What's it take to generate leads that fuel your forecast?

Posted by Dan McDade

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on Feb 23, 2018 3:07:22 PM

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Before addressing that question, let me ask another.

What is a lead? Is it the name on a list you bought from a content aggregator for $23? Is it the person who signed up for your webinar this week? Is it someone who swiped their badge at the tradeshow you attended last month?

While all of these scenarios have potential, none could be called a lead. Just try to pass them on to your field sales team and you’ll see. They won’t get followed up.

Why? Because the chances are pretty low—probably 3% to 4% at best—that any of these names are bonafide opportunities if you are a B2B company with a complex sales process. Sales won’t spend the time it takes to cull through 100 so-called leads for 3 to 4 good ones.

Which means those “leads” land in a black hole, and the money spent to generate them is wasted.

Leads aren’t leads unless:

  • They’re qualified.

Is this a person with authority to buy? Do they have a driving need for the solution you offer? A hand raiser isn’t a real lead (that is, sales qualified) until they’ve had engagement with a representative of your company to find out the answers to the questions above. And that’s usually not something Sales is going to do. If Sales has to make 100 phone calls to determine which 3 are worth something, they won’t invest the time, and it’s not smart for your company to ask them to. That’s not where their skills lay, it’s not what they’re getting paid for.

  • They’re ready.

It could well be that a qualified lead fits your definition of a lead, but often the time isn’t right. Continued engagement in the form of account-focused outreach (also referred to as Account Based Marketing) makes sure your company is on their radar when the right disruption happens to necessitate a decision, when their current solution’s weaknesses reach the boiling point, or when competition encroaches and fear sets in.

So the first question is answered: A “real” lead is qualified and nurtured by Marketing—and ready for Sales to take over and turn into revenue. It’s a simple equation—and a win-win for both organizations.

Now let’s answer the question that’s the subject of this post. What’s it take to generate a volume of real leads, the ones you really need?

Over the past two decades we’ve worked hard to crack the code on this. What we’re doing seems to be working: The clients we’ve served (some for most of that time period) and the CMOs we’ve worked with (90% of our business is with marketing leaders who’ve done business with us before) will tell you that it’s PointClear’s combination of three things we do well that make a difference:

  1. An agile approach that includes adaptable lead management processes, testing and continuous improvement. We’ve been agile from the start, and we’re glad the concept is gaining traction in the industry. More and more marketers understand that agile, which started in the IT development realm, has good application in marketing in general, and in lead management specifically.
  2. Quality conversations and personal engagement with prospects. Since 1997, we’ve had 3.6 million one-on-one touches with our clients’ targets—and counting. When a real person talks to a real person, and does it well, relationships and trust follow.
  3. PinPoint™ Platform, our automated solution that helps manage lead generation, qualification and nurturing. Precise management of lists, lead data, cadence and outcomes drives revenue.

Let’s start by talking about agile processes.

One dictionary defines agile as “relating to a method of project management … characterized by the division of tasks into short phases of work and frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans.”

Scott Brinker, author of Hacking Marketing, a great book about agile practices in marketing, sheds more light. Here’s Scott’s Agile Marketing Manifesto:

  • Many small experiments over a few large bets.
  • Testing and data over opinions and conventions.
  • Intimate customer tribes over impersonal mass markets.
  • Engagement and transparency over official posturing.

At PointClear, we apply agile to what we do for clients to save time, save money, prevent frustration and get better results. Continuous learning and validation, client collaboration and responsive planning are some of the agile approaches we take—and the reason why we keep clients, and CMOs keep coming back.

This scenario is in stark contrast to what others in our industry do, which can be encapsulated as follows: Send me a list, send me a script, send me some money—and we’ll send you some leads. (Of course, these leads—which can be attractive to those who value cost-per-lead above other criteria—will be not be followed up by Sales and will end up in the CRM black hole.)

A firm like I described in the previous paragraph is not a partner. They’re not working closely with their clients, and they’re not fine-tuning the clients’ message, the program’s cadence or the market definition based on what’s working and what’s good for the client.

Remember the words in Scott’s manifesto that describe agile? Small experiments, testing and data, intimate customer tribes, engagement and transparency?

What’s a better way to experiment, test, understand who you’re talking to, and figure out what works? Picking up the phone and making some calls.

We start every program by spending a period of time talking to targets to test response. What titles respond to what messages? What time of day are we reaching targets? How many touches does it take to reach them? We measure everything, then look at the data (in minutes, not days or weeks) to see what’s resonating. We adjust the program accordingly, continuously.

By contrast, we don’t try to attract someone (who may or may not be qualified) to a site using IP-based marketing, for example. Instead we drive intimacy with one-to-one conversations. We engage our market. We’re able to be transparent with our clients because we have data to prove our approach works. We become more successful exponentially. This approach, by the way, costs less in the long run and works better than the status quo.

Now let’s explore why all conversation is not the same.

Sometimes our outreach supports inbound marketing (because inbound doesn’t work alone in a complex B2B environment), sometimes we’re qualifying and nurturing leads generated at shows, online presentations or other events, and sometimes we managing response.

All the time we’re having unscripted conversation with our clients’ prospects. We can do that because the associates on our team have what it takes to have the interactions that generate quality leads.

