January 4, 2008
June 14, 2006
Go-to-Market Strategies just sent out their newsletter with the "Top Five Marketing Mistakes Companies Make..And How to Recover!" The information gained is certainly of interest, but one of the points is very accurate in terms of working with a lead generation company. The information stands on its own when you consider a purely internal company with a marketing and a sales department, each needing to accomplish their own goals. It isn't necessarily quite as obvious when dealing with an external company that is providing you with sales leads or even generating strong referrals.
The mistake mentioned by them is: #3: NOT INTEGRATING MARKETING WITH SALES EFFORTS.
According to their newsletter:
Common Mistake: Developing marketing programs or materials that fizzle out in the sales process and never get used by the sales team.
Often marketing teams spend a considerable amount of time, effort, and perhaps most importantly money to create a collateral kit and sales presentation for a new program or product offering. The sales team rejects the materials because they don’t address the most compelling selling points and produces their own one-off presentations and brochures that send mixed messages to prospects and customers. To further illustrate the point, many times a marketing team will launch a new direct mail program to “generate sales leads” for the sales team, only to find that sales doesn’t follow up on them because they don’t feel the leads are “qualified.”
Not having a clear integration between sales and marketing can only result in failed marketing programs, costing you lost revenue opportunities and wasted expenses.
The information is very accurate fo a lead generation company as well. When working with an outside partner, it is crucial to ensure that communication is at a very high level. What are the expectations for the referral generations from your partner Are you expecting:
- Someone that "could possibly maybe but probably not" be interested in your product, but that a good sales person could swing into a customer?
- Someone who is most definately interested in learning more, but may, or may not, be ready quite yet?
- Someone who is ready to be shown how the product can best benefit them through a demo or product trial?
- Someone that your sales person can speak to, give a quote to, and then turn into a customer all on the first phone call?
If the requirements are not defined when dealing with your referral generation company, YOU are falling into the common mistake of "not integrating marketing with sales efforts". As the side of the partnership with the details and the sales force, it is imperative that you convey the needs of your team. In general, your team would want someone in category #3 and #4, but #2 could still be interesting to you. #1 may, or may not, be what you're looking for — it really depends on your current level of customers and response.
Just remember — don't make the mistake of assuming that the generation company working with you knows what you want. You need to be sure to let them know.
June 13, 2006
Although, I'm sure that some people prefer the door-to-door method, I know that I, personally, will never buy something from a person walking up to my door — yet I have done it over the phone. Whether this is a psychological block or human nature, I can't say — I do think that it has to do with the product of society. In the 50's and 60's, it may have been reasonable to expect someone to open the door for you and let you in to demonstrate the product. I can't imagine that this is a reasonable expectation in today's society.
Citibank, however, seems to have decided that going door to door is a valid choice. As posted in "Seth's Blog: Not what it used to be" back in November of 2005, "an assistant Vice President at Citibank. He's wandering the halls, door by door, trying to sell business checking accounts." I think that they would have had more success telemarketing, but I suppose you can be the judgement of that — have you seen many Citibank sales people at your business door lately? How about telephone calls?
I thought so!
In it, the following information is noted:
- They dialed, on average about 15-18 prospects in an hour
- They connected with a person about 20-30 percent of the time
- They converted 20 percent of the calls – Where conversion is defined as objective of the call being reached (qualification established, product demo scheduled, information requested, etc.)
What does this actually mean?
This indicates an overall success rate of between 4 and 6 percent when reaching a specific target. The study that GTM used included B2C as well as B2B environments. The Direct Marketing Associate holds a different number of 8 percent for B2B only. One note is that these are professional telemarketers and people who know how to 'talk'. A random person from the street would get significantly lower numbers.
For the purposes of this example, we'll take the middle road of 6% for B2B contacts. Assuming you are gathering leads and ten percent of your leads turn into sale on average, this means that you would be able to generate 4.8 leads (.48 sales) per day and 24 (2.4 sales) per week. Considering the average rate of success for a direct mail marketing campaign (less than 0.1% on average) and the costs involved, telemarketing is certainly a valid way to go. With improved processes, strong product, targeted calls and strong sales people, these numbers can certainly increase.
June 12, 2006
Its an interesting phenomenon that some sales people believe that bullying is a valid tactic. Used car dealers, for example, have brought this to a whole new level and are still stuck in the concept that if they breathe down your throat, you will buy from them. Personally, I've never bought a car from a used car sales person that hovered and consistently pushed me.
My family-in-law is looking for a house in Austin, TX. They're not sure what they are looking for or, for that matter, where in the city. They've looked from 30 miles South to 30 miles North along the main highway out here, just to see what the areas are like, the new home models and communities, the pricing, the resale houses.. We spent almost eight hours on Saturday and a same amount of time on Sunday driving around just to identify the right places (we still haven't, but that's not the point behind this story!). In doing so, I've been into a number of the new home models and spent a bit of time talking to some of the sales representatives as well as listed to my wife and her mother talking after they've met with some of the sales people.
The largest complaint?
Bullies. High Pressure. Harping.
A person that comes TO you to look at your product is an immediate positive. They are interested in something to fill a particular need, even if they're not sure what. It is your job, as a sales person, to show them how the product meets their needs. If you're talking to them because they called you, then its obvious that there was a reason they called you — identify the reason, identify what it is what need they're looking to fill, and do your best to fill that need. It is not your job, however, to force a round need into a square product. I realize that, often, your compensation is based on a commission structure, but forcing a round need into a square product will usually result in someone unhappy with you who isn't going to buy anyway. It is much better to have a person who doesn't buy from you walk away with a good taste than a negative — perhaps they know someone that could be referred to you that does need your product.
