About Lorraine

Lorraine joined Boxpilot in July of 2001 as a Director, Client Service. Over the course of her career with Boxpilot Lorraine has been involved in sales and later on working with the sales team to help create marketing content and other support functions.

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About Lorraine

Lorraine joined Boxpilot in July of 2001 as a Director, Client Service. Over the course of her career with Boxpilot Lorraine has been involved in sales and later on working with the sales team to help create marketing content and other support functions.

Numbers Can Lie

Did you ever play “Telephone” when you were little?  Remember what happened to that whispered message passed through 10 kids and how easily “Strawberry Jam” turned into “I am a banana”? It was funny then.

Research findings, passed via content marketing and social media are a lot like “Telephone” because once a number is repeated often enough, small changes in the interpretation can create a very different story. Even worse, every time something is repeated, it takes on a greater authority – even if it’s questionable to begin with.

Here is a finding from the CEB, MLC Customer Purchase Research Survey, 2011 which is quoted extensively by subject matter experts and in other reports including “The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing” among others.

It states that:

On average, customers progress nearly 60% of the way through the purchase decision- making process before engaging a sales rep.

This finding – fine tuned in an included chart in the report to show that almost 60 is actually 57% has surfaced, over and over and over in countless discussions and B2B studies. An additional comment about the response distribution indicates an upper limit of 70% so that number shows up quite frequently as well.

  • 57% being close to 60% is frequently represented as two thirds- once it hits 2/3’s  well, that’s  “almost 70%”
  • 70% – well that’s pretty darned close to three quarters, which is almost 80%

I’ve seen all of these numbers passed on as absolute fact.  I’ve also seen it written as 2/3-3/4  of companies have made the decision before calling in the vendor. (Just a little slant on the interpretation – It’s a “Telephone” thing)

But even the original number isn’t telling the whole truth.

In a direct quote from the Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing, about how this number came to be it states:

” To understand the scope of this issue in the B2B context, CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council (MLC) surveyed more than 1,500 customer contacts (decision makers and influencers in a recent major business purchase) for 22 large B2B organizations (spanning all major NAICS categories and 10 industries)….”

1500 contacts involved in a recent major business purchase sounds pretty impressive, but 22 companies?   What that means is the “recent major business purchase” involved an average of 68 decision makers and influencers. (1500/22=68.18)  A distribution chart in the original report clarifies that yes, indeed we are talking about only 22 companies, or a total of 22 purchases.

For 22 major purchases, each involving an average of 68 decision makers and influencers (and I’ll stick my neck out here to also suggest literally millions of dollars) the customers delayed engaging with sales reps until they were 57% through the process. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the first 50% of the process was about figuring out what each of the obviously many involved departments required- not to mention whose budget would be taking the hit. It’s hardly what I would describe as a “striking finding” – more like a bit of a snore. But look at the fuss that number has caused.

So, for most the the B2B vendors out there who are wondering what to do with your apparently antiquated sales team, may I suggest – “Turn them loose.”

Think of it like this – Does 68 decision makers and millions of dollars look like a representative B2B sale?

More to the point – does it look like one of yours?

Bad execution means poor results

One thing that has always puzzled me in business is that once someone gets good at something, they probably stop doing it.

For instance, (while its not the best practice) successful sales people are often moved up to management where they don’t do any more selling.  Great buyers get promoted so they don’t have to do the buying anymore.

The higher up you move the more likely you are to plan and the less likely you are to actually “do” and while that might be just dandy for career tracking and personal development, it means that the dirty end of the stick- the work- the executions- are handled by the least experienced and sadly often least capable people.

Am I the only one who has a problem with that?

Selling a business service, we make sales calls, hold meetings and promise benefits to Directors and VP’s, but when push comes to shove the actual campaign work is most often executed by a comparatively junior person with precious little oversight.  And that’s what there needs to be more of, oversight and supervision on those seemingly insignificant, but truly deal breaking details.

Ideas are a dime a dozen guys. What separates brilliant from mediocre is all execution.

Attn B2B Sales – Pick Up The Phone!

Are are tired of reading about how a typical B2B sale is 50 -60-70% complete before the prospect engages with a sales rep?  I am.  And that’s because that “finding”  which might be true with some mature product/service categories does not apply to what I sell.

It doesn’t apply to what most of my clients sell either. But it seems that their marketing teams are too enamored with the content they’re finding online, which co-incidentally supports ever increasing expenditures on marketing automation software and just about every possible idea to find, nurture and score potential prospects without every actually talking to them. And this is insane, because –

There is NO substitute for a live conversation.None. Nadda. Zip. Zero. Zilch! (Did I make the point?)

But the whole trend towards online, email and demand driven content- which will move your potential sales along a predictable path of their own choosing, is also supported by two simple facts.

