26
Feb

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

1
Feb

Participating in Discussion Group Topics can Drive Not Only Engagement but Sales

In contrast to creating and moderating discussion groups on social media, dedicating lead generation personnel to monitor discussion groups, and, where relevant to reply to topics posted by other participants can be very productive. In fact, not only can this type of online dialogue stimulate response, and, thereby, engagement, but, more, this type of online dialogue can actually produce sales opportunities.

Roughly speaking, at least two criteria must be met in order for this tactic to produce positive results. The first of these criteria relates to an assessment of whether, or not, the discussion group in question is designed as a self-help forum, where the expectation is that any advice will be provide at no charge. There are, in fact, lots of these groups online. Usually they exist to support users grappling with specific technology, for example, LINUX, or other open source software. We don’t see a meaningful return on the time that will need to be invested in monitoring topics of conversation within these discussion groups.

On the other hand, where discussion groups exist to support proprietary applications, it certainly makes sense to monitor conversation topics. Spending some time each working day to quickly review abstracts of discussions can certainly produce useful opportunities to at least engage with a target audience for one’s market. Opportunities are very likely to arise where participants have already acknowledged an interest in identifying 3rd parties for specific tasks. In our experience, participants will often post a query like this on the expectation that any resources that may be identified will, in fact, be recommended resources, for which some first hand references may be forthcoming, upon request.

Nevertheless, in order to obtain true benefit from the time and effort it takes to participate in one of these topics, personnel selected for this type of product promotional task must be credible representatives with a legitimate right to participate in the topic discussions that may arise. Usually credibility can only be established for personnel who are actually involved, as users, of the technologies that often provide the basis for these discussions. Therefore, we think it makes a lot of sense for businesses to train operational personnel to perform some rudimentary prospect qualification should an opportunity arise where it makes sense to participate in a topic of discussion.

We should note that where personnel are clearly selected from a sales team, we have had rather poor results from this tactic. In part, we attribute these poor results to a “self help for free” style which characterized some of the discussion groups where our personnel have attempted to participate in discussions.

In the next post of this blog we will start to look at the passive aspects for these same methods.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

24
Sep

A Disciplined Application of Coordinated Promotional Campaigns with Direct Telephone Contact is an Optimum Strategy for Enterprise IT ISVs

It makes little sense for enterprise IT ISVs to maintain daily telemarketing outreach efforts without a promotional component. In our experience, the best return from efforts is to be obtained from coordinated campaigns that include a promotional component in the form of a piece of marketing communications carefully designed to deliver information in a manner that will elicit an optimum response from recipients, along with a telemarketing follow up program that will commence no earlier than 24 hours after receipt of MARCOM by recipients, but no later than 3 days from the same date of receipt.

In our experience daily telemarketing campaigns undertaken without a marketing communications component are almost always perceived as “cold calls” with all of the negative connotations that usually accompany this type of telephone call. Some technology businesses pin their lead generation efforts around “cold calls” and, further, consider this approach to be a least cost solution for business expansion. We think the low cost of this type of activity stems from the fact that the personnel usually charged with this activity are rarely, if ever compensated for their time in any manner beyond a contingent share in a sale as the result of sales commission. Yet, when costs like these are calculated, we think that it is a rare business that factors in the cost of personnel turnover (as the result of a very low return on personal investment) in the total cost of this lead generation method.

In fact, we think that repetitive cold calling, undertaken independently, without a coordinated promotional campaign that includes marketing communications content is, actually, a very expensive approach to lead generation. Further, habituating on this method can actually result in a retardation of the otherwise normal growth rate for a technology business like an enterprise IT ISV.

Better to put together periodic, coordinated campaigns that couple marketing communications content with a telemarketing follow up component. Approaching lead generation from this angle, and monitoring historical campaign results, can produce data that will, undoubtedly, prove to be very useful for business planning purposes. Of most importance, the impression that these campaigns will make on the prospects that receive collateral and follow up telemarketing calls, will be substantially more favorable than the result of the “cold calls” that we have characterized, above.