For example, one of the last new housing complexes we saw yesterday had a salesman (we'll call him Scott) as they all do. Just prior to coming to Scott's complex, we had finished spending two and a half hours with a gentleman named Jeff who was extremely pleasant and helpful. Jeff did not once — in the entire two hours — ask the question "So, can we get you started today?". He simply discussed the options, let my mother in law talk and listen, and gave suggestions. He had also sent us to Scott's complex (a sister area owned by the same company) to look at a model that he didn't have available, but felt that may work for my family-in-law's needs.
We arrived at Scott's complex and went in. As soon as we met him, we said "Jeff over at X sent us to take a look at your models. Would that be possible?" Scott's response was "Oh, of course! Let me get price sheets and everything for you." He then proceeded to speak with us about the benefits of his area and asked whether we liked the community. My wife's response was "Its not really something we like. We like area X and Y much better."(she always tries to be nice, but in truth she hates the area). He nodded and said, "Ah.. I see. Well, we've got a special going today that'll give you a $5000 discount on your house. So .. can we get you started today?" We looked at him as though he had just grown two heads and said, "No, thank you. We're just looking. We're looking at all the different areas before we make any decisions and still have a few other places to visit after this. Can we take a look at your model?" He led us through the first of two models and talked the entire time — not once did he really give us any time to explore on our own, to look at what we liked or did not like, and to privately discuss options that may have worked. As we approached the exit to the first model, he said "So .. did you like it?" Our response was that it was too small for the needs that we had. He nodded and said, "Ah.. I see. Well, if we start you today, you'll be done in less than four months. So .. can we get you started today?" Again, we looked at him oddly. Did he simply not listen?
By now, you can see how the rest of the discussions went. We toured the third model and talked a bit in the main office before leaving. By the time we had walked out the front door, he had asked "So .. can we get you started today?" a total of six times. In the span of less than an hour. Our first reaction when we got back to the car was "Well, even if we were going to buy today, it wouldn't be from him." His entire attitude exuded the fact that he was after nothing but his commission, nothing but 'closing the sale' regardless of the circular fit of his houses to our square needs. It seemed irrelevant to him that Jeff had sent us down, it seemed irrelevant that the area wasn't the right one for us, and it seemed irrelevant that houses weren't right for our needs. I expect that, had we decided to buy a house from him that day, he wouldn't have given Jeff any credit either!
When you're talking to someone on an inbound sales call, LISTEN to their needs. IDENTIFY how your product fits and HELP the client see how your benefits meet their needs. If they don't, then so be it — don't keep slamming your 'closing' hammer down in an effort to make things fit.
Jeff? We'll be glad to send referrals your way if we ever run into someone that needs to buy a house in northwest Austin!
June 6, 2006
There are hundreds upon hundreds of pieces of software out there, but not many are focused on telemarketing or sales. Those programs that are "CRM" (Customer Relations Management) software such as salesforce.com, Act!, Goldmine, or other similar products don't ever seem to meet the needs of a telemarketing company. Perhaps they don't have the ability to report on various campaigns (most I've found seem to only allow for a single product or do not separate reporting capabilities). Perhaps they don't allow for the separation of lead generators and sales staff. I've found the product that meets my needs as a telemarketing manager as well as the needs of my employees as telemarketers. A program called "TMS". I've partnered with them and am able to work with you to determine interest and answer questions. Read on for more information about the product or contact me by phone at 512 – 351 – 4921 or email with questions.
I took the top 10 reasons to use from their website because I felt it was very pertinent.
Top 10 Reasons to use TMS
- Ease of Use, very simple and friendly to configure and use – we're not just saying it, our Customers are. Non technical people can configure screens and user defined fields every aspect of TMS.
- Advanced Power Dialing which will dramatically increase efficiency and productivity of each agent.
- Additional Full featured Calling functionality Call Guides, Advanced Scripting, Advanced Appointment setting and full Sales Order Entry.
- Remote Agents Support, Agents can be anywhere and with a internet connection be monitored and supported
- Editor's Note: This is very true. New Direction Marketing uses primarily virtual employees and TMS allows us to work with them remotely and audit them as necessary. Using existing technology such as UltraVNC, our support team can work to solve any problems remotely and TMS supports this capability for anything that we can not solve in house.
- Easily manage up to 999 databases from within the standard user interface
- Editor's Note: How often have you tried to separate your campaigns, either for different products or specials, and been unable to do so? With this, we're able to support multiple clients seamlessly. We use one database per client and are able to limit our telemarketers access to ONLY those products that they are trained in and expected to call on. As they gain more experience, extra campaigns can be added on. You can even schedule times for your calls! From 9:00 – 12:00, call on one product and from 12:01 to 5:00, call on the other — automatically. Using the system, you can run reports to see what days, or even times!, are the most successful for your outbound contacts.
- Data cleaning functionality including de-duplicating, do-not-call number screening and telephone number cleaning.
- Management Reporting functionality and Real Time Agent Statistics is built-in to the TMS software and requires no technical knowledge
- Easy-to-use routines for importing (and exporting) customer and product data. With no limit to the size of data files
- Editor's Note: Through our remote MySQL (see below) connection, we imported 1000 records in about 15 seconds.
- Large Database Support – either Microsoft SQL Server, or MySQL (which is free). You can handle large amounts of data and scale to large numbers of users.
