Category Archives: Leads

Lead Generation, Nurturing, Scoring and Management

The Only Proven Way to Increase Sales

Personal Contact Increases Sales Revenue and Customer Relations

In B2B marketing, it seems that everyone is excited about social marketing and using marketing automation to deliver event triggered emails .

No one is convinced of exactly what benefits social marketing is bringing to the table and we need to find good ways to measure it. But we do know that not even its most ardent champions claim that social marketing can either increase sales revenue or improve customer retention/ relations.

Speaking as a rather jaded sales champion, I’m hard pressed to think of any objectives more important than increasing sales revenue or improving customer relations/retention and now I see from Marketing Sherpa’s Chart of the Week that email doesn’t do that very effectively either.

No Surprise. They’re two of the most difficult marketing/sales objectives. Long term, the only tactic that has ever really driven revenue is direct one-to-one personal contact. This is better known as a sales contact.

But there’s a huge problem. Direct personal contact is getting harder to make. People don’t answer the phone and rarely return calls. A face-to-face connection is even more challenging, as well as slow and very expensive. In this economy, the people that sales needs to talk to are so totally swamped, they can only respond to a call that will help them deal with the problem sitting at the top of today’s pile.

The problem is being exacerbated by the community of marketing gurus. They are actively promoting the passive distribution of information online and just as actively discouraging personal sales contact with prospects and customers. You see, with all the information available online, buyers want to take control and don’t want to engage with sales people. (At least, not until they have made up their minds and they’re looking for an order taker.)

Here’s a secret that I’ve learned from 30 years of selling – Prospects have NEVER wanted to engage with sales people! Why do you think that sales calling is so hard? because there’s a legion of people out there hoping their phone will ring and a helpful sales rep will want to talk with them?

Buyers wanting control is something that salespeople have known about for a long time, and now it feels like Marketing is out to help them have it,by keeping sales out of the picture for as long as possible.

I’ll bet that sounds unfair.

After all, didn’t the quest for high quality leads start this cycle off? Was it not the Sales Team’s complaints about poor quality leads that set this whole mess off in the first place? Personally, I believe that the biggest part of the problem is that the process of qualifying and nurturing leads has traditionally been the responsibility of the sales team and too much of that responsibility has been dumped onto marketing.

We are looking for an easy way out in a market that is only getting more difficult. But the simple truth is that no one has found a tactic as effective at driving revenue and retention as a phone conversation with the sales rep. Rather than replacing sales – how about help with the calls?

Out of the at least 50 calls to make and 50 voicemails to leave on a daily basis, if one of them gets returned I’ll count it a great day. Yes, those numbers hurt! But they are nothing more than a reflection of our reality and still those calls are the only proven tactic to increase sales revenue or customer retention.

When you can find a way to help me make those calls, and make more of those calls and leave more of those messages – I’m all ears.

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?

B2B – Back to Basics But Better

In its heyday outbound marketing even in B2B embraced a huge list of media options. In addition to email we had:

  • Direct mail – in regular letter, postcard and dimensional versions
  • Voicemail
  • Online Advertising
  • Newspaper, Business Magazine and even Outdoor Advertising
  • Telemarketing
  • Radio
  • TV

While not everyone could afford all the arrows in the outbound quiver, there was a widely used mix of options.

But, there were some big issues with B2B outbound marketing . Personally, I don’t consider that those issues were either that they were interruptive a.k.a. intrusive ( which used to be considered a good thing) or that they attempted to force the dreaded sales presence on not quite ready to buy prospects.  Rather, the issues were that Outbound was not well targeted and most of the options cost too much. Looking back, its easy to see that in many cases the issue of cost would have been easily addressed if we had done a better job targeting the messages.

But, that was the Heyday.

Right now, B2B Outbound is in a sorry state. In an effort to correct the problems of the past, and because the shiny new automation tools pushed us that way, we’ve thrown too many  eggs into one basket – email.

Let’s face it, email is (relatively speaking) cheap, fast and easy. It’s the darling child of the automation platforms and hence the darling child of social media, which in many areas is manipulated by the staff and content farms selling us inbound marketing and marketing automation software and services.

Oh yes……and it is brutally over used.

Check out this report. “The State of B2B Lead Nurturing” produced by Bizo (about to be aquired by LinkedIn) in association with Oracle Marketing Cloud. Two conclusions drawn in this report are:

1. “Email marketing is widely used, but does not reach a significant proportion of known contacts. On average, 79 percent of marketers say their email open rates don’t exceed 20 percent.”

