Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Picking 5 Of The Top 15 Time Wasters of Inside Sales & Lead Generation

By Kenneth Krogue, President, InsideSales.com

While technology can eliminate many inefficiencies and time-wasters from sales and marketing organizations, some problem areas tend to be outside the reach of technological solutions. More time is wasted as a result of poor strategy, bad hiring, unqualified leadership, and a lack of performance management than from flawed sales tactics. Companies have invested in sales tactics for years, what they haven’t done is invest in lead management,immediate response to leads, lead resources, and proper intelligence on why companies buy, and why they don’t. We recently published a paper highlighting 15 time-wasters that are endemic to typical inside sales and lead generation departments.

The research study that originally prompted this paper was done on-site at PeopleWise, a division of LexisNexis in 2005 through 2006 and outlined 10 of the current 15 time-wasters listed here. Additional time-wasters have been added from research done in conjunction with Kellogg, MIT, FranklinCovey, Jim Click Automotive, and Omniture.

Each section will address a single time-waster and provide a “best practice” that will offer a “jumping-off point” to start eliminating the problem:

TIME WASTER #1: Poor Lead Generation Resources
Why cold call if you can have inbound leads generated from an effective marketing campaign at a fraction of the cost? Our biggest and best clients take this seriously and use web, radio and television outlets to provide sustainable and scalable sources of qualified leads.

It’s all about the leads. We don’t see nearly as many successful companies leaving the lead generation process to their sales people. If you don’t provide pre-qualified leads, at least provide your sales teams with good lists to call. Good lists cost roughly 5% to 10% of the money you spend on labor costs and can increase results dramatically (we have seen results as high as 1300%), yet some companies we studied left their reps to spend as much as 40% of their time looking for someone to call. Not only are you wasting your most valuable resource—your sales team—you risk losing your most effective sales reps to companies that are willing to give them a higher rate of success by providing warm leads.

We also advocate using dialing technology to triple or quadruple the contact rates of new leads and allow
salespeople to spend less time between conversations with decision-makers. Dialers that connect your sales reps to a live call as soon as he or she has ended another call will keep your sales reps busy making sales—increasing their success and profitability.

Best Practice: Invest in good leads or lists. The Internet is already the fastest growing and least expensive source of leads for almost every business. Create an effective website and generate leads.

TIME WASTER #2: Slow Response to Lead Inquiries
Every day we find another company that spends tens of thousands of dollars to create a fancy website, spends thousands of dollars each month with Google to drive clicks and contracts with a web-analytics company such as Omniture to analyze and improve the conversion on their website only to let a lead sit for 24 to 48 hours before calling them back! Our repeated research and experience shows that only 45-50% of all leads get contacted, and reps only attempt contact between 4 and 5 times. See Omniture Study, Dreamforce Study, Mega 100.

Laura Ramos, of Forrester Research, studied how effectively companies respond to their leads and wrote an article entitled “How Mature is B2B Lead Management?” (November 2006). In her study, only 10% of sales departments respond to leads within 24 hours and 41% respond to leads in one to three days. Nearly half of the sales departments she studied had yet to standardize how to route and respond to leads within the organization.

Hot leads cool off quickly. Our best clients know their key action is to call them back immediately. Response time should be measured in seconds and minutes, not hours and days.

MarketingSherpa Article. A dialer can help solve these problems, particularly one that can try calling a number at different times of the day and on different days of the week in order to ‘wring dry’ a leads’ potential value. Some of our clients make twenty to fifty attempts on each lead, calling mornings, afternoons, and evenings. Our internal staff and many of our clients contact between 80% and 90% of all contactable leads.

Best Practice: Track every dial and every contact. Separate your contactable leads from those without viable contact information. Track how many attempts your sales reps make to contact leads and the actual percentage of contacted leads for 30 days. Once you form a baseline, begin increasing contact attempts to increase your contact ratio up over 80%.

TIME WASTER #4: Poor Lead Management Processes
A typical lead management process goes something like this:

  • Leads generated on a website sit in the webmaster’s box until she checks it.

  • The webmaster checks her box once each day and sends any accumulated leads to the sales manager’s box until he checks it.

  • The sales manager checks his box once each day. He sorts the leads and sends them to the appropriate sales rep.

  • The sales rep types the lead information into a tracking system—a spreadsheet or contact manager—
    before calling the lead. After making 4 or 5 attempts to contact the lead, she moves on to other leads.

The process from lead capture to first contact attempt often takes between 48 and 72 hours. The time to first contact can often be as long as two weeks—plenty of time for the prospect to forget your company or sign up with your competition. Lead management is nearly as important as sales yet it is often the most overlooked process.

