Author Archive

Marketing Management: What is your company doing to increase knowledge and effectiveness?

March 22nd, 2012

Do these facts about training for marketers surprise you?

  • Training is the most important factor in retaining marketers under 30
  • Three out of four marketers are not receiving the training and development they need for competence and success
  • Only about a third of marketers describe their department as “highly skilled and competent”

These are just three pieces of information in the brand-new 2012 MarketingSherpa Executive Guide to Marketing Personnel.


But read a little further, and things get curiouser and curiouser (to paraphrase Alice in Wonderland). You see that turnover in the marketing department is a problem, especially in large organizations:




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If turnover is a problem now, in an unsure economy, what is it going to be like when the economy starts picking up stream and marketers have more job options? It gets worse; the vast majority of companies have no career path for marketers. And it doesn’t matter if you are in a small company or a large one:

Read more…

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

July 7th, 2011

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.

Lead Generation: 4 critical success factors to designing a pilot

June 30th, 2011

In my last blog post, I talked about getting funding by framing a strategic lead generation initiative properly for the sponsoring executive. Let’s talk about the first step on the road to an improved lead generation capability –  configuration of a pilot.

While there is an infinite number of ways to develop a pilot, a well-designed pilot depends on:

  • The current gaps in your lead generation machinery
  • Perceptions of lead generation in the C-Suite,
  • The risk appetite of the company
  • And your own credibility.

These four guiding principles, however, can help you scope a pilot in a way that leads to long term-success:

1. Start where the economics are most forgiving.

There are two big economic factors to keep in mind when designing a lead generation pilot.

The first is the deal size (or annual recurring revenue or lifetime value). The smaller the deal size, the lower your lead costs must be. Getting to a low cost per sales-ready lead takes a great deal of efficiency and scale. So why target a market where you must be highly efficient to have success?

The second economic consideration is probability of purchase. Customers, for example, are typically more likely to buy something else from you than non-customers are. There may be vertical markets or other segments where your products or services have a better success rate. Responders are more likely to buy than non-resonders. The higher the probability of purchase, the higher your conversion is going to be and the lower, therefore, your average deal size can be.

Combining a high potential average order size with a high probability of purchase gives marketers the most room for mistakes and course correction.  So play it safe.

Action item: Start with the most probable segment where you can sell big ticket items so that you have lots of room to experiment and course-correct and then test and iterate your way to the margins of your market.

2. Keep it simple

Lead generation has gotten very complex. You are not going to be able to optimize everything at once. So don’t try. Instead, tackle things in stages and look for ways to narrow the scope: fewer sales people receiving leads, a single solution area and/or market segment, and so on.

Action item: Once you determine where the low-hanging fruit is, figure out how to narrow the scope of what you’re doing so that it manageable by clarifying the objective and using that objective to simplify the pilot.

3. Make the pilot long enough for course corrections

Too often, marketers do not give themselves the room to learn and improve. New teleprospecting reps, for example, need 30 to 60 days to get reasonably good at what they do, and that’s assuming you have the right playbook and training to give them.

You may need time to see what competitors are doing, analyze online traffic patterns, refine your service level agreement with Sales for the pilot, or any other of a number things. But most importantly, pilots should be experiments in optimization so give yourself long enough to:

  • a) course correct
  • b) sample properly
  • c) gather sufficient results.

And the longer the buying cycle, the longer it will take to get more definitive feedback on the outcome of the leads. And the lower the traffic, the longer the test must continue to gain sufficiency to project the results with the necessary confidence level.

If possible, make the pilot last for an entire fiscal year with the understanding that you’ll come back to management sooner if possible with a plan for scaling the initiative. That way, you won’t have to go “dark” while management decides on the speed of scaling your lead generation initiative and you’ll have plenty of room for testing and optimizing and tracking results.

Action item: Develop a conservative timeline that shows key milestones at particular stages. Make part of the deliverables of a milestone or two the new knowledge the company will have about optimized lead generation processes.

4. Base the measurement of the pilot on what you can control .

While you ultimately want to drive revenue, you can only control the quality of the leads you give to sales people…not what they do with those leads. So only promise the executive stakeholder(s) that by the end of the pilot, you will give salespeople what they ask for at least 75 percent of the time (90 percent or higher is possible).

You can and should refine your customer profile and lead definition and perhaps even the follow up and reporting processes. That’s what the pilot is for, in part. With enough experimentation, you’ll get to a definition that works for sales and that marketing can deliver consistently and scale.

Action item: Collaborate with sales on an ideal customer profile, a lead definiton, and the follow up and reporting requirements you will need in exchange.

Lead generation is a set of capabilities, processes and practices that you can always improve. So it’s a never-ending journey. And these four design principles will give you the best opportunity for that kind of long-term success.

