Lead Generation – Whose Job is it Anyway?

With the seemingly relentless demands on Sales Managers to reduce costs while simultaneously increasing sales does outsourcing Lead Generation make sense?

  • Why not simply get our team to generate their own leads?
  • We’re paying salespeople anyway right?
  • Why add the expense of an inside lead generation team or the costs of hiring an lead service?

Can’t marketing – who actually are tasked and paid to generate leads for the sales force – supply the leads your team needs? Better answer those questions or your team simply won’t have enough prospects to sell into.

Sales Funnels are Very Thin Right Now

The combination of a down economy, reduced demand and hyper-competition have reduced the amount of leads for everyone. The complaint I hear from the boardroom to the coffee counter is “I know we could sell more if we could just get into the opportunities.” Yet just knowing that leads are the very life blood of sales isn’t enough. Relying on marketing to produce sales ready leads or the other pat answers, like more cold calling simply don’t work. The evidence is clear. Look at your own sales pipelines and opportunity reports.

  • Are your people chasing after any piece of business regardless of their margin or chance of success?
  • Do your people have a realistic chance of meeting their quotas based on the leads they have and the opportunities they are working?

Few Sales Managers are happy with the answers to those questions. Lead and demand generation has become job one. Just getting into doors and people’s offices to sell has become our profession’s greatest challenge. We know the problem – it is the solution that has been much more difficult to discover. Brian Carroll, in his book says that the average B2B salesperson needs to generate at least $1,000 of revenue every working hour.

  • Can they realistically be expected to accomplish that goal if they are cold calling?
  • Is following up on weak trade-show leads and raffles any more successful?

No, lead generation and its outsourcing needs to be reexamined.

Salespeople are Not Good Prospectors

Dan Kennedy, a prolific author and an authority on sales wrote

“It’s been my observation that the weakest link in the selling chain for most salespeople is prospecting. Most people can do at least an adequate job of presenting their products or services, if there’s a reasonably interested prospect in front of them. But most of the salespeople I’ve encountered simply hate prospecting. Consequently, they avoid it, both consciously and unconsciously, and do it only when the dire necessity of imminent starvation pushes them to do it. And then they do it poorly.”

We expect salespeople to negotiate deals and be industry voices that executives want to work with. Salespeople are experts on their solutions, industry and the art of selling. Sales Managers expect their team members to walk the carpeted halls and sell to ‘C’ level business people. The skills salespeople need to do those things are very different, I would say even diametrically opposed to the skills of prospecting and lead generation. Making professionals that cost you 6 figures cold call, write marketing pieces and do other lead generation activities destroys their selling effectiveness. There are simply not enough hours in a day to do both lead generation and selling. Prospecting might get done but never consistently and without costing selling time and lost sales opportunities. So what is the answer?

Lead Generation is the Most Important Management Responsibility

Knowing that leads are the key to hitting your numbers and that salespeople are generally bad at creating them means that the responsibility for lead generation falls squarely to management. Now I know that is not a popular message. I get more pushback on that idea than any other as I work with business managers and owners. The idea that salespeople should be both excellent demand creators, deal finders and closers is so entrenched it simply won’t die. However the numbers are clear. According to CSO Insights, a top sales research firm, less than half of salespeople are hitting their numbers and making quota these days. We can continue to have unrealistic expectations on salespeople or provide them the leads they need to succeed.

That takes us to how should leads be created?

  • Should the company rely on marketing or hire an outside firm to generate sales ready leads?
  • Should an inside sales force be created? The tactics and methods you employ will be situationally specific.
  • Do you have the budget to hire an outside firm or develop an inside team?
  • Do you have a marketing department charged with lead generation, or more to the point – do they share the same view of what a real sales ready lead looks like with your and your salespeople?

The answers will be different but the overarching strategy will be the same.

What Sales Management Must Do

Regardless of how you get the job done fueling your sales team with leads the process is clear.