Why? The lead management process is often where the marketing department hands off the leads it generated to the sales department. Leads are often lost in this “gray area” and neither department wants to take responsibility: marketing blames sales for failing to follow-up and sales blames marketing for sending them unqualified leads.

Another failure in most lead management processes is found in the lack of automation. Leads are routed through a slow pipeline that could easily be replaced by technology and reduce the time between lead generation and first contact from days to minutes.

Effective lead management includes such disciplines as:

  • Lead Capture

  • Lead Scoring

  • Lead Routing

  • Lead Response Management

  • Lead Qualification Skills

  • Lead Tracking

  • Lead Reporting

  • Lead Source Analysis

Best Practices: Create a clear process for each aspect of lead management. Invest time in the process and money in the systems to leverage the ability to quickly and effectively qualify and sort leads and you will find hidden increases in productivity. Respond as fast as possible to web leads (5 minutes or less is optimal).

TIME WASTER #5: Not Knowing Your Wins and Losses
(Reporting, Analysis, Post-Mortem)

The marketing department almost always wants the sales department to report results, link campaigns to toll freenumber and track the search engine keywords that bring in the most sales but it rarely happens. However, knowing the sources of your successes and failures will help you streamline your marketing and ultimately tap your most profitable sources of prospects and profits.

Very few companies track a lead from capture to conclusion or interview prospects and customers to find out why they do or do not buy. However, a sales team that fails to track why it wins or loses each sale is like a sports team that refuses to watch film of its competition before a game to prepare and then film of the actual game to improve for future wins: real progress is impossible unless it takes the time to learn from past successes and failures.

Best Practices: This time-waster covers nearly every area of the lead management and sales processes but it is also very simple to eliminate. The key is to start simple: pick 5 to 10 Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) to track for 30 days. Once you have a baseline to work with, begin making changes and tracking them to see how they affect performance and profits. By recording phone calls it is easy to do a post-mortem analysis of why a company did not go with you. It is also as important to know why a company did go with you as well, this is much easier facilitated with monitoring and recording technologies and dispositioning of calls.

Ken Krogue is co-founder of InsideSales.comTM, a hosted lead response management solution that integrates to CRM solutions like Salesforce.com and comes with built-in dialers for B2B or Complex B2C sales. It is a full suite of hosted telephony power tools, , and lead management solutions for companies who sell over the phone or through the web. For more information go to www.InsideSales.com or contact Ken directly at 866-342-5370.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Lessons Learned From The Obama Campaign In Online Marketing

By Raquel Hirsch, WiderFunnel Marketing Inc.

Regardless of what you think about the outcome of the American election on November 4, from a marketer’s perspective there is one sure conclusion: the campaign marketing team did a phenomenal job marketing their “product”: they hit a cord that resonated with their base and energized younger voters; plus, they were able to use social media successfully.

In one particular area of interest to marketers concerned with eCommerce and web marketing did the Obama campaign truly shine: Fundraising.

Barack Obama raised more than $650 million dollars in all. That almost equals the combined total raised by President Bush and John Kerry in the two 2004 elections. In September alone, Obama's staggering $150 million in donations more than doubled his previous record. According to Bloomberg, the campaign “obliterated every political fundraising and spending record in U.S. history.”

How did they accomplish this?

Figure 1: shows a view of what the Obama team were testing. The red dashed line shows the placement of the SwapBox (i.e. the Google Website Optimizer section script) on the webpage. Find more image variations like this here.

The answer is of course complex and multifaceted – but from a marketing perspective, very straightforward and with strategies and tactics all marketers can learn from.

First, the campaign went for the broadest possible customer base as it’s easier to get $1 out of 100,000 people than to get $100,000 out of one person.

As early as February 2008, their campaign reported on their official website that more than 280,000 people had created accounts on BarackObama.com and from those online accounts, 6,500 grassroots volunteer groups had been created and more than 13,000 off-line events have been organized through the site. At that point, already over 370,000 individual online donations had been made, more than half of which were less than $25 donations. All in all, the campaign brought in more than $650 million from some 3 million donors.

To build the base, at every opportunity Obama volunteers fanned through the crowd, gathering the names and e- mail addresses of people who could be asked for small donations again and again.

Then, the campaign focused on Frequency marketing

Once it accomplished a broad base of web-engaged supporters, the Obama campaign went after the small donors early and returned to them often. They took in $8 million online in the first quarter of 2007, quadruple the campaign's goal of $2 million. Almost half of Obama's money came from people giving $200 or less, compared with 34 percent for Arizona Senator McCain.

