Anything related to sales tips, strategies, best practices and more will go here.

Lead Follow Up

Lead Follow UpDoes your organization struggle with lead follow up? Does your sales team have a less than stellar process responding to marketing generated leads? If you’ve answered yes to either of these questions help is on the way. Follow 3 rules to lead follow up to help your company produce a higher number of well qualified leads.

The 3 rules to lead follow up are speed, process, and persistence. Let’s analyze these rules to better understand how they support and improve the lead management process.

Speed – Follow up quickly with leads

A recent study done by Leads360 sampled 25 million data points to find conversion rates (people converted from inquiry to qualified lead) increased dramatically with faster response times against initial inquiries. Below is a short list of data points from the sampled leads:

• When called within 1 minute of inquiry, conversion rates are 391% higher

• When called within 2 minutes of inquiry, conversion rates are 120% higher

• When called within 3 minutes of inquiry, conversion rates are 98% higher

• When called within 30 minutes of inquiry, conversion rates are 62% higher

• When called within 60 minutes of inquiry, conversion rates are 36% higher

As evidenced by the data, the lead follow up advantage is less significant after the first 2 minutes have passed and greatly decreases after the first hour. It’s undeniable that fast response time drives loyalty. Businesses create strong psychological and social bonds with rapid lead follow up. If the prospect sees sales ultra-attentive to their inquiry and pre-sales interaction with your company it gives them a feel for how they’d be treated once they are a customer. Additionally, fast lead follow up blocks out competing offers as your prospect invests time into a relationship with you, who is the fastest responder.

Process – Lead follow up is not a one-and-done thing

Companies must not think once initial follow up occurs the lead follow up process is complete. In fact, it’s just started. Unfortunately, most sales and marketing teams heavily invest in the first 3-5% of inquiries that have short-term potential. However, sales people who are not aggressive and tenacious may lose interest in continued contact and neglect lead follow up with these 3-5% of inquiries. Then you have the other 95% of leads that don’t have short-term potential, which businesses commonly ignore. Sadly, 70% of those leads will buy from someone. If companies neglect follow up it results in lots of opportunity left on the table.

The first thing sales, and marketers, need to do is stop thinking a sale will happen in the first call. B2B buyers do not buy on a whim. A relationship must be built. Lead nurturing technology will automatically send personalized and intelligent communications to your prospects to develop your lead until they’re ready to speak with sales. Put the inquiries not yet ready for sales into a lead nurturing campaign. See our post on Lead Nurturing Programs to get an active of 5 different lead nurturing tracks you can drop your leads into.

Forrester Research reported companies that implemented an effective lead nurturing process have a 300% (3x) higher closing rate than their competitors who fail to make a long-term investment with their prospects. – Forrester Research

Concentrate on how buyers buy before you can master how to sell. Buyer’s usually want educational content in smaller, bite-sized chunks, over a period of time.

Persistence – Make a concerted effort to reach your leads

In a similar survey, 15 million sales leads were analyzed. Results showed persistence increased the probability of contacting a lead. The same study revealed a disappointing 50% of leads are never called a second time. When making two calls versus one it increases the chance of contacting a lead by 87%. The report also found six contact attempts resulted in the maximum possible contact rate; however, nearly 60% of sales people made less than sixth contact attempts.

Lead Follow Up Contact AttemptsTiming contact attempts will also increase conversion rates. New inquiries should receive a response within 5 minutes and include a 6-call lead follow up process to produce the maximum conversion rate and minimize workload. Here’s the suggested contact attempt schedule to maximize lead follow up ROI:

• Day 1: call 3 times. The premise is new inquiries should be called immediately and in two subsequent time windows during the first day until contact is made.

• If contact has not been made, call on day 3, 4, and day 11 or 12 to maximize contact and conversion rates.

• Day 3, call once.

• Day 4, call again.

• Day 11 or 12, make 2 more call attempts.

Lead Follow Up Frequency

Realizing the effort to track and schedule lead follow up, businesses can use marketing automation software to automate scheduling of tasks. For example, revenue generation software from Lead Liaison can schedule call follow up tasks and reminders at once. At Lead Liaison we use 6 sales pipeline stages to map the flow of a person through the revenue cycle. Once a lead becomes a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) by achieving a particular lead score the lead is handed off to sales. Our system automatically assigns a lead to the sales lead owner and schedules the reminder process in a CRM, such as Salesforce.com.

Keeping the 3 rules of lead follow up in mind and leveraging revenue generation software to help deliver lead nurturing and schedule sales lead follow up will help businesses become more efficient in lead management and generate more revenue from marketing dollars. Contact Lead Liaison to better understand how we can help your business with lead follow up.

We welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions. What lead follow up tactics have helped you?

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Sales Pipeline Stages

Sales Pipeline StagesMarketers spend a lot of time on inbound marketing activities to drive traffic to their site; investing in SEO, thought leadership, trade shows, blogs, social media, and advertising are a few examples of inbound marketing. As awareness builds and new contacts enter the sales funnel it is important businesses define the right sales pipeline stages to manage, nurture, and distribute leads. Sales pipeline stages tend to vary across companies; however, we’ve established 6 sales pipeline stages appropriate for most businesses. Here at Lead Liaison, we use these exact stages to manage our business. Let’s explore how we’ve defined the 6 stages in the sales pipeline.

The 6 sales pipeline stages are

1. Just a Name

2. Engaged

3. Prospect

4. Marketing Qualified Lead

5. Sales Qualified Lead

6. Opportunity

Diagram of Sales Pipeline StagesPrior to adding a lead to your sales pipeline we suggest tracking the lead source. Marketing automation technology can help you identify whether the lead source is from a paid search, SEO, trade show, facebook, general website visit or other source. Lead tracking will help you report on marketing ROI down the road. Let’s briefly explain each of the sales pipeline stages.