  • First you must have a clear understanding of how many leads you need to make your numbers, both individually and for the team.
  • Then you must clearly define and qualify what a lead is – what a likely buyer looks like and then create a lead ranking system for the leads generated. You do this by looking where your current customers come from and targeting the prospects that look the most like them. Only those leads that a salesperson can actively move through a buying process with should be given to the sales force. The rest remain in a marketing funnel where they are nurtured until they are ready to buy.

Right now feedback from the field indicates that less than 12% of all company generated leads result in business while 86% of those leads to eventually buy – just not from your salespeople. This disparity is caused by leads being dispersed to the field before they are ready – wasting both the buyers and the sellers time. That also explains why the majority of salespeople report that they don’t even bother with the leads their companies provide them. Creating and monitoring an internal lead nurturing process within your company solves increases lead generation effectiveness over 800%. Talk about an ROI or an improvement metric. Nothing beats lead nurturing done effectively.

Having defined the quantity and quality of leads needed for your sales force only two things remain. What activities will generate those leads and who performs those tasks? Your budget resources will determine both the activities and the manpower used for lead generation.

The rule is simple: use the lowest cost asset that produces the highest result. To do that you need to know your metrics, such as what does a lead cost you now, what is the immediate value of a lead (profit from the average first sale divided by the number of leads needed to get that win) and the life-time value of a customer. Generally it is less expensive to hire a telemarketer to uncover prospects than a 6 figure salesperson dialing for dollars.

Grease the Sled – Sales Ready Messaging

Budgets often prevent us as Sales Managers from using outside services or having an inside telemarketing staff. Often we must rely on the salespeople we have to do the work of lead generation. Who actually does the prospecting is less important than management actually preparing the process and doing the work for the prospectors. If you spend the time to research the best prospects, identify where they are and then create lead generation materials even the worst prospector can uncover a wealth of new business.

  • Have you created effective lead generation letters for your team?
  • Have you put together powerful voice mail and telephone scripts for your sales force to use?
  • Do you role play with your team to perfect their elevator pitches and networking talks?
  • Are they trained to effectively get referrals from not only existing customers but from thought leaders and industry experts  that they are in contact with?
  • Do your team calls and meetings prepare the team for prospecting or just deliver product training, or worse point out how bad everyone is at demand generation?

There are many things that you can do to coach and mentor your team that will produce sales ready leads and more opportunities for them to sell into. Don’t expect salespeople to create their own processes or messages. Not only does this result in different messages throughout your team and market it gives you fragmented and inconsistent results.

Find ways of developing leads for your team. Work hard and diligently at the messages, collateral material, skill development and resources they need in order to have opportunities to sell. This will give your salespeople more selling time to win business. They will be more motivated doing what they love to do – sell. Most importantly it will rocket your sales numbers up while making everyone happier, wealthier, and more successful.

Russ Emrick is a sales coach with almost 30 years of experience as a Salesperson and Sales Manager. Having sold over $120 million dollars worth of goods and services to other businesses Russ now concentrates on coaching other sales professionals on how to succeed in the new economy of 21st Century. More information about sales and lead generation can be found at www.breakoutselling.com.

Sales Prospecting Methods

You can’t sell without having someone to sell to. In a down economy this is especially true. Demand is down, I get it.  However Apple just sold $100 MILLION in iPads. So someone is always buying. You just have to find them using effective and intelligent sales prospecting methods.

Sales Lead Generation and Sales Prospecting is job one.

Of course, when business slows down, what do most sales managers want you to do? M ake more cold calls! However, while cold calling can produce results it is not only ineffective it also drains the energy and life out of most salespeople. I’ve found that cold calling is actually can does more harm than good. Unless you have no other choice never cold call again.

Rather than go into all the reasons cold calling doesn’t work – or at least isn’t a very good use of your time. Let’s talk about what does work today. Recent surveys of executives with purchasing authority reveals that 80% of buyer find their vendors by referrals, word of mouth or by reputation. This means that you need to get the word out about yourself and your company. You need to establish yourself as an expert.