The “secret sauce”: Obama Campaign Uses Conversion Rate Optimization
All the considerable effort and money spent driving traffic to the site generated a given online donations rate. We are positive that campaign management saw as their next challenge getting more actions (i.e., more donations and higher average donations) from the traffic already on the website.

So, in an amazing bit of sleuthing, my business partner Chris Goward“discovered” how the Obama campaign successfully used a Conversion Rate Optimization strategy to maximize online donations.

In order to optimize this online donations rate, or “conversions”, the team deployed a Conversion Rate Optimization strategy where they ran experiments and determined with scientific certainty what web visitors consider to be the most relevant and timely content. In other words, by running statistically valid experiments, the Obama team made data-driven decisions and progressively redesigned key web pages.

As Chris discovered, Obama's web team used Google Website Optimizer to run multivariate tests on various pages of their site (www.barackobama.com). Tests were run on the Home Page, the Donation page (still running at the time of writing this article!) and others. To learn more about the different variations offered and how they were tested and measured, we encourage you to see the full posting on our blog at http://www.widerfunnel.com/blog

The learning here is that all web marketers, just like the Obama team, can in fact make data-driven decisions (instead of hope-driven leaps of faith) and progressively redesign key web pages - or the entire site.

In our experience at WiderFunnel , where we focus on running ongoing Conversion Rate Experiments for clients in a wide variety of industries and with a wide variety of business goals, we have learned one thing: testing always pays off in improved conversions.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Transforming BtoB Strategy Through ProSultative Selling, Rethinking Sales & Marketing

By Mike Pilcher, VP of Sales at Marketbright

ProSultative selling is more than a sales process—it requires you to re-orient your company around becoming easier to do business with and learn how to proactively deliver to each prospect the specific information they need to become a customer.

As we know, B2B sales is all about the transfer of information from supplier to buyer. You must deliver the information about your product as quickly and easily as possible to the prospect in the way they need to consume the information, and in order to do this successfully sales and marketing must work together as one seamless organization.

ProSultative selling fits neatly into this collaboration between sales and marketing teams, and when implemented successfully has been shown to result in shorter sales cycles, greater predictable sales volume and lower production costs in both the near and short term.

In simple terms, a ProSultative business:
  1. Is easy to do business with at all stages-- from a prospect’s initial discovering of the product to their decision to buy more;

  2. Automates any and all interactions with prospects and customers whenever possible;

  3. Always makes prospect and customer interaction proactive;

  4. Focuses on the very minimum of information and actions a prospect needs to become a customer;

  5. Always acts with insatiable urgency; and

  6. Iterates incessantly.
The relationship between sales and marketing teams has become undoubtedly tense, as sales teams continue to complain about the qualification of marketing leads and marketing teams push back when sales is unable to convert the prospects they delivered. Rather than operating in an adversarial vacuum, the ProSultative salesperson works closely with marketing teams to carefully time the delivery of information to the prospect, working not only to craft the precise messaging but proactively deliver it in the right place, at the right time and to the right person.

With ProSultative selling, the huge amount of budget that currently languishes in a no-man’s land between sales and marketing disappears, as prospects are smoothly guided through the system and ultimately, more often than not, converted to customers. While ProSultative selling is most attractive for small and medium sized businesses, it can work especially well for large enterprises if the products and system are architected correctly.

After implementation of a ProSultative sales model, a business will soon see the following benefits:
  1. Minimized customer interactions; allowing businesses to accelerate the velocity of sales through the pipeline;

  2. Faster sales cycles and increased business;

  3. Increased scalability, growing the number of customer opportunities each individual and the business can manage and thereby increasing the rate and total volume of new customer acquisition;

  4. The landing of more customers more often; with sales to existing customers growing with the increase in total customers; and

  5. Reduced risk, allowing businesses greater control of the delivery of information to make the management of resources more predictable.
As businesses look to simultaneously improve and streamline their sales and marketing processes, ProSultative selling is emerging as a new and compelling strategy for selling quickly and successfully, even in a down economy. ProSultative selling tactics optimize a business’s ability to really get creative and execute targeted, focused campaigns, generating interest and prospects, fueling conversation and ultimately resulting in more converted customers.

Mike Pilcher has more than 20 years of business and enterprise sales experience. Before joining Marketbright, he headed up worldwide sales at HyperRoll, Velosant and Epiphany. Pilcher is the author of a new book titled “ProSultative Selling: The Death of the Consultative Sales Person,” currently available for sale on Amazon.com. He also writes a blog on ProSultative selling techniques. On November 13th, Pilcher will be leading a Webinar on Sales and Marketing thought leadership with Forrester analyst Laura Ramos. For more information on the Webinar, please visit: http://www.marketbright.com/news/events.html