Control Lead Generation Quality to Control Sales Results

The quality of leads generated through a business’ promotional efforts (including sales leads delivered from staff efforts) is very important to the actual results of sales efforts. Save a lot of time and a lot of money: make certain that the leads you receive are the leads that you can close and want to close for your business. This point may seem obvious, but it is surprising how often CEOs of emerging businesses (and especially for emerging businesses with complex products targeted at enterprise business customers) miss this point, or try to broadly hit the point with imprecise promotional marketing techniques. Finally, craft your marketing and sales compensation programs to fairly reward each piece of the respective functions to ensure that personnel are sufficiently motivated to deliver. Eschew the typical approach that rewards sales with great commissions, but lead generation marketing staff are left to approach their role as something transitional, a stepping stone to sales, rather than a career that can, itself, be quite rewarding. The planning time spent building promotional activities within marketing that will precisely attract the interest of the right prospects for sales will pay off handsomely.

Of course, in order to craft an effective lead generation program with a technique like teleprospecting, your marketing function must have completely understood and even digested the product the business is selling, like food, to the point that your product is running, like blood, through everyone’s veins. Nothing short of this completely correct understanding of the product will do. As I have written earlier in this blog, a big part of gaining this understanding is knowing how your customers are using your product; therefore, if your business is just starting, without customers, marketing’s job is that much harder, but nonetheless still absolutely essential.

If the promotional efforts include telemarketing (or teleprospecting), then marketing must subsequently publish a complete list of the qualifications of the targeted prospect business, all the way from revenue size, to geographical location, to type of business, and inclusive of all financial realities, external factors and more. Further, the staff role within the prospect business must be defined and contact lists must be developed. Underlining all of this qualification, like the foundation of a house, is marketing’s identification of the stage within the chronology of product implementation (otherwise known as product maturity) that is required for the right prospects to fit into your sales plan. As the CEO, you must have the option of selecting where, in the implementation process for the solution (or piece of the solution) that your product delivers, you establish contact with the right prospects for sales. This point of contact may be where the prospect “needs” something like your product, or earlier in the maturity cycle, where the prospect is contemplating the solution, or perhaps later, where the prospect has tried the solution and is now rethinking his or her decision and looking to renovate. There are advantages to choosing any one of these three points of entry.

With a thorough product plan and prospect qualification lead generation staff can then play their very valuable role delivering rich and promising prospects to sales who are then left to their best activities, selling to customers.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved


Best Practices: Outbound Teleprospecting for Complex Products Post #2 — Where Time Matters

When time matters (for a company with a complex product for enterprise customers), and capital is limited, the lead generation strategy should be built, at least in part, around outbound teleprospecting, but without an effort to survey prospects. I am not going to treat interactive tactics to augment outbound teleprospecting in this post, but will shortly write a series of posts describing the use of one set of interactive tactics–social media–within a powerful and comprehensive lead generation strategy. Rather, in this post I want to talk about variations on the survey approach to teleprospecting to hasten along the sales cycle.

The most obvious means of hastening a sales cycle is to focus sales efforts only on prospects with clear needs. Selling efforts should only be made on those leads where indisputable, confirmed decision-makers have been identified within companies. Further, these decision-makers must be managing funded projects that are scheduled for completion over the next near term (the actual length of the “near term” will vary depending upon the “typical” sales cycle for the product). For the record, the drawback implicit to this approach is that it eliminates the group of prospects who do not know what they need as well as those who think they need the wrong thing. But a company pressed for time and running on limited means must make some sacrifice in order to achieve sales goals. An additional drawback is that some of the projects identified through this process will be mature and at a level where the prospect is “shopping” a specific solution, meaning a commodity in the market.

Nevertheless, the hook for generating most of these leads will be discussions about well known solutions (effectively the highest quality commodities in a particular market) with interested parties. These discussions are not an optimum basis for a conversation, but at least a workable technique. Determining a reliable ratio between telephone calls and discussions will vary; however, as a rule, each set of 100 calls should result in at least 15 discussions. Further, 2 or more sales calls should result from 15 teleprospecting discussions at some point in the sales cycle. If actual efforts do not deliver results in keeping with these assumptions, then the lead contact list must be evaluated to ensure that the right contacts have been included.

Typically, utilizing this approach, a teleprospecting team will have to plan on at least one additional discussion with a prospect prior to passing along a useful lead to sales than would be the case for a focus on securing surveys with the same prospects. The script for this additional discussion will include questions to determine important information about a prospect and his/her company prior to scheduling a meeting with a subject matter expert. The result will be a considerably enhanced, and substantially narrower selling effort. This combination may provide a CEO with a viable solution to limited time and budget. Of course, the dialogue with the prospect may, over time, reveal opportunities to widen the lens and chase more lucrative opportunities based on what a prospect doesn’t know.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved


Best Practices: Outbound Teleprospecting for Complex Products for Enterprise Business

As I have written earlier in this blog, a teleprospecting campaign can yield substantial results for sales of complex products targeted at enterprise business prospects. These substantial results can amount to high quality sales leads, depending on how successfully the campaign is managed. The key to quality, of course, is the level to which leads are correctly qualified for the specific product offering and the targeted market. But how to run such a campaign?

The best method of running a teleprospecting campaign as an outbound lead generator for complex products targeted to the enterprise business market is in some variation of a survey. Taking a survey is rarely perceived by participants as a sales effort. But if the survey questionnaire is crafted correctly, the information gathered can be very useful as the sales force “fills in the blanks” about the enterprise prospect. Don’t lose sight of the fact that the enterprise prospect is actually a complicated organization with a system for purchasing products and services that includes many individual participants and a set of required procedural milestones that must be properly completed or else there will be no sale.