There are many ways of doing this. Write articles, give seminars, become an expert on the problems and the solutions your customers and prospects need. Become the go to salesperson for your area and industry. When you’re knowledgeable and known people will seek you out and take your calls.

Connections are your Big Bang for Sales Prospecting

One major area of lead generation that is given far more lip service than action is using referrals and networking. This doesn’t mean simply hitting your customers up for leads or having coffee at the next Chamber brunch. What this means is getting your customers and prospects talking about you. Contact thought leaders in your market and industry. Start a dialogue with them. Demonstrate how you can be an asset to them. Send them information – not brochures or marketing hype. Keep them up to date on regulatory changes, innovations and topical industry news. Go to the meetings, conferences and trade-shows they attend – not just the ones your competitors go to.

It takes work and effort to become recognized as a resource for prospects and experts in your industry. It also takes having something of value to offer. However the payoff is tremendous and not only for lead generation. Becoming the big fish in a little pond opens doors, gives you credibility and makes the entire selling process easier. While your competitors will be pushing bells and whistles or selling on price, you’ll be the solution expert – a trusted colleague and welcome guest instead of an unwanted pest.

This is intelligent sales prospecting.

However, since most companies still don’t get this concept you are going to have to do the work. Get testimonials from your existing customers. Write case studies – what business was like before buying from you and then after. There are many things a salesperson can’t do – create better company lead generation websites, become experts in social media, and so on. However you can become an expert. Chances are you already are. Now you just have to get the word out.

Create a newsletter and include that with your emails. Instead of the boring Voice Mail messages that never get returned, offer a compelling piece of information about how a similar business has improved their bottom line. Offer industry or product insights that makes the person want to call you back to find out more.

There are many sales prospecting methods that do work with today’s overworked, frazzled and information overloaded buyers. The first step is to remove any hype from your messages, word like best, robust, industry leader and other marketing expressions that everyone uses. These meaningless expressions set off the BS detectors of your prospects. Then establish clear, compelling and powerful value propositions. Tell people what in your solution benefits them. Get that message out in every way you can think of, from phone calls to emails to articles and white papers.

Most companies are simply not going to provide you with enough qualified leads and so it’s up to you to generate them. Intelligent sales prospecting in the new economy means using well thought out efforts of your own to get hot, qualified, ready-to-buy prospects to call you. And if you run your sales prospecting efforts properly you’ll get those leads before your competitors do.

Remember it’s not about being busy, it’s about being effective. Saying “I’ll never cold call again” isn’t enough. You need to replace the less effective techniques that no longer work in today’s new sales environment with strategies and tactics that work. Since 80% of your prospects find out about you from their peers and by reputation you need to start there. Every day take some action that builds your network of contacts and gets them talking about your and your offerings. That is an effective and winning prospecting system.

Would You Like to Double Your Leads and Opportunities in 26 Days?

  • Is your pipeline full or are you being hammered to find more opportunities?
  • Do you chase after every deal working with people that you can’t stand because you need the business?
  • Are your manager’s phone calls pleasant or full of haranguing to do more cold calling and prospecting?
  • Are you satisfied with your income and sales results?
  • Are you happy as a professional salesperson or burning out from overwork and stress?

If not having enough people to sell too I have a very limited time offer that will get you more leads and opportunities in only 26 days. Just click the button below to find out more.

How to Find Buyers and Build Your Funnel

No question about it: sales are down. The economy has reduced the amount of new business in the marketplace. This has reduced our incomes, thinned our sales funnels and in general made selling much harder than ever before. However we still have a job to do – “get the name on the line which is dotted” to borrow a famous movie line.

Weak demand by customers is the one of the largest challenges we face. Demand creation is complex. The reply from many Sales Managers is simply “cold call more.” If only that were true. Demand creation starts with having genuine solutions and valuable offerings.  Many of our value propositions are weak. Author and innovation expert  Clayton Christenen speaks the reality when he says,

Most solutions are really simply cobbled together elements that a company can offer instead of real offerings that customers want.