Just a Name

As the name implies, these records are just a name. If you have the person’s name or email and no other insight they are simply a record, or a person, in your database. Often times marketing and sales have conflicting definitions of a lead. Separating these people from your marketing defined leads and sales defined leads helps avoid confusion over what is a lead and what is not a lead.

Engaged

When a person finally responds to an inbound marketing program they are moved to the sales pipeline stage, Engaged. For example, the person could click a link in an email campaign or fill out a web form to become engaged. Please note that just because someone is in the engaged status does not mean they are a lead as there’s a good chance they’re not yet ready to speak with sales. We suggest using marketing automation technology to automatically respond to the person with a personalized message a few hours after they respond.

Prospect

If the person meets the ideal profile of a buyer they become a prospect. Ideal profiles could be determined by demographics (location, job title) or firmographics (industry, company size, revenue). Again, we suggest using a marketing automation system to help qualify if someone should become a prospect. Lead scoring, a feature of most marketing automation systems, provides a mechanism to automatically qualify leads using an incremental scoring system. For example, add 10 points if their companies revenue is more than $50M and/or add 20 points if they are a Vice President. Conversely, scores can be decremented. For example, subtract 50 points if the person is a student.

Once the person becomes a prospect start lead nurturing. Lead nurturing is the process of creating meaningful dialogue with the prospect at each stage of the buying process. See the post under lead nurturing programs for 5 examples of this dialogue. The beauty of lead nurturing is that different lead nurturing “tracks” can kick in according to the prospects online activity and/or interaction with other marketing assets.

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

We suggest using the score generated from your lead scoring programs to determine if a prospect makes it to the sales pipeline stage as a marketing qualified lead. Sales pipeline stages leading up to this point do not require human interaction; interaction has been personalized using lead nurturing technology. In our lead management model, we use a scoring threshold of 65 or higher. When the prospects lead score crosses that threshold we change the lead status to a marketing qualified lead.

At this stage in the sales pipeline, marketing will pass the lead over to sales. In some businesses marketing may have a sales development team or inside sales team manually qualify the lead further via a phone call or some other type of screening. At Lead Liaison, we do not change the status of the lead until sales accepts the lead and determines it’s qualified. A lead may also be put into the “Disqualified” status if there’s no match whatsoever.

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

Once sales accepts a lead and deems it qualified the lead becomes a sales qualified lead. Leads at this stage typically require high-touch, personalized interaction. Sales will call the lead to further qualify them. At this point, sales can move the lead to one of three statuses: Deferred, Recycled, or Opportunity. If the lead is not quite ready to buy sales should recycle the lead. Recycling puts the lead back into a lead nurturing program managed by marketing until the lead is sales-ready. Alternatively, sales can move the lead to a Deferred status if no additional lead nurturing is warranted and there doesn’t appear to be an opportunity. If marketing, and the marketing automation system, has done its job the lead should be moved to the Opportunity status. When the lead becomes an opportunity it will have its own opportunity sales cycle.

This is the most important stage of all sales pipeline stages since quick response to hot leads must occur. We strongly recommend using an alert system to make sure marketing and the rest of the organization holds sales accountable for follow up. A marketing automation system will help you setup a closed-loop accountability process similar to the one below:

1. Send an alert via email to the responsible sales person.

2. If within 24 hours the lead status has not been changed send an alert reminder to the sales person.

3. If another 24 hours pass, send another alert reminder to sales and copy the sales person’s manager.

4. If another 24 hours pass, send the same alert to sales and the sales persons manager but this time copy a C-level executive.

This closed-loop process ensures no lead falls through the cracks while holding sales accountable for follow up and providing marketing peace of mind as the person seamlessly transitions from marketing responsibility to sales responsibility.

Opportunity

The Opportunity status is important for marketing to measure cost per conversion, cost per lead, and effectiveness of various lead sources. Today’s marketer is being measured on results, not activity (email opens, web visits). ROI analysis on a person’s path through the sales pipeline stages from Just a Name through to Opportunity then Customer is vital to keep a pulse on revenue generation.

Graveyard and Contact

At any of the sales pipeline stages a person can be moved to the Graveyard or Contact status. Graveyard status is a person record with a bad email or incorrect contact information. Usually, this occurs if the person has changed jobs. Contact status is when a person is converted out of the sales pipeline stages into a contact management database and is not a lead. This typically occurs when the person is a partner, reseller, or just a contact in your system that you never plan to sell to.

Contact Lead Liaison to see how our revenue generation software can help you setup your lead management process to distribute, qualify, and nurture leads through your sales pipeline stages.

We welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions. What sales pipeline stages to you employ? How do you manage your stages?

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Sales Tips – Part 2

Sales TipsWhether we admit it or not, everyone can learn something new especially when it comes to sales. We sat down with our team to draw from 100+ people years of sales experience. Through the years we’ve all collected some useful tips, tricks and best practices from sales experts. We culminated these ideas into a list of sales tips for business to business (B2B) sales. This is the second installment of our Sales Tips series. To view the first installment (Sales Tips #1 – #5), click here.

Sales Tip #6 – Determine the outcome before the start

Before you start a meeting take a few minutes to write down on a piece of paper what your goal is for the meeting. In other words, what do you want the customer/prospect to do at the end of the meeting. Buy something, evaluation something, take a certain action? If you define your goal up front you’ll see how it changes your way of thinking. It will keep you focused on what matters and prevent the meeting from getting derailed. I realize you might think this “molds” a meeting too much but give it a try.

