Today’s post is by Selling Power editors and reflects insight from a recent webinar, “Turning Leads into Opportunities.” The webinar featured hosts Kristina McMillan, director of sales development at Five9, and Erich Bohren, vice president of business development at Conversica. For more information, listen to the webinar recording at http://ow.ly/OcjyI.
Outbound prospecting has developed a lot in the past several years. In part, we can thank smarter sales and marketing tools for that.
- Marketing automation helps us better prioritize our marketing efforts.
- LinkedIn helps us find and reach prospects we couldn’t otherwise.
- Sales email technologies help us hyper-customize messages at scale and give us information about which messages are most impactful.
- Dialer technologies (for example, Five9) help us make our calling efforts more efficient.
Inbound prospecting has also developed by leaps and bounds.
- Adwords and SEO (search engine optimization) make it far easier for many companies to generate inbound leads.
- Content marketing assets (white papers, video, blog posts, etc.) are often highly effective ways to create brand awareness, and capture and nurture leads.
These advances have introduced great advantages – while also creating some challenges.
One of the biggest issues is that prospects are now overloaded with information. Kristina McMillan, director of sales development at Five9, heads up an eight-person team of sales-development reps. In a recent Selling Power webinar, “Turning Leads into Opportunities,” she noted: “Emails to prospects are increasingly viewed as SPAM and immediately deleted. I don’t answer my phone anymore and sometimes that’s even when it’s a vendor [of mine] calling. In 2007 it took four calls to reach a prospect and now that’s jumped to 11. It’s hard to stand out from the noise.”
This can make it more difficult for marketing and sales to break through and engage. Consider the following statistics and research.
- Only 27 percent of leads receive a timely call or information from a rep (Conversica research).
- Reps may spend 80 percent of their time prospecting and only 20 percent closing (AA-ISP Mind Capture Group research).
- Only 2 percent of cold calls lead to an appointment (Leap Job research).
If you want to cut through the noise and get more from your prospecting efforts, follow these four expert tips.
Tip #1: Define your ideal customer profile.
If you want reps to be successful, help them “get into the head” of the person they’re trying to target, says Kim. Once reps know the ideal customer they’re trying to target, they can better understand how to solve that customer’s problems and provide value.
Tip #2: Define your target accounts.
The goal here is to teach your reps how to identify the best accounts (aka, the ones that will fit best with your value proposition). Note that you don’t need a comprehensive laundry list of all the accounts you’re trying to target. This is just to give you a starting point, and you should expect the list to evolve over time.
Once your reps know which accounts to target, you can help them navigate conversations successfully. Use scripts wisely; a dogmatic attachment to a scripted conversation can actually do more harm than good. But proper education for reps will help them map out a conversation that will help them discover – on their own – whether a specific account is worth pursuing.
Tip #3: Define clear rules of engagement around qualification.
A qualified lead definition is a must. Marketing, sales, and any other relevant team must have consensus on what constitutes a qualified lead. If you don’t have that groundwork laid, your reps won’t understand where their role ends and where the sales reps’ role should start.
Tip #4: Explore technology that can help you nurture inbound leads in a cost-effective way.
Inbound marketing efforts tend to generate lots of leads; however, many of those leads will never be real buyers. Conversica is a good example of a solution that helps you nurture those leads in an automated fashion. The company’s artificial intelligence “assistant” is able to conduct a natural-sounding, two-way email conversation with a real-life buyer. When the prospect agrees to a phone call, the artificial intelligence assistant then hands over a qualified lead to sales.
In the webinar, Erich Bohren, vice president of business development at Conversica, explained:“Our automated virtual assistant does the grunt work of what you would normally expect from an inbound sales development rep – all via email. The result is that more opportunities are created and more reps are able to hit their quotas.” For its B2B clients, Conversica gets a 35 percent to 50 percent response rate. Compare that to mass-market email programs, which tend to generate 3 percent to 5 percent response rates.
In today’s world of information overload, it’s imperative for sales and marketing teams to find ways to stand out from the crowd. Invest in best practices and technology tools that can streamline your processes, save your reps time, and help them focus on the right opportunities.
For more information, listen to the full recording of the webinar at http://ow.ly/OcjyI.