Sales Force Automation

Aberdeen 2009 B2B Teleservices Buyers Guide is out

The Aberdeen group is out with their 2009 buyers guide.  This study focuses on the Best Practices of Best-in-class companies who deploy outsourced B2B Teleservices. Some highlights ...

Best-in-Class companies have sales teams with an average of 90% achievement of the overall sales team quota

Best-in-Class companies increased their average revenue per sales rep by 10% on a year-over-year basis

Best-in-Class companies experienced an average 7% year-over-year improvement of their bid-to-win ratio

Here is the press release:

SOURCE: Aberdeen Group

  

Dec 10, 2009 10:00 ET

B2B TeleServices: The 2009 Buyer's Guide

Going Beyond the Simple Acquisition of Flat Data or Sales Appointments

BOSTON, MA--(Marketwire - December 10, 2009) - Top performing sales organizations are meeting the challenges of increasing the quality of incoming leads, as well as the overall size of their pipeline, by turning to external providers of business-to-business (B2B) teleservices for a wide variety of deliverables, according to a new research study published by Aberdeen Group, a Harte-Hanks Company (NYSE: HHS).

"B2B TeleServices: The 2009 Buyer's Guide," which examined 206 organizations deploying outsourced B2B teleservices, found that the sales teams of Best-in-Class companies achieved an average of 90% of the overall sales team quota.

"When organizations deploy an outsourced B2B teleservices provider to acquire and deliver some form of sales opportunities, they are essentially seeking to fill the selling pipeline with as many qualified leads as possible," says Peter Ostrow, Research Director, Sales Effectiveness, Aberdeen Group, the report's author. "Leading companies are building substantial, multi-faceted relationships with solution providers that go far beyond the simple acquisition of flat data or sales appointments."

The report reveals what leading companies have been able to achieve through deployment of outsourced B2B teleservices, such as:

 

--  7% yearly increase on average in bid-to-win ratio
--  Average annual revenue per sales rep has increased 11% year-over-year
Click here to obtain your copy.
 

Rethinking BANT, continued: How to better define a qualified lead

Part two of a three-part blog: (See first part.)

In Part 1 of our three-part “BANT rant,” I began by raising some doubts about the efficacy of the BANT approach being the defining factor in determining a qualified sales opportunity.  I offered two main reasons why I felt that BANT wasn’t sufficient as a definition.

First and foremost, BANT offers a seller-centric perspective.  Budget, Authority, Need and Timing are not the ways in which buyers think, at least not with respect to purchases that are not commodities.  They think about business challenges, resources, relationships and the potential (and actual) consequences of action and inaction.  And organizational politics come into play, as tends to happen all too frequently with real people in real life, even when there is alignment within an organization as to goals and objectives.

Second, I suggested that while the BANT elements might be necessary for a buying decision, by themselves they are not sufficient to ensure that a decision will ever be made to purchase, or if that purchase decisions will be favorable to you.

Let’s look at each of the elements independently:

B (Budget) Plainly, if a prospect already has a defined budget, then you are probably too late to the party.  They may have already been in discussion with one or more of your competitors, and that’s how they came up with that budget..  Or they may have established a budget based upon some other basis (research), but it is not likely to be the budget you would preferably craft for them, nor does it consider the value of your solution (remember, it’s rarely about price and generally about value).

It’s akin to the RFP dilemma.  If a company has issued an RFP, and you were not involved in setting those standards, then it was established based upon a vision that did not include your solution.  And, unless your solution matches the requirements to a tee, you may not want to get involved.  RFP’s, for the most part, create commoditized procurement decisions, not value-based decisions.  If you are not selling a commodity, and if you don’t want a decision made essentially on the basis of price, then you need an opportunity to demonstrate your value.

The bottom line is that it may be preferable for them not to have a budget (just as you’d prefer them not to have an RFP).  Yet you do want them to have the resources needed to fund a solution to the needs they have and the challenges they are facing, preferably at a level that makes your solution affordable.

