5 Lead Generation Mistakes to Stop Making in 2018

B2B lead generation is often thought of as being a mysterious and unpredictable process – where do good sales leads come from? How can you get more of them? How can you get higher conversions and better sales results from the existing sales leads that you already have? There is no single “right way” to do lead generation; different techniques work better for different companies or industries. However, there are several common “wrong ways” to get sales leads and to manage your sales leads. Many B2B sales organizations are still making these mistakes, despite all the great customer relationship management technology and marketing tools and accumulated sales knowledge that we have now.

 

Here are a few lead generation mistakes to avoid:

 

  1. Relying Too Much on Outbound or Inbound Lead Generation

 

Lots of businesses fall into a rut with lead generation – they get good results from one type of lead generation and then they start ONLY doing that type of marketing and outreach. For example, lots of businesses still use direct mail as their primary way of getting new customers. Other companies might rely on email marketing. Other companies might be enthusiastic adopters of social media and online marketing, which is great, but they forget to just pick up the phone now and then to do cold calls.

 

Whatever works for your business is fine – keep doing that; you don’t have to stop doing what works – but keep in mind that lead generation should be a diverse mix of activities. You might need to change up your routine from time to time. Try something new. Ideally, you should be getting a wide array of sales leads from a mix of sources, both outbound (cold calls, email, direct mail, etc.) and inbound (online marketing, PPC ads, search engine marketing, etc.).

 

  1. Not Pre-Qualifying Your Inbound Leads

 

What happens when someone responds to your ad or clicks your sponsored post or picks up the phone and calls your company? Who is the first person to answer the phone? Take a closer look at the first impression that your company is making. When a new prospect contacts you, that is a massively important event – you need to make sure they’re being welcomed into your company’s sales process and treated with care, not just getting dumped into voicemail or given an impersonal automated email reply.

 

We see this all the time – too many good sales leads fall through the cracks because of careless handling or bad follow up. Take some time to build a relationship with each new prospect. Ask questions. Spend time on pre-qualifying them by assessing their needs – are they serious buyers or are they just doing their initial research? Is your company or solution really the best fit for what they need?

 

  1. Not Asking for Referrals

 

What if I told you that your company is already sitting on a gold mine of sales leads – that many businesses never bother to pursue? That’s right: it’s your existing customers! Current customers can often be your best source of new sales leads – if you handle it the right way. There is an art to asking for sales referrals. Don’t be pushy, don’t be indiscriminate – but if you have a customer who’s had an exceptionally great experience with you, who loves your solution, who is on board with what you do, you should ask them for sales referrals. You can make it natural, like, “I’ve loved working with you on this implementation – do you know of anyone else who might like to hear from me?”

 

  1. Underutilizing Your Website

 

Your website should be a lead generation machine. Too many B2B sales organizations are not making good use of their website for sales purposes. A few high-level tips to think about:

 

  • Is your website easy to read on a mobile device? More people are using smartphones as their primary way of accessing the Internet, and even B2B buyers are increasingly using mobiles for research.
  • Does your website have a “Buy” button? Amazon became the most powerful retailer in the world by making it really easy for everyone to buy from them. Does your website make it easy for people to contact you, ask for more information, or otherwise show that they’re interested in starting the sales process?
  • Is your website good for building relationships with customers? Does your site give your customers an authentic sense of what your company is like, or is it chilly and impersonal? Ideally, your website should put your customers inside the mind of your company and make them want more.

 

  1. Not Making “The Ask”

 

Too many people think that lead generation is a numbers game – it’s just about getting as many prospects as possible; get as many people as possible at the trade show to sign their name on your list, get as many email addresses in your database as possible. But quality is more important than quantity! You don’t want a long list of people who aren’t sincerely interested. This is why, as part of your lead generation activity, you need to make a specific request – an “Ask” – to get the prospect to commit to a next step to move the process forward. For example, you might want to ask for a sales demo. Or an in-person meeting. Or an initial phone call to get acquainted. Whatever your “first step” in your sales process is, you need to ask for it!

 

Lead generation doesn’t have to be mysterious; it’s all about finding new prospects and building relationships. Whatever tactics work for your company, you should definitely keep doing them – but be careful not to make these common mistakes along the way!