For the subset of complex products targeted to enterprise business that will require a reorganization of processes across a customer’s business (should a decision to purchase be forthcoming), the need to compile information about important individuals, recent business history, etc is especially important in advance of a sale or even the overture of a sales effort. The fact is that the core purchase process may be broken and dysfunctional. Further, the participants may not play the perceived role and the agenda of priorities may be deceiving.

This latter characteristic of some complex products for enterprise business, that a reorganization of business processes will be required as the product is implemented by the customer, plays a powerful role within the sales effort. Janus-like this aspect of the product, as implemented, can be either a smile or a forlorn frown as the sales effort wends its way to success or failure. The way is especially volatile where the perceived value of the product within the marketplace is ambiguous. Truly intangibles, sometimes these products deliver substantial benefits and sometimes not. Examples of this type of product include solutions for Operational Risk Management, and Enterprise Risk Management. What is most vexing for the market is that such a product, within heavily regulated businesses like Financial Services (including Banks, Asset Managers, Brokers & Dealers, Insurers, etc), is required and mandated by regulators, but the “how to succeed” directions are no where to be found.

In the best of all worlds for the firm offering such a complex product (with unclear perceived value in the enterprise business market), formulating an outbound teleprospecting campaign within the shape of a survey is mandatory. The firms that can follow this script typically have lots of time and, generally, lots of capital to slowly and carefully sell into the market.

But what about other firms with less time and, typically, less capital to build a market? Is there a way to use teleprospecting to advantage in a less than perfect world? I will provide an answer in my next post.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved


Go “Under the Radar” to Test New Markets

As I’ve just written in a previous post, in my experience, the principal reason to market and sell complex products to enterprise customers “under the radar”, meaning in “stealth mode”, is to delay the entry of competitors into a market while establishing one’s business in first position. The importance and value of first position in an enterprise market is well known and needs no further explanation here. I will simply say that first position in an enterprise market is a powerful placement where even competitors with better offerings will be hard pressed to unseat you. Therefore, the effort of operating “under the radar” makes sense as long as your product is either new, or of unclear value to enterprise customers.

There is another formidable reason to market and sell enterprise customers “under the radar:” If your business has established a brand name for other products, then be sure to insulate your established brand as you attempt to modify the market perception of what your business is about. Nothing could be worse than to undermine your core business as you branch out into new and untested markets. If you restrict your marketing and sales efforts to highly targeted prospects to whom you have disclosed your interest in entering new markets, you can always cease efforts should your efforts fail.

A key point here is to share with your prospects the truth that you’re making efforts to test new markets. Once prospects understand your tactics, then you will be able to realize the benefits as you will be perceived, in the market, as expanding and growing your presence beyond your initial product offerings rather than supplanting them with a new product. Therefore, the perfect tactic for product promotion/marketing communications within this “stealth mode” of operation is the survey which, once again, is familiar ground for teleprospecting.

Telephone surveys (and online surveys completed by registered web site visitors) will result in lots of useful information that can be leveraged should you decide to proceed with new, complex enterprise products.

If, on the other hand, you opt not to share the truth of your efforts with your prospects, you may add some further insulation to your core business, but at what cost? Whomever you contact as you test the case for new products will see you as less than honest, a negative impression that you will be hard pressed to dispel as you go forward.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved


Sales and Marketing “under the radar”

I’ve collaborated with several CEOs with new ventures targeted to enterprise markets who need to stay “under the radar” as they start selling to customers. Operating “under the radar” means that sales and marketing activities are conducted in a manner that is largely unrecognized by the rest of a marketplace. When products are complex and qualified prospects work for enterprise businesses, the sales task is especially difficult. But adding the need to stay “under the radar” doubles or triples the level of difficulty of the task.

Why operate “under the radar?” I am familiar with several reasons for implementing this tactic, principally:

  • A CEO has the ability to control the number of his/her competitors and the timing of when these competitors decide to enter the market

Let’s look at this first reason. The fact is that “under the radar” is a useless mode of operation where a CEO cannot control the extent and timing of competition entering his/her market. Therefore, don’t even consider this tactic for 98% of business activity where products and markets are established with clear value for enterprise buyers and sellers. Going “under the radar” in these markets can be taken as an indicator that a business is a weak player without the capital to do a proper job of promotion and sales. Markets that fall into this 98% category include markets served by well known vendors marketing ubiquitous tangible and intangible products.

Be careful not to confuse “under the radar” tactics with the tactics of traditional direct marketing campaigns: telemarketing, targeted mailings, etc. The tactics may look similar (for example, an excellent tactic for “under the radar” market development, teleprospecting, looks like telemarketing, but is very different in several important ways), but the intentions are very different.

Consider staff augmentation, a well known and familiar business serving the large enterprise market. The staff augmentation business does not benefit from mass market advertising; rather, telemarketing and direct mail are well known to be excellent methods of promoting staff augmentation services to the enterprise. As well, a sales person with an address book is a boon to this type of business. But few staff augmentation businesses succeed operating “under the radar”. Enterprise buyers demand certain financial realities (for example, a level of business activity with peers of an enterprise, a specific staff size, etc) that may not be feasible for a business operating “under the radar.”

In my experience, CEOs capable of controlling competitive pressure, meaning CEOs who will benefit from stealth operation, are marketing products that are either new to enterprise markets, or of unclear value. Of course, these CEOs must be very careful. If no one else is selling what you’ve got and/or the value of your product is unclear in the enterprise market, then you may be looking for trouble. Watch out. But if you’ve done your research and have a viable business plan, then sales and marketing “under the radar” may work for you.

Look to my next post for another important reason to consider marketing and selling enterprise products “under the radar”

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved