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Posts Tagged ‘teleprospecting’

B2B Marketing: 3 tips for getting past the telephone gatekeeper when nurturing leads

July 28th, 2011 2 comments

Lead nurturing is an important part of the longer B2B buying cycle. Not every lead generated is completely ready to become a customer.

Having a process in place that keeps that person in the buying cycle allows you stay visible and provides regular touch points for the nurtured lead. Most lead nurturing programs are very content-heavy and include phone calls and emails sent to the lead offering industry or company information they might find useful.

Lead nurturing by telephone is the more time-intensive effort. Phone calls also offer the opportunity to create a strong connection with the lead. It’s relatively easy to set up an automatic email send with a link to an interesting industry article, or with a white paper attached as a PDF. A phone call provides a great opportunity to discover more information about your lead’s buying cycle and what content they find most valuable.

When calling that lead, you may run into the same problem faced by any teleprospector conducting anything from cold call sales all the way to reaching out to customers — the gatekeeper.

That’s the person somewhere along the trail of that phone call takes that simply says, “No, you cannot speak with that person.”

So if you have a teleprospecting team making these nurturing calls for you, you must make sure that they have more than a great script. They must also have a successful process in place to actually get a hold of the decision maker or influencer.

Three tips to get past the gatekeeper

Facing that roadblock can be frustrating, but Brandon Stamschror, Senior Director of Operations for the Leads Group, MECLABS (the parent company of MarketingSherpa), has three tips to help you reach the person you want to speak with. As part of our Leads Group, he has plenty of experience picking up the phone and reaching out to prospects and leads. Read more…

B2B Lead Generation: 4 ways to use teleprospecting in your next pilot (and 2 ways to measure it)

July 7th, 2011 4 comments

While digital marketing and social media are all the rage (and rightly so), there are a number of reasons for B2B marketers to use teleprospecting as a foundational element of their lead generation strategy.  In fact, for those marketers who don’t own the teleprospecting function, here are nine reasons you should.

If you are trying to reach prospects who won’t spend more than $10k to $15k per year for your products or services, then using the phone for lead generation will probably not prove economically viable. You need to use lead scoring and route those leads to an inside sales team or your indirect channel.

If you have higher value deals, teleprospecting can be a valuable tool.

It is especially useful for pilots. Consider these four ways you can use teleprospecting in a pilot scenario:

  1. Conduct end-to-end lead generation. Teleprospecting can function as an end-to-end lead generation capability. That is, you can generate demand and then qualify and nurture leads all within the teleprospecting function. That means there are fewer moving parts. For those marketers that need to demonstrate the potential of lead generation, fewer moving parts simplifies measurement and coordination issues.
  2. Leverage small sample sizes. The conversion rates are usually much higher with teleprospecting than with other forms of contact so the sample size can be much smaller. This factor is especially helpful if you want to focus on large accounts where the deal sizes are often large and the number of accounts to call is low.
  3. Gain valuable market feedback rapidly. You can get on-going quantitative and qualitative market feedback. If you have digital recording technology, you can even hear exactly what customers are saying. I love statistics. But sometimes, to more deeply understand market behaviors and attitudes, you must hear how potential customers respond to your value proposition. In fact, even if you can’t conduct a statistically valid test, you can use teleprospecting to get directional indicators and then leverage more scalable media.
  4. Experiment. Because of this depth of feedback, you can experiment extensively with targeting, messaging, cadence, and integration with other channels and then make rapid course corrections.   For example, you can test leaving voice mails or not, the timing of calls and emails for both lead follow up and for lead generation, the interplay between phone and email, and much much more. This is a factor that is inexplicably under leveraged by B2B marketers.

Measure the ROI

Let me add a final word about measurement in a pilot.  From an executive standpoint, there are two ways to measure the financial benefit of teleprospecting:

1. As a tool for qualifying and nurturing leads. The issue is whether the added cost is worth it.  The simple equation would be this:

ROI = (cost of generating inquiries + cost of teleprospecting + sales costs)/revenue from the qualified leads.