Related Resources

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

Lead generation: Real-time, data-driven B2B marketing and sales

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

June 24th, 2011

You’d like to take your lead generation function to a new level. But how? The cost of all you want to do is far more than you suspect you can get budget for. Plus, you’ve seen others try new things that didn’t work. They lost credibility and any chance for getting funding in the future.

In this economy, that’s the last thing you need.

Let me share a blueprint that’s worked for me. I first used this blueprint ten years ago to help Denny Head, who worked at Avaya, get the funding that resulted in a billion-dollar sales lead pipeline in 20 months.

When framing your lead generation pilot for your CMO, keep these four critical success factors in mind:

1. Sell a vision.

Lead generation scales sales organizations. That’s a big deal. Sales channels are the least scalable part of the go-to-market machinery.

And yet, a recent survey I conducted with an American multinational conglomerate corporation (the name has to stay confidential for competitive reasons, found that sales reps were spending more than 40 percent of their time looking for sales opportunities (i.e., generating their own leads). Even worse, new reps spent more than half of their time just identifying opportunities.

That use of time has a material cost. It also robs sales of revenue production. If sales reps are spinning their wheels generating their own leads, they’re wasting time that could be better spent closing deals.

So, a very large expense is at stake, far bigger than the cost of funding your most ambitious lead generation plans. More importantly, the potential for increasing the revenue capacity of your sales team can pay for incremental investment many times over.

In addition to the financial benefit, a lead generation model that delivers insight and predictability about revenue production is a great benefit to the C-Suite.

Action Item: Survey your sales organization to find out how much time they spend looking for leads. They may not realize how pervasive the problem is. In the survey I mentioned above, even sales managers underestimated how much time was being lost. On average, they underestimated the amount of time their reps were devoting to lead identification by 27 percent.

Then use the information from that survey to estimate the cost of this time to the company and to reveal how much money the company is already spending on “lead generation.” Then collaborate with sales leaders to determine what kind of revenue production that additional sales capacity might represent.

2. Tie the vision to corporate objectives. Often, marketers are so focused on tactical considerations they fail to see the big financial picture.  Each year, the CEO develops a list of strategic objectives. Every smart department head should look at those objectives and position any initiative in that light.

For example, if the objective is higher profitability, then show how lead generation can take cost out of the business. If the objective is revenue growth, then show how lead generation can contribute to revenue growth.

Action item: Find out what the strategic objectives are for sales and then figure out how to tie lead generation to one or more sales, marketing, and/or corporate objectives. Focus on what truly matters to your business leaders. What are their KPIs? If you can move the needle even a little in a metric that matters, your lead generation initiative will be a success.

3. Under-promise and over-deliver.

Too often, marketers think they need to promise a miracle in order to get funding. That’s crazy. By painting a big enough picture of the end-state, you can soft-sell the pilot phase.

Collaborate with the executive stakeholder(s) about their priorities and success metrics. As best you can, moderate expectations. Remind everyone of the impact of the buying cycle on revenue production. The buying cycle will elongate the payback.

And make sure everyone understands the need to test and iterate during the pilot. In fact, I always stress the importance of continuous improvement through a repeatable process and scientific experimentation. It works in manufacturing. Why can’t it work in marketing?

Action item: Find relevant examples of counter-intuitive marketing experiments that produced big results. (Hint: Our sister company, MarketingExperiments, is a great resource).

4. Provide a roadmap.

A vision is great, but you need to have a practical plan on how to get from wherever you are today to where you’d like you’re company to be. Maybe you need to improve the marketing database. Maybe your content strategy needs re-engineering. Perhaps you need to do lead nurturing and lead scoring in a new, shiny marketing automation system.

And maybe you need to tie social media into the mix and convert more visitors into leads via paid search. And, well, the list is endless and growing all the time with cool possibilities.

There are “go-fast” scenarios and “stick-your-toe-in-the-water” scenarios. Which one is right for you depends on the risk appetite of the sponsoring executive, your personal track record, and the perceptions of lead generation in the company.

Action item: Collaborate with the sponsoring executive on a road map. Explain that there are many ways to get to lead generation Nirvana and it all depends on the tradeoff between the level of proof required and desire for speed and scale.

While there are many important considerations, I’ve found that these four factors are essential to get executive buy-in and to the long-term success of your lead generation initiative.

Related Resources

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

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

Lead generation: Real-time, data-driven B2B marketing and sales

B2B Lead Generation: Increasing leads 296% by analyzing Web traffic – Case Study

B2B Marketing: Combining sales and marketing knowledge to improve lead qualification

June 10th, 2011

Few issues create more conflict between sales and marketing than lead qualification criteria. In the MarketingSherpa 2011 B2B Benchmark Report, 72 percent of marketers listed generating higher-quality leads as their single biggest challenge, up from 69 percent the prior year. In most cases, Sales and Marketing each see lead qualification from very different perspectives, both of which have value.