Sales Tip #7 – Use testimonials

“The proof is in the pudding” goes a long way with prospects/customers. Start your meetings with real use cases or testimonials from your customers. Enlist help from your marketing department to record a video from one of your customers. Have your customer talk about their problem and why your company provided the solution. Assuming the video is <=3 minutes or so, embed the video into your presentation and use it during your meeting. Alternatively, take snippets of a quote or take an entire quote and paste that into your presentation. The point being, testimonials are great and your prospects/customers will benefit from hearing an “unbiased” opinion.

Sales Tip #8 – Always be closin’ (ABC)

Borrowing this quote from Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) is more than appropriate for Sales Tip #8. Many sales reps aren’t focused on closing a deal. They concentrate on making a customer satisfied and nurturing them. That’s not a bad thing at all, but if that’s all you do you’ll find yourself updating your LinkedIn profile very quickly. Always closing is also a spirit, a frame of mind, to make sure you’re focused on the light at the end of the tunnel. Without a proper lead nurturing and lead scoring solution it’s easy to understand how sales reps can lose focus though. Work with marketing to implement revenue generation / marketing automation technology so sales can stay focused on closing opportunities that are ripe for sales. After all, the title is “sales”, right? Then get out there and sell!

Sales Tip #9 – Allocate time to lead generation

An old high school tennis coach said to me one day, “input equals output”. He was suggesting the more I practiced (input) the better I would get (output). The same concept apply to sales. If you’re not filling the funnel with new opportunities you’re not closing many sales. Although it’s not a preferred task for most sales people, cold calling still has its place. See our article on 101 Business to Business Lead Generation Ideas and Tips to stimulate ideas for lead generation programs.

Proceed with caution though. New opportunities don’t always have to enter into your funnel from the top, they may already be there. Get your marketing department to use lead nurturing technology to implement automatic drip campaigns on “inactive” contacts in your database with the intent to bring them back to life and cultivate interest.

Sales Tip #10 – Use social networks for “warm calling”

Social networks are a fabric of the internet in this day and age. Twitter, LinkedIn, facebook and more contain vital information to support your sales prospecting efforts. Take LinkedIn for example. By searching for a specific role at a certain company you’ll be able to find the names of individuals you’re looking to target. Moreover, you’ll see their profile, interests, and current/past job positions to help prepare for your call. Your prospect/customer will appreciate you’ve done your homework and your discussions will become more personal. Certain revenue generation software solutions integrate social profiling.

We welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions. What are your sales tips?

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B2B Buying Process

B2B BuyingKnowing where your prospects are in the B2B buying process helps improve communication with your prospects and increases the chance of turning prospects into customers. First, companies must define what buying stages are specific to their business. Only then can companies use strategies to identify where a prospect is in the buying process. In this article, we’ll explore how to define the B2B buying process, strategies to identify where your buyers are in the process, and discuss the benefits of having this information.

Defining your customer’s buying process

Every B2B buying process is different; however, they commonly share three stages:

1. Awareness
2. Discovery
3. Validation

The B2B buying process generally mirrors the AIDA (Awareness Interest Desire Action) stages of the consumer buying process. However, businesses buy in a different way than consumers. Businesses typically make decisions with multiple people, or committees, and have a higher level of accountability, which makes the process more complex. We discuss the evolution of B2B buyers further in another article. Ron Brauner of Integrated Marketing Strategies defines eight buying stages a prospect will typically progress through. The eight stages are listed in the diagram below. We highlighted three stages common to most B2B companies in red:

B2B Buying Process

Sit down with members of your sales, marketing, and executive team to come up with the stages your B2B buyers go through. Start with the three common stages at a minimum and extrapolate from there if necessary.

Strategies to identify where your buyers are in the B2B buying process

There are three ways to effectively identify where your buyers are in the buying process. Leveraging the use of technology will help with all three approaches.

Identifying the B2B buying process stage:

1. Deduce the prospects behavior during their website visit(s). Did they attend a webinar? Were they looking at pricing or product pages? Did they search for your company using certain keywords?

2. Directly ask what stage the buyer is in on a landing page.

3. Make various unique offers commensurate with the stages of your B2B buying process such as webinars, phone consultations, and self-assessment checklists and gauge your prospects response.

Lead Liaison’s revenue generation software provides lead tracking, landing page creation, lead scoring, and lead nurturing technology to help B2B marketers execute the aforementioned strategies. Lead tracking logs website visitor’s actions as they visit your site picking up search terms, pages viewed, landing pages/web forms, and responses to offers. Landing page technology builds dynamic landing pages using a visual, drag and drop editor to create landing pages in minutes. Lead scoring automatically qualifies leads to identify when to hand the lead off to sales. Finally, lead nurturing automates the process of sending relevant content (usually via email) based on a prospects interest and/or stage in the buying process, triggered from their activity or demographics.

Benefits of identifying the buying process

By identifying the buying process you can send relevant content that your prospects are interested in. Lead nurturing, a feature of marketing automation, delivers this capability. For example, if your prospect is looking at a webpage discussing your market or problems you solve then the prospect is most likely in the “Awareness” stage. At this point, marketers may want to send educational material, such as ROI statements or testimonials, to raise awareness. Alternatively, if your prospect is looking at a specific product webpage or pricing webpage they’re probably in the “Discovery” phase. At this point, you may want to send product-specific content using your lead nurturing system to further educate your prospect. Much like a fisherman catches fish, a marketer can “bait the hook” to develop prospects using material they are likely to care about. Sending relevant content to your prospects will help your company better communicate with your prospects needs, build the relationship between prospect and vendor, and get the prospect to revenue faster.

Also, by demonstrating an understanding of the B2B buying process marketers can better measure marketing effectiveness. The lead funnel can be understood and shared with other members of the team. Additionally, gaps in the revenue cycle as the lead moves from marketing to sales can be identified. Pinpointing gaps allows marketers to better understand why prospects are not moving forward in the buying process. With this information, marketers can refocus their marketing strategies to rectify gaps in the funnel.

We welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions. What do you do to identify the stage your prospective buyers are in?

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Track your Website

Track your WebsiteDid you know you can track your website to better understand results of your sales and marketing efforts and uncover new opportunities? This article discusses why you should track your website using lead tracking technology. Additionally, we’ll compare tracking technology to perceived alternatives, such as Google Analytics.

Why track your website?

Many B2B companies track their website for two reasons; to measure return on sales and marketing investments and to generate new leads. Marketing and sales teams invest a lot of time and effort into evangelizing their companies’ solutions. For example, marketing sends out email campaigns, publishes posts on social media, creates valuable content, landing pages, a website, and web forms. On the other hand, sales is calling new prospects, following up with interested prospects, and holding meetings with new leads. How do we know sales and marketing’s efforts are not wasted? What insight do we have to measure the effectiveness of these efforts after a campaign is finished? Industry experts estimate 96% of all website visitors go unnoticed. By not implementing lead tracking, there’s a good chance the results of your investment will fall into a black hole.

If you track your website, you’ll realize the fruits of your labor. Let’s examine return for a marketer sending out an email campaign. Most email campaigns include a call to action that directs the email recipient to visit your website. Marketers do this by embedding links to their website in an email message. Once a link is clicked, lead tracking technology identifies the individual, company, revenue, company description, pages viewed, search terms used, source of the lead and more in real-time. When marketing pulls a report of all website visits generated from specific email campaigns they can determine the effectiveness of the program and decide which programs to invest in or pull out of.

Sales will also benefit in a few ways if you track your website. Let’s say a sales person spends 1.5 hours on the phone with a new marketing qualified prospect. If a sales person is able to see if a prospect visited his/her company’s website the sales person is able to get a better feeling for the prospects interest level. By tracking each page viewed by the visitor a “digital footprint” is created. Did the prospect do more research on a specific solution? Did they check out pricing? Are they looking at another solution? If you track your website you’ll have this information.

Lead Liaison vs. analytics packages

Some businesses feel they already have a way to track their website with analytics packages such as Google Analytics. Analytics packages do allow tracking; however, they are very different from Lead Liaison’s lead tracking technology. For example, Google Analytics is cumbersome to manage and complex to navigate. The goal for Google Analytics is to get you to spend more money on search word advertising, not to help you generate leads from your existing assets (website, marketing collateral, web forms). If you track your website using Lead Liaison’s lead tracking you’ll obtain the following advantages over analytics tools similar to Google Analytics:

Comparing lead tracking to web analytics. Lead tracking provides…

1. More leads. Lead Liaison includes a workflow process around your website leads by allowing marketers to nurture leads after their visit. Analytics packages provide pure static reporting.

2. More lead intelligence. Lead Liaison includes business intelligence information such as company name, description, revenue, news, competitors and more. Analytics packages typically provide only an IP address for your website visitor.

3. More qualified leads. Lead Liaison automatically qualifies your website visitors using lead scoring. Analytics packages do not provide this.

4. Better clarity on your revenue cycle. Lead Liaison provides analytics to help marketers’ measure results of their campaigns deep into the sales pipeline. Analytics packages provide analytics to help marketers optimize their website for paid advertising by reporting metrics such as visitor volume, top pages viewed, and top performing keywords.

5. Better measure of return on marketing assets. Markers need to know how their landing pages, web forms, and email campaigns perform. Lead Liaison provides A/B testing and ROI analytics on marketing assets to determine where to invest and where not to invest. Analytics packages provide investment insight on keywords.

If you would like to track your website and generate more leads, higher quality leads, more lead intelligence and better clarity on your revenue cycle contact Lead Liaison here for more information.

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Increase Sales Productivity

Increase Sales ProductivityWould you be surprised if you knew your sales people were only selling 11.5% of the time? CSO Insights, who surveyed over 1,800 companies, found this to be true. As a best practice, business should increase sales productivity by focusing sales on selling instead of spending their time traveling, training, researching, prospecting, servicing customers, and handling administrative tasks. This article quantifies the impact of an unproductive sales force and provides suggestions on how you can increase sales productivity.

Sales Productivity

Quantifying the impact of inefficient sales

Let’s say you were a vendor with twelve sales people. Let’s assume the average, fully burdened (benefits, vacation, training, salary, bonuses, stock, etc.), cost of a sales person is $100,000. The total cost of your sales force would be $1.2M. If 11.5% of their time is spent selling, that’s only $138,000 of the sales budget spent on selling and $1,062,000 spent not selling. You’ll never get to 100%; however, what if sales could focus more on selling and less on doing other things to increase sales productivity by a minimum of 8.5%? With 2,080 working hours in a year, 8.5% of that is 177 hours. With a sales force of twelve people that’s another 2,124 hours (177 hours x 12 people) that could be spent selling. That’s a full year! Would you be interested in bringing on a new sales person, at no charge, who will sell 100% of his/her time? You can by improving productivity of your existing sales force.

How you can increase sales productivity by 8.5% or more

Revenue generation software as well as other handy tips will help you increase sales productivity. Here are our suggestions:

1. Prospect more efficiently. It’s usually not a best practice for sales, especially outside sales, to invest time in prospecting. However, it’s an essential part of any lead generation strategy. Use a solution that provides a database of millions of professional contacts and companies to find targeted prospects in a single-click and spare the expense of digging through contacts not knowing who to call. If possible, refrain from buying lists and identify your target individuals. Who are your influencers, technical buyers, economic buyers, and users and what are their roles?