That will give you an expense-to-revenue ratio that your CFO will appreciate. The reason to include sales costs is because the quality of leads can either increase or decrease sales productivity.

2. As a demand-generation channel. In this case, you are looking at teleprospecting as one of many ways to generate demand and so you’re trying to see where it works best so that you can allocate sufficient budget to it relative to other choices.  The simple equation would be this:

ROI = (cost of teleprospecting + sales cost)/revenue from the qualified leads

If you were integrating outbound teleprospecting into other forms of outbound contact (e.g., following up a direct mail package with a phone call), then you would need to include the costs of all of the integrated demand generation channels.

You may need to estimate sales costs.  One way to do that is to set up a control group that gets leads and one that does not.  You can then get sales budget numbers for each group.   

Make sure the lead volume uses as much of the sales capacity of the test group as possible.  Then you can simply measure the revenue difference between the two groups.

The good news is, it’s not uncommon for teleprospecting to yield at least 20 dollars of revenue for every dollar of investment. So the ROI is often outstanding.

Related Resources

Lead Generation: 4 critical success factors to designing a pilot

Lead Generation: How to get funding to improve your lead gen

Lead Marketing: Cost-per-lead and lead nurturing ROI

B2B Lead Generation: Why teleprospecting is a bridge between sales and marketing

  1. As a tool for qualifying and nurturing leads. The issue is whether the added cost is worth it.  The simple equation would be this:

ROI = (cost of generating inquiries + cost of teleprospecting + sales costs)/revenue from the qualified leads.

That will give you an expense-to-revenue ratio that your CFO will appreciate. The reason to include sales costs is because the quality of leads can either increase or decrease sales productivity.

B2B Marketing: Building a quality list

May 27th, 2011 3 comments

Teleprospecting, email campaigns, drip marketing, lead nurturing — all of these marketing tactics have one very important element in common. Each one begins with a list, and the quality of the data in that list has a direct influence on the success of each tactic.

Looking at the top of the funnel

“Data is so top of the funnel, yet it is so undervalued,” says Brandon Stamschror, Senior Director of Operations for the Leads Group, MECLABS (the parent company of MarketingSherpa.)

He explains that creating a quality list begins with an organizational philosophy that places a high value on data quality. This might require a philosophy shift in some companies, and it will likely require leadership support in the idea that data quality is important and that this importance might need to be proven by testing.

“A lot of times I see that marketers think they have this really robust, large database, but soon find out that because of data quality issues, they only have a small segment of their actual ideal customers that they wanted to be focusing on,” says Stamschror. “They are kind of getting lost in the quagmire of trying to manage untargeted data.”

Pay more, gain more

Stamschror says the solution may be to spend more on data to reap the benefits of higher-quality lists.

He explains you want to:

  • Be specific about the data you need to focus on
  • Don’t collect more data than you really need on your ideal buyer profile or persona

If you don’t do these two things, it can become overwhelming to manage a very large list. And if your data quality is low, you might have a list of 50,000 contacts, with only 10,000 who are relevant to your business.

Data hygiene is an ongoing process

Looking at data quality isn’t something you can do once and be satisfied that you’ve completed a task to take off the “to-do” list. Stamschror recommends data remediation projects every three to six months if there is no other data hygiene process in place.

Even though it’s not cost effective having your lead generation and prospecting staff spend time tracking down bad entries in the list, or engaging in a wholesale data update, it is beneficial to create a process where your team is regularly updating and appending account information as part of their day-to-day activity. There is little, to no, additional investment for staff to update contact fields as they discover missing, or incorrect, items. Stamschror adds if controlling data quality isn’t feasible as an internal process, you should find a data quality partner you can trust.

He explains, “It is always important to have someone who has some distinct responsibility for data quality.”

Stamschror says that as many as half of all lists he’s encountered contain duplicate information because there is no data hygiene or remediation process in place to keep the database clean.

“It really gives you a false sense of security,” he says. “You think, ‘I have all these contacts that I can run email campaigns or teleprospecting campaigns off of,’ and then you find out once you get into it that your list isn’t really as big as you thought it was, or as robust as you thought, and worse yet, you are spending a lot of time just wasting time (with the bad list).”