If you head up a technology business and understand the importance of a successful effort to generate leads, then you ought to seriously consider building a set of coordinated campaigns that include a marketing communications piece along with a follow up telemarketing effort. If you lack the internal resources to produce these campaigns, it makes sense to contract with a third party firm that can get the job done correctly.

IMB Enterprises, Inc. has the resources to successfully execute on this type of requirement. 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

15
May

To Connect or not to Connect Your Sales effort with Your Survey Lead Generation Program

We think it is mandatory to identify business sponsorship to any/all participants in a survey effort for lead generation. This point is simply a courteous example of professionalism. Further, once survey participants have made the connection between the firm conducting the survey and its sponsor any contact to any participant in the survey on the part of the sponsor will be, to some extent, expected and, perhaps (depending on how the survey has been conducted) welcome.

Of course, for optimum results a survey should be planned on a credible, entirely legitimate basis that makes sense for the sponsor and each contact who agrees to participate in the survey. If the sales history for your product, service, or integrated solution follows a pattern that is characteristic of a complex sale, meaning a sale that involves a number of individuals who contribute to purchase decision, a matching number of apparent needs for, perhaps, each of these contributors, and, perhaps, a matching set of assumptions about a solution for each of these needs, then it makes complete sense to stop selling and starting collecting as much information as possible about a prospect, the cast of contacts who will contribute to a decision about a solution for a problem that warrants fixing and your product. In fact, we don’t think that any interest in designing an efficient system to convert an attractive proportion of leads into sales will work if the activity of purely gathering information on known to be relevant operations, procedures, systems, etc. is not included as a preliminary to further engagement.

For their part, well chosen survey participants should see things in a similar fashion. Prospects worth the time of sales teams will have an understanding that decision-making is, perhaps, flawed. For these organizations your offer to conduct a survey (and to share with participants generalities gleaned from other participants in the survey) should be really good news.

Let’s face it, prospect who are unwilling to proceed through an information gathering phase as a necessary preliminary to any further engagement should be de-emphasized and, where possible, passed over for better opportunities. If you sense that the sales efforts of your business leave something to be desired (perhaps your team speaks with lots of contacts but closes only a small portion, thereby wasting time better spent on a different approach), please contact us to discuss your case. You may telephone 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

4
Apr

Key Components of an Actual Cost Calculation for a Tech Sales Lead to an Enterprise Business Prospect

Quantifying the actual cost of a tech sales lead for an enterprise business prospect must include the following information to ensure a level playing field for comparison purposes:

  • a definition of a tech sales lead and
  • an accurate cost for any/all internal work that may be required to nurture the components of a sales lead — contact information and stage of lead maturity — to the status of an authentic lead

Without the above information an accurate cost of sales lead metric can not be produced.

A Definition of a Tech Sales Lead
We define a sales lead as an opportunity for a member of a client’s sales team to meet with a verified decision maker (or a committee vested with the same authority) who is actually pursuing solutions to a defined need that may include a client’s product or service. This meeting can take the form of a face to face visit, email exchange, telephone call, etc. What is important is that this meeting provides a natural opportunity for us to transition a sales lead to a client.

We define any other information that may be related to a sales lead, for example, contact name/title/telephone number/etc as components of a potential opportunity that may or may not produce a sales lead.

Our lead generation services clients have the option of purchasing components of potential selling opportunities or sales leads.

An Accurate Cost for Developing Sales Leads with Internal Resources from Opportunity Components
The actual cost for a tech innovator that opts to use internal resources to produce sales leads from opportunity components will vary substantially from tech innovator to tech innovator; therefore, we cannot quantify a fixed cost.

On the other hand, we do know that any/all sales leads that we deliver to clients have to pass through 7 preliminary steps (from an initial discussion all the way to a preliminary (unqualified) meeting between our team and presumed decision makers on a presumed requirement) prior to a transition from us to a client at step 8. Our experience indicates that, typically, well in excess of a man month of time can (and usually does) elapse from contact identification to client transition.
Depending upon the complexity of a client’s product, an interval as long as a year or longer may be required to successfully nurture conversations along to sales lead status.