2. Pre-package presentations optimized around the context of a sales meeting. Sales people spend a lot of time customizing presentations to fit their meetings. Build presentations for specific industries, solutions, or audience levels (engineering, executive, etc.). Lowering preparation-oriented tasks will increase sales productivity.

3. Stream real-time web visit alerts to sales. Lead tracking technology exists to identify and surface, in real time, known and unknown leads. We posted a previous article on tracking website visitors that explains this concept further. Not only is this a new source of leads, it tells sales who is interested and when. If a prospect opens an email and clicks a link to your website sales can be notified in real time. This intelligence tells sales a prospect is online and engaged. If a sales person’s outbound call capacity is 30 calls per day and an email campaign to 1,000 prospects shows when 30 of those prospects are interested and thinking about your solution at that very moment, it makes sales highly efficient and they’ll chalk up a productive day. The ancillary benefit is a happy sales person. With less voicemails, calls, and brush offs sales will feel like they’re making an impact.

4. Have sales focus on qualified leads only. Sales analysts report 80% of marketers send unqualified leads on to sales. How can this increase sales productivity? Use lead qualification technology, also known as lead scoring, to automatically send qualified leads to sales. By splitting up a sales pipeline to form a revenue cycle shared by marketing and sales you’ll increase sales productivity. First, start by creating a service level agreement between sales and marketing. Define the ideal customer profile, what makes a qualified lead, and establish a lead scoring program. Make sure to include activity levels (online behavior) and recency of interaction/response of your leads as part of your scoring program.

5. Consider hiring a lead qualification specialist, sometimes referred to by companies as a demand generation team. A lead qualification specialist is an intermediate resource, or liaison, between marketing qualified leads and sales. The concept is that the lead qualification specialist intercepts a marketing qualified lead to further qualify it as a sales qualified lead before handing the lead to sales. On average, about 10% of “sales-ready” leads are sales qualified leads and 16% of those will eventually buy. Try to optimize sales’ time on the sales qualified leads to increase sales productivity. Technology will only go so far to help qualify a lead (the marketing qualified lead). Human intervention allows further qualification that technology typically does not provide such as budget, authorization, need, and time line.

6. Formulate a closed-loop lead nurturing system. Lead nurturing is the process of developing a positive long-term relationship with leads/prospects through meaningful dialogue, and then tracking their development into sales opportunities. Have marketing and sales collaborate to create a lead nurturing program, document it in your service level agreement, and build it using a drag and drop graphical user interface, available in some marketing automation packages. Effectively, you’ll build a formal lead flow system for leads to travel from marketing to sales and back to marketing if necessary. Make sure to use lead nurturing technology that allows sales to pass leads that are not quite ready to buy back to marketing to avoid “lead leakage”. This is a fantastic way to recycle your leads and increase sales productivity.

7. Use offers that setup appointments for sales. When sending out email marketing messages as part of a lead nurturing campaign, make sure to include offers that keep sales busy with sales-centric meetings. For example, offer free consultations, a personal demonstration, or personalized ROI analysis. Having your email marketing program act as an admin will decrease sales administrative tasks and increase sales productivity.

8. Get more out of your purchased lists. At Lead Liaison, we don’t recommend buying lists since the people on the list most likely have no idea who you are. A better practice is to build up your own database of interested prospects or folks you’ve had relationships with (at some level) and nurture your database, thereby leveraging your existing assets. The result is a lower cost per lead as marketers don’t have to pay for new leads. However, if you must buy a list then consider your approach to marketing to that list very carefully. Don’t just send a single email message asking for an appointment or the sale. Focus on building a longstanding relationship with your contact. Start by sending them educational material and increase product-related content as the contact expresses interest in your solutions through their interaction with your website. Over time, you’ll be able to surface who’s interested and who is not and increase sales productivity.

9. Have marketing send personalized emails on behalf of sales. Always, always, always (is that enough) personalize your emails by sending them from the sales person or a marketing contact. Never send a generic email blasted to your entire database. It may work, but you’ll get a much higher hit rate if you personalize your messages. Try incorporating the recipient’s name and company in the message to increase click-through rates. Limiting the number of emails sales has to customize and send manually will increase sales productivity.

10. Reactivate your old leads. As mentioned above, a great strategy is to re-market to your database. First, start by creating a breakdown of the age of the contacts in your database for a period of 3 months each. For example, 0-3 months, 3-6 months, and so on to get a snapshot of the age of your database contacts. As a suggestion, re-market to leads 1 year or older then 9-12 months old, etc. You’ll help reduce the 18.7% of time your sales people spend on lead generation and allocate more of their time to sell.

Contact Lead Liaison to learn how we can help your business with lead scoring, lead nurturing, sales prospecting, lead generation, activating old leads, personalize email on behalf of sales, get more from purchased lists, and track leads in real time with our revenue generation software. After all, we want you to “sell more, do less” with an increase in sales productivity.

We welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions. What have you done to increase sales productivity?

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Lead Nurturing Best Practices

Lead Nurturing Best PracticesLead nurturing is the process of building relationships with prospects over time while shaping their interest in your solution to a certain threshold, or lead score, until the lead is ready for sales. It’s similar to progressing from dating to marriage. First, there’s initial contact where one person expresses interest in another. If the person being courted is too aggressive in their response it could be a turn off to the interested party. Fortunately, there are dating and lead nurturing best practices to adhere to. Whether dating or trying to sell, it’s vital to deepen the relationship over time and know when to commit more.

According to Brian Carroll, author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale, 95% of website visitors are not ready to speak to sales. They may be just researching your industry and your company. However, studies show sales-readiness of website visitors will increase over time. In fact, 70% of those visitors will eventually buy from someone – including your competition. Unfortunately, most companies don’t realize this outcome.

What problems does lead nurturing solve?