Less can be more

Stamschror says it is much more important to have a very clean, but smaller, prospect list, as opposed to a bloated list full of bad and/or irrelevant data. He states this is particularly important for B2B marketers who should be focused on a smaller group of highly targeted prospects.

Stamschror offers a piece of final advice, “You know the companies that you really need to be focused on. So focus on the right one.”

Related Resources

(Members library) CRM and the Marketing Database: Data hygiene, behavioral analysis and more

(Members library) Cause Marketing: Marketer builds email list with 20% conversion rate

New Chart: Most effective email list growth tactics

Email List Hygiene: Remove four kinds of bad addresses to improve deliverability

B2B Marketing: The 7 most important stages in the teleprospecting funnel

Photo credit: Donovan Govan


Marketing Strategies: Is performance-based vendor pricing the best value?

April 12th, 2011 No comments

Every advertising agency, SEO specialist, and PR firm likes to be seen as a partner, not a vendor. And that may well define your relationship. But, go down to accounting and explain that relationship, and they’ll laugh in your face.

And for good reason. While, hopefully, you do have that close knit partner relationship, at the end of the day, this is a financial arrangement and you must maximize the value of that arrangement.

On the face of it, performanced-based pricing seems like a no-brainer. You get a guaranteed result, or you don’t pay.

Is this a great country, or what?

Like many things, the devil is in the details. First of all, you have to keep in mind that the vendor knows the metrics far better than most prospective clients do. That means, in many cases, the vendor is selling the illusion of risk.  Second, and more importantly, you have to be sure the result you are paying for is the result you really want.

Let me show you what I mean. I’ll use a teleprospecting vendor as an example, and highlight the lesson you can get out of each example for the type of vendors you work with every day.

What intermediate metrics truly contribute to your success?

In B2B lead generation, a common result is defined as an appointment for sales people. The cost per appointment generally runs from about $400 to $800, depending typically on volume, your brand and the target.  If you can provide the vendor with the people your sales team absolutely, positively wants appointments with, you’re in business.

In my case, I would gladly take appointments with CMOs of B2B companies with $500 million or more in revenue. At least, that would probably be my immediate response. Of course, there might be a few CMOs in that target that oversee pure e-commerce plays, or highly commoditized, low-end products that do not require lead generation, my area of expertise (or, so I would like to think). Therefore, I might pay for some appointments that I don’t really want. So, the real cost for a qualified appointment might be a bit higher than I originally agreed to.

Then there is the hidden cost: sales productivity. The purpose of such services is to increase sales productivity. For these kinds of top executive-level appointments, the representative might very well expect to meet face-to-face with the CMO. So, you have to add to the equation the cost of the commuting time and meeting time. Loaded field sales costs for complex solutions often start at about $100 an hour and can be $500 an hour or more, for elite, high-end key account sales people.

Very quickly, a $500 appointment can become an $800 or even $1,500 appointment, especially if any serious commuting takes place. If the conversion-to-deal is high or the revenue-per-deal is high, then who cares? In many cases, however, buyers find out that 20 to 30 percent of the appointments are not a fit. Now the cost of the qualified appointment goes way up, and the soft cost of sales expense goes to the moon, not to mention the hit on sales productivity.

Unless you are absolutely certain that your sales team wants appointments with a particular set of individuals, then you really need to focus more on qualified leads, not just appointments.

LESSON LEARNED: Make sure you pick the correct intermediate metrics when paying for performance.

Are you helping  your vendors be successful?

OK, now you have learned your lesson, the hard way. You won’t do that again, right? So you negotiate a cost per lead fee structure. Before you do, you wisely work with sales to define BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline) lead criteria and structure the deal accordingly. Again, the devil is in the details. What if sales discovered, after further review, that what they really wanted was to get in to larger accounts before the prospect had finalized a budget? In those cases, maybe the deal takes longer but the win rate is higher and the deal size is higher. Happens all the time. Now you have to try to change the deal. At least for some accounts.