Ideally, however, you want to help them craft both a solution and a budget and you should want to be there before that process is initiated.  So, the very best time to get involved is before they have a budget and before they have envisioned a solution.

Given all of that, is Budget truly a qualifying criterion?  Now we’re left with ANT or, if we substitute Resources for Budget, we have RANT.

A (Authority) Most people assume that this means that you have identified or (preferably) are engaged with the decision-maker.  This is way too simplistic for the real world.  The problem is that, in virtually every situation imaginable (especially in a complex B2B setting), there is no single decision-maker.  Decisions are never made by a single person and, perhaps, never even by a single department.  The truth is that most enterprises have matrix relationships in which anyone, at virtually any level, can raise their hands and put the brakes on a decision or a shift in direction.

Even in small “mom and pop” businesses, decisions are rarely made by a single person, even the owner.  In almost every situation, there are trusted advisors, spouses, key staff and even business colleagues outside of the company who can influence a buying decision significantly.

What is vital is to gain an understanding of how decisions in areas related to your solution are made within organizations.  You need to know who is typically involved in that process and gain an understanding of the relationships (from both a personal and business perspective) among the key people involved.

Finally, you also want to understand another critical element:  the company’s orientation to change.  Is this a company that takes risks, or are they risk averse?  Are they somewhere in the middle?  Their orientation toward change will tell you a great deal more than you can imagine about the strategies you should employ to move them toward adopting your solution.

N (Need) Of all of the BANT elements, this is the most seller-centric of all.  I can’t begin to count all the times that a sales representative has come to me and said, “It’s a slam dunk … they NEED our solution.”  In the story I related at the end of the first segment about walking down the street at lunchtime on the way to a meeting, the need for food is clear.  We need it to live and we need it to satisfy and resolve pangs of hunger.  But, do we need it NOW?  It may be lunchtime, but there are competing needs and demands that have greater urgency at present and render that need less vital.

So, it’s not about need, it’s about some compelling event or reason that raises the urgency of that need to an “act now” level.  Absent that level of motivation, there is no credible impetus for change and no substantive reason for the resources to be expended, even if the money is available and someone is willing to spend it.

T (Time frame) This is also a seller-centric view.  What is really meant here is, “is this opportunity going to come to fruition in the near-term so it becomes worthwhile for me, as a salesperson, to spend my time on it?”  And, the truth is, in and of itself, it is meaningless.  Time is only important in the context of all of the other elements.

Do we have a compelling event?  Is everyone who is feeling the impact of this event involved in the decision making process?  Is there a solution out there that can resolve our problem using the resources we have available?  And, what is the consequence to us (as a company) if we fail to act timely?

Those are the more important determinants of the relative value of a potential sales opportunity.

In the third and last segment of this discussion, we’ll focus in on putting this all together into a practical framework.  And then, perhaps, we can begin to consider an answer to the question I raised at the end of my walk in the city at lunchtime story:  what can a proprietor do to get you to eat at his or her establishment?

How ETI is embracing the new Social Networking tools and technologies to improve Lead Generation and Lead Qualification results

Having viewed the development of social networking in the past year from the sidelines I think it’s time I had my say. The main question needing an answer is, does Social Networking as a lead generation medium, work? 

Networking has always been an obvious way to develop business and business opportunities.  What’s more it’s very effective. However, the fact is that this activity is rapidly moving from the club or the golf course, or the local business network to the WEB.  This provides you with the opportunity to expand your contacts substantially, unhampered by geography or company size.

Networking for lead generation reminds me of the insurance sales rep who’s just out of training.  He’s all gung ho and motivated to make it happen.  Yet where does he first turn? To no one’s surprise he turns to his natural environment - his personal network.  First to the family, then to friends and acquaintances. Then to the prospects they recommend.

