Once Qualification Criteria have been Established Lead Generation Efforts Should be Separated from Sales Efforts

Product marketers for complex software products targeted at enterprise customers need to provide sales and lead generation teams with a prospect profile. These teams need to use the prospect profile to build separate prospect qualification procedures. The rationale for separating these procedures is that each team has a different, but complementary, reason for qualifying prospects. Lead generation teams should qualify prospects to ensure that names passed along to sales teams for further engagement meet the right prospect profile criteria. Sales teams should qualify prospects to determine where a prospect fits in, if at all, in the decision making system for an enterprise that looks like a potential customer.

It should be clear that we are proposing two different sets of activities from the same prospect profile information. The first set of activities are the domain of lead generation teams. These teams need to use their efforts to identify specific contacts with whom sales teams should engage, in order to advance the possibility of sales opportunities. Further, lead generation teams need to also collect information about specific enterprise organizations, to determine whether specific organizations exhibit the earmarks of good sales prospects.

In fact, as we see it, a prospect profile for complex enterprise IT software products has two core components:

  • a set of contact profiles and
  • a set of profiles for organizations likely to benefit from products

We think that it is clearly the responsibility of lead generation teams to implement both of these profiles. Lead generation teams should use both of these profiles to provide sales teams with opportunities for engagement. Sales teams, in turn, engage with these contacts to further the qualification process. The border between the two teams should be an initial meeting between the sales team and the contacts identified by lead generation teams. Like runners in a relay race, this first meeting provides an opportunity to “pass the baton” from one team to the other.

We have serviced clients as both a lead generation service and a sales service. In two recent instances we have performed both functions. We think it works better, as we mentioned at the start of this post, to keep the two activities entirely separate. Our clients benefit more when we pass a qualified prospect along to a sales team. Of course, it is then up to sales to determine the quality of the opportunity. Sales’ determination can provide a useful method of determining whether or not objectives have been met for a particular project.

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


Enterprise IT ISVs with Pure Cloud Solutions for Regulated Industries Need to Focus on Specific Groups to Ensure Success

If it makes sense to lead with an on premise solution for enterprise IT prospects picked from heavily regulated industries, then it makes even more sense for pure cloud enterprise IT ISVs to carefully qualify contacts before expending significant resources on possible opportunities to make sales into markets like banking, insurance, oil and gas, etc. Our caution should not be misinterpreted as a blanket recommendation; rather, we think that product marketing teams and sales organizations should work together to come up with a prospect profile for these industries that includes how customers will access cloud services.

We have recently worked with an early stage business here in the United States with a cloud based software as a service (SaaS) offer designed for heavily regulated businesses in the finance sector. The prospect profile matched peripheral groups in a likely IT governance hierarchy for these businesses. Specifically, we were reaching out to contacts involved with compliance, or risk management functions, and, not contacts from IT organizations, themselves. Further, this cloud offer amounted to specialized content, which would not play any role whatsoever in transactions or other high volume daily computing procedures.

The characteristics of this type of contact, who may play a very important role within the business hierarchy, but a minimal role in the IT governance strategy is an important factor to understand. For line of business (LOB) users, or units like the one we have just described tasked with ensuring compliance with regulations, qualifying the likelihood of access to cloud solutions is an easier task, especially when solutions are not intended for any daily use in core business operations.

In these cases it becomes a matter of establishing the likelihood of identifying and collaborating with internal authority for the prospect, when the question of the probability of making a sale is addressed. Of course, including a series of questions about Internet or even Intranet access in the list of lead qualifiers makes complete sense. When these questions are appropriately presented to contacts, the answers received will certainly help to minimize wasted time.

Orchestrating an effective role for product marketing, and, specifically, for marketing communications, in this qualification process is a separate matter. We think it makes sense to design editorial content (and even promotional content) to successfully attract interest from likely prospects, meaning businesses open, for the right application to cloud computing offers.

On the other hand, we maintain lots of confidence that pervasive adoption of pure cloud solutions for daily, high volume computing for heavily regulated businesses is still a very long way off.