If your lead generation process is similar to most companies, once a contact fills out a web form two things occur. First, the contact is loaded into a CRM system, such as Salesforce.com. Second, a sales person qualifies the contact with a phone call or email. If the contact does not seem like a short term sale for the sales person the lead is ignored and deemed “unqualified”. No further interaction occurs between the company and the contact. Consequentially, lead generation processes become inefficient and “rusty” over time while sales people develop a stigma about the quality of marketing’s leads. Research supports this trend as 80% of all marketing leads are unused, which is a waste of 80% of marketing’s budget.

How will lead nurturing help you?

To maximize ROI on your marketing dollars, it is imperative that interested prospects remain in close communication with you and your company well beyond the initial point of contact. Instead of dropping unqualified leads into a black hole, companies should build a relationship with the lead through a series of scheduled communications. By doing so, companies shape the preference of their potential buyers and stand a better chance of winning a prospects business.

Forrester, CSO Insights and Brian Carroll summarized the benefits of lead nurturing:

  1. Decrease the percent of leads generated by marketing that are ignored by sales from 80% to approximately 25%.
  2. Raise win rates of leads generated by marketing 7% points higher and reduce “no decisions” by 6%.
  3. Have 9% more sales representatives make quota and decrease ramp up time for new reps by 10%.
  4. Increase efficiency as nurtured-prospects buy more, require less discounting and have shorter sales cycles than prospects that bought but were not nurtured.
  5. Generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost-per-lead.

Number 5 is very important. Lead nurturing allows marketers to maximize return on their most valued asset, a marketing database. Marketers spend lots of money collecting new leads to build up their database. Rely less on adding uninterested contacts with incomplete information to your database and focus on building a high quality database you can nurture. By eliminating dependencies on new contacts and leveraging existing leads, marketers lower cost per lead.

For the expert marketer, this is solid data. However, for beginners trying to understand why they should spend any time on lead nurturing here’s a simple summary. Lead nurturing will:

  • automate follow-up communication with leads too numerous to be handled through direct sales; and
  • cultivate and nurture contacts over time so those contacts remember your brand when the need arises.

Lead nurturing tips

Creating a lead nurturing plan is not difficult. Here are four tips for creating your plan:

1. Create content that tells a story, from start to finish.

2. Don’t focus nurturing content on your product; rather, focus content on what your product does for your prospect. Communicate your message using 3rd party content, case studies, white papers, eBooks, Podcasts, webinars and tradeshows invitations.

3. Select a time line and frequency for your nurturing program. Most programs last 12 months on average but vary based on sales cycles. Identify how long your typical sales cycle is and use that as the duration of your nurturing program. Most programs nurture their leads one time per month on average.

4. Keep lead nurturing simple. Experts suggest 80% of the benefit of lead nurturing is achieved by the first 20% of effort. Refrain from creating too many lead nurturing programs / tracks. To start, create only one program per industry relevant to your business. For example, if most of your customers are in the finance and telecom industry create two programs; one with content relevant to finance and the other with content relevant to telecom.

Sample lead nurturing program

Below is an example of a lead nurturing program with 12 nurturing events over 12 months.

Initial Contact –> Introductory phone call and follow-up “thank you” email
Month 1 –> 3rd party article on pertinent technology via email
Month 2 –> Industry relevant case study via email with follow-up call
Month 3 –> Newsletter with scheduled follow up task
Month 4 –> 3rd party article on pertinent technology via email
Month 5 –> Relevant white paper via email
Month 6 –> Targeted campaign via direct mail
Month 7 –> Relevant eBook via email with scheduled follow-up call
Month 8 –> Link to relevant Podcast via email with follow-up call
Month 9 –> Free report via email with follow-up call
Month 10 –> Invitation to webinar via email with follow-up call
Month 11 –> Call to invite to industry trade show and follow-up with registration link
Month 12 –> Prospect calls you and becomes a sales-ready lead

Executing lead nurturing best practices

Once your lead nurturing program is up and running, you’ll need to start prioritizing and capturing your leads. First, you have to define what a sales-ready lead is. A sales-ready lead is a contact that meets your ideal profile and/or demonstrates interest in your solution commensurate with buying signals. By using lead scoring, companies have the opportunity to measure the relative levels of sales-readiness of one lead versus another. Combining lead scoring with real-time lead tracking technology allows companies to notify their sales team of a hot lead at the exact moment a nurtured-contact interacts with marketing collateral. For example, if a contact is sent an email message with links to an article on your company’s website, you’ll be notified in real-time via email or desktop software when the contact clicks the link. This process creates a closed-loop email marketing system, which most email marketing programs do not have.

We suggest defining a sales-ready lead and your lead nurturing programs in a Service Level Agreement (SLA). SLAs are used to broker collaboration and agreement between sales and marketing. Remember, make sure you execute your lead nurturing plan and stick to it. To quote Thomas Edison, “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration”.

A lead nurturing program similar to the one above can be fully automated and executed using revenue generation software from Lead Liaison.

We welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions. What lead nurturing best practices do you suggest?

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Service Level Agreement

Service Level AgreementFacts support a widening gap between sales and marketing teams. Read our article on sales and marketing alignment to see what we mean. Businesses must focus sales and marketing teams on common criteria; in particular, revenue generation. The first step in brokering alignment of sales and marketing teams is to establish an agreement, a set of rules, defining how sales and marketing will interact with each other. Many businesses are creating a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between sales and marketing to serve this purpose.

“Sales and Marketing must collaborate on defining leads and marketing objectives. You can make a huge impact by focusing first, on creating an Ideal Customer Profile (company-wide, for each product, service or solution). Then, create the Universal Lead Definition of a ‘sales-ready lead.’ Finally, connect the marketing/sales process to customer’s buying process.” Read more here. – Brian Carroll” company, http://blog.startwithalead.com

What should a Service Level Agreement contain?