Marketing and Appointment Setting Lessons from Mike D’Antoni, Houston Rockets Head Coach

Mike D’Antoni is the head coach of the Houston Rockets and is one of the most influential people in the NBA; his style of fast-paced, pass-intensive basketball that relies heavily on the 3-point shot has become the predominant style in today’s professional basketball game. But what can marketers learn from a basketball coach when it comes to appointment setting? The truth is, the same types of personal strengths that have made Mike D’Antoni successful as a coach can also help you get better at appointment setting.

 

Here are a few interesting lessons from this article about Mike D’Antoni, and what we can all learn from his approach to coaching and life:

 

1. Be persistent! Mike D’Antoni has been fired many times, and he and his wife have moved 13 times in 31 years of marriage. The life of a basketball coach is uncertain and full of rejection, but he keeps bouncing back. When you’re doing appointment setting, it’s important to maintain that same sense of calm persistence and resilience. Not everyone will want what you’re selling, not everyone wants to talk to you, not everyone wants to move on to the next stage of the sales process. But if you can keep calm and keep moving forward and keep doing the work every day, you will get results.

 

2. Defy conventional wisdom. Today’s NBA looks very different from the style of basketball played 20 years ago, and it owes a lot to Mike D’Antoni and the high-speed offense with lots of three-point shots that he introduced to the league when he was the (now-former) head coach of the Phoenix Suns. People thought D’Antoni was crazy at the time, but the advanced statistical analytics have caught up – as it turns out, the entire NBA was under-valuing the 3-point shot! Teams that shoot more 3-pointers have a higher chance of winning the game than teams that settle for 2-point shots. Mike D’Antoni was an outside the box thinker and he has been vindicated – his style of basketball has made the 2018 NBA what it is today. Lessons for the rest of us? Don’t be afraid to think creatively and totally reinvent the way things are done at your organization or in your industry. What’s your industry’s equivalent of the undervalued 3-point shot? How could you change your processes or change your approach to reimagine the best way to find sales leads or do appointment setting? Bringing some fresh thinking to just one stage of your sales process could unleash huge improvements.

 

3. Have a good sense of humor, have fun! D’Antoni is known for being (by the standards of professional sports) a pretty humble person and having a great sense of humor; he calls himself “the Forrest Gump of basketball.” Even though D’Antoni’s teams have not won an NBA championship, even though he’s been hired and fired many times, he is comfortable with himself and he loves to laugh. Try not to take yourself too seriously; that will help you manage the ups and downs of appointment setting. We all need to be able to laugh at ourselves sometimes and keep perspective about the bigger picture.

 

4. Build strong relationships. Basketball is not about X’s and O’s, it’s about teamwork and chemistry and personal relationships. The five players on the court have to be able to trust each other and build off of each other’s ideas. Mike D’Antoni is still in touch with lots of players and former staff who have worked with him over the years and he’s tried not to hold grudges, even against people who treated him unfairly at previous coaching jobs. Appointment setting is also about building relationships and keeping in touch with people for the long-term. Every single person you know in your professional network, and everyone they know could be a potential source of leads. Don’t burn bridges. Don’t be too quick to discard or disregard a business relationship. You never know who might be the next source of big sales results for your company.

 

Even though he hasn’t (yet) won an NBA championship, Mike D’Antoni is one of the most respected and influential coaches in basketball. He keeps working every day on building relationships and creating a process for bigger success. In a way, that is the ultimate game of appointment setting – it’s not just about the end result of “winning a championship” by closing a big sale, it’s about all the little things along the way: building relationships, building trust, doing the research and legwork to know more about prospective buyers, and everything else that leads up to a sale. Some of the best coaches are process-oriented: they find joy in the work. Hopefully, your appointment setting process can do the same.

4 Effective Techniques Only Pro B2B Lead Generation Companies Use

In today’s, competitive environment a lot of businesses striving hard to generate quality B2B leads to drive sales. So, how can your business effectively generate leads? Can B2B lead generation companies out there in the market actually deliver the Holy Grail that each and every business is looking for – the right amount of qualified leads in order to keep their sales pipeline moving? Not sure about every company but some of the B2B Lead Generation Companies apply the latest methods over traditional methods in order to achieve their lead generation target effortlessly.

