trust the process management then it does not matter that the folks who actually make the calls come and go. Clients won’t really fret about that . . . it’s pretty far down the list.

Mike:  How important is it that the outsource partner has access to powerful flexible technology to manage real time reporting and communication?

Peter:  There are two answers to that.  I see no difference between the best in class and other companies, so I can't say that smarter companies will integrate with the customer's CRM and other tools.

But I can also tell you that the majority of best in class companies either currently or in the near future definitely plan to deploy exactly that. 

Mike:  Would you say that most teleservices providers rated in that survey were essentially meeting the expectations of their client base?

Peter:  Actually, most were.  Respondents choose whether they are either very dissatisfied, somewhat dissatisfied, neutral, somewhat satisfied or very satisfied. Everyone came out somewhere between somewhat and very. The respondents were satisfied with the lead quality. They are generally less satisfied with lead quantity.

Quality . . . lead quality . . . lead quantity . . . all count. Clients are most satisfied with messaging accuracy; they are least satisfied with reporting metrics, business intelligence gathering and cost per lead.

Thanks a span, Peter, much appreciate your valuable input.

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.

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