Category Archives: How to Increase Sales

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

Expectations – A Painful Wake-Up in a Tough Market

Managing a potential customers expectations is only important if you want to make more than a single sale. Buyers beware. The company that promises more than you have a reasonable right to expect might not be looking at anything more than this month’s revenue.

The biggest problem with managing expectations with integrity is that it will easily and often cost you the business, when a realistic expectation is not what your prospect is willing to hear.  The painful part is that money from companies with head-in-the sand expectations goes just as far to pay the bills.

Do you have any idea just how much it hurts when a sales rep is forced to take your lofty expectations and smash them (probably along with the sale) on the jagged rocks of reality?  Do you thank them for it? Probably not. In fact, judging from past experience, you probably give your business to the other guys- the ones who told you that “Absolutely. We can do that.”  But it didn’t work out that way did it?  And now, you’ll just stay away from that type of service because it doesn’t work.

Let me illustrate:

One of our reps recently spoke with a company and here is how it went:

  • Prospect – A Director of Sales & Marketing for a small software company
  • Target – CEO, CFO, CIO/CTO – Manufacturers
  • List – 2,000 names from inbound leads collected within the last two years
  • Contact Success – Average of 3 attempts – one voicemail and two email follow ups -without a response
  • Campaign Objective – Send one voicemail + email message with a free demo offer to the list to revitalize it with budget of $10.00 per response.

To many, this looks like a reasonable expectation, but it’s not. So, what’s wrong with this picture?

1- For starters, how can you tempt a CEO, a CFO and a CIO to leap from basically no interest to responding to a demo offer with the same message? They are, after all, working with some different priorities. As a starting point you must begin with at least three different message approaches.

2- If the list of 2000 names has been collected at an even rate over the past two years, given that the average rate of decay in a B2B list is at least 2% a month. You can expect that 500 of these records are no longer valid.

3- If the combined cost to reach your list of 2000 contacts is $2/name and you (should) already know that only 1,500 are likely even there to reach, at your budgeted cost per lead of $10.00 you need to get 400 responses. Off a maximum base of 1500 names assuming total delivery  that’s a response rate of 26%.

Usually, it is considered that the fault of the numbers lies in the fact that the cost per name is two dollars when the expectation was that it should be around twenty cents, but if you were making those calls with your own sales team, what would they cost you? – Let me give you a hint – @ 50 calls a day that’s 12 weeks of work for one person.

There is a solution, which involves, stripping down the list, focusing on a single audience, building a case over repeated contacts and setting up these prospects to be contacted by a real sales rep to get that demo trial, which is, a significantly higher quality lead than a $10 click-through-to-an-article download.

The sales environment has changed and the smart money is with those who can change their expectations and approaches to match it.

 

 

 

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

The Definitive Guide to Lead Generation

I think you need to be living under a rock not to be familiar with Marketo and so I expect a great number of people will be delighted to hear that they have just released their Definitive Guide to Lead Generation.

I haven’t read the entire report yet. At a hefty 160 pages that might take a while, but I was very gratified to note a section devoted to Telephone Based Lead Generation.

Considering the number of  people who seem to be of a mind that anything ouside of inbound and social marketing is a passé , it really says something when the company who many consider to represent the gold standard in online and inbound marketing so readily acknowledges that the telephone  and specifically telesales   “..provides the human interaction needed to turn your marketing leads into opportunities and sales.”

 

Want Renewals? Step 4 – The Close

Yes! You Need to Close.

You’ve done all you can to provide the best possible customer experience.  You have a terrific customer success team and you regularly communicate with all of your customers to offer help and suggestions – without being too sales or spammy.

Throughout the year, you’ve kept your customer success and your renewal sales team talking and working together so you know who is really using all the features, who might be needing something with a bit more horsepower (or less) and you’ve shared stories with your customers about others  who’ve had success using different features or solving different problems.

At least 120 days out from your annual deadline, your renewal sales team has executed a contact plan that has intelligently added voicemail messages to your email reminders because this is no time to risk emails being ignored. A goodly portion of your renewing customers have let you know that “Yes” they plan to renew.

So don’t screw it all up now by just sending out the bills and crossing your fingers that the money will come rolling in. Some will, but not enough.  This is the time for your sales team to directly engage with your renewing customers and close the deal!  Better yet, wherever there is an opportunity, this is when your sales team truly pays for themselves by up selling and cross selling your renewing customers.