 

Below are 4 Useful lead generation tactics that professional B2B Lead Generation Company put into action

 

1. Referral system – Referral is a more powerful way to get good leads compared to thousands of presentations. If your vendor/customer is recommending you and is encouraging other people they know to use your products or services, then it is the most desirable prize in selling, other than a sale. The referral system has the ability to make your lead generation easier and more professional and brings a higher return on investments.

 

2. Industry Research Reports – Another tried and tested technique to generate leads is to proffer full research reports or executive summaries of the industries you cater. By doing so, you will be benefitted in two ways. First of all, these documents are a brilliant source for generating industry-specific leads. And secondly, they increase your credibility and fortify your brand presence. Although, you must make sure that your research topics are of special interest to your target client group. Also, these research studies can be an outstanding medium to partner with a trade association or a noncompeting organization to decrease your marketing cost and increase your reliability.

 

3. SEO, SEM, & PPC – One more method to generate lead with the lowest cost per acquisition is via Pay per Click (PPC), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). These digital techniques are the most effectual way to generate leads because when companies need information about any product or service they search on Google. Hence, PPC, SEM, and SEO can be the efficient means to promote your websites through paid advertisements.

 

4. Direct Mailing – One of the most flexible means that provides you access to any number of prospects for generating sales leads. It helps you to showcase all the benefit of your product or service over those of your competition in a manner that’s totally consistent. Using direct mails, you can reach the right set of audience with the right offer and the right message which is the key to success. This is because the only thing that matter is how many sales or inquiries your mailing is ultimately generating.

 

The final say

Now that you are aware of the useful lead generation techniques only experienced B2B lead generation companies implement, make sure to choose the right partner. Have a robust lead generation plan created and executed by a leading B2B Lead Generation Company and have more leads, more prospects, and much more sales.

3 New Rules of B2B Lead Generation

Many B2B sales people and small business leaders seem to believe that they always need “more sales leads,” and so they center their B2B lead generation strategy on the idea of “more, more, more:” more cold calls, more sales outreach, casting a wider net to find more companies to target, and so on. The idea is that if you get “more” sales leads, your B2B lead generation efforts are a success – after all, the most important thing is to get the longest possible list of new leads to call, right? In fact, the truth is more complicated. B2B lead generation is about more than just casting a wider net and finding more leads – sometimes you need to focus instead on finding “better” leads or develop a better understanding of what to do with the leads that you already have. Instead of casting a wider net, think of B2B lead generation as an exercise in “finding a better focus.”

 

Here are a few of the new rules of B2B lead generation:

 

Do Your Research: In the new world of B2B lead generation, most of the work happens before you ever pick up the phone. You need to do your research and find out which companies are an ideal fit for what you sell. You need to know how your solution fits into the prospect organization’s business operations. You need to have a sense of how you can credibly speak to the prospect organization’s concerns and see how their immediate and longer-term business goals align with yours. B2B lead generation is not just a scattershot approach – you need to have a clear and compelling “reason” for why you’re calling each company on your prospecting list. Make sure you know who you’re calling, and why.

 

Find Allies: Once you have identified your target companies, it’s important to invest some time in cultivating allies within the organization. Who do you already know at the company? Who among your existing customers could put in a good word for you or offer you a referral? What can you do to find someone to talk to at the prospect organization – even if they are not the ultimate decision maker – who can help “warm up” that first cold call? B2B lead generation is often an exercise in finding and cultivating allies within the prospect organization – finding the people who, although they are not your ultimate “buyer” or decision maker, can still help you make progress toward finding the right people who will be at the table when it’s time to close a sale.

 

Pre-qualify Your Leads: Just getting a longer list of “more leads” is not very helpful if most of those leads turn out to be bad. We see this happen a lot in our industry, where B2B lead generation companies promise to deliver massive quantities of leads, and then it turns out that many of the leads are poor quality – not really serious buyers, not well-informed about the seller’s solution, or sometimes not even in the right vertical or industry! “More leads” is not always the answer – sometimes if you get too many low-quality leads, it will just clutter up your process and waste your sales team’s time. How can you combat this? Start by pre-qualifying your leads – when taking inbound calls and inquiries, or during the lead generation process. Ask questions early and often to learn more about the prospect and see if they are really a serious buyer – for example, “What issues are you having with your current solution?” and “How are these issues affecting your business operations?” and “How soon are you looking to make a decision about implementing a new solution?” This will help you end up with a list of sales leads that are better qualified, better focused, and more likely to end up with a successful sales deal.