As Brian Carroll highlights, companies should agree to definitions of leads, ideal customers, and adapt to customer’s new buying habits. These are just a few examples of items that should be included in a Service Level Agreement. In addition, businesses should include:

  • Purpose of the Agreement
  • General definitions
  • Lead scoring model
  • Lead response process and timeline
  • Lead nurturing program
  • Metrics / goals
  • Sales and marketing responsibilities
  • Review period
  • Term
  • Acceptance

Complementary Service Level Agreement for sales and marketing

Lead Liaison’s revenue generation software provides the technology to deliver many of the components of a Service Level Agreement; however, it’s a best practice to first develop a guideline for your lead management in the form of an Agreement. We understand every business is different. Small business, large businesses, different products, different markets, etc; but, we can agree most businesses are similar in a few regards. They lack efficient lead management processes and have misaligned sales and marketing teams. As a result, the “framework” of any Service Level Agreement is similar.

We took an opportunity to create a Service Level Agreement template to get you started. We will be posting the template shortly. The template will be accessible via this post. Please check back shortly.

We welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions. What else should be included in a Service Level Agreement between sales and marketing?

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Sales and Marketing Alignment

Sales and Marketing AlignmentThe CMO Council sited 38% of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) say sales and marketing alignment and integration is a top priority. However, only 30% have a clear process or program to do something about it. With only 38% of CMOs making alignment a top priority, we can assume approximately 1 out of every 3 organizations recognize the issue but few take action. How about the other 2 out of 3? Are they not aware of the problems between sales and marketing? This article highlights common problems prohibiting sales and marketing collaboration, summarizes reasons one group thinks the other is the antagonist, and suggests solutions to narrow the divide between sales and marketing.

Unfortunately, inadequate solutions and uninformed executives have only perpetuated the problem. Sales and marketers have developed a terrible misconception of one another culminating in an environment filled with friction and dissonance. Brian Carroll, CEO of InTouch, attests that “communication breakdown affects nine out of ten companies”. Here’s another one of our favorite quotes from Brian:

“The unrealized potential [of sales and marketing alignment] can be likened to the batteries in a flashlight. If the batteries aren’t inserted in the right direction, or are otherwise out of proper contact, their power is unusable”. – Brian Carroll, http://blog.startwithalead.com

Do any of these examples typify your sales and marketing groups?

  • marketing complains sales never follows up on their leads
  • sales complains marketing never provides any leads, just contacts
  • marketing thinks they are the only people who are strategic thinkers
  • sales thinks they’re the only people worried about the quarter
  • sales wonders why they always have to generate all their own leads
  • marketing complains sales criticizes or ignores everything they generate
  • marketing thinks salespeople will say anything to get a deal
  • marketing wonders why sales isn’t cranking out deals from all their leads

Problems with sales and marketing alignment

C-level executives must recognize problems standing in the way of sales and marketing alignment. We took an opportunity to pull together five major problems impeding sales and marketing collaboration. Each problem is backed by data from industry experts.

80% of leads are typically lost, ignored or discarded (*1)

73% of companies have no process for revisiting leads (*2)

80% of marketers send unqualified leads on to sales (*3)

90% of marketing deliverables are not used by sales (*4)

90% of website visitors don’t identify themselves (*5)

30% of sales reps turnover each year, 7 months to ramp up (*6)

Solutions to sales and marketing alignment

There’s no single recipe for aligning sales and marketing; however, the first step is recognizing they’re not aligned (you already have a 38% chance). Here are some suggestions to align sales and marketing teams which will address the five major problems identified above.

1. Transform your sales cycle into an integrated revenue cycle. Create a new model (definition) for your sales pipeline to include sales, marketing, services and support. We discussed how businesses can split their sales pipeline into a marketing and sales pipeline respectively in this article. Once the sale is made, even more collaboration should occur between sales and marketing while pulling in support and services. We discuss extending your pipeline past the point of “customer” in this article. Working on a revenue cycle vs. a sales cycle allows sales and marketing teams to work together on a common goal; creating revenue, faster.

2. Define a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between marketing and sales. Include things like definitions/terminology, what makes a qualified lead, priority of lead sources, how leads are “recycled” into nurturing programs, where marketing collateral is stored and details of nurturing programs in your SLA.

3. Establish a closed loop reporting process for leads. Once marketing provides a lead to sales it’s crucial follow up is measured and tracked. Marketing automation uses lead distribution technology to disseminate leads based on pre-defined criteria. Automatic lead distribution reduces turnaround time and make sales happier when marketing responds quickly. Additionally, marketing automation technology can automatically schedule follow up actions. For example, scheduling tasks such as a phone call or email in a CRM system such as Salesforce.com. Advanced marketing automation schemes include the ability to ensure tasks are changed or closed; if not, the system will send an email to the marketer or management notifying them of the delay.

4. Foster a culture of respect and trust. To overcome common misconceptions, as highlighted above, foster an environment of collaboration, open communication, and mutual interest to develop respect and trust between marketing and sales.

5. Implement lead scoring. Lead scoring measures a lead’s interaction with marketing activities. It’s an automatic way for marketing to qualify leads for sales. When a lead is qualified by hitting or exceeding a certain scoring threshold, marketing can hand the lead off to sales. The hand-off occurs automatically and unobtrusively. Check out our lead scoring solutions guide for more information.

6. Implement lead tracking. For the 90%+ website visitors who don’t fill out a form, lead tracking captures the visitor’s information as well as their click pattern (digital behavior) as they traverse your site. This is invaluable information for sales. It helps sales better understand what their prospect is interested in. When sales communicates with the prospect they’ll know what they’re looking for resulting in a more efficient discussion. If lead tracking is not implemented sales loses out on more leads and marketing doesn’t get the proper return on their marketing investments.