However, there’s no doubt that as he ventures farther afield to include strangers, his network will yield fewer genuine opportunities. Though he swims manfully against the stream, absent good luck the new recruit may not survive. His only hope for the future is to engage in an effective lead generation effort before his money runs out. Or to hope the company he works for will slip him a few sales ready leads to help him stay afloat.

LinkedIn

I’ve subscribed to a number of groups on LinkedIn these past few years. Frankly it’s been a big disappointment.  There are large numbers of participants out there trying to sell whatever it is they sell. They contribute nothing or very little to the dialogue.  Others are there to recruit.  These groups do seem to constitute fertile ground to find staff - much as happens in regular social networks.� From time to time I also notice people posting topics for discussion that are on point. But for the most part it’s fairly obvious that the questions posed are self serving - designed more than anything else to promote the reputation of the poster.

Twitter

Twitter is another phenomenon I have struggled with.  I suppose if you admire and respect someone and want to know what he/she is thinking or doing every day, then being a follower is useful.  On the other hand if you’re a thought leader on a particular subject – with many followers – it’s also likely that being a twitterer could be useful. 

I tend to think of myself as a thought leader.  I write, I hold a goodly variety of opinions and I’m capable of communicating thoughts to my clients and prospects via a variety of channels.  So I ask myself – do I want to sit and post tweets day in and day out for my followers?  Fact is I don’t and being a follower or being followed 24x7 is really not my thing.

There could however, be some potential in Twitter in terms of Lead Generation. But this depends how numerous your “follower” network is and how motivated they are to become buyers or recommenders.

How is ETI embracing the new networks to improve lead generation results for its clients?

eti’s primary business is focused on B2B (complex) lead generation.  Our ultimate goal is to to maximize client’s sales force productivity. Here then are some of the things we’re doing to exploit the new resources.

Firstly it needs to be appreciated that these networks are often fantastic information resources. That, technically, is the business we’re in.  Because we engage with prospects in consultative dialogues for the purpose of identifying information and characteristics which indicates the prospect’s ability and need to purchase our clients’ solutions.  To achieve that purpose our Business Developers actively participate in the networks to better understand the market places our clients do business in. 

Secondly, we link directly to these resources from i*collaborator - eti’s CRM/PRM framework. This enables us to search dynamically within LinkedIn, Plaxo and Facebook, to extract third party information that could be leveraged to reveal big fish prospects. Nor are we shy to hook smaller fish which have good growth potential.

Thirdly, we make these facilities directly available to our clients via their Opportunity Dashboards so that their sales persons are motivated to leverage the new opportunities without their having to do the research themselves. 

What else might we do?  Well we’re always open to new ideas and would welcome and appreciate your thoughts.

Conclusion

As a lead generation tool for the most part the networks mentioned remain on the periphery.  In their current incarnations they will probably not become mainstream lead generation tools.

However they do have enormous potential as tools to build influence and credibility. And that’s the best use of a network.  Because with that credibility will come the desired recommendations and referrals that will help you maximize your lead generation efforts.

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!

High Quality Business Development is a Collaborative Process

We strongly believe that the relationship between our Business Developers (BDs) and the sales people who are our ultimate customers is essential to the success of a lead generation / lead qualification effort.  A vital element in this relationship is the need to foster bi-directional communication as a regular discipline. Remember, the goal of your ETI business development team is not to just set appointments and let you battle it out on your own.  We want to be in your corner because we share a collective responsibility to see every sales opportunity through to the close of the first sale and the acquisition of a new customer. 

We know full well that the sales opportunity pipeline (and the prospect pipeline) is a fluid, dynamic process.  That clarifies the essential difference between us and other lead generation companies.  In short, we prefer to be your partner, not your vendor.  Here then is one of the realities that makes ETI so markedly different from our competitors.  We have little interest in a hands-off relationship.