Accordingly, for clients who understand the importance of factoring in the above information, our services deliver very high value. In fact, our services can be used as a powerful method of saving cash that would otherwise be expended on full time staff requirements. If you care to learn more about our offers, then please contact 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

3
Apr

Lead Generation Programs Should Produce Opportunity Rich Meetings for Sales Teams

Tech innovators focused on selling products and/or services to enterprise businesses and other large groups of users in the public sector should establish metrics to gauge the value delivered from lead generation programs. We think that recording the number of meetings with decision makers at targeted prospects who are in the market for relevant products and services is a useful metric for this activity. Of course, other objectives — for example, collecting the opinions of a market segment about pressing short term, or long term needs in a specific market place — will require different results for a determination of the actual value delivered from a lead generation program. Nevertheless, if driving sales is the overall objective of an investment in a lead generation program, then counting the number of meetings that match the above noted criteria makes a lot of sense.

In fact, there is little, if any reason to pay for anything less than these types of meetings. Paying for names and contact information for leads that are at an earlier stage of maturity; for example, without any identified needs or decision makers, will require sales personnel to assume the burden of lead development. We don’t think that sales personnel have the requisite skills required to nurture leads through the maturation process; therefore, otherwise promising opportunities may, in fact, result in a dead end that could be avoided had lead generation efforts finished their job.

Our lead generation efforts, therefore, deliver substantial value to our clients. The leads they receive are contacts within prospect businesses who have been completely verified as decision makers. Further, we have completely verified that prospects are in the market, at the point in time when we deliver leads, to purchase products and/or solutions that broadly approximate our client offerings. Finally, each lead is willing to meet with our client as a potential supplier for the sought after solution.

Sales personnel are free to pursue other promising opportunities while we undertake the nurturing required to manage a lead through a maturity cycle. The revenue they can, therefore, deliver while we handle lead generation in some cases exceeds the cost of our service. In these instances our offering is, indeed, a “gift that keeps on giving.”

We share the same method of establishing that a lead fits acceptance criteria with our clients to ensure that all parties are operating on the same principles. For example, we provide daily activity reports on all leads. These activity reports include a score for each lead. With leads scored our clients can determine likely lead pipeline volume as well as the amount of time that will be required to deliver a targeted volume of leads.

If you are in the market for the type of leads that we have described, then we would certainly like to speak with you. We offer monthly and annual plans. 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

20
Mar

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

17
Nov

Do We Really Need Software to Tell Us When a Lead is an Opportunity?

I have recently had substantial hands-on experience with cloud-based sales software, specifically SalesForce.com. While I have to admit that I am still brand new to SalesForce, I can speak to an interesting feature, namely the method by which SalesForce instructs users to differentiate leads from opportunities. Actually, I need to ask “Is this Really Necessary?”

After all, if we are in the sales business (let’s face it, even if you merely own a business you are still, at some level, responsible for sales), then we ought to have burned into our psyche the qualification that needs to be in place to move a mere lead into the hallowed company of true opportunities. But evidently we have not gone through this fire, at least according to SalesForce and the MARCOM team at another product that I have recently looked at, Marketo. Rather, they plan to “spoon feed” us through the stage of calling a lead a lead and an opportunity an opportunity with automated techniques (all of which, by the way, still require our manual input) that will let us know when to “convert” the matter at hand to something that will lead to some good old fashioned gelt.

Sorry state is all I can say. Perhaps the root need that these folks are addressing is the reality that in today’s marketplace leads for enterprise business products and solutions are growing very slowly. Sales and marketing teams are, perhaps, growing just a tad impatient with the slow pace that makes a turtle crossing a path look like a Ferrari on the track. So, let’s serve them up some systems to “nurture” and “convert”, but only at just the right time.

Bottom line is that technology innovators selling to today’s enterprise prospects are embarking on the complex sale. No ifs ands or buts about it. Leads will take lots and lots of time to progress. Technology innovators will have to frame value propositions strictly around why product or solution xyz is the only method of saving tons of cash or “fugettaboutit”. To get there much work will have to be done. Many contacts at the enterprise will have to be contacted to vet the real decision-makers and the real owner of that big hole in last quarter’s results. Therefore, to fail to track contacts by “accounts” while in SalesForce’s “lead” stage is, in my book, a big mistake.

Get used to the trenches. You are going to be there for quite a while.

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