Quality Sales Leads Shorten Sales Cycles and Boost Sales Team Morale

Providing sales teams with quality leads is a method of shortening sales cycles. Sales teams attain a higher close rate and feel better about their jobs when they have high quality sales leads to work with. Capturing quality leads should be the objective of any marketing communications effort.

We used the last posts to this blog to talk broadly about search engine marketing (SEM). We included examples from our current experience working with clients. We think that successful SEM can produce quality sales leads.

SEM should be coupled with a new set of direct marketing activities. Seasoned sales personnel should be included who can extract the highest possible value from any opportunities to engage directly with prospects that emerge from these programs.

We have done a lot of work with one of our clients defining sales prospects, and the people that use this client’s products and services. We found that these people usually do not make purchase decisions. The typical sale goes like this: a sales prospect (usually a technical person) likes a product or service, and requests a purchase from decision makers. Once the product or service has been purchased, any/all opportunities to engage with the customer take place between the technical user and our client’s sales team. The decision makers are somewhere on the periphery. Opportunities to sell additional products are few and far between.

Given the prospect and customer type, we decided to drop telemarketing as a direct marketing method. We have yet to find a direct marketing method that works for this client. Our experience with discussion groups and Twitter has been less than positive. We filled the direct marketing gap with more marketing communications work.

We focused our product promotion efforts on a redesign of our client’s online brand to develop more opportunities early in the sales cycle to engage directly with decision makers. We did this work through a combination of suggested changes in web site content, a press release campaign, and an online paid advertising campaign.

Another step that we took, after we took a detailed look at what was working and not, was to re-align sales strategy from a complex sale to a transaction sale model. The early results are promising. Sales cycles are shorter, and sales opportunities are more tangible. Stay tuned on this one.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved


Implement a Lead Scoring System to Gain a Useful View of Revenue Prospects for Technology Products

Product marketing plans must include prospect profiles for businesses and related contacts. In parallel, a typical maturation cycle for leads must also be assembled. With a prospect profile and a typical lead maturity cycle in hand, then a scoring system can be implemented for leads. Through the application of this lead scoring system a useful picture of present, near term future and longer term future sales activity takes shape. This picture will become more valuable over time as more data is incorporated within calculations.

Using a scale of 1-10, where 1 represents the lowest value, a numeric value can be assigned to any and all leads. This numeric value directly correlates to a stage of lead maturity for a specific prospect interaction, as follows:

  1. Gathering Information from Prospects
  2. Communicating Information to Prospects
  3. Formulating an Initial Needs Assessment for an Opportunity
  4. Collecting a List of all Contacts within a Prospect who must be included in steps 1-3 above
  5. Establishing the authenticity of decision makers as well as presumed requirements through additional conversations with contacts at the prospect business
  6. Utilizing internal and external contacts to schedule a meeting with decision maker(s)
  7. A meeting with contacts who appear to be decision maker(s) to discuss potential requirements for products and/or services
  8. A meeting with a decision maker who needs to find a solution to a specific requirement for products and/or services manufactured by our company
  9. Presenting this decision maker with a specific proposal, complete with cost information
  10. An Engagement Letter is signed, or a purchase order is received for our product or service

Steps 1-6 in this maturity model are the responsibility of lead generation personnel. Step 7 can include lead generation and sales personnel. Steps 8-10 are entirely the province of sales personnel.

Utilizing this lead maturity model it is possible to obtain very efficient results from sales personnel who ought not be involved in steps 1-6. Sales activity should be categorized into each of the 10 steps. Usually, at an early stage of implementing this method, sales activities will overlap lead generation activities. Management can use this information to require changes in sales activity to eliminate duplication of effort. Indeed, for very early stage businesses with lots of leads scored as a 1-6 value, there is little need for sales involvement at all. Rather, we recommend that sales personnel utilize these early stages for product and market training. Better to leave the task of nurturing leads through stage 1-6 to lead generation experts who can be much more effective at this task.

IMB Enterprises, Inc. specializes in identifying sales leads for information technology companies targeting enterprise business and large user groups in the public sector. We nurture leads through stages 1 through 7. We collaborate with sales on stages 7 and 8. We offer monthly and annual services plans that will produce targeted lead levels to be determined by our clients. Please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


What Constitutes a Valuable Sales Lead?

An important job for anyone in a sales management position is to define what “valuable” means with regard to leads. Not all leads are the same. Some leads will be very valuable. But other leads will have little value. Therefore, it is safe to say that defining what constitutes a valuable lead is an important job for sales management. Why waste precious time working on leads with little promise? Perhaps leads can be obtained that will support efficient selling efforts and hasten attainment of revenue objectives. If there is a possibility of obtaining valuable leads, then sales management ought to allocate as much time as may be required to formulate a system to capture valuable leads. Further, sales staff should always work on as high value leads as possible.