 

B2B lead generation is not simply a matter of finding “more leads.” The bigger challenges – and the more rewarding results – come from finding “the right” sales leads and making your overall list of sales leads better. By finding companies that are the right fit, by finding allies that can help open doors for you within the prospect organization, and by pre-qualifying your leads upfront, you can start working from a better organized, more focused, better targeted list of sales leads that will result in bigger sales conversions.

3 Steps to Building a Better Lead Generation Process

The importance of the concept of “lead generation process” is frequently misunderstood and underestimated. Many B2B sales organizations act like lead generation is something that just “happens,” and if they go out and make cold calls or spend a lot of money on advertising, new leads will come rushing in. Other B2B sales teams tend to think of lead generation as something that there’s never enough of – they constantly are demanding more leads. The truth is more complicated. The lead generation process requires a careful approach and a strategic plan. If you handle it correctly, your lead generation process will yield bigger results than ever before.

 

Here are a few key tips on how to build a better lead generation process:

 

Do Your Research First

 

It sounds like an obvious point, but it’s true: you need to do your research upfront before you ever pick up the phone to call or send an email to a new potential sales prospect. The first step of the lead generation process is not about lead generation at all, it’s about doing your research and strategically targeting which companies are the best fit for what you sell. You should spend a lot more time on research than you do on making cold calls. Just like the old saying, “measure twice, cut once,” you should spend at least twice as much time doing your homework and researching companies as you spend on the phone.

 

Find Allies Within the Prospect Organization

 

In addition to doing research on which companies are the best fit, you also need to spend time on identifying departments, teams, and internal stakeholders within the prospect organization that are going to want to hear from you. For example, if you sell a system or software solution that improves productivity, which internal departments within a company are most likely to be affected by this? Who are the potential allies who will benefit from implementing your solution – who within the company stands to gain from buying what you sell? Sometimes the process of “finding allies” can help you identify secondary stakeholders and decision makers who might not get to have the final word on whether or not to buy from you, but who can assist in the sales process. Especially in B2B sales, the sales process can be lengthy and time consuming and complicated. It helps to figure out – early on – which people within the prospect organization are most likely to be on your side and who have a vested interest in seeing you succeed.

 

Pre-Qualify your Sales Leads    

 

Lead generation is not just a numbers game. Yes it’s true that “more sales leads” is usually better than “not enough,” but “more leads” is not always the answer. Sometimes your sales team already has “enough” leads, but you’re not getting the right results from the pool of leads that you do have. Many companies make a mistake of not qualifying their new sales leads. They treat every new lead the same – they assume that every new prospect is equally likely and ready to buy. But the truth is, not every lead is equal! Some prospects are urgently ready to move forward and are eager to start the sales process, while others are just beginning the early stages of their research, while others are confused or uncertain or don’t really know what they want.

 

The problem is, if you don’t do any pre-qualifying of your sales leads, you might overwhelm your “good” leads with too much clutter. You might spend too much time chasing after bad sales leads while failing to follow up with the leads that are actually ready to hear from you.

 

You can help avoid this situation by asking a few pre-qualifying questions to each new sales lead – whether it’s an inbound sales inquiry or a cold call or meeting a new prospect at a trade show or networking event.

 

Ask a few questions (if applicable) such as:

 

  • How did you hear about us?
  • What are some issues that you’re having with your current solution/system?
  • How are your current issues with your solution/system affecting your overall business operations?
  • What is your timeline for moving forward?
  • What other companies/competitors are you looking at?

 

These questions will help you learn more about the overall situation with the prospect’s business, and help you determine just how urgently ready the prospect is to move forward. Ideally, you can use these questions to help prioritize and rank your sales leads for follow-up – both immediate/short-term and long-term.

 

The lead generation process might sound complex and mysterious, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s all about doing your research, identifying the right people to talk to within the prospect organization, and then learning more about the new leads so you can prioritize which leads are “better” than others.