  • The first is that most people (and here I’m talking about anyone from a business owner who needs to drum up their own new customers to a seasoned sales executive) really don’t want to  make cold calls. Often they don’t even want to make warm calls either.
  • The second fact is that it’s so hard to reach people live on the phone that calling – while it might actually be the only reasonable alternative available to many companies- demands too much time, too much frustration and a level of dogged determination that’s a drain on most people.

Frankly, there’s another problem with cold calling, too and here – sigh- I speak from experience. When you make calls to countless prospects, and end up leaving voicemail after voicemail, that odd person who actually picks up their phone can stop you dead in you tracks.  You’ve repeated the same spiel so many times that your brain shuts down and you blow the call. This is not good. It kills the immediate opportunity and feeds call reluctance.

Then of course there is the issue of incomplete and/or out of date data – another huge time waster.

Then there’s following up each voicemail with an email message- which is necessary, but also the wrong kind of mental activity for a sales person who will normally be at their best when reaching outside of themselves to connect with another human being versus sending an email, updating a database or – dare I add- writing a post for the company blog 😉

But a sales conversation, a real dialogue with a potential customer can leapfrog over 6 months of marketing’ s measured lead generation or nurturing efforts. (hah- I’ll make a lot of friends with that comment!) But, that doesn’t change the fact that its true.

Voicemail messages are important. They will only rarely get a returned call, but are the best “Passive” means available to cut through all the clutter and start (repeat start) to build you case. And they’re the inevitable outcome of many of the dials that are made, so it stands to reason to make the most of the opportunity.

Email messages are important. They fill in information gaps, point people to useful information and offer an easier (more passive) means for a prospect to either tell you that they’re maybe a little interested, or ask you to get lost.

But nothing trumps a conversation. When want to make more sales- you need to have more conversations. (Do I really need to qualify here that you are having these conversations with the right people in the right kinds of companies???)

Here comes the sales message –

With this simple principle in mind, Boxpilot has put together a sales support service that utilizes our guided voicemail, synchronized email,  desk alert and database cleaning capabilities.  T understand how we can help you and/or your sales team have more live conversations with fewer dials, leave voicemail and email  messages that say the right things and clean up your data – just send a message to Sales@Boxpilot.com and we’ll get back to you.

Blow Me Away

Have I ever told you how much I love telephone prospecting?

I lied.

Yes. It’s good when I make a connection and open the door to an interesting and potentially lucrative new business opportunity and I like to talk to new people. But, let’s be honest. Not a lot of dials end that way.

But for the dials that do end with a connection, I’ve found  it’s very hard to get their attention. Although they might prove to be interested in what you have, there is a natural reflex that promotes a mindless blow-off, even from normally thoughtful people.

Lately, they sound a lot like this:

  • You’ve got the wrong person
  • I’m in a meeting
  • Thought you were my conference call
  • We’ve got that all taken care of
  • I’m too busy to talk, and of course, the perennially popular
  • I have no money for anything

What differentiates a blow off from a genuine objection is that there is no thought behind it, it just comes tripping out of their mouth. To my eternal embarrassment it’s only recently that I’ve realized that most of those people who told me they were in a meeting were lying,. Ditto the conference call dodge.  (No wonder sales people tend to be distrustful skeptics).

I’ve found five things that help to deal with the mindless blow off:

1- Always leave a preplanned voicemail when I don’t connect and follow it up with an email that offers something I hope will be of value and maybe build up a little equity with a contact before we connect.

2. Refer to previously provided information in my opening to both refresh their memory and try and cash in on the equity.

3. In the face of a blow off, address it head on. For example,” I’m in a meeting.” might be immediately met with ” When can I call you?”  It’s surprising how many too-busy-to-talk people were suddenly ready to open up the conversation with ” Well, what’s this about?”

4. Ignore the blow off and dive in.  This is not my favorite thing to do, but I include it as a possibility because I have so many people do it to me and sometimes it works.

5. Rework your opening line.  You have VERY little time to get someones attention so you have to learn to skip that deadly boring recap of your name, your title, your company, their leading clients, etc, etc.  Why not trying something different – like jumping directly into what you hope to be able to accomplish for someone even before you give them your name? (They don’t care who you are until you have something they want anyway). What are your main points? Now re-order them to get the stuff that your contact will care about upfront.

And finally, while I said there were five points, let’s just throw in number six – Most of us are resistant to change, but if what you are doing right now isn’t working, stop wasting your time (and your financial future- not to mention your mental health) throwing blame onto the market, your leads or the people you’re talking to.

Accept the responsibility  and work with what you can control.  Look at what you’re doing and find ways to improve it for a better result.

 

 

 

 

 

Marketing Automation Questions – Answered at Last

Most marketing automation research totally irritates me because it isn’t specific about what the product is or who the buyers are.  Call me picky but I’d like to see data for a small company that has signed up for an email marketing package separated in some way from the report of a mega company signing on for a full blown marketing automation platform – you know, the kind that one person cannot possibly manage in their extra time.