Specifically, this is what we want you, as a client, to know:

  • If you have a question or concern we want to hear it.  Please call us to discuss as often as you wish.
  • If you need more information about any qualified prospect submitted to you, please let us know.  We’ll call the prospect again and probe that topic for you.
  • If you feel you’d like a particular individual on the prospect’s side to be in on the appointment, tell us – we’ll do our best to arrange it for you.
  • If you have made an initial call and feel it would be better to have ETI hold onto the prospect and move them further along or nurture them until ready, that’s what we’ll gladly do for you.

And more.  Just whatever occurs to you – call us.

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.

Aberdeen Research - B2B Teleservices Study Released

Aberdeen consulting has released a ground breaking study into the B2B Teleservices Industry. Readers of this blog can obtain a free copy by clicking here.

The following press release provides some background.

B2B TELESERVICES: THE 2008 BUYER’S GUIDE

BOSTON, MA – May 28, 2008 – In a first-time, comprehensive research study of the B2B TeleServices industry, Aberdeen, a Harte-Hanks Company (NYSE: HHS) examines the lead discovery and qualification pressures faced by marketing and sales practitioners, the actions they consider to drive peak performance in their marketing investments, and how Best-in-Class performers utilize outsourced teleservices methodologies to drive maximum pipeline content and bid-to-win performance ratios. As an end-user's "buyer's guide" to a sector rarely covered by objective research methodologies, this April 2008 study reveals leading practices in lead lifecycle management deployed by teleservices customers, as well as exploring blended human / technology solutions they have managed to ROMI success.

Data acquired from over 200 enterprises reveals a number of impactful data points, according to Peter Ostrow, VP/Group Director, Customer Management at Aberdeen, the study’s author.  “Best-in-Class companies place a premium on lead quality, whereas Laggards reveal an interest in utilizing services to help address an out-of-control lead generation process -- too many leads to handle -- at a pace more than five times as high as that of top-performing organizations,” he explains.  “This reflects a lack of organizational and vendor management capabilities among Laggards, who benefit the least from their efforts to drive actionable intelligence to the sales team.” 

In addition to the quality/quantity balance necessary to achieve Marketing/Sales harmony, the Best-in-Class companies in Aberdeen’s research demonstrate a preference for the well-defined deliverables provided by appointment-setting methodologies.  “Top performers clearly wish to tee-up ready-booked appointments or conference calls for their sales team,” Ostrow says, “ but only if the meetings are highly substantiated by relevant account intelligence, identification of appropriate business pressures and the involvement of powerful influencers or decision-makers in the conversation.”  He also cautions against an over-reliance on appointment-setting as a sole methodology, pointing out that survey respondents who do so actually experience losses in year-over-year metrics such as sales performance against quota, and average deal size.  “Best-in-Class companies who remain flexible about their execution, compensation and delivery model from B2B teleservices providers,” concludes Ostrow, “realize 15 to 20% increases in these crucial performance metrics.”

The required actions for companies seeking to gain the most benefit from external tele-provider services, according to Ostrow, include adopting a high degree of collaboration between outsourced calling staff and the customer’s marketing and even sales personnel, preferably building 1-1 relationships that maximize their potential to improve on account penetration strategies, messaging quality and overall program ROI.

To obtain a complimentary copy, visit:

http://www.aberdeen.com/link/sponsor.asp?spid=30411182&cid=4883

 

Michael Falkson

ETI's i*collaborator vs. Siebel

Sometimes it's nice to get a compliment ...

-----Original Message----- From: Name withheld Sent: 20, 2008 1:19 PM To: Name withheld

Subject: ETI vs/ Siebel

Hi Michael,

"Your ETI sales system is very impressive. Having been the top sales rep at Siebel Systems for five years, I have seen numerous implementations of SFA. Never have I seen anything as seamless and easy to use as your application. I look forward to closing business for "Hi Tech client offering mobile video solution" in partnership with your company."

Thank you, Name Withheld

 More information on ETI's technology solutions can be found at here.

Michael Falkson

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