- Editor's Note: We remotely host our MySQL database at ISUnlimited.net for a nominal monthly fee. The connection speed is amazing, a token to both TMS's capabilities and ISU's bandwidth.
- You will Never out grow TMS as you discover new features and we add them.
I've found the software to meet almost every need that I've had. It even works with Skype (as I mentioned here) as a power-dialer and allows you free long distance within the US from within the US while Skype's special offer exists (ending December 31, 2006).They are currently running a special for US based customers on their license pricing. Its a huge discount over their future price, so get a hold of them or me now!Please feel free to contact them directly or call / email me with questions. Please, just remember to let them know that New Direction Marketing referred you over! I'd love to answer any questions you might have! Drop me a line today.
Managing a company to do what you want, how you want it, and when you want it is difficult to say the least. In most cases, a company is a vendor and the expectation is that you pay them to do a certain job and they do said job. In the case of a lead generation company, the relationship is often a little more complex — but that is not to say that it is more difficult to manage. The reason that it is more convoluted is that it is a long term relationship that truly benefits both companies to be successful with each other. Most client/vendor relationships are one time, one job events or result in a minor service being rendered on a regular basis (for example, outsourcing payroll). Referral generation, or customer service for that matter, outsourcing is a major partnership. If the referral generation company doesn't successfully generate referrals for your organization and the expectation exists, your sales will lag beneath the projections. If your company does not successfully turn the referrals into sales, the generation company will either have a hard time collecting on standard lead fees or will not receive commissions.
All together, ensuring that your company and theirs are working together smoothly is critical. The question is — how do you do that?
Truthfully, there is no 'best way' in my opinion. There are, however, a few key points that need to be addressed in any partnership. This one is no different, just specialized.
Managing an external organization requires communication. The level of communication depends on the work they're doing, how often they're doing it and pre-described requirements. It is important to ensure that there is communication in both directions — from you to them and, certainly, from them to you.
For a lead generation company, I would require at LEAST a weekly email with the number of calls made, contacts completed, and referrals generated. I would also require a daily report of all referrals generated for either that day or the day prior. Other options would be detailed reports on success ratings, estimated future possibilities, success by agent on your campaign, time of day or day of week successes, average times on calls, and other such granular information. There are dozens of criteria that a good telemarketing software can report on. For one of the best out there, please contact me and I will put you in touch with the sales team.
As I indicated, communication needs to be a two way street. This will allow the lead generation team to optimally ensure quality as well as quantity. It is important to communicate in terms of successes on the referrals, whether any of the referrals stated that they had not been contacted, and how strong the lead was. These three basic sets of information are critical for your referral generation company to improve.
"The lack of synergy between sales and marketing on lead generation is so common as to risk cliche. It goes like this… marketing feels that sales doesn’t follow-up on marketing generated leads. Sales counters that the “leads” aren’t any good. And so on. " – Brian Carrol's Blog
The same result occurs between a referral generation company and yours if communication is not kept regularly.
Although this may seem to be more of a co-operation tool than a management tool, I believe that it falls under managing the external organization. Ensuring that they are trained, in full, to be able to give the clients the information that you want is very important. Many times, a company simply says 'generate leads' and then wonders how come the referrals are unaware of certain capabilities, requirements, or costs involved. The expectation was that the referral generation company would deliver this information to the client — but this was never trained.
Single Point of Contact
Working with a single point of contact is always best. Ask for a backup (preferably a senior management level) just in case you are unable to reach your immediate contact on a critical issue, but try to work with the single point as much as possible. Request communication tools that you are comfortable with — email, phone and instant messaging. When working with the single point of contact, setup the schedule that works for your needs. You are the client, in this case, even though this is a working partnership. For example, request your reports every day by 9:00 AM their time and a conference call once a week on Thursday afternoons. It is important to create a working relationship with your point of contact so that they can concentrate on resolving any problems, hang ups or concerns that you may have. In exchange, however, make sure that you are available to answer questions in a timely fashion when they have a problem.
Be Willing to Cut Loose
This is a hard decision to make after you've put in all the time to verify a single point of contact, figure out the training, settle on reporting needs — but you need to be willing to cut loose from the company you're working with when they are simply not doing what you need. Whether this is because the leads they are sending you are a waste of time, whether they are not sending you anything, or whether they are simply putting you off all the time — at some point, the decision must be made to go to a different company. There are always exceptions to this, but it is something that each individual organization needs to decide on. It is, however, something that needs to be decided on consciously.
As you can tell, all of these points impact each other. The largest thread is "communicate". Without communication, the lead generation company will fail and you will not see any positive impact from their referrals. An outsourced company that generates leads and referrals for you is incredibly potent — don't let the opportunity slide through your fingertips without making an effort!
May 24, 2006
I recently stumbled upon "Corporate Blogging 101", by Patrick Dodd, through LinkedIn Bloggers and read some of his posts. He's got an interesting view point on various things, but one of the subjects that he speaks about is marketing through blogs. His latest post, "Converting Traffic Into Business" asks a poignant question "What have you done to create an effective call to action in your blog?".
He writes with a monetary intent in mind and the assumption that most people do. I suppose that's an accurate assumption — business people writing business blogs usually have some sort of business purpose behind it.
I know that my personal purpose is a combination of education for people out there and, in the long run, just an attention grabber. I don't expect to "make money" in a direct fashion through the blog which is why I don't ever expect to have affiliate links and such dotting my blog landscape, but I suppose that the hope is more that people read the blog and gain some insight — and, perhaps, in the long run if they're looking for a company that can do what New Direction offers, they'll consider talking to me because they've found my blog to be of use to them.