I worked with a company once who made the mistake of backing off the customers as soon as they agreed to renew.  The reps never really closed the sales and even worse, since each sales group handled a distinct product, intra departmental conflicts precluded any attempt to up sell or cross sell and each sales team jealously guarded their client rosters.  If you don’t believe I don’t blame you, because this is crazy talk.  But it’s true never-the-less.

Book appointments. Your customers deserve that much respect for their time from you. Take the opportunity for your sales team to deliberately review their business needs. Look at changes that have happened in the last year. Look at new opportunities on the horizon.  Somewhere along the line, you probably told your clients about how you didn’t just want to take their money, you wanted to be their partners.  Make good on your promise to add some value.

Even the best-managed companies are going to lose some customers every year and the bigger you grow, the harder it is to replace the customers who churn out. So, employ every possible defensive strategy and the rock solid close, the up sell and the cross sell are among the best defenses.  It only takes a small increase to make a big difference.

Yes. If you’re thinking that you can’t possibly do this for business that renews every month, you’re right.  For larger sales or multiuser licenses, think about how often you can sensibly re-engage and create the “new close” opportunity

 

 

Marketing+Sales=Better Lead Prospecting

Marketing calls it lead generation, sales calls it prospecting.  If we call it “lead prospecting” and I promise that you can do a better job,can we agree to work together?

Because I have no doubt that combining the strengths of the two teams will:

  1. Drive more leads into the revenue funnel
  2. Improve the quality of those leads
  3. Shorten the sales cycle  ……and what more could you possibly want?

So with that in mind,  here are 5 ways for sales and marketing to work together to create a telephone prospecting system.  But first, why the phone?

  • Because it’s the best way to gain account specific answers
  • Because when sales reps need leads they don’t initiate SEO, PPC or advertising campaigns. They don’t design complex autoresponders or build landing pages and webforms. That’s what marketing does. Sales reps pick up the phone. That’s where marketing can lend a few strengths and help them get better results. Everybody wins.

How Can Marketing Help Sales Increase Teleprospecting Success

Build, Update and Clean Data  — What is your ideal customer profile?  What are the MINIMUM number of accurate and updated fields you need to build into your database to direct future lead prospecting.  If exact industry, revenue or number of employees is genuinely relevant commit to having that data accurately included. Just don’t ask the sales team to update that kind of information.  It is however to everyone’s benefit if sales is empowered and required to flag missing critical data.

Record, Measure and Learn from your Metrics –When you engage in any dialogue with a company it will either move a potential sale forward, push it to the future, disqualify it, or worst of all – tell you nothing. To avoid that terrible “tell nothing ” result,  arm your sales team (via the CRM or however you work)  with an “if all else fails” list.  They might just be simple closed end qualifying questions to round out your data when a conversation goes south.  Given that even with your best efforts, it’s likely that your database will have gaps, filling them will  build a clearer picture of who your best prospects really are and how they might be changing over time.  Track the results of every call, match it to you profiles and use that information to fine tune your future targeting.

Bury the Elevator Speech! –Too many sales people use the elevator speech “Who we are and what we do”  as the basis of their messaging and it is an utter waste of a precious opportunity.  This is where marketing can offer the most valuable help – give your reps value based messaging to leave.  Create a sequence of messages, voicemails with their email follow ups that talk about your value proposition and will gradually, by virtue of repetition, build some awareness of the problems you can solve and interest in talking with your company.  The hardest part of this step is to gain the support of the sales management, because many of the reps will resist accepting alternative messages.

Never Give Up  — I know of a company that literally makes millions of calls a year to engage and qualify prospects on behalf of many different B2B vendors.  Their average number of dials to make a live connection is 22 calls.  Most sales people still give up after 3 attempts.  What sales needs are calling campaigns not individual one-off attempts.  Without the structure of a planned, consistent campaign you will never make enough calls.  Marketing plans campaigns much better than sales teams can.  This is probably the single biggest reason that many companies have moved teleprospecting totally out of the sales group, but that hasn’t happened everywhere yet.

Open the Door to Your Nurtured Lists –Some companies have structured outbound sales calling but far more have sales teams who would rather not be making these dreaded calls, but have to because they simply don’t have enough qualified (or not)  leads to follow-up with.  When your sales team is doing their own prospecting calls, be sure that they have a view of the leads that are in your lead nurturing program and a free hand to call into that list at their discretion.

Some marketing teams will resist the idea of letting sales reps call leads being nurtured on the grounds that they are pulling them along a carefully designed path and a ham handed sales rep could make a mess of all their hard work.  It’s true. It can happen, but in the spirit of two teams genuinely working together to improve their results, it needs to happen.  If you need the sales team to trust you enough to take ownership of your messaging, the trust will have to move both ways.