In sales, management spends considerable time, including extensive one-on-one coaching, teaching sales people about lead qualification criteria, often dissecting specific sales calls, contacts, opportunities, and accounts. Good sales people soon learn that qualifying prospects takes significant skill and judgment.  Invariably, the best sales people are superb at this skill.

In contrast, the best marketers look at a sophisticated combination of techniques for delivering more qualified prospects to sales:

  • Targeting. By soliciting the right audience, fewer out-of-market prospects inquire.
  • Messaging and calls-to-action. The right message and supporting content will attract the most qualified buyers.
  • Explicit user-supplied information. Registration forms enable marketers to ask qualifying questions, questions that can evolve as the prospect moves deeper into the buying cycle.  Unfortunately, prospects are unwilling to fill-out a lot of information on a registration form so this tactic must be used with great restraint. MECLABS has one case study, for example, that shows a 189 percent increase in registration largely by decreasing the amount of information on a registration form.
  • Implicit data. Increasingly, marketers are drawing inferences about not just an area of interest, but the likely depth of interest, the role of the responder in the buying process, and similar qualifying information, all based not on what a prospect says but on what he or she does, primarily via his or her clickstream behavior but also via other media and transactional information.
  • Data Hygiene, enhancement, and consolidation. The cloud is creating very scalable and cost-effective tools for cleaning up inquiries, appending additional or better business card or firmagraphic information to each record, and consolidating duplicate accounts, contacts or areas of interest. The right processes will typically identify 14 to 21 percent of the lead pool as either duplicate or not usable (e.g., the visitor enters “Mickey Mouse” for a name).
  • Lead Scoring. Lead scoring uses any and all of the implicit, user-supplied information along with explicit and appended information to identify and prioritize records worthy of human follow up.

Leaving aside tele-qualification as a marketing function, the key difference between the approach of sales and marketing is this: marketing uses largely quantifiable techniques, primarily driven by highly scalable business rules and automation while sales uses qualitative techniques that are extremely nuanced and very subjective and invariably much more exacting for a given account.

In other words:

  • Marketing improves the probability of success across a pool of responders.
  • Sales identifies the probability of success for a particular responder.

Customers and prospects hedge, withhold information intentionally, change their minds, and/or misunderstand and even fabricate information.  Sales people use, not just the words of a customer, but a range of information, including someone’s tone, body language (in the case of on-site sales calls), the perspective of others within the account, external sources, and many other tools to evaluate the probability of purchase. While lead scoring is improving every day, it obviously has a long way to go before replicating the qualification techniques of sales people.

The truth is these two approaches are highly complementary

The more sales understands the tools and limitations marketing uses, the more insightful their suggestions can be; likewise, the more marketing understands the criteria and methods the best sales people use, the more marketers can improve their own upstream practices.

Related resources

MarketingSherpa B2B Summit 2011 – in San Francisco and Boston

B2B Marketing: Building a quality list

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

Members library – B2B How-To: 5 lead nurturing tactics to get from lead gen to sales-qualified

Free MarketingSherpa B2B Newsletter

Review: B2B Marketing Best Practices – MarketingSherpa 2011 Handbook by Lee Odden at TopRank online marketing blog

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

April 12th, 2011

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

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.

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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

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

March 24th, 2011

For complex B2B sales, there is no better capability than teleprospecting for optimizing funnel efficiency.  I suspect that is one of the reasons more and more marketing executives have taken ownership of this function from sales.

One of the reasons that teleprospecting is so important is that it is (or should be) a bridge between upstream marketing campaigns and downstream sales teams.  For marketing, the teleprospecting team cannot only convert marketing responses into sales-ready leads, but provide marketing with clarity on how to improve its demand generation efforts.

Let me provide two simple examples:

1. Fine-tuning lead scoring models

There is probably no more promising capability than lead scoring.  To evolve the rule set, marketing must take aggregate funnel data from teleprospecting and fine tune the scoring model.  For example, usually 20-50 percent of the leads will be unreachable after four or five dials and three or so personal emails from the teleprospecting representative.  By comparing a large pool of these unreachable leads with leads that do respond to follow-up of teleprospecting representatives, marketing can often find different characteristics that correlate to responsiveness and dial up the lead score accordingly.

2. Fine-tuning messaging and media strategy

If a large percentage of potential customers the teleprospecting team does reach are out of the target market, then marketing can often fine-tune its messaging and its media/search strategy to improve the percentage of responders who are actually in the target market.

If the teleprospecting team receives similar, simple feedback on the sales-ready leads, that feedback can help the teleprospecting team improve it’s practices.  For example, if there is a disproportionate percentage of sales-ready leads that do not respond to the follow up by sales, then the teleprospecting team (or some subset of the team) most likely needs additional training (or talent) in order to better qualify prospects.