7. Implement closed-loop email marketing. Typically, marketing will collect a bunch of leads from a trade show, send out an email blast, then hope for someone to call back. With closed-loop email marketing, any response to an email message is automatically signaled to sales or scored appropriately. The marketing system will “raise its hand” when prospects are interested. Closed-loop email marketing is built into most marketing automation solutions.

8. Implement lead nurturing. Don’t let 90% of your marketing collateral (major marketing investments) go to waste. Lead nurturing leverages closed-loop email marketing and enables marketers to setup customized nurturing schedules of 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, or any number of months to automate and personalize the process of staying in touch with your leads. With marketing collateral in hand, a nurturing program, and closed-loop email marketing you can automate periodic follow up. The nurturing system will automatically send email messages with attached collateral matching your prospects interest. Nurturing matures the prospects interest until they’re ready to buy. Lead nurturing also makes sure that the 80% of ignored leads are not ignored since marketers can drop them into a lead nurturing cycle right away. For the 73% of marketers that don’t plan to revisit/re-qualify leads, work with sales to establish a process wherein leads are “recycled” or added back into the nurturing program if the purchase period is farther out than the sales person is ready for.

9. Overlap payment metrics between sales and marketing. Sales people make most of their money off of bookings or revenue. Measure part of marketing’s success on similar sales metrics.

10. Bring in revenue generation software. Get your organization on a common tool set that provides lead generation, marketing automation and sales prospecting capabilities tied into your CRM system. Using a platform solution, not a single product, provides cost savings across the org while uniting your teams.

What happens when sales and marketing are aligned?

As evidenced by the data below, once sales and marketing are aligned the business will recognize considerable monetary as well as cultural gains. Your organization will begin to think as a team, as a single unit, instead of operating in individual silos with disparate agendas. Industry experts report the following benefits of aligning sales and marketing:

Businesses grow 5.4% faster (*7)

Reps close 38% more deals (*7)

Reps lose 36% less deals to the competition (*7)

Businesses have a better chance of retaining customers

We welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions. What do you feel the problems are between sales and marketing? What solutions do you have to achieve sales and marketing alignment?

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Sources:

(*1, *2) “Gauging the Cost of What’s Lost” by the Business Performance Management Forum and CMO Council.

(*3) Marketing Sherpa’s 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report.

(*4, *6) “The New Rules of Sales Enablement” by Jeff Ernst.

(*5) Marketing Sherpa.

(*7) Hugh Macfarlane, founder and CEO of MathMarketing, conducted an alignment benchmarking study by surveying 1,400 professionals in 84 countries around the world.

Sales Tips – Part 1

Sales TipsWhether we admit it or not, everyone can learn something new especially when it comes to sales. We sat down with our team to draw from the 100+ people years of sales experience. Through the years we’ve all collected some useful tips, tricks and best practices from sales experts. We culminated these ideas into a list of sales tips for business to business (B2B) sales. This is the first installment of our Sales Tips series.

Sales Tip #1 – Always get a business card

When you’re in a face-to-face meeting with a prospect it’s good to know who was in your meeting when it’s time to follow up. We’d estimate about 60% of the time the people in the meeting don’t have a business card with them. This is especially true in technical meetings. You’d be lucky if the Engineer handed you their last business card crinkled up in their wallet.  As a handy tip, give the person your business card, flip it over to the blank side, then ask them to throw their contact information on the back so you know who’re you’re talking to. They’ll always do it, it would be rude not to. Now you’ve got their phone and/or email for follow up and you’ve taught them to bring their cards next time.

Sales Tip #2 – Use the phone

In today’s internet-age we’re inundated with real-time communication devices such as tablets and mobile phones. The availability of communication devices makes it’s easier to use electronic communication such as text, chatting, or emailing over talking. Don’t lose sight of how business people used to communicate “back in the day”, over the good old telephone. Resist temptation to send an email to a client or prospect. Digital communication lacks feeling, tonality and full-duplex communication – its 1s and 0s and nothing in between. Pick up the phone and make a call. You might learn something else you couldn’t learn from sending an email.

Sales Tip #3 – Nurture prospects

Sales wins usually don’t happen overnight, unless the occasional blue bird comes in. The information-age drives businesses to publish content on the web, which enables your clients and prospects access to more data and research. More research stretches out sales cycles. Develop a process to nurture your leads. Enlist help from marketing to tag team efforts and leverage technology such as lead nurturing to automatically stay in touch with your prospects to keep your funnel active.

Sales Tip #4 – Choose seating wisely

We’re all human, unless you’re working with a “sales machine” – we know a few. Our human nature is to work in groups/packs with people we’re familiar with. The next time you’re in a meeting with a client or prospect watch where their employees site. They’ll usually sit together on the same side of the table. Break up the party, before everyone sits down grab a seat next to the first person that sits down, not your colleague. If you’re traveling with colleagues ask them to sit across from you or next to another employee of your client/prospect. Breaking up groups will drive more interaction during your meetings.

Sales Tip #5 – Let the prospect talk first

As sales people, we tend to speak more than we listen. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen more than you speak, especially in the first meeting. Prior to the meeting remind yourself you’ll let your prospect talk first. You’ll come off as easy going and demonstrate strong listening skills. Most people love to talk about themselves or their situation. Seize the opportunity and give your clients the floor first.

Grabbing a business card (even if it’s your own), using the phone, nurturing prospects, choosing seats wisely, and letting prospects speak first are five sales tips to consider. Our goal is to continue to publish sales tips in groups of five as part of this series. Each tip may not apply to you, but we hope you can take away at least one thing.

We welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions. What are your sales tips?

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