Category Archives: Sales

Increase new and repeat sales. Cold calling, follow ups and the benefits of regular sales contacts

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 You can expect that 500 of these records are no longer valid.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

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:

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.”

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Want Renewals? Step 3- The Decision: Ask Early and Often

Is putting added emphasis on pushing customers early and often for a decision to renew is worth the effort? According to a 2011 report from Morgan Stanley, on average, for the technology sector, 30-40% of the revenue and about 50% of the profits are driven by recurring revenue. For those exclusively focused on web-based software or services, the numbers are obviously going to be higher.

There are a few other factors to consider, the specifics of which will vary by industry:

  • Many companies that depend on recurring revenue models do so knowing that it takes roughly the first year of revenue to pay back the acquisition cost. Renewals are the only road they have to profitability.
  • Confirming the renewals is actually a two step sales process; getting the decision and then confirming the close.
  • Over 45% of customers who did not renew their contracts, claim they were not contacted to ask for the renewal*
  • By one month, the renewal rate for contracts that have expired will be about half of what it could have been if followed up earlier.

So, is a concerted effort to get a yes/no renewal decision from your customers worth the effort? Yes. Clearly it is.

Use a multi channel approach to gain the decision. Realistically, almost everyone will use email as their first line of contact. It’s fast, easy, cheap and should do a decent job to gain the easiest decisions. Everyone already knows that much, but that 45% number, who claim they were never contacted flies in the face of emails adequacy as a sole source of contact. It’s much too easy to ignore and this decision is too important to the financial future of the vendor to be ignored.

The second line of contact is to call. This is the quickest, surest way to cut through the clutter of the email environment and guarantee that your customers know you are looking for a renewal decision. Start your calling 120 days ahead of the renewal date.

In the early stages, if you haven’t used the phone already to support your customer service outreach or customer nurturing programs you’ll probably find that the contacts you thought you were communicating with aren’t there anymore. So you’ll need to find the new influencers. You are going to hit voicemail, so plan a series of intelligent and compelling messages and use them along with your continuing emails to get a yes/no decision. If you’ve put a good sales process in place, those specific responses will prep your sales team for their closing calls.

*ServiceSource Recurring Revenue Index by Wavelength Analytics, July 2013