Top 5 Secrets of the Best Lead Generation Companies

Strategic Sales and Marketing has been in business for a long time, and we like to think that we’ve earned a reputation as one of the best lead generation companies – but we often find that there are a lot of misconceptions about our industry. Many B2B sales organizations are still discovering what it truly means to work with one of the best lead generation companies. After all, lots of companies can put up a website and make a sales pitch and offer big promises for what kinds of results they can deliver, but to truly stand out from the crowd in this industry, it takes hard work, a smart strategy, a consistent process, and rock-solid integrity to do business the right way. We believe that SSM has some significant advantages and insights to offer, and we’re happy to share these with you.

 

Here are a few of the secrets of the best lead generation companies:

 

They Know Your Industry

The best lead generation companies will not claim to be able to serve “any industry or company or client,” instead they will have a focused expertise on a few key industries or areas. Lead generation is a complex activity and it doesn’t always work the same way for every industry or type of product/service/solution being sold. Depending on your industry, especially if you are in B2B sales, your sales cycle might be more complicated and time-consuming and requiring a careful, strategic approach. The best lead generation companies understand this, and they know what they do best and which companies and industries are the best fit for their services – they don’t promise to be all things for all people.

 

They’re Not Pushy 

The best lead generation companies have plenty of business, with ongoing contracts from various major clients – they’re happy to take your call or listen to your inquiry, but the best companies are not going to put pressure on you to sign a contract. The best companies are not pushy and desperate and fast-talking – ideally, they should be happy to talk with you and learn more about your business to determine whether or not your company is the right fit. If a sales rep for a lead gen firm is acting overly anxious and urgently trying to get you to sign up for their services, that’s a red flag – because the better firms are more laid-back; they don’t need your business that badly.

 

They Make Realistic Promises

We hear horror stories from time to time of customers who have been burned by working with disreputable, fly-by-night lead generation firms that made huge promises and then utterly failed to deliver. The best lead generation companies are strategic, focused and highly targeted when discussing their process and their expected results – ideally, they’re going to try to “underpromise” and “overdeliver.”

 

They Don’t Work on Commission

The best lead generation companies will ask to get paid in a way that aligns their interests with your organization, and delivers the best results. This means that – most of the time – the best firms are NOT going to work on straight commission. It might sound like a good deal to you if a lead gen firm promises that they only get paid for each new lead, or some other commission-based approach. But the reality is more complicated.

 

Sometimes “paying per lead” ends with misleading and wasteful results for you as the client. Especially for B2B sales with a long-term sales cycle, sometimes it’s more important to get fewer high-quality leads than to get a larger number of leads that might not be legitimate. If you give the firm an incentive to generate as many new leads as possible, you might end up with too many low-quality leads, or you might even end up tainting your pool of leads with overaggressive tactics by the lead generation firm – this can be counter-productive to your sales efforts.

 

The best lead generation companies will have a compensation model that helps achieve the best results for your business, not just the longest list of low-quality leads.

 

They Show Clear Results

Lead generation should not be a mysterious “black box” process – it’s not magic, it’s an art and science. Your lead generation firm should be able to describe in detail how their process works and give you full visibility into how your program is progressing, with regular status reports and valid metrics along the way. The best lead generation companies are happy to share results and make adjustments and otherwise help you feel involved and connected to the process.

 

They Offer More Than Just Leads

Lead generation is just the start of a longer sales process, and the best firms won’t leave you hanging. Ideally, you should expect your firm to provide more than just a list of names; they should offer additional support, training, or coaching to help you get ready to make your first sales call with the new leads.

 

Working with a lead generation firm can be an ideal way to kick-start a new product or create new sales momentum for your business, but it helps to be prepared and know what to expect. The best lead generation companies have a proven track record of success and can offer credible answers to your questions, without putting you through a bunch of hype or heavy sales pressure. The ultimate ROI of working with a lead gen firm is not just the number of leads, but how well they can help your sales organization succeed for the long-term.

Why Lead Generation is All About Building Trust

Lead generation is often thought of as being the first step in the sales process – and while there is truth to that, it’s important to keep in mind that ideally, lead generation shouldn’t really feel like “selling” at all. Lead generation is the first stage of a longer and more involved, complex process. It’s the opening to a bigger conversation. With lead generation, you are asking people to begin a longer journey with you – and what does it take to get people to agree to keep talking with you and agree to keep “traveling” with you? That’s right: trust. Lead generation is ultimately an exercise in building trust.