Jack Welch and other business luminaries say that in the 21st Century Demand Creation will become more important than anything else in business. That isn’t going to happen using the same tired marketing hype or over-priced and mediocre offerings. However as salespeople we can’t usually impact that part of our jobs. So how do we create demand in markets where supply and competitors far exceed demand?

Today Demand Creation is Job One

One unfortunate truth that we face as “on the street” salespeople is that our companies are not going to do find opportunities for us. Sure we get weak leads from trade-show raffles or web leads from loads of tire kickers, but real leads? They come few and far between – at least from most companies I’ve worked with.

The job of finding opportunities falls to us. Better yet we need to create opportunities – we need to create demand! Now this is a huge topic so I’ll be painting in broad strokes. However if you commit to dedicating time to a plan that creates demand for your product and services you’ll be rewarded by fantastic sales results. I’ll tell you why…

  • Creating demand fills your pipeline
  • Creating demand allows you to pick the cherry’s and throw away the pits
  • Creating demand gets you closable deals that increases your income
  • Creating demand makes your boss and company happy
  • Creating demand restores the joy and pleasure to selling

How many deals are you working on right now that you know deep down you’re not going to win? How much fat is in your funnel? How much hot air? Are you working with people that you can’t stand because you need the business? Are you constantly dealing with unreasonable demands that forces you to jump through hoops? How many times to you go back to the well for additional discounts for a prospect who promises to buy only if the price was better? These are all symptoms of  having a weak funnel – or a thin pipeline, whatever you want to call it.

I used to dread my monthly pipeline forecasts. It was a gauntlet of abuse on why deals weren’t coming in, why I didn’t have more deals on the table and why I wasn’t selling more. My bosses always told me to cold call more. Marketing braved one call and told the sales team they “weren’t selling on the company’s value.” Of course when asked exactly what that value was, Mr. “I’ve Never Sold a Thing In My Life” said, “well this isn’t the call do discuss that.” We all moaned. The company was clueless. However that didn’t change our commission check we had to figure out a way.

Finding Opportunities

The low hanging fruit of Demand Creation is Owning Your Territory. You need to know who the most likely prospects are and where they are located in your territory. You need to know what deals are happening or will happen. You need to be connected and have your fingers in every pie out there. It’s a big job but absolutely essential. It is so important you can find an entire report dedicated to Owning Your Territory on this site.

Getting your share of the available business in your territory is only a start. At anyone time less than 5 percent of prospects are actively looking for a new solution for their business. Worse yet – everyone is going after that business. The ocean is full of hungry sharks and where there is food the ocean is already bloodied. You can jump in that red ocean hoping to get a piece or you can create opportunities where others aren’t looking. Let’s talk about how.

Your Customers Hold the Key

Most of us have had product training until it comes out of our ears. We know every bell and whistle, every great feature and every reason the company believes our widget should sell like hotcakes. We’ve drunk the cool-aide as well. Most of us have been around awhile. We know our industry and our solutions. We know what customers really want. Better yet we KNOW what they need. In a world of business pain we are left baffled why customers aren’t lining up to buy our stuff – right?

Well as Mark Twain famously said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” In large measure we really don’t know what drives our customers or prospects. Customers have their own specific reasons for buying our products. Customers know what they need to accomplish far better than us. Find out why customers have bought from your company in the past. Find out what they like and what they want to do better. Not only will you learn how to sell your products better but you might even find new opportunities right in your own backyard. You may also keep unhappy customers with your company by solving their issues instead of finding a new solution and a new supplier.

However those are not the biggest benefits of talking with your customers. Customers are fertile incubators for new ideas. They take our products and solutions and innovate with them. They find uses, work-arounds and applications that have never even crossed our minds. The power of customers cannot be overstated, they know

  • Other applications your solutions can be used for
  • Other businesses that need your solution
  • Options and upsells that they desperately want
  • Other industries, markets and niches that you can sell into

Please don’t gloss over this step. I know that it sounds simple. Most salespeople are connected to their customers. Most street smart salespeople are very familiar with what is going on in their accounts and their industry. However looking outside the box and finding out detailed information on how customers are using your solution will produce new ideas that you can use in finding those “blue oceans” of opportunity. Blue Oceans are where there aren’t any other sharks but you looking for business.