With leads, there is also often subjective information, open to interpretation. Is the prospect really acting with authority? Do they really have a budget? Even seasoned sales people can be mistaken about such things. In short, lead qualification is almost always nuanced, complex and evolving, as the teleprospecting operation figures out how to qualify leads precisely and the sales organization figures out what it really wants and needs. This reality often creates conflict with the vendor initially, because the fee structure negotiated is not really the right fee structure and so one side or the other loses.

Finally, if the vendor is taking all the risk, many people understandably put vendor support on the back burner. It’s human nature. In reality, teleprospecting operations fail, including those that are in-house, without proper support from marketing and sales. For example, from marketing, this operation needs lists, assets and tools, and an appropriate supply of reasonably qualified responders. From sales, the team needs training and mentoring on qualification and precise, rapid feedback on leads..

After all, the fee is fixed and the operation should run on auto-pilot. You also might not bother investing in effective demand generation that feeds the vendor or even list development, instead allowing the vendor to get by on cold-calling decaying lists.

Your program then becomes the dumping ground for new hires. The vendor might also park underperformers there before giving them their walking papers. In other words, both you and the vendor try to extract some value out of the effort. But, some of what matters isn’t getting measured, like the cost in the market place to your brand because of the quality of the calling.

LESSON LEARNED: A business relationship is a two-way street. Your vendor can’t help you be successful, if you don’t help it be successful. As Jerry Maguire said, “Help me help you!”

Is there transparency in your relationship?

So, what’s the right approach? It really depends on what you need and how clear you are about your needs. If you have a reasonably well-oiled, well-documented process and approach to teleprospecting, then asking the vendor to share in the risk and the upside can serve your mutual long-term interests.

If things are not going so well and you need to figure out the right approach, then pay-for-performance is going to create unnecessary conflict. You might be better served in that case to put your focus on determining the right model or strategy for teleprospecting and the parameters of a pilot. Insist on a level of transparency during the pilot and then use the pilot to optimize the approach. Then, after the production level has begun to plateau, start working on a shared risk model.

The right shared risk fee structures ensure that both the vendor and the client win if the program is working and lose if the program is failing. To arrive at such an arrangement, there must be clarity on both sides about mutual obligations and the consquences for non-compliance. Mutual trust and respect are also necessary, including a win-win approach to the fee structure.

To those who might argue that every dollar of profit a vendor makes is a dollar of margin that is lost to its clients, I would point to the free enterprise system. Everywhere in free markets, the quest for profits drives higher levels of efficiency (and losing money drives companies out of markets and out of business). If the vendor makes above average profits for driving above average efficiency, then its clients are the beneficiaries. And the profits that the vendor makes must always be tempered by what its competitors offer or what its clients believe they can achieve in-house.

LESSON LEARNED: A rising tide lifts all boats…as long as everyone is clear on how “tide” and “boat” are defined in the process. So, before you dive in, dip your toe in and start with a pilot that has flexibility to evolve over time. Once the proper success metrics have been discovered, and a working relationship is established, you can create a more successful payment model that truly shares risk and reward.

But don’t stop there. Look at this as an evolving fee model. Continue to optimize as you learn more about what creates a mutually successful relationship.

Related Resources

B2B Marketing: The 7 most important stages in the teleprospecting funnel

B2B Lead Generation: Why teleprospecting is a bridge between sales and marketing

B2B Marketing: The FUEL methodology outlined

Free MarketingSherpa B2B Newsletter

B2B Marketing: The 7 most important stages in the teleprospecting funnel

April 1st, 2011 6 comments

Funnel measurements have two important benefits in B2B lead generation:

1. Helping marketers forecast outcomes.  By tracking the conversion percentages, marketers can apply those conversion percentages to each new campaign and predict what the outcome will be before the campaign occurs.  Such predictions are very helpful in capacity planning and budgeting.

2. Helping marketing identify funnel leakage and optimize revenue production.  Marketers can apply both their own internal, historical baseline conversion ratios (i.e., an aggregation of conversion ratios) and industry benchmarks, like those gathered by MarketingSherpa.