 

Here are a few examples of how to build trust during the lead generation process, and why it matters:

 

Building Trust with Cold Calls

 

One of the classic sales techniques – which still is part of the toolbox for lead generation today – is cold calling. Sometimes there’s no better way to get in front of your prospective customers than to pick up the phone and start calling. However: that doesn’t mean that you should just indiscriminately start calling people and bombarding them with sales pitches. Cold calling itself requires elements of trust building. How do you build trust on a cold call, especially if you don’t know the person you’re talking to? By doing your homework first. Do your research. Make sure that the company you’re calling is really an ideal fit. Try to do some networking upfront to find the right contact in advance; make sure you’re talking to the right person or the right team of stakeholders so you’re not wasting people’s time.

 

Cold calling – done right – is an ideal way to build trust, because you are showing the prospects that you have a good reason for calling them. If you can show prospects, starting from that first cold call, that you are well informed about their business and that you care about helping them solve a problem, they’ll be more likely to trust you and more likely to keep talking.

 

Building Trust with Content

 

Another form of lead generation involves sharing content – whether it’s your own company blog or social media posts or activity in LinkedIn groups. The Internet is clogged with content, and lots of it isn’t very useful – this is where you can break through the clutter by becoming known and trusted as a great curator of content. If you get known on Twitter or LinkedIn for sharing really smart, useful content – industry trends, breaking news, exceptional thought leadership – even if it’s not your own original content – you will make great strides in building trust with your prospects. Your prospects will want to check out your Twitter feed or LinkedIn profile before they talk to you. If they see a steady stream of smart, helpful, relevant content from you – showing that you’re up to speed on the latest trends and insights affecting their business – that will go a long way in building trust.

 

Another way to build trust with content is to share relevant content individually with prospects as part of the cold calling process. For example, the obvious example is to share a white paper or infographic that supports your sales pitch – but as part of your initial conversations with new prospects, you should also look for opportunities to share news articles or other timely content that is relevant to the customer’s problem, even if they’re not directly related to what you sell. Just be diligent and responsive – these opportunities will emerge naturally out of your conversations with customers.

 

Building Trust with Referrals

 

Perhaps the best form of lead generation is when you don’t have to make a cold call, but instead can get a “warm” lead from a referral. Referrals are so important, because that new prospect already has a built-in level of trust and willingness to talk with you. However, referrals don’t just “happen.” Many business owners and sales people aren’t proactive at asking for referrals. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask!

 

For example, after you close a sale, or a few months after the sales closes and you’re checking in on the happy customer, you should build it into your sales process: “Would you happen to know of any other colleagues or contacts who might like to hear from someone like me?” or “I’m glad to hear that you’re happy with our solution! Do you know of anyone else who might benefit from what we sell?”

 

And don’t just ask current customers for referrals: feel free to ask former customers, former colleagues, friends of friends, and anyone else in your network who knows you well enough where you would feel comfortable asking them for a contact.

 

Ultimately, lead generation is not about cold calling and sales funnels and email blasts and “numbers,” it’s about establishing trust, one person at a time. Every situation that you’re in while finding new sales leads and talking with prospects – whether it’s a cold call or responding to a sales inquiry or asking for referrals – is an exercise in building credibility and winning people’s trust, so that they will give you permission to keep talking and keep leading them through the customer journey.

Are All Lead Generation Companies the Same?

If you’re looking to hire a lead generation company, you might be wondering what really makes different lead generation companies unique. After all, most of these firms make similar promises and have similar service offerings; they might all claim to have the same levels of expertise or experience with your industry. So how do you decide which company is really the right one for you? How can you make a fair comparison among multiple lead generation companies?

 

Here are a few key questions to ask when evaluating lead generation companies, before you sign a contract:

 

Are the lead generation reps based in the USA?

Many companies say they are US-based, but this doesn’t always mean the same thing. Some firms have a US headquarters, but then use offshore/overseas calling centers to provide their staff of reps who will actually be making the phone calls. If it matters to you to have your business represented by US-based talent, you need to ask upfront and make sure that any of your lead generation calls or appointment setting calls will be handled by US-based reps.