So, in other words 79% of marketers who are actually measuring their opens know perfectly well that 80% of the people they need to message – aren’t reading their messages. Now, I ask you, “Does this sound like effective, affordable outbound?” Nope – I don’t think so either. So it’s pretty hard to disagree with the second conclusion.

“In order to help fill the sales pipeline, marketing must embrace a truly multi-channel lead nurturing strategy that goes beyond traditional email marketing strategies.”

It would seem like a good time to re-invent B2B outbound marketing and take advantage of the lessons we have learned.

Lesson # 1 – No more blasting out one size fits all messaging. Not only is it wasting your money, even worse, it’s wasting your influence. Even though many of you have databases that are in (kindly) a semi-sorry state, you can at least segment company and contact information to the extent that you can produce messaging that fits the priorities of the people you can talk to.

Lesson # 2 – Embrace a multi-media outbound lead nurturing strategy. You’re missing too many opportunities with email. For lead nurturing opt first for choices where you can target your messages.  Voicemail, live voice, text messaging, direct mail are choices that offer control, cost efficiency, speed of deployment, timeliness of messaging and a degree of automated delivery.

 

 

 

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.

Stop Throwing Leads Away

Generating quality leads is – according to some very sensible sources- the #1 priority for marketing and with priorities come expenses!  So just how much of your lead generation expense is being tossed out the window when your painfully generated leads don’t get timely follow up?

When research shows that 35-50% of the sales go to the vendor who responds first it makes sense that 61% of B2B marketers will send leads directly to sales.  But,  is your sales team following up on every lead in a timely fashion?  Sadly, probably not and one of the major contributing factors is the difficultly experienced by B2B callers when it comes to reaching leads, responders and even current customers live on the phone.

But, when it comes to:

  • qualifying new leads,
  • staying in touch with current customers  and
  • intelligently deciding which contacts stay with sales and which go to automated nurturing

 

There is no substitute for a live conversation.

  • Email might communicate some features
  • Voicemail can draw attention to your message
  • Downloads and web responses can hint at interest levels

But only a dialogue with someone in your company can INSTANTLY ask and answer the questions to identify which leads should demand your immediate attention.

If you are not talking with every person that your marketing programs are identifying as a lead, then why are you spending the money on lead generation?

There is a low cost, very simple way that Boxpilot can help your callers talk more and dial less. Click here to ask about it.

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.

Stop the Summer Sales Slump

It a sure sign that summer’s here: Sun is shining, birds are chirping, kids are playing, sales are slumping (?!?!?).

What was that? you say.  Sales slumping?  That’s right, 68% of businesses report a drop in sales over the summer months.  Now, I can buy that some of those businesses may actually be seasonal, but 68%?  Surely not.

But if you think about it, summer is full of productivity killing (but certainly fun!) distractions: vacations, beaches, backyards, patios, etc.  And, if productivity is down, sales are sure to follow.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  As a manager, I’ve been faced with this obstacle myself, and have come up with a few ways to overcome this challenge.

1) Intelligently stream responsibility:

  • Forget about a vacation “out of office” message
  • Make sure people who reach out to you in your absence are handled appropriately, whether that’s with an autoresponder or a live call— delegate a human to make this assessment.

2) Set up a predictable lead nurture program ahead of time for your active pipeline.

  • Work with your marketing department (or services like Boxpilot 🙂 ) to make sure you have a preset contact stream going out.
  • Schedule emails and/or calls with targeted messages to go out on a preset schedule.

3) Keep your cold outreach going out—your funnel will thank you.

  • Work with marketing to have daily calls and emails scheduled so that it’s like you are not gone.
  • People worry about not being there to accept response, but the fact is, response rates are low, and lower still are the number of people who are ready to buy after that first response.
  • Have cold outreach responses fed to a auto responder campaign or a live call (see #1 above).

It may seem beastly to administer, but without it, sales slump.  The best place to start is by having Sales and Marketing sit down together to lay out responsibility.  Utilizing external support from a service provider, may be the best option to solving this problem without headaches—let the 3rd party enable coverage.

Putting effort into building a great system will not only make a difference this summer, but any slump period your business typically has.

 

Your Best Voicemail Campaign

Voicemail marketing has evolved since 2001 when I first started  working with clients to help them create successful campaigns. Honestly, I miss the way it used to be when all it took was a reasonably natural sounding message, a half decent offer and a list that wasn’t total garbage. We routinely drove double digit response rates. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. Fun to sell and lots of happy, happy clients with an awesome ROI even when bumped up against a (really pointless) measurement like cost per lead.