One of the comments on Patrick's blog states that they post a link to their website at the end of every posting. I'm not sure that I'd want to do that, but I suppose the thought should remain in my mind to help drive traffic. Honestly, I'm not sure what the right solution is.
In any case, if you're looking to see how you can market your company through blogging, his musings may be of use to you. I'll spend more time reading his posts when I can.
One of the key aspects of ensuring that your company's sales team has the chance to be successful is to select the right referral generation company. If you make the wrong choice, there are a significant number of possible drawbacks including invalid leads, wasted time or even legal concerns. However, if you make the right choice, there are many more advantages including company and sales individual success.
Obviously, a concern faced is that one doesn't wish to work with a company that does not fit your needs. How does one select the right company?
Although the choice of a referral generation company is ultimately a personal choice and a 'gut' feel, there are a couple of criteria that I personally would use. If I was going to hire a company to do my lead generation for me, I would want to make sure that these few minimum requirements are met.
Are you a number or a person?
Some of the companies out there are so large or so narrowly focused on cutting to the cheapest price possible that they're willing to work with anyone and bring on more partners than they really can handle. I say partners because the best lead generation companies are, in my opinion, not a 'normal' client/vendor relationship — it is a relationship built on mutual success.
Are they available to you?
This should be obvious, but in doing business with a lead generation company, you should be able to reach them, at least during their normal hours, and speak with someone. Its not necessary to immediately talk to them under most circumstances, but at least receive a call back within one day; a response to an email should be in the same time-frame. There should rarely, if ever, be a reason that a company doesn't respond to you for a longer period of time. Even better would be if you can get a single point of contact with whom you can co-ordinate that has access to all your preferred methods of communication.
Do you feel like you trust them?
Do they have referrals?
Both sides need to be able to trust each other. You need to trust that the leads you're receiving are worth your time to call and they need to trust that the leads they're giving you are going somewhere. There are companies who don't care and simply hand off bulk leads without ever looking on, but these are the companies that I would, personally, avoid. They are more interested in simply generating their bottom line $$ than they are in creating a partnership.
Asking for referrals is not a bad thing. Most companies, at least existing ones, will have referrals that they can give you. Even new companies may have the ability to give referrals regarding their management team. Sites such as LinkedIn or letters of recommendations from past employers give a good viewpoint on skills and personal quality, if not the company itself. For example, my profile on LinkedIn indicates that I have 23 endorsements for past positions. To see the endorsements, you can become a member (free) and view the specific details.
Is it a partnership?
In my opinion, the best referral generation companies are those that have a stake in your success AND you have a stake in theirs. This could easily be my personal viewpoint on how companies should work getting involved, however I strongly believe that success is best gained by all parts of the chain having a positive experience. If the end client is satisfied, the product company is satisfied and the sales associate is happy. If the sales associate is happy, then it means that the lead generation company has done their job and they're happy. If the referral generation company is content, then it means that the lead generation associate has done their job and they're happy. All in all, the entire chain of effect is impacted. This is best realized by all sections of the chain trusting each other and successfully implementing a process of success.
What is their success rate?
What are their projections for your product/service?
These questions are both based in the same bottom line: Numbers.A company that has been around for a while will, or at least should, have figured out how well they do.
A new company may not be able to give you past history, for obvious reasons, but they should be able to talk to you about their projections and why they think these projections are logical. An existing company, one that's been around more than a year, should be able to give you the exact numbers for their entire program line. They should be able to tell you how many cold contacts they need to generate a single referral. They should be able to tell you, on average, how many referrals a company takes to gain a sale. From there, the company should be able to work with you to identify whether past history should be a good indicator of future success or whether the numbers would need to be changed for your product. Based on the Direct Marketing Association, lead generation should be at about an 8% success rate and sales should be somewhere between 1.6% and 2.0%. This would indicate a 20% close rate of all referrals sent to your company, a reasonable number if the prospects are as strong as they should be and your sales team is qualified. The 8% depends significantly on the current market, the product sold and the skill of the telemarketers. I've seen anywhere from 5% to 13%, but 8% is a decent average number to start from. The referral generators should be spending a maximum of 5, occasionally 10, minutes on the phone with any prospect. Their job is JUST to generate interest and garner a prospect that wants to talk to your sales people — its up to your sales people to close it from there.
Do they rate their referrals?
This is probably one of the main points that you may not have thought of. Most of the above are simply a re-iteration of a good way to identify a company and some basic thoughts. Rating referrals, however, is something that many lead generation companies do not do and, again my opinion, should. Without rating referrals, all you're getting is "yes" and "no". I don't feel that this is enough information. There are at LEAST three levels of referrals, two of which matter to a company receiving them. It is certainly possible to come up with a more complex calculation to determine priorities based on criteria such as projected purchase date, budget, employees, etc to generate a rating, but a handed off referral should have a little more information that "This is a referral. Call them." The two levels should be: Very interested and Needs Work. Very interested should include those referrals that have said something along the lines of "This is perfect! I've been looking for something along these lines for a while and it sounds great. I just need a final quote and we should be able to buy it." In truth, you should receive about 5-10% of your referrals in this category — if you're lucky. It isn't a category that comes through very often, but a company should at least have it. They are the clients you should be picking up the phone on as soon as you get the list and dialing their numbers. The other, "needs work", is the more typical referral. A company that needs more information than the lead generators have, perhaps they want a demo, a custom quote, have some in depth technical questions… A prospect that isn't sure if it fits into their budget and needs a bit of tugging. These are examples of good referrals that could turn into a good sale with just a little bit of nudging.