We should note that sales management engaged in defining value for leads very often will have an opportunity to also define the stages of development for leads that will be typical for the specific business at hand. We spend considerable time working with leads for clients over telephone conversations. Therefore, what follows is specific to telemarketing and, further, very specific to teleprospecting. However, in a subsequent post we will present complementary stages that contribute to lead maturation from raw to high value for electronic media — social and email marketing. The stages for lead maturation from the perspective of teleprospecting include:

  1. Identifying Potentially Useful Contacts within a Prospect Business
  2. Engaging in an Initial Conversation with a Potentially Useful Contact. This first conversation is characterized by the teleprospector gathering information to identify what the prospect needs as well as contacts within the prospect that have the authority to purchase products and services to satisfy needs
  3. Engaging in a Conversation with a Potentially Useful Contact that Expands on the Original Conversation. The teleprospector plans this second conversation to provide the contact with information that can be useful to identify needs and decision makers
  4. Engaging in an Initial Assessment with the contact. A teleprospectors utilizes this third conversation to exchange information with the contact on the needs and decision makers that have emerged from the first and second conversations
  5. Mapping into the Prospect Company. The teleprospector enters into as many additional conversations with other contacts as may be required to identify all of the other contacts from this prospect who need to be included in any subsequent conversation about the needs and decision makers who have been determined from the first three preceding conversations
  6. Vetting Assumptions about Needs and Decision Makers. These conversations provide the teleprospector with the opportunity to establish the credibility of apparent needs and decision makers.
  7. Obtaining Referrals. Authoritative contacts are used by the teleprospector to secure the participation of all of the contacts produced by the mapping exercise in step 5, above in subsequent conversations with the prospect business
  8. An Unqualified Meeting with Unqualified Decision Makers. The teleprospector engages in a group meeting with the contacts who have been identified. The meeting topic is specific to the need assumed to be pressing for the prospect business. The outcome of this meeting will determine any further steps in the development of the sales opportunity

If we find that the sales opportunity has further promise beyond #8, above, we are comfortable turning the lead over to clients for further development as a valuable lead. If you care to learn further about our methods, then please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. We welcome contact. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Rank sales leads by value while tracking position in your lead maturity cycle to obtain a realistic picture of opportunities

We use a lead ranking system built on:

  1. Lead Value and
  2. Lead Maturity, meaning the position of a lead in a specific lead maturity cycle

We implement our lead ranking system to provide clients with a realistic picture of sales opportunities over time.

Let’s look at the second of these factors first, lead maturity. Our maturity plan for leads includes the following stages:

  1. Initial conversation with an unqualified contact
  2. Follow up conversation about some information that has been exchanged with this unqualified contact
  3. A conversation about a point of interest expressed by this unqualified contact. This point of interest is somehow related to information already exchanged
  4. An unspecified number of conversations with additional contacts at the same prospect business to determine whether the unqualified contact is someone who can make a decision about a purchase for your product or service
  5. An unspecified number of conversations with additional contacts at the same prospect business to determine areas of interest as well as potential requirements for products or services offered by your business
  6. Assembling a list of contacts at the prospect business who should participate in a discussion about your product or service as a solution for requirements either formalized or at some informal stage
  7. Meeting with a group of contacts at the prospect business who would like to discuss further points of interest or potential areas of need for your product or service. These contacts should be selected from the individuals unearthed through steps 4 and 5 above
  8. Meeting with a contact, or a group of contacts who have been verified as decision makers for a purchase requirement that has been budgeted by the prospect business that calls for a product or service that corresponds to what your business offers

Once the 8th step in this process has been successfully completed (meaning that the prospect business would like to proceed further with the discussion) then the lead can be said, per our system, to be mature and ready for transition to sales for further development as a bonafide sales opportunity.

Our experience is that telemarketing teams present an excellent opportunity to progress leads through our maturity cycle to step 8. The time required to move a lead through each of these stages in development is a variable. The process can be faster or more retarded depending on the type of product and target market. What is important is that enough information be collected through each of these steps to make a best possible effort to ensure that time is not wasted on what Jeff Thull refers to as “Dry Runs.”

Obviously there are many steps within the progress of a lead through our 8 stages of maturity. We would be happy to elaborate on our model upon request. Please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com to further a discussion.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Score Leads based upon Maturity to Deliver the Most Sales

Different leads require different types of activities to push sales opportunities forward. In my opinion leads can’t be managed unless some type of scoring system is used to determine where in a sales cycle a lead happens to fall. Without a scoring system equal time would be spent on all leads. Obviously hotter leads should receive more attention. But what constitutes “hot”?

To my mind, “hot” leads are opportunities where:

  • I’ve determined that I’m dealing directly with a decision maker who has the budget and authority to proceed on a purchase for my product
  • Further, this decision maker has a pressing need to obtain a product of service to reduce a significant cost that presently weighs on his business
  • He or she has a clear picture of what needs to be accomplished to reduce costs and understands that a product like mine will be required for the solution to work; in other words, the solution will absolutely not work and the losses will continue unless an additional product or service is acquired.
  • I’ve determined that my product or service will deliver the results the prospect is after
  • I can quantify the costs that the prospect will save as the result of buying from me.
  • Finally, I fully understand each and every competitor that the prospect may consider and am totally confident of my ability to show the prospect why my way is the right way for success and reduction of cost.

My scoring system differs radically from a typical scoring system that quantifies lead strength based upon numerical values derived from an analysis of the characteristics of paying customers for a product or service. Rather, my scoring system rates leads based on the proximity of a lead to a sale. I want to spend more of my time closing sales and less of my time wandering through a series of contacts to find the true buyer, the real need, etc. I am skeptical of the typical scoring system and make little to no use of it in sales management. My skepticism arose from my conclusion that lead scoring systems did a generally poor job of empowering sales teams with a useful tool to push forward sales.

On the other hand, a system like mine, which rates leads against a model of maturity is much more reliable. In fact there may be few leads at the level of maturity worthy of the title “hot”, but at least these few can be relied upon to deliver precious revenue dollars. Close these mature deals to buy the time and the effort required to push the far more plentiful, less mature leads forward.

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