Executive-level funnel metrics provide marketers with the 50,000-foot view to provide an end-to-end perspective.  But when there appears to be leakage, zooming in on a particular leak is essential.

In that context, let me share seven funnel conversions for teleprospecting.

But first, let’s agree on the scope. In B2B, there are two important functions in this  area:

  • Following up on, qualifying, educating, and nuturing marketing responses until they are sales-ready leads.
  • Prospecting into target accounts to identify and qualify existing demand and to generate demand and convert that demand into sales-ready leads.

For both of these activities, it seems the key funnel stages would be similar. But, what are they?

Before I share a point of view on this important subject, let me say that teleprospecting is very complex and the interpretation of outcomes at various stages of the funnel are more and more subjective. Plus, in one call, the teleprospecting rep may go through all the funnel stages.

Click to enlarge

1. Dial – a teleprospecting rep making an outbound dial; or a customer making an inbound call.

2. Connection – the dial converting into a connection.Those dials that do not convert into connection either have busy-outs, dials with no answers, recorded phone company messages about the number being out of service or changed. A very high percentage of dials not converting into connections means the list or lead source is problematic.

3. Conversation. – the rep reaching someone to have a conversation, however short; a prospect reaching a teleprospecting representative via an inbound call.

4. Decision-maker conversation – some of the conversations are with those who would be part of a decision and some are not, either because the teleprospecting representative is speaking merely to a receptionist or to someone otherwise not involved in the solution area.

Decision-maker/decision-influencer conversations are much more predictive of future purchase intent than non-conversations. Even when following up on marketing responses, it’s not uncommon that 20 percent of more of the leads never make it to this stage.

5. Qualified Account – Usually, the first thing a teleprospecting representative does is qualify the person. The second thing is often qualifying the account. Is the account in the target market? Those that are would get this kind of status.

At the top of the market, the funnel may end here with an attempt to set an appointment, the idea being that the sales person will take meetings with the right people in the right accounts because the buying potential is so large.

6. Acknowledged Need – The next thing a teleprospecting representative does is discover if there are buying plans, and if not, at least an acknowledged need. Those who meet the other criteria (Qualified Account, a stakeholder in the decision processs) and have an acknowledged need are the most likely to convert into a sales-ready lead.

In fact, for some larger accounts, the sales organization may decide that this level of qualification is sufficient to warrant sales follow-up. Others in this stage might warrant tele-nurturing.

 

7. Sales-Ready Lead. Sales-ready leads meet any other qualifying criteria, like a particular timeline for buying, the existence of a budget, etc.

And then, of couse, the overall sales-marketing funnel extends beyond the teleprospecting operation as sales people validate leads, convert them into opportunities, forecast them, and close them.

There are some problems with the above funnel however:

  • It doesn’t account for inbound or outbound emails sent to or from the teleprospecting representative or the clickthroughs that might happen.
  • It doesn’t factor in online chat sessions, where there might be an opportunity to identify the prospect, qualify their interest, role, and the account they work for, all before having a live conversation with them.
  • There is also nothing in here about leaving messages, per se, like a voice mail.
  • There could certainly be other stages, like a presentation stage, where the teleprospecting representative presents, however informally, (via WebEx, DimDim, etc.) some kind of elevator pitch to the prospect.
  • It’s also possible that by sending an Outlook meeting request or speaking to an admin, a teleprospect representative schedules a phone meeting.
  • Finally, there isn’t a stage for doing some kind of preliminary investigation of an account and/or a contact, like going to LinkedIn or the account website.

Obviously, these limitations speak to the complexity of B2B teleprospecting for the complex sale, and the evolution of this capability to include more and more Web-based tools for both discovery and communication.

What funnel stages do you see as most important?

Related Resources

 

B2B Lead Generation: Why teleprospecting is a bridge between sales and marketing

B2B Marketing: The FUEL methodology outlined

How and When to Use Content in the B2B Sales Process (Members library)

Free MarketingSherpa B2B Newsletter