Because it actually puts some definitions on what its talking about I think that the Marketing Automation Software Buyer View | 2014 from Software Advice is well worth the read.

The results actually separate CRM’s from email marketing from marketing automation and in doing so finally produce some information that actually makes sense. It talks about why companies are looking at marketing automation and just how many have not really made the leap.

Almost 50% of buyers are simply running CRM software and 21% are still using manual methods like spreadsheets and one off emails.  Only 7% are running email marketing software and 9% report using marketing automation.

Reading most reports, you’d think that the entire planet has automated their marketing. Well folks, that is not the case at all.

 

 

 

Boost Your Sales Ratios

I’ve had to cold call through too many recessions not to recognize that while it might be irreplaceable, it’s terribly inefficient. I resent how it wastes my precious time and I suspect that anyone who shares at least part of the responsibility to generate their own leads knows exactly how I feel.

I’m calling into a very competitive market, to a contact list who rarely answer their phone, are swamped with “sales approach” emails and when I can get them on the phone are skittish to the point of paranoia when it comes to giving a time commitment.  What I was seeing within the recent market is that booking a sales discussion – something I used to accomplish in less than 30 dials was now taking over 60.  I was not a happy girl.  Not only were my contact ratios down, but my close numbers were slipping, too – not for lead follow up – those numbers are steady, but my ability to book appointments on cold connections was down to a half of what it used to be.

Like many other reps, I tried different approaches (but that didn’t help) and I tried to compensate by boosting my outbound volume, which accomplished nothing tangible beyond further frustrating me and eventually burning me out.  I left sales.

And then I came back with a different tactic, one that I had the luxury to test and improve because I happen to sell guided voicemail for a living and one I can share with you.

I won’t speak with a contact until I have a reason to believe they already know who I am, what areas (that hopefully line up with their problems) I am calling about and hopefully have managed to grease the wheels just a little bit with some free information.  Using a combination of voicemail with an email follow up, I use several different messaging series, which are delivered to the contacts on my list before these precious little fingers of mine ever hit the dial.

  • I was disappointed at first with the terrible open rates on my emails, but a lot of headline work has improved that.
  • I was discouraged for a while with the limited number of direct responses to my messaging. But you know that just as much as the message – timing is everything (at least in this market) . My contacts are very focussed on today’s problems, not next month’s.
  • I was thoroughly pissed off that the contact numbers were at first, no better than before – averaging 16 attempts to make a connection: however by ensuring that my database was updated after the initial rounds of messaging, grouping different job titles and an increased calling frequency away from the mid morning/afternoon main meeting blocks, there has been a significant improvement down to an average of 12 attempts. It’s not terrific, but its a lot better.
  • As the different messaging series grew in length, I became encouraged with my improved ratios on booking appointments and getting referrals.

Another aspect of this project which cannot be ignored was the benefit I gained in developing the messages in the first place, really having to think about what an interested prospect could want from me and being more mindful of their needs when I did make that first contact.  Sadly, this isn’t a one size/one service fits all world, (wouldn’t our lives be easier if it was?) so sometimes the messaging doesn’t fit with their interests. But opt outs give me a chance to wait a while and come back from a different direction.

Here’s a look at how the numbers are tracking:

Connections to Dials:

  • 2009/2010 1:10
  • 2011  1:17
  • 2013 Fall 1:15
  • 2013 Fall/Winter 1:14
  • 2014 Winter 1:12

Meetings/Referrals to Connections:

  • 2009/2010- 1:2.5
  • 2011 – 1:3.5
  • 2013 Fall – 1:3.5 ( up to 2 delivered messages)
  • 2013 Fall/Winter 1:3.0 (3-4 delivered messages)
  • 2014 Winter 1:2.75 (5-6 delivered messages)

Meetings/Referrals to Dials

  • 2009/2010 1:25
  • 2011 1:60
  • 2013 Fall 1:53 (0-2 messages)
  • 2013 Fall/Winter 1:42 (3-4 messages)
  • 2014 Winter 1:33 (5-6 messages)

This is still a work in progress, but the results are looking pretty obvious, by using advanced messaging to not only clean up my list but warm up the contacts so that they are more likely to either be willing to give up some time or on the other hand, step forward and help to narrow down the subjects that might have appeal to them I am now  accomplishing in 33 dials what was taking as many as 60 before.

This is a good thing.

 

 

 

 

Lead Generation – A 2012 Report from the Bridge Group

I love reports on B2B lead generation and particulary those from the Bridge Group who manage to look at lead generation from both the marketing side and the sales side – and that seems to be rare lately.