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


Well Organized Surveys can Provide Important Qualifiers for Enterprise IT Software Prospects

As we wrote in the prior post to this blog, market surveys certainly provide enterprise IT ISVs with a highly useful vehicle to engage with businesses on topics that can engender a relaxed and forthcoming attitude from respondents. In fact, it is not at all atypical to find that respondents do most of the talking during a telephone survey. Therefore, the information collected from surveys can be highly useful and, where surveys are carefully designed and worded, highly informative, especially on the question of whether or not respondents have a high probability to develop into sales prospects. Of course, for high probability respondents it makes sense to design a program to maintain contact and, thereby, “nurture” these leads as they develop into sales-ready opportunities.

On the other hand, surveys will not lend themselves to this type of application where product marketing has not finished its job. If a clear picture of a qualified sales prospect is not at hand, it does not make sense to spend much time on surveys. The only exception to this prescription is a plan to use a survey to find out where a market is headed. Usually research firms will sponsor this type of market sampling activity. However, it does make sense for enterprise IT ISVs to use the same approach as they consider renovating existing products, or even as they go about the job of collecting the information they require to plan new products and/or new entrances to markets.

We plan on writing a post or two on market sampling surveys in the future. For the purposes of this post, we are specifically discussing how to use a questionnaire to identify companies that ought to be on a “watch list” based upon indicators of qualification for specific products/services/integrated solutions. As we just mentioned, a clear picture of a highly qualified prospect must be available. At a minimum, a section of the survey should be designed to include the questions that need to be asked to collect these qualifiers. If a survey is correctly designed, and promoted to respondents, there should be nothing unnatural about this set of questions. Rather, they should flow right out of the overall theme of the survey. Nevertheless, the answers collected from respondents to the questions included in these sections can prove to be highly reliable indicators of sales prospect potential.

If you are looking to develop a lead nurturing program, you should think about starting the job of cultivating these opportunities from the seeds of qualification collected from your surveys. If, for one reason or another, you either lack a clear sense of a qualified prospect for your product, or do not have the internal resources to put together a survey correctly for this type of objective, then you ought to contract with a third party to get the job done.

IMB Enterprises, Inc. would like to be on your short list. Our retained services (3 mos minimum) start at $3200.00 per month. Please contact us to learn further. You can call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion about our services plan. You may also email Ira at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

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


Share Topics and Use Discussion Groups to Further Qualify Prospects as You Work on the Complex Sale

As I noted in an earlier post, the “Share” feature of typical Social Media (like Google+) delivers useful benefits to marketers working on the complex sale. Present appropriate and engaging topics germane to your product or solution to attract the attention of “friends,” colleagues, contacts. The information you receive will deepen your qualification and understanding of the prospect. The fact is that the comments submitted by these individuals will provide rich information about roles, levels of authority and ongoing programs undertaken by specific prospects.

It is often difficult to engage important contacts at prospect businesses through teleprospecting alone, especially when the teleprospecting effort takes place through a direct, “cold call” effort. On the other hand, teleprospecting is an entirely suitable technique to use as a follow up to a posted comment from a contact on a “shared” topic relevant to the complex sale. In this case the person on the other end of the line will often be more receptive to the telephone call and willing to share information. The reasons for his/her receptivity are that the teleprospecting call is not obviously a sales call, and the offline nature of the interaction respects Discussion group etiquette (a carry over from the News Groups that preceeded today’s Social Media discussions) for sub discussions of topics.

These discussions can also serve as a rich “honey pot” for contacts and, therefore, an excellent means of growing address lists. Better use the resources that otherwise would pay for mass email campaigns to fund the cost of creative management of a Google+ or FaceBook (or even LinkedIn) membership. As your address book grows, the summary understanding about individual prospects (critically important to the success of your complex sale) can be expanded and enhanced through a uniform application of teleprospecting for all targeted contacts. The scripts for these telephone calls should be “survey-centric.” Your teleprospectors must keep in mind that they are on a fact finding mission and, by no means chasing a sale.

Be sure to add the collected information to your knowledge base for the prospect. As you review the information look out for indication of the maturity of the prospect business with regard to the objective of your complex sales campaign. Be wary of indicators of an immature understanding. Recognize that an indicator of an immature understanding is a reason to either stop the complex sales campaign, or, at a minimum, realign the campaign along more realistic lines. I have seen too many clients “wander in the desert” through meeting after meeting with promising contacts locked into immature organizations that lack the capacity to proceed as the result of an immature understanding of the rationale for a complex sale.

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