Depending on your company and the products/services being generated for, there are other questions and responses. The main thing, however, is whether the company is new or old, it should be a partnership and a positive relationship.
Good luck selecting your next lead generation company!
May 23, 2006
If you're a social and professional networker, LinkedIn is a great company. Through their service (which is free for the basic member), you can connect with dozens, if not hundreds, of people through your extended network. I've also found it to be of excellent use for simply keeping up with people as they move around different jobs or change emails. In addition to this, LinkedIn has a number of Yahoo Groups, including LinkedIn Bloggers and LinkedIn Sales, that help optimize your use of the program or simply to discuss various aspects of it.
In any case, if you're a LinkedIn member, please feel free to send me an invite if you're reading this. My profile is publicly available at https://www.linkedin.com/in/pmesritz.
Its also great for Marketing — you can figure out who to talk to with a little bit of research.
May 22, 2006
So the choice is yours now… You're ready to start making money and have a sales force staring at a phone, waiting for it to ring. Then it starts. Ringing off the hook as customers respond to your first TV ad and you're off!
That's, obviously, a pretty idyllic viewpoint on advertising, but it would be nice. More reasonably, your sales force is out there, trying to reach new customers by calling people cold. You've trained a group of four people on your product and they know it inside and out. If they have the opportunity to speak to someone whose interested in your product, they'll close one in four and can handle four calls an hour since it takes them about 15 minutes per person to explain the benefits in detail. Since they're making outbound calls "cold", however, they are only gaining minimal interest levels every fifteenth call and nailing a sale every one in sixty. Suddenly, instead of one sale an hour each, your trained sales team is only making one sale every three hours and becoming more and more frustrated. Your sale projections have plummeted from thirty two sales per day to around ten per day — 31.25% of your expected numbers.
How can you increase your level of success?
Well, there's a couple of ways. The one I'm going to focus on is outsourcing lead/referral generation. Many people call it lead generation, but I, personally, consider it to be referral generation. See my earlier posts for why I do so.
Outsourcing has a lot of advantages, not the least of which is the simple fact that your sales team doesn't need to be focused on spending time finding people that are interested.
- Expense: The cost involved in outsourcing is, in the long run, usually a cheaper investment than having your in house sales team do the work.
- Training: Training sales people to make cold calls and qualify people without going into their detailed pitches at the wrong times is difficult.
- Training x2: Your sales team has expertise on a product that is not necessary for referral generation. Bringing you contacts for sales can be done by people who know the basics of your product — enough to generate an interest, but not necessarily to gain a new customer.
- Time: You simply can't make as many sales if you use your in house sales people to make cold contact with prospects.
- Better Prospects: As the numbers above showed, without the right prospects, your company will not be able to make as many sales as they have the potential to, even with a perfect sales team. With an outsourced company generating referrals for you, the sales team can complete the sale and help you gain customers with greater success.
Obviously, there are disadvantages as well, but I believe that for many businesses these disadvantages are far outweighed by the above mentioned benefits as well as others that companies find to be true. The primary disadvantage that seems to weigh on management's mind is the loss of control. Although this is a definite concern, this can be addressed by finding the right company to work with.
Outsourcing referral generation can have a very positive impact on your business and its long term success. By chosing the right company to work with, understanding how to best manage the organization, and negotiating an equitable payment structure, all parties can be improved and each person along the chain will feel the increased capabilities.
A good referral generation company does not see you as "just a customer" — but as a partner. I'll address this more in my next detailed tip on how to chose a company.
May 18, 2006
I actually just wrote an email to a discussion group that I'm a member of, but then thought that I should post it here as well. The information is relevant to the topic that I try to stay on here, so … here goes!
Skype is a great tool for keeping up with your network and making sure that you can get a hold of your friends, family and professional associates around the world. I'm sure that almost everyone here agrees with that. With the new release of Skype's free calls within the US and Canada to both landlines and mobile phones until the end of the year, it makes sense to look at the technology from a marketing standpoint. The ability to make free calls anywhere within the US — a free pass out of your long distance phone bill for the next six months or so!
Even the smallest business can gain better market share by optimizing their use of this new capability. Anyone who can work remotely in the slightest can now contact strong leads across the United States for almost nothing; no more than the cost of the leads themselves if you don't have a list of your own (www.salesgenie.com, BTW, offers a great tool for this – $300 per month for unlimited leads [per person]).My company, New Direction Marketing, is partnered with telemarketing software company to help deliver technology that can help optimize the telemarketing. Its a great value and is currently priced at 60% to break into the US market. The product has been actively developed and used in the UK for a number of years now. One big advantage that it has is that it HELPS you manage your telemarketing needs AND has a direct capability to interact with SKYPE to maximize your call times. What else could you ask for?I know that this is, in part, a pitch as well as simply a 'think about using Skype for marketing' reminder. Too many people think about VOIP or other new technologies without looking at the outside capabilities that it may have. If you're interested in the software, drop me a line and we can discuss it further. Else, I hope your day goes well and discuss the concepts of Skype and how to use it best for marketing!