I’ve been away and didn’t get through all my emails yesterday, which means that usually I do a slash and burn on my inbox and only keep emails directly relating to my clients – but I’m really glad I held onto Trish Bertuzzi’s message.

Here are just a few of my favorite tidbits from:

Lead Generation Metrics and Compensation Report for B2B Technology Companies

  • In spite of what you might have heard lately – outbound marketing is still where the majority of companies are placing their focus
  • Lead Generation is more likely to report to sales than to marketing, although for the companies who place their activity focus on inbound marketing, the lead gen group is more likely reporting into marketing.
  • I was surprised to read that inbound focussed reps made fewer connection attempts than outbound reps (but they contacted you first!)

There is a lot more of interest in this report.  You can check it out here

Website Leads and Your Inside Sales Team

How quickly do your inside sales team follow up on web leads?  I’ll bet that the answer is “Not fast enough”.  According to the B2B Buyer Behavior Report, from Software Advice your chance of qualifying a lead is 29% better if you call within 5 seconds rather than lounging around for 5 minutes before making the call.

Check out some of the other interesting findings in this research:

Sales Prospecting and Quality Leads

If there was ever a good reason for marketing and sales to drop the walls and find new and better ways to work together, the priority the market has placed on generating high quality leads would be it.

In some companies it’s possible that sales is completely out the lead generation (better known in sales circles as “prospecting”) game.  But I speculate that organizations with a marketing organization that enjoys the budget and the staffing to be able to keep sales supplied with a stream of high quality leads are few and far between.  And that means that in thousands of companies, sales reps are still hitting the phones and there is one very good thing about that. In spite of the difficulties that they face, when an experienced sales rep does manage to develop a lead for their use, chances are it’s a good one.

What is this statement based on?

A few things actually, all of which revolve around how most sales reps prospect for their own leads

  • Sales reps tend to work from more targeted lists.  They will spend more time calling into those markets that reflect their current customer base – accounts where there is already a better chance of finding a fit. Cherry picking can have its advantages
  • Sales reps call to the titles who they have found in the past are actually involved in the different aspects of the business decision.
  • Sales reps use a one-on-one more personal outreach than the one-to-many approach that marketing teams are required to follow.  As difficult as it might be to register a message these days, are you likely going to pay more attention to an individual calling you or just another mass message from a faceless corporate entity? (Granted, every message has to be a good one)
  • Messages that sales reps leave are more tailored to the companies and the titles that they are reaching out to than many mass marketing messages will ever be.
  • Sales reps tend to reach out in different ways. Email, phone and regular mail feature prominently instead of just more and more low-cost online messaging
  • Sales leads are finally developed though a live dialogue, with some qualification questions and an indication of interest..

So, when you add up all the factors that are contributing to the sales prospecting process, its pretty easy to understand why and to accept, that when a sales rep develops a lead through their own prospecting efforts, it will almost inevitably be a better quality lead than will come from most mass efforts.

The problem of course, is the time and effort it takes for sales people to get those leads and their failure to consistently keep feeding their own sales funnel….which is why the sales/marketing relationship needs some co-operative effort.

….more to come

 

 

Go Away – I’ve Never Heard of You

Cold call – definition for this post  -“I’ve never heard of you or your company.  I have no idea what you do, why I should value it or why I should listen to you now or talk to you later” Now, that’s cold.

I’ve made thousands of calls just like that and they used to work, but not anymore.  Yes, it’s easy to point out that the disgustingly low connection rates are the issue, but they are not the only one.  I was talking with a friend who is in marketing and he confided that his outbound teleprospecting group engaged the services of a company that boosted their live connection rate…….and it didn’t make any difference in their final results. Yup, they got them live on the phone, but no it didn’t change the sales results.

Within sales teams, that kind of talk is almost heresy.  It means that what we have always done isn’t good enough anymore.  It means we’re not good enough anymore. An unsuccessful engagement means we did something wrong.  Usually it means we we’re not prepared or focussed on what we’re doing.

I say its time to put down the whip  that we’ve been beating ourselves with.  Knowing something about your contact before you engage them live isn’t good enough anymore.  They need to know something about you. And specifically what they need to know is why they should talk to you.

I have voicemail campaigns delivered for me.  It’s a service I can assure you I never take for granted because I have personally seen the difference between a true cold encounter and a live connection with a contact that my voicemails and email messages have warmed up.  Translated into booked appointments I’m 3-4 times more likely to get a meeting if I’ve warmed the contact up before I call.  Sometimes, they even respond to my warm up messages. Sometimes that response is “not interested”,  but that’s ok. It’s information. It’s an acknowledgement and at least I didn’t waste my own time dialing them 20 times to hear it.

I still believe in calling and outbound marketing.  I truly enjoy the opportunity to talk with someone new about their business and how we might be able to help them, but I won’t make another icy-cold dial ever again.