It’s not so easy anymore. Changing markets, escalating workloads, too much automated marketing thrown against the wall of poorly discriminated targets and too many supposed lead lists from completely unqualified inbound responses. All these factors have combined to take response rates for email, direct mail, telemarketing and just about every type of lead generation campaign and caused them to basically TANK, compared to what they used to be.

But this is the new reality. Like most other marketing tools that have been around for a while, voicemail does still work, but it works differently than it used to and one of the differences is that it needs to be executed well. With a few rare exceptions, there are 5 MUST HAVE elements for a successful voicemail campaign execution. They are:

    • Natural Sounding Message – While there are a few people who naturally do this well, I’ve found for the most part that too many clients don’t give this consideration the respect it deserves and that’s almost a crime because please, be assured that the instant a busy decision maker realizes that they are listening to a recording- they’re gone. We all get those lousy canned recordings both at work and at home- do YOU listen to them? I don’t. Natural – takes work in both the scripting and the recording.
    • Kick Ass Opening – Have you ever noticed how much testing, is applied to email subject lines? Naturally, you appreciate that weak subject lines mean email messages lost in the clutter. Never Opened. Never read. Ineffective. Take this principle and start applying it to your voicemail messages. I think – in the interest of simple human courtesy you still get a “Hi – sorry I missed you”, but if you follow that up with some irrelevant blather about your company and who you are and what you do and how successful, blah, blah, blah you’ve been – you’ve just squandered a rare opportunity.  Push your punch line to the front of your message.
    • List Quality-Part 1 Cleaning the Data – The B2B marketing community has given lip service to the issue of data quality for years now, so why do we still see such crappy lists? Hmmm, let me think – probably we see crappy lists because not enough people are picking up the phone and verifying that the information is up to date, that titles are accurate, that phone numbers actually relate to where that person can be found and not just the head office number that many computerized search tools default to. I fully concede that software list services have come a very long way, and there are some good ones out there, but without verifying the information, you are investing your efforts and your money against an assumption. Of course, if all you’re doing is slamming out cheap emails, maybe you don’t care.
  • List Quality – Part 2- Stop the Carpet Bombing – Here is how I see this problem. Cheap email and marketing automation controlled by workflows that are written with the analytical discretion of a 5 year old have turned so called sophisticated marketers into carpet bombers. Reacting to declining response rates, our solution has been to reach out more frequently to expanded lists without truly considering who we should we reaching – and then reaching out to everyone with the same vanilla message. Of course, if all you’re doing is slamming out cheap emails, maybe you don’t care. (Deja vu).

Guided voicemail is not bulk email, please target responsibly!

  • Campaign Integration – One Hit Wonders are not marketing campaigns – Use your guided voicemail as one element of an integrated campaign, by which I mean support it with email follow ups, build a coherent message strategy, generate some level of voicemail messaging frequency and measure your success within the overall structure of your campaign. I still talk to too many people who talk about “Sending out a voicemail blast” and think they’ll solve all their problems. This is not where the smart money is. In this instance, the hesitancy of many to engage with sales reps really works against them. No one knows more about putting together a good campaign (in any medium) than someone with loads of experience, success and peer expertise to draw on.

So, of course there is always more, but to very quickly summarize- if you want to create a successful voicemail campaign: Create a natural sounding message, grab attention quickly, clean up your list, Select your contacts carefully and integrate voicemail with everything else you do.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Canada’s Anti-Spam Regulations -CASL- July 2014

If you are selling, doing lead or demand generation to any company or individual employee located in Canada – you need to pay attention to CASL coming into effect on July 1, 2014 because my friends, this could be very ugly.

1- Make no mistake that this legislation applies only to messages sent to consumers – It applies equally to B2B communications.

2- Unlike the US regulations that require (quite reasonably) that companies honor opt-out requests, this law ONLY permits you to send commercial emails – like lead generation, sales approaches, download and event invitations to organizations with whom you already have a relationship OR who have specifically opted IN to your messaging.

3- The legislation will not only impose very severe penalties for violators, it also opens up both companies and individuals to Private Right of Action – which- loosely interpreted means that you can be sued as well as fined.

Here is a link to a copy of the actual legislation:

CASL – The Act

While email will no longer be an option – and this act also applies to text messages sent to a phone – voicemail messages are specifically excluded from the act.