 

Are the company’s reps employees or contractors?

Again, this is another area where some companies are not 100% upfront about the details of their operations. Many lead generation companies farm out the work to independent contractors or sub-contractors. This saves money for the lead generation firm but might not help your business get the best results – and also, you might prefer to have more transparency and accountability for how your business’s confidential information is managed. These concerns can often be addressed better if your firm uses in-house employees instead of farming out the work.

 

What is the program structure – is it Pay-Per-Lead? 

There are a few different ways to set up lead generation programs, ranging from fixed fee to billable hours compensation to Pay-Per-Lead, where the lead generation firm only gets paid for each new business lead that they produce for you. Especially in this era of pay-per-click ads, it might sound like Pay-Per-Lead is a good deal – but the downfall of this type of program structure is that it creates situations where the lead generation reps make very aggressive calls. This can alienate your prospective customers – you don’t want your pool of potential customers to get turned off by overly aggressive “hard sell” phone calls from your lead generation reps. If you are

paying on a per lead basis, that means that the reps are basically working on commission. This structure might sound good in theory, but it often results in lower-quality sales leads and poor attempts at lead qualification. Instead, you will get better results by working with the lead generation firm to create a program structure and compensation model that works for both of you – it’s worth investing in better-quality leads.

 

Do they provide lists? 

Good lead generation companies will know how to develop solid calling lists based on your solution, your industry, your location, and other factors. If a lead generation firm is asking you to provide the list of prospects, that’s a bad sign – because it means they’re not willing or able to put in the work to help expand your pool of potential leads. Also, this often becomes a way to “pass the buck” if things don’t go well on the phones – the lead generation companies can then try to blame their poor performance on your list, rather than their reps.

 

Are leads developed via multiple touchpoints? 

Too many lead generation companies are not spending enough time getting to know your prospects. Good lead generation firms have multiple touchpoints to educate the prospects about your business and gauge their level of interest; for example, multiple phone calls and follow-up email conversations. If they are only qualifying leads based on a single touchpoint, this can cause issues with lead quality, as the prospects haven’t gone onto your website or done their homework prior to the meeting.   Before you sign up for a lead generation program, make sure they are using a multiple touch point approach, so you aren’t wasting your time trying to sell to people who don’t understand your solution.

 

Clearly, not all lead generation companies are the same. Be wary of any firm that tries to promise you amazing results with no upfront costs, and make sure you can get your questions answered in an honest, straightforward way. Ideally, your lead generation firm should treat your company like a valued partner, will be excited about your competitive advantages, and will be eager to collaborate openly with you to expand your pool of prospective buyers.

 

Summer 2014 Is Over…Does Your Sales Pipeline Need a Fresh Start?

September is back to school season, the start of football season, and the start of autumn – and with all of these seasonal changes, every B2B company sales team shifts into a new gear as we start getting ready to make a final push toward the last quarter of the year. Now that summer vacation season is over and your customers and prospects are all back in the office, it’s time to refocus your efforts and take a fresh look at your new business pipeline.

 

Has business development started to stall during the quieter summer months? Does your sales pipeline need a fresh start to build momentum into the last stretch of 2014? Here are a few indications that your sales pipeline might need some urgent attention:

 

1. Not enough new business appointments

 

If your sales appointment calendar is looking thin, it might be time to take a closer look at what you’re doing for appointment setting. The sales business always has its ups and downs, but even when business is steady you need to keep doing the little things every day to keep cultivating new sales lead opportunities. Keep cold calling, keep following up with new prospects, and keep doing what it takes to stay busy and keep your sales calendar full of possibilities.

 

2. Too many unpleasant surprises

 

Have you recently lost a big client, or had a few promising deals go south unexpectedly? The sales process can often be unpredictable, and sometimes every company loses a big account for reasons beyond their control – but if you feel like you’re having too many instances of bad luck and unpleasant surprises lately, that might be a sign that you need to take a fresh look at your sales pipeline. How are you forecasting sales? What are your conversion rates for each stage of your sales process? Are you letting too many unqualified sales leads go through to your sales team? Or are you doing a great job of getting customers interested during the initial stages of the sales process, only to lose them in the end when you start talking about ROI?