As you can tell, I'm a proponent for the above mentioned software as well as the use of new technologies where possible. The difference between this software and for example, SalesForce.com, is significant. Salesforce.com doesn't allow the management of different campaigns or different sections of your organization. This is HUGE. Its the perfect way for a single company selling the same product to identify which sales pitches work, which special offers increase success rates, and other capabilities. Plus, there's often different offers for different 'types' of people. In the mortgage industry, for example, there's refinancing interest only loans, refinancing from a different company, and refinancing from within your current customers, just to name a few. Perhaps you want to call new clients and give them a 10% off on their first invoice and would like to call existing customers and give them a 10% credit for their past order on new business … in a 'Sales' CRM, this wouldn't be possible generally. With this software, you can do both!There's a lot of other things and I'm getting off the topic of "Skype and Telemarketing". Skype is a product that's become proven over time. One of its biggest drawbacks has always been the cost to use "SkypeOut", or call out of Skype's network. With their current release of FREE, you can't really beat it for calling within the United States and Canada. Even calling overseas isn't bad ($0.02 per minute to the UK, for example).
There are a lot of ways to go out and 'get' a hold of people. There are a lot of ways to try to locate the right person to talk to. A new trend is to use 'name sourcers'. Whether or not this is a successful trend or not, the companies and people that have started working within this niche market seem to be both successful and capable.
According to a sourcers discussion group I have recently joined, they state that what they do entails "The finding of people who hold specific titles (usually) within (usually) specific organizations so that you may offer them your opportunity."
I suppose this logic makes sense. If you know WHO to talk to you can know WHAT needs to be said. Yet, at the same time, how is this any different from cold calling? A good cold call will get you to the WHO you need to talk to and you will already be prepared with WHAT to say. It seems a little backwards to me. Now adays, there are a multitude of companies out there that offer databases with names and contact information. I suppose that name sources are the core information base from this as that is what they do — gather names and contact information. It doesn't seem that those that deem themselves name sourcers do anything beyond the databases, but perhaps I'll gain more knowledge through being on this discussion group.
At this point, however, it seems that generating leads and/or cold calling companies would step through, generally, the same process as these name sourcers.
May 16, 2006
You can now sign up for daily digests through Feedblitz' subscription capabilities. At some point, I'll figure out how to modify my layout so that I can put the full form on the page for subscription without needing to go to their site, but this is the best I've got at this point.
Thanks for reading! Having just started this blog a little while ago and not having spent any time promoting it, I've been happy with a couple of readers per day. Yesterday, I hit somewhere between 24 and 32 readers — imagine my surprise!
As I've said in past postings, referrals are the way to go as much as possible. It is incredibly important to ensure that your contacts are as best as they can.
"Passively relying on word of mouth is too often a cop-out for entrepreneurs who are intimidated by the thought of having to sell," says Jeff Cornwall, Director of Beltmont University.
By relying on passive word of mouth, you are losing significant capabilities and contacts. But by optimally using your word of mouth referalls and "cold calling" them, you have more success. Personally, I wouldn't consider them cold calls — I call them referrals, even if they're not calling you.
His post references an article in Startup Journal called "Warm Up to Cold Calling To Find New Customers". Its an article that certainly rings very true. "This is not the end of the world; you're only making a phone call." says Norma Siciliano, president of Cold Calling for Hot Sales, a sales-coaching firm in New York City. How true that is!
If you're wary about truly cold calling prospects, there's companies out there that can help as well as sales people that can be hired who aren't as trepidacious as you.
May 15, 2006
As I said earlier today, cold calling is an art.
The article quoted is over 15 years old (published in 1991), but wow — the concepts still ring true. Whether your cold calls are walk in face to face, contacting people over the phone, or getting a hold of them through the internet… attitude and getting people to help you are the two key aspects to successfully making that contact.
Since I just wrote something about Cold Calling, I thought I'd find a few points of reference for you in addition to what I wrote. There are a large number of blogs, sites and posts out there, so I'm only going to put a handful up as I find them.
"Sometimes you just have to include an element of cold calling into your marketing program", says Stuart Ayling, Director of Marketing for a specialist marketing consulting firm in Australia.
His blog has some interesting information — even more interesting is that his post on Cold Calling happened today, the same day that I wrote mine!
There are those that say cold calling is dead. There are those that say it is alive. Personally, I believe a company offering products or services to the outside world can not succeed without a balanced view on this sales and lead generation tactic. Concentrating solely on making outbound cold calls and neglecting other avenues is a mistake, however the same goes for ignoring the benefit that contacting prospects without notice can offer.
When should a company cold call? When shouldn't they?
An organization, for profit or not, that depends on a revenue stream coming from brand new customers can not normally sit upon its laurels and simply wait for revenue to be generated. There has to be some sort of outbound marketing tool. Using these tools correctly is the reason that a company retains a marketing director or a company specializing in marketing. Note: I didn't say sales, I said marketing. Marketing allows a business to retain a brand and plan its projections to the outside world. It allows a company to optimize its sales force's success rate through branding, through advertising and through marketing.
Cold calling is both a marketing and a sales tool. On one hand, it can be used to develop a name and to generate interest. On the other, it can be used to directly generate an interest and, from there, a sale. There is at least one website and newsletter out there that claims that cold calling is dead. I happen to disagree with them, but I am sure that there are many people that agree.
I disagree because I believe that cold calling is a tool that still has its benefits. It is impossible to, unless you are lucky enough to garner as much media and word of mouth attention as companies such as Microsoft do, simply wait and expect customers to come to you. It is unreasonable to be passive about your sales generation. Cold calling is one way to increase interest and contacts.
