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Creating New Sales Opportunities with a Strategic Lead ...


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  • 1. Creating New Sales Opportunities with a Strategic Lead Generation Process You're a hot new growth company with a great product, service or technology and you need customers. Or maybe you’re an established company that’s attempting to launch new products or open new markets. You've done your research, picked your markets, profiled the companies and decision-makers and you've even managed to land a few customers, validating your go-to-market strategy. Now the stakeholders and investors are clamoring for more deals. You've hired salespeople and they've managed to open up a few new opportunities. But an honest review of the pipeline doesn't measure up to the company's revenue and budget objectives and the cost of rapidly expanding your sales staff is prohibitive. What do you do? If you're like some companies, you lean on the sales force, ratcheting up the pressure to develop more opportunities, first trying the carrot and then later, the stick. Productivity falls off, the good sales people leave and the pipeline gets stuck in neutral. Marketing then hires a telemarketing firm, which guarantees “500 new leads”. The leads come pouring in and the sales team starts calling. To everyone's dismay, many of the companies contacted are outside your target market. Worse, the information that you receive is incomplete, some names are misspelled, phone numbers are garbled, and contacts are low-level and non- influential. Because the telemarketers applied a one-size-fits-all script, most of the companies contacted responded “not interested”. The 500 “leads” are now more like 25. Sound familiar? In this scenario, management did not undertake a lead program as part of the overall sales strategy. The telemarketing firm was hired reactively after sales activity began to tail off, not to validate the messaging or the market demand. The company’s original strategy was shunted aside for an ambiguous outreach plan to obtain names, not repeatable sales opportunities. Is there a better way? The hypothetical company in this example lacked focus and direction. Deploying and utilizing a sales force and supporting their selling efforts are processes that should be embraced by the executive and senior leadership. There are too many companies knocking on too few doors to believe that brand and product alone will keep a sales pipeline full. Lead generation is a critical subset of a company’s strategic sales and marketing plan. The goal of lead generation is the creation of a sales opportunity. A sales opportunity puts the company’s sales representatives in front of prospects and maximizes their use of time. 35 Corporate Drive, 4th Floor Burlington, MA 01803 Tel: 1.781.685.2926 Fax: 1.978.824.2301
  • 2. Mansfield Sales Partners LLC, an outsourced sales leadership firm in Burlington, MA, works closely with their clients to develop and execute sound sales strategies. The partners of this firm have developed and implemented a straightforward lead generation process that begins with their client company’s executive leadership and extends to the prospective buyer. There are a few simple rules for adopting this process for your company. 1. Make Lead Generation Part of Your Strategic Sales and Marketing Process “We approach lead generation differently,” explains Greg Dunne, Managing Director of Mansfield Sales Partners. “We don’t undertake a lead program unless it’s tightly coupled to our strategic sales process.” Mansfield helps its clients create order, starting with targeted sales planning all the way to deal closure, while integrating pipeline development, marketing support and goal monitoring with measurement. The process starts with senior management of the company. “We meet with our client and conduct a thorough sales audit,” explains Chris Foran, Mansfield Partner. “We take the company’s messaging and positioning in the market, define the goals, build the plan and execute.” A senior Mansfield sales executive remains actively involved, acting as the sales manager for the campaign and participating in high level calls. “We gain information from contacted corporate executives whether they turn out to be valid prospects or not” adds Dunne. “We present, listen and refine the value proposition until we strike paydirt”. 2. Choose Lead Generation over Telemarketing Telemarketing is a volume-driven outbound calling model that measures success by number of contacts. These contacts are mischaracterized as leads, even though the callers know learn nothing about the target decision-maker’s business. The calls are heavily scripted, loaded with assumptions and delivered by less experienced—and cheaper—callers. “When the front line sales team starts calling leads obtained from mass market callers, they quickly find that only name, rank and serial number has been captured,” observes Dunne. “No attempt has been made to determine if the contact is really worth pursuing.” The sales process breaks down when unqualified leads are thrown over to the senior sales people. Now they are forced to call higher to gain the necessary insight for a sales opportunity, or abandon the lead because it isn’t properly qualified. “This is not the intent of the program, but can often happen if an inside sales program is not tightly coupled with the overall sales strategy” adds Foran. 3. Establish Measurable Lead Generation Goals Lead generation goals must be easily quantifiable. As obvious as this seems, companies still tend to embrace goals such as "increased pipeline", "more opportunities" and "more sales activity", which are vague enough to avoid measurement and are ultimately unattainable. “Increased revenue” is a desired outcome, but it’s not always an accurate goal for lead generation. Increased revenue is a result of many things: strong product marketing, brand 35 Corporate Drive, 4th Floor Burlington, MA 01803 Tel: 1.781.685.2926 Fax: 1.978.824.2301