What’s important is that there is a repeatable process and that the operation measures the right things.  What’s also important is that marketing views the teleprospecting capability as a mechanism for improving upstream marketing efficiency and that the teleprospecting operation views sales feedback in a similar light.

In this light, the real question isn’t whether sales or marketing owns the teleprospecting function, but that everyone sees the potential for teleprospecting to better connect marketing to sales and drive optimization of the funnel.

Related resources

Free Web clinic, March 30th — Converting Leads to Sales: How one B2B company generated $4.9 million in additional sales pipeline growth in only 8 months

B2B Marketing: The FUEL methodology outlined

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

Free MarketingSherpa B2B Newsletter

B2B Marketing: Calls-to-action and the business buying cycle

March 17th, 2011

The solution's complexity also affects the business buying cycle

One way to look at the Business Buying Cycle is to break it down into stages. There are lots of potential stages and we can talk about those stages later but let’s keep it simple for now and just use these five:

  1. Connect Stage: for generating demand by helping a prospect connect a business problem or goal with the possibility of a solution
  2. Validation Stage: for validating the worthiness of that expression of interest into a priority project
  3. Investigation Stage: for doing a deep dive on one or more solutions in order to figure out what to do
  4. Purchase Stage: for picking the right solution and negotiating the right deal and terms
  5. Operational Stage: for implementing or using the solution

Calls-to-action in the form of particular pieces of content should align with these stages. In other words, you need a hypothesis of the stages of the buying cycle and a hypothesis of the content that maps to each stage.  If someone responds to content in a stage, marketing can use the interest in that content to score the level of interest higher.

By using this approach, B2B companies can use a call-to-action that is appropriate within the overall content marketing effort and extrapolates interest in the offer based on the stage of the buying cycle, testing and iterating to a more efficient demand generation and lead nurturing strategy

In this blog post, I will focus on four of these stages.

Connect Stage

When generating demand early in the connect stage, companies should use credible (often third-party) information about the business problem solved by their particular solution.

For example, research might reveal that problems with sales forecasting drive purchase decisions for sales force automation (SFA) software. To take advantage of this information, an SFA vendor might contract with a company with an industry reputation for providing credible information on sales forecasting best practices to write a white paper on sales forecasting, perhaps based upon field research.

On the other hand, if research revealed that chief financial officers (CFOs) were the individuals feeling the pain of faulty forecasts, perhaps a paper by a brand more familiar to CFOs would be more effective. In other words, B2B companies should keep in mind the target community when developing the call-to-action offer strategy.

Validation Stage

In the Validation stage, the offers need to perform a slightly different job. In this case, the responder has expressed an interest in the problem.  Now the offers need to validate the worthiness of the solution so that it becomes a priority:

  • A case study
  • An exercise to assess the potential return on investment
  • A webinar that features a current customer with a well-known brand
  • A report by an industry analyst (e.g., the Gartner Group in the computer industry)

Response to each of these offers indicates a higher probability of purchase than the initial response to an offer about the business problem.  In other words, it’s predictive of purchase intent. Again, interest in these content offers would result in a higher lead score.

Investigation  Stage

In the Investigation stage of the buying cycle, customers are generally ready to speak to sales.  Offers in this stage can identify those customers and prospects.  For example, a prospect may want to develop a request for proposal (RFP) to send out to a short list of vendors under consideration. As such, an RFP template (biased to the solution of the vendor) might be very useful to the prospect and even highly predictive of an increased likelihood of purchase.

Likewise these calls-to-action will also indicate the customer is prepared to speak with a sales representative:

  • Implementation guides
  • Technical white papers
  • Competitive guides
  • Evaluation software
  • Total cost of ownership exercises
  • Other similar content

All of these relate to the concerns of customers and prospects entering into a deeper investigation of a particular solution.

Purchase Stage

Once the buying cycle has reached the purchase stage, the sales channels should primarily deliver call-to-action offers. Purchase stage offers include discounts on a product or a service, and sales representatives can use these types of offers to win deals and to expedite the purchase process. These offers should be left to the judgment of salespeople and their managers in order to avoid unnecessary discounts.

Across the entire Business Buying Cycle, vendors can also include generic offers such as sweepstakes or free merchandise to generate demand, and move prospects toward a decision. One thing to keep in mind, is unlike the more targeted calls-to-action, these offers are not as predictive of future purchase behavior.

Related Resources

Free Web clinic, March 30th — Converting Leads to Sales: How one B2B company generated $4.9 million in additional sales pipeline growth in only 8 months

B2B Marketing: The FUEL methodology outlined


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

B2B Marketing: Relevant content must move beyond “glitz” and tell a properly sequenced story

Content Marketing: How to get your subject matter experts on your corporate blog