It is, however, not the only tool that should be used. A company should use all the tools at its fingertips including websites, opt in newsletters or blogs, referral contacts, and advertising. By using all of the marketing and sales avenues that a company has available, the business sets itself up for success.
Cold calling is an excellent way to generate interest and contact people you hadn't considered. It is a good way for a lead or referral generation company to optimize their time for your success. Cold calling is not something that everyone is good at or enjoys. It is something that requires a specific attitude and perspective.
May 11, 2006
Any prospects that you contact can be considered either qualified or not qualified. Depending on where the information was gained or how you received their contact information, an individual or company could have gone through a level of identification that would make them a good match for your product or services (called product from here on out). This would make them a qualified lead, a type of company or individual that could use your business in direct order rather than in some nebulous future time-frame. An unqualified lead are those companies that may not have a time-frame to purchase your product, may have no interest in your product or service at this time, or perhaps simply have never even heard of you before.
What, exactly, is the difference and how do we get them?
In theory, an "incoming referral" should always be qualified. Someone that has been sent to you by a current customer because your loyal customer felt that the referral could use your product is an excellent prospect — someone that obviously has a need, certainly is interested, and has proactively contacted you. A little less qualified, but certainly still falling within the 'qualified' realm is a referral given to you to contact. These are people that a current user felt could be contacted because they would likely have use for what you have to offer.
Unqualified leads are, all too often, "not qualified" leads. Cold calling is a technique that requires significant effort and knowledge. An untrained cold caller, one who has never done it before, is obviously not as experienced as one who has being doing it longer. The response rates for straight cold calling vary drastically, but even organizations who have specialized in cold calling for decades, such as the Direct Marketing Association, do not exceed an average success rate on cold calls of more than about 8.25% to simply generate leads! This means that almost 92 out of 100 calls made to unqualified leads are "not qualified". Generally, your sales force will become frustrated with numbers such as this — they're trained in your product and have just spent about 5 hours (*) trying to talk to people not interested. Their time is better spent talking to qualified referrals.
The biggest question has always been "where can I get these qualified referrals"? Most people intrinsically realize, even without statistical numbers to back their belief, that companies succeed upon word of mouth and referrals. This is especially true in the small to medium size businesses that do not have millions of dollars to spend on advertising and generating a 'buzz'. As I have said before, the best place to find referrals has been, and most likely always will be, your existing customers. By keeping them happy and ensuring that you hold a high level of service, they will gladly refer other companies to you for your product. For those companies that do not generate enough business through their own processes or clients, generating qualified referrals can be done by using "lead generating" or "referral generating" companies. Through the use of these organizations, your sales team is provided with a list (daily or weekly, usually) of companies or individuals (depending on your product) that have been contacted and shown interest in finding out more. These are not as strong as true referrals from existing customers as you will, generally, still need to 'make a sale', yet the success rate of prospects that have already gone through a first round of qualification should be significantly greater than 1 every 5 hours! I say should be as it does depend on the company that you are receiving business through. Personally, I suggest New Direction Marketing (**)!
(*) Assumption: Approximately 18 calls per hour to allow for both interested parties, hold time, and notes.
(**) Disclaimer: New Direction Marketing is my company :)
May 2, 2006
Although this has to be one of the most obvious tactics in sales and to use strong referrels effectively, there are not enough companies that actually bother doing it. By not doing so, organizations lose touch with their customers and lose open opportunities. What is this elusive trick?
There. Its simple as you can see. Why is it that companies don't call back when a message is left? Why do they not respond to emails? Why do they leave contacts untouched for months and months? Truthfully, I can't tell you. There have been countless instances where I've left a voicemail for a company stating my interest and then did not receive a call back — a wasted sale and a lost proactive contact. When a customer calls you, call them back — whatever it takes.
In the case of a referral or lead, it is not quite as immediately critical as a proactive contact, but it is still imperative that you contact them as soon as possible. Many times, a referral has been given information about your products through either a sales touch or a customer and wishes to make a decision almost immediately. By not contacting them, you are losing a prospect who could easily be turned into a client.
A key use for lead or referral generating companies is to get customers who have been pre-qualified to be interested in your product or services. To optimize the use of these contacts that have been pre-determined to be open to purchasing your product, it is vital to follow up and contact them soon. The longer you wait, the less likely the prospect is to be interested in your company.
That is the trick and a very important tip to remember. Obvious as it may seem, all too many companies do not hold to this.
April 26, 2006
I had a revelation yesterday morning when I was speaking with a prospective client for my services. He was asking me why he should use companies such as mine to generate leads when he could simply buy access to a database. A comment made/question posed by a reader a few days ago had started me considering the same question, but I hadn't come up with an actual answer.
Why should a company that has an active sales force pay more for 'leads' when they could buy 'leads' for a smaller amount from a database company?
The answer? They shouldn't.
After much consideration, I believe that it is more prudent and effective to separate prospects into three different categories instead of a mass of information. It may be semantics, but it makes the difference between able to explain why a client should retain the services of companies such as mine and losing them to a database. I realize that this is a slight change in terminology from my earlier posting.
"Leads" – Basic information that you've gained through some fashion whether this is through lead databases or some other data mining company. Contacting these prospects includes cold calling and un-qualified contacts. Leads are the hardest to turn into a customer and require significant work. Based on the Direct Marketing Association (DMA)'s numbers, less than 8.5% calls made in a telemarketing campaign succeed. This is a game of numbers — the more you call, the more likely you are to gain an interested party by virtue of luck or skill. These would be called "cold prospects" on every call.