  • 3. positioning and execution. In order to increase revenue, the sales team needs more “at-bats”; more opportunities to engage qualified buyers. If the company’s product or service meets the buyer’s needs, the process moves forward and ultimately results in new revenue. A specific goal such as “two online meetings per week” is easy to grasp, measure and support. Progress should be tracked using weekly reports and sales meetings with the client. The feedback from these meetings keeps everyone focused, and as a result the pipeline will naturally increase; there will be more opportunities and more sales activity. “Communicating regularly with our clients in this fashion is a critical success factor,” says Foran. “Without a closed feedback loop, there is no opportunity to make adjustments and improvements.” The process demands accountability, because as prospects are contacted, information is obtained that ultimately determines if the client company is hitting its targets with the right message and right solution at the right time. A volume-driven model cannot support this discipline. Instead, many companies ask their front line sales people to continue qualifying the “leads”. 4. Keep Your Front Line Sales People Selling A company’s sales force is the key asset in the effort to convince a prospect to buy. If the front line sales representative has been adequately equipped to engage the prospect in a buying discussion the sale will move forward dependent on meeting the buyer’s requirements and timing. The successful sales model will create more of these selling opportunities, but many companies still believe their sales professionals should create their own leads, often leading to reduced productivity and lost opportunity. “Asking your senior sales executives to conduct their own lead generation is incredibly unproductive,” asserts Brian Berlin, Sr. Consultant with Mansfield. “It is mathematically impossible for a sales executive to consistently manage the demands of lead generation and still get in front of real prospects.” For illustration, assume a seasoned sales executive makes 50 calls per day for a week. Of the 250 calls, she probably makes contact with about 20 decent contacts, of which about 5 may be in the buying process, if she’s lucky. She abandons the rest and focuses on the five, attempting to move them through the sales cycle, which is what she should be doing. However, at that time lead generation grinds to a halt. Once she’s exhausted her focus five, the top of the sales funnel is empty and she has to start over, possibly creating lost selling opportunities, not to mention the sheer amount of work involved in repeating this process. “It’s a morale-busting event,” observes Berlin. Lead generation ensures that the top of the funnel consistently has enough potential buyers to obtain the necessary at-bats to help the sales team work deals. Without lead generation support, sales reps will focus on too few opportunities. 35 Corporate Drive, 4th Floor Burlington, MA 01803 Tel: 1.781.685.2926 Fax: 1.978.824.2301
  • 4. 5. Utilize Your Existing Prospect Data Many companies fail to make use of the data they have. A company’s prospect database is a continual source of contacts for lead generation initiatives. A good lead generation campaign should revisit people who were contacted in the past but were probably too early in their buying cycle. Keep in mind, however, that these existing contacts are not “leads”—at least not yet. Contacts generated from webcasts, email blasts, and yes, volume-driven telemarketing campaigns aren't leads. These are contacts who were interested enough to respond. Marketing should continue to develop these contacts with permission-based marketing programs. This integrates the company’s marketing leadership into the process of creating selling opportunities for the sales team. Handing these contacts off to the sales force before they’re moderately developed is premature and will most likely fail to get results. Typically the sales people will have a "Glen Garry" reaction after calling a few of these contacts and report back that few are worth pursuing. “Our strategic process incorporates marketing integration, monitoring and measurement,” says Dunne. “Most early contacts are not far enough along in their process to be considered a prospect. What sales might consider a suspect lead is good data for on-going marketing programs.” ”These are the kinds of contacts that are perfect for invitations to seminars, webinars, trade events, social events and road shows” agrees Foran. “Each time the contact accepts an invitation, it indicates continued interest. A company's marketing database is a potent asset and a good list for a lead generation campaign.” 6. Understand Your Lead Generation Targets Greenfield is a term that refers to undeveloped land (see Used in the lead generation context, it means that a company has not developed specific markets and target buyers. All that is known is the general area of buyer influence. Alternatively, a company may know its markets and buyers and already have customers in other regions, but intends to conquer new territories or markets using their existing blueprint. In either case, the goals should be the same; get calls, get online meetings, get appointments. But the approaches will be radically different, and in a Greenfield campaign, will require a seasoned and well-trained caller. “A Greenfield campaign requires an agile caller, able to take direction from the initial contact and turn that into a referral” says Foran. “We recruit experienced sales people, train them in the company’s positioning and products, and coach them through the process.” Once a pattern is established, Foran adds, the productivity of the calls goes up and the client company establishes a repeatable process. 35 Corporate Drive, 4th Floor Burlington, MA 01803 Tel: 1.781.685.2926 Fax: 1.978.824.2301
  • 5. Summary The goal of lead generation is the creation of more selling opportunities. Therefore, lead generation is a critical subset of a company’s sales and marketing strategy, and must be carefully managed in order to ensure the sales team is in front of qualified buyers, selling and closing. By coupling this process with guidance from and close interaction with senior sales management, companies are able to achieve a much higher productivity rate with their sales programs. About Mansfield Sales Partners MSP is a leader in outsourced sales management and lead generation for early stage companies and companies going through product portfolio changes. Our consultants are determined to help our clients build a scalable, sustainable sales model and drive increased revenue. To learn more, visit the website: 35 Corporate Drive, 4th Floor Burlington, MA 01803 Tel: 1.781.685.2926 Fax: 1.978.824.2301