Perfect Pitches

Once you’re armed with case studies, customer information and great testimonials you’re prepared to sell outside of the company box. You know the drivers that create demand in new prospects minds and you know the buttons to push. Now you have to adapt your scripts, tools, and approaches with these new messages and ideas.

In just a minute we’re going to talk about the specific strategies to find new buyers. However before you are ready to contact those prospects you need to have sharp value propositions clearly crafted that will create demand. Your messages cannot be the technical jargon or over used hyperbole of your marketing department. You need to craft results based messages that are outcome focused and they need to be in the language of your buyers.

Accountants talk differently than lawyers. CEOs talk differently than managers. Every market and every solution will have a different mix of decision makers involved. Make sure that you now what butters their bread and that you’ve crafted your messages in the language they speak. If you’re not sure, go back and talk to your customers.

  • Jill Konrath, author of “Selling to Big Companies” made a statement that is true of all sales, not just for salespeople selling to large accounts, “if your failing to get in is the most likely reason is that you have a weak value proposition.” I would add to that that a good solution isn’t enough. McDonald’s doesn’t sell the best hamburgers. Microsoft (and I hear the screams now) doesn’t sell the best operating system. Yet those are just two examples of companies that succeed because they’ve added the secret sauce of what I’m telling you here, namely
  • Have the right message
  • For the right audience
  • Communicated in a powerful and persuasive manner

That will get you into doors that have previously been locked. Once you’ve done that you’re ready to create some demand and fill that pipeline with robust closable deals,.

Divide and Conquer

Now that you’re prepared by knowing where to look and what to say you need to actually find prospects – that 95 percent of people who aren’t buying now but could be. It’s a big elephant to eat. The only solution is to eat it one slice at a time. There are only a couple of steps to do that

  • Segment your territory into targeted markets
  • Identify accounts that you suspect will need your offering
  • Find partners that can help you get into those accounts
  • Die-hard execution

Lets examine those steps more closely.

Segment your territory into targeted markets

Figure out 5 to 10 specific markets that you can go after. You could divide up your universe of prospects by demographic, by industry or by niche. If you sell to doctors what kind of doctors? What specialty needs you the most? What size practice? Older physicians or younger. Identify your existing markets and new ones. For example if you sell instruments to surgeons do orthopods need them as well? If you sell services to car dealers can parts dealers use you? Where are the results you deliver needed? What pain points do you fix?

Make a list of those targeted markets that you can sell into and then rank them. Start with the top 3 and then move onto Step 2.

Identify accounts that you suspect will need your offering

In each of your 3 top markets identify at least 10 companies that need your product or service. Use what you know about the industry, business, your customers and your solutions to determine the best fit. Is your product a high ticket item? If so a very small business won’t be able to buy it no matter how much they need it. What is your ideal customer profile? Who in your targeted market fits that?

Today there is no shortage of where to find suspects that may need your product. Use the Internet, Hoovers, Linked-In or the thousands of other business sources to find likely suspects for your products and solutions.You can use the newspaper, the Yellow Pages, trade magazines and even associations to find candidates to sell to. The only requirement is that they fit your market and your profile. Research and learn about these companies because that information will become your blue-print for getting access to them later.

Make a list of the most likely buyers for each of your three markets. Now, name those accounts because soon you’ll be working a plan on getting into them. Right now they are just suspects, you don’t really know what their needs are or if you can solve them. However this gives you a great starting place. You now have thirty named accounts to prospect – thirty more than you had yesterday.

Find partners that can help you get into those accounts

One of the biggest mistakes salespeople make is re-inventing the wheel. What I mean by that is doing everything on your own and not looking for assets and people to help. Every account you want to sell into already has vendors they work with, networks of contacts and a space within their community. Find and use partners that can help you not only get into your named accounts but can help you get a deal done.