"Referrals" – Warm contacts that have been gained through companies such as mine, associates from current customers and re-touching base with past customers. These are prospects that have been given a reason to be interested and could be interested in doing business with your company. Referrals are strong possibilities to turn into sales. Good sales staff and a good product can turn referrals into customers. Generally, a company only calls a prospect a referral if an existing customer sent them over – why? Perhaps you were passed over by person X because they had something else or did not need your services, but they felt that their friend could stand to gain by doing business with you. A referral. Perhaps a referral generation company contacted them while still a lead and brought energy and interest to the table, enough that they’re interested in speaking to your sales team. A referral again! Gaining referrals is the second best way to gain new customers. These would be called "hot prospects" on most contacts.
"Proactive" – These are customers who have initiated contact with you because they are interested in your services. These are prospects who are a making the effort to get a hold of YOU. That is the best way to gain new customers. If you can gain a true referral network, then there will never be a nead for companies such as mine or database generating customers. These would be called "sales", more often than not.
If you can get "Proactive" contacts, you are doing a great job and your company is probably earning money without significant lag time; The epitome of a marketing success. "Leads" are the most difficult to deal with and require specialists in the 'art of cold calling' and converting people into referrals or sales. It is a difficult task and, without a staff geared towards it, your best choice is to outsource to a company that is focused on converting 'cold' into 'hot' for your sales team. "Referrals" is what you want most of your time to be concentrated on. A customer who gave you a number to an associate of theirs so you could contact them; a list of referrals that you've received from a Referral Generation company — these are both ways to get strong prospects which you have a good chance of turning into a customer.
And that’s the goal. Isn't it?
April 24, 2006
Well, obviously — Sales, in the long run, is better for your company! Without the final sale, you are unable to proceed and establish a relationship with a customer to generate revenue. That, however, been said, the question is really whether it is better to hire a telemarketing organization to do your sales for you or to simply generate leads that have been pre-qualified. It is a decision that can not easily be made without truly understanding the advantages to both.
The advantage to hiring a company that has a sales force to do it for you is that you don't need to think about it at all. When the company gives you the name of a customer, they've already paid for the item or service or they've already signed up for the contract. It is a no thought process on the company's side, a simple solution to what can be a very difficult task. It does, however, have drawbacks that need to be considered. An outside sales person, unless they've gone through rigorous training with your company or have an established relationship, can not easily know as much about your company as you, or an employee, can. There are questions that the sales person may not be able to answer which could, in turn, cause the sale to be lost. In addition to this, an outside sales person will cost you more. Often, sales companies charge a high percentage of the final invoice to make your sale. They've done the initial work to get you the client. In many cases, this is the most difficult aspect of doing business. One large advantage to having a company do sales for you is that, once you've ensured they're not tainting your reputation and are doing what you want them to, you do not need to spend a significant amount of time on them. The company has great incentive to ensure that sales are being made and, as such, you can concentrate on other aspects of running your business.
Instead of sales, a company can be brought on to generate leads. These leads should be pre-qualified and with a decision maker before they ever hit your sales team's desk. Once they do, however, there should be nothing to stop your sales team from calling the prospect and turning them into a customer with excellent rates of success. Leads are an excellent source of genuine targets. A drawback to leads, however, is that you may receive too many for your sales force to handle and that it is crucial to follow up on them almost immediately. These are customers that have shown interest, but without strong and swift follow up, their interest will wane with each passing moment. Leads have the advantage that they tend to be cheaper than sales, in terms of impacting your bottom line. Many lead generation companies charge a base for each lead generated, a commission for each lead generation, or some combination there of. In all cases, the impotus is on you to ensure that the qualified leads are now contacted and to make the final sale.
As you can tell, neither method, sales nor leads, has a significant leg up on the other. Each has its distinct advantages and disadvantages, whether that is in terms of cost, time or effort. Overall, however, finding an outside company which can do either sales or lead generation for you is a choice that can improve your bottom line and help your company grow.
April 17, 2006
Leads vary based on organization. In some companies, leads are considered to be prospective customers who are on the brink of buying; in others, they are simply prospects that could, eventually, turn into a consumer. Each business has its own requirements and definition.
Before understanding how to put "leads" to use, it is necessary to define them in a quantifiable format. For the majority of the clients that New Direction Marketing has generated leads for, a lead is a contact within a company that has the decision making power and has shown some interest in the product in question. This is a quantifiable, yet generic, definition that can be used for almost all industries.
A decision maker is a contact who has the ability to approve a purchase at the price you are offering.
Interest is defined by an agreement that the consumer has some use for the product and the value that it can add.
Through careful contact with companies, it is possible to generate these leads that have a strong potential to turn into a sale. By cultivating contacts and treating prospects with respect, there is a greater chance to succeed in actually using these leads — and that's really the point behind a lead.
Converting the lead into a customer.
April 12, 2006
My name is Philippe Mesritz and I am the president for New Direction Marketing, Inc. I started this blog to give ideas to companies on how to put leads, whether internally or externally generated, to use and to emphasis a co-operative working environment. It is my hope that some of the information given will help put into perspective what can be done with leads that have been qualified and quantified for your business.
I will be trying to post a new tip or post weekly. These tips may include information on the current telemarketing industries, documented studies, or ways to optimize leads.
Please feel free to contact me at any time with questions. The blog is also open to comments for those who wish to leave them. I do, however, require an email address for comments simply to prevent certain levels of spam.