They have the experience, training and the personality traits to insure that the folks on the phone who represent you, represent you well.

  • At PointClear, our average associate is 50. They’re seasoned pros who’ve seen a lot in the business world, and who’ve been with us for an average of 4.1 years—twice the industry standard.
  • Each associate is trained. They all have college degrees, they’ve been through sales training (Miller Heiman, SPIN® Selling, Solution Selling®) and they’re PointClear certified, so they have the skills to sell.
  • All associates are onshore, PointClear employees, working in a professional environment with an infrastructure of management, analytics and administration to support what they do.
  • Plus, every one of them possesses five key qualities: They’re Nice, Smart, Curious, Hardworking and Ethical. Nice makes for a great working environment. Smart inspires everyone around. Curiosity is important for anyone in a Sales role. Obviously, hard-working is what it takes to get the job done, and ethics encompasses fairness and doing the right thing, which is central to our culture.

How do we know candidates have what it takes to carry the conversations needed to fuel the forecast? We don’t just take their word, we test them (and many self-select out).

Our group is capable of navigating a prospect organization to find the right decision-makers. They know how to drive peer-to-peer engagement with executives. And they have the active listening skills needed to progress a lead until it’s ready to turn over to the client’s Sales team.

We often stress to current and potential employees how important it is to have the right people to assure conversations held on your behalf are high quality. We have competitors who maintain home-based 1099 agents being paid $11 an hour with no benefits can do what we can—read more. They can’t.

And there are others who maintain that their technology can make mediocre people successful generating, qualifying and nurturing executive-level leads for enterprise software companies (for example). That doesn’t work either.

The right platform brings it all together.

Does your CRM manage list segments, cadence, lead data and other outcomes? Does it automatically tee up the next touch with the best prospect at the right time? Can you segment, re-segment or retire lists or list segments in seconds? Do you report on stats such as touches per conversation, touches per lead, best conversion touches?

Our tool, the PinPoint platform, does. Why? It was designed for lead management. It’s a specialized tool that syncs with Salesforce.com and other CRMs.

While process and people are more important than platform, PinPoint is what makes it possible to scale tested processes, support more associates, and turn more prospects into sales qualified leads.

Here’s an example: We had a call from a sales executive recently who wanted to know how we got a prospect on the telephone and turned it into a lead for him. He asked: “How did you get to this guy? I have been trying to get him for almost three years.” The answer was “Email #2.”

Each client’s touch cycle is a little bit different. Touch cycles are tweaked constantly using PinPoint to optimize the number of completed companies and the lead percentage. Touch too many times and you reduce completed companies and leads. Touch too little and you increase completed companies but may decrease leads. It is a delicate balance—and it is carefully measured using our proprietary platform.

The touch cycle or cadence for this client was 12 touches over 10 business days. We followed-up six dials with three voicemails followed by three emails. Voicemails and emails are carefully constructed and tested. Voicemails and emails build a story to encourage response. In the case of this client the prospect responded to … that’s right, Email #2.

In general, Sales people aren’t persistent enough—and they don’t have visibility into what’s required without a solution like PinPoint. I’ve had business peers tell me that they get calls that sound interesting but come at a bad time. They say to themselves, “they’ll call back” but guess what—many times they don’t. That’s why it’s important for Marketing and Sales to have a tool that helps determine the right level of tenaciousness.

One example of an extended, persistent, touch cycle by PointClear was the 42nd touch to the CFO of the country’s fourth largest utility. On the 42nd touch the CFO called us back and said “don’t stop calling me … you are my conscience … I’ve been busy but if you will call me next Tuesday at 10 am CST I’ll take the call.” We did, he did and the deal closed five months later for $1 billion for our client (a global consulting/services company). Seriously, that’s billion with a “B.”

Of course, this is an extreme example due to the deal size. But, it is not extreme when it comes to how we track touches and touch cycles and how many touches it can take to give us, and our clients, the best shot at having a conversation and finding a deal.

This all matters because all the cadence, data capture and workflow is built into the PinPoint platform. Standard and custom reports are either automatically created or can be run in seconds. Finally, actionable market intelligence reports are created on a planned and spontaneous basis to help clients with positioning, messaging and competitive information.

I've always said that what we do is not rocket science, but there are a lot of moving parts that make it difficult to manage lead generation, lead qualification and lead nurturing in-house and/or on a small scale. Either a dedicated manager is too expensive, or the job falls on the sales manager who doesn’t understand the function and doesn't really have time to manage it (not to mention they don’t want to manage it). Or, once initial investment is made, it’s determined just how expensive the whole process is without the right infrastructure. See this blog for an analysis of cost and productivity of internal vs. outsourced teleprospecting.

Let us help you light the fire.

PointClear’s outsourced B2B sales lead generation, lead qualification and lead nurturing stand out, and there are three reasons why:

  1. We take an agile approach to lead management that assures continuous improvement.
  2. We have the ability to have quality conversations with your senior-level prospects, and the ability to turn them into leads.
  3. Our PinPoint platform automates the management of your lists, lead data, cadence and outcomes, giving you the visibility you need to drive Marketing and Sales success.

I'd like to hear from you. What in your experience works, and what doesn't, to fuel your B2B sales forecast?

Tell us what you think!

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