It is far easier to create demand in a group or market than create that market. I like to think of it as being easier to get hit by the bus instead of having to fill the bus up. Who do your named accounts work with? Who do they associate with? Those are the people you need to know and places you need to go. Don’t re-invent the wheel. Use the relationships other suppliers have to get you into accounts. That is by far the best way to speed up your demand creation and get new opportunities into your funnel.

Who sells to your accounts that you can partner with? Here is an example to illustrate the point.

I recently worked with a Furniture Company whose sales had declined over 27 percent last year. They were spending frighting amounts of money on advertising, direct mail, cold calling and bush beating trying to drum up business. I had them stop all of it. Every salesperson was assigned one category of partner that could help them sell furniture. One guy took Carpet Stores, another Interior Decorators. An especially spunky young saleswoman went after Real Estate agents. The pitch was simple: we each have customers that need more than what we sell. Lets collaborate together and get a larger share of the customer’s wallet.

Some partners only wanted to bird dog opportunities – that is get some money for a lead and then a commission on the sale. Other partners were more creative, bundling their solutions with the Furniture Store. Amy, the saleswoman working with Real-Estate agents had the most success. People buying new homes want new furniture to match. Sellers often struck out because of their house didn’t show well with outdated ugly furniture. In 6 months sales were up over 32 percent and marketing costs were down over 56 percent. Biggest payoff – every salesperson made their quota and got a fat bonus.

Carefully monitor your partners. Are they delivering results? If not, why? Is it a one way street with you giving more leads away than you’re getting? Perhaps your partner isn’t as connected as you thought or motivated enough? If you can’t fix the problem find a different partner.

What bus can you get hit by? Who sells complimentary products to yours. Who is working with the accounts and markets you want to sell into. They can rocket your sales performance through the roof.

Die-hard execution

Today you hear a lot about working smarter and not harder. I’ve got news for you: today you need to work both harder and smarter. The key there is work. You must execute relentlessly, working your plan consistently and constantly. Demand creation requires that you identify your markets, select the most likely prospects, finding partners to help you gain access and trust to get into those accounts and a plan that you work on every day.

What is your selling process? Do you cold call and then follow up by email? Have you identified the key objectives that must be done that moves each sale from opening to signature? Do you know the key decision makers for each opportunity and have a plan for getting in-front of them?

Every sale has key milestones that must be accomplished for the sale to close. Map out your plan step by step. What do you do to gain access? Then what do you do to generate interest? How do you follow up? Does your prospect need to do a site visit? Do they need engineering specs or technical assistance. Know clearly the path you have to walk with the customer. Establish a plan and then work that plan – relentlessly.

Rinse and Repeat is needed for all of your prospecting activities

This 4 step plan isn’t a do once and stop system. Once you’ve worked your thirty accounts it is time to work your next thirty. The good news is that you’ve learned a lot. Each time you repeat the process you will get better at it and more effective.

Keep good records. One of your markets may not pan out. Replace it with a different target from your list. You may have to find different partners. Your message to market might not be powerful enough – or aligned closely with their needs and your solutions. Know what is working and what isn’t. In sales keeping score is easy: how much business did you close in the week, month and quarter. Keep score – your income depends upon it.

Selling is one of the professions that is only improved by doing. The more you do, the better and more effective you’ll become at it. Work these 4 steps of demand creation and you’ll be much closer to success than others cold calling or worse, sitting by the phone waiting for a prospect to call. Remember, hope is never a strategy.

Would You Like to Double Your Leads and Opportunities in 26 Days?

  • Is your pipeline full or are you being hammered to find more opportunities?
  • Do you chase after every deal working with people that you can’t stand because you need the business?
  • Are your manager’s phone calls pleasant or full of haranguing to do more cold calling and prospecting?
  • Are you satisfied with your income and sales results?
  • Are you happy as a professional salesperson or burning out from overwork and stress?

If not having enough people to sell too I have a very limited time offer that will get you more leads and opportunities in only 26 days. Just click the button below to find out more.