 

With a well-managed sales pipeline, you can do a better job of sorting and ranking your sales leads, managing expectations along the way, and developing more accurate forecasts of how soon various deals might close.

 

3. Too many deals in “sales purgatory.”

 

We’ve all been there – you have some great initial conversations with the client, you follow up, you have subsequent appointments, the client is excited and ready to move forward, and then…the client goes silent. If you feel like too many of your deals are stalling or stuck in “sales purgatory” where you can neither abandon them nor close the sale, then this is another sign that your sales pipeline needs work. By doing a better job of qualifying and managing the leads in your sales pipeline, you can constantly re-assess, re-evaluate and re-focus on which sales leads are highest priority and most worthy of your sales reps’ time and attention.

 

4. The sales that you are closing are not profitable enough.

 

Are you getting bogged down with too many small sales? Even if it seems worth making a small sale today because the new client has potential for future growth, if the only sales you’re closing are smaller than your target revenue – or if you are selling at a price that does not allow for a sufficient profit margin – you’re going to regret it in the long run. Small client accounts often take an amount of time, energy and resources to service that exceeds their value. Sometimes there is such a thing as a “bad sale” if you’re not getting enough of a profit margin to cover your costs, or if the customer turns out to be a bad fit for your solution. Many of these challenges can be minimized by paying more attention to your sales pipeline – make sure that the right sales leads are getting through your sales process, make sure that you’re focusing your attention and energies in the right place.

 

The last quarter of 2014 is coming soon, and with it comes a final push to meet our sales goals and put our companies in position for 2015. Many sales teams ramp up their efforts to close more deals in the next few months, and that’s important – but at the same time, you need to make sure you’re taking a fresh look at your sales pipeline. Qualifying sales leads, evaluating your sales process at each stage, and continually re-sorting and re-focusing on the sales leads that are most likely to buy are all part of laying the groundwork for sales success.

3 Biggest Networking Mistakes that Salespeople Make

Sales people often are natural networkers – after all, we tend to be “people persons” who love to meet new people, build relationships, and create conversations, both in “real life” and on social media. But many sales people, without realizing it, are making some big mistakes with their business networking.

 

Business networking is one of the sales person’s oldest tools. We use our network of relationships and contacts to get in touch with decision makers, get advice, and get connected with new opportunities. But if you’re making some of these networking mistakes, you might not be reaching your full potential as a sales professional.

 

Here are a few of the most common networking mistakes – and how to avoid them:

 

Mistake #1: Networking without a strategy. Building relationships is a long-term activity. You can’t just expect to run out and immediately find the contacts or opportunities you’re looking for without investing some time and effort. Just as you would develop a marketing plan or a sales strategy to land a big client, spend some time mapping out some short-term and long-term goals for your sales networking.

 

How to avoid: Spend some time asking (and answering) some “big questions” that can guide your networking activity. For example, who are you trying to meet? Which types of companies would you love to get connected with? Who do you already know who works at these companies or knows some of these higher-level people, and how can you strengthen your relationships with your existing circle of influence?

 

Mistake #2: Networking only to “get,” never to “give.” Too many sales people only look at networking as a way to get what they want. Too many sales people only network in order to get closer to a decision maker, or get their foot in the door at a company where they’re trying to make a sale, or to get in front of someone who might offer them a new job. This is the biggest networking mistake of all. If people feel that you are in it only for yourself, they will be reluctant to trust you or help you. Networking is a two-way street – and some of the most successful sales people are also the most generous with their time and with their contacts.

 

How to avoid: When networking, always look for opportunities to “give” more than you “get.” Examples of “giving” might be as simple as sharing a timely article about a prospect’s business or industry, or connecting a contact with an opportunity that is valuable to them (even if it is unrelated to your business). Your generosity might not always be rewarded immediately, but in the long run you will build a reputation as someone who can be trusted, and someone who is willing to help others and connect others with opportunities.

 

Mistake #3: Networking only with the “usual suspects.” Especially if you sell a complex B2B solution, it can be understandably tempting to spend most of your time focused on networking with people in your niche market. But if you spend all of your time connecting only with a small circle of people, you might miss out on opportunities that could come from connecting with people from other facets of your life.

 

How to avoid: Remember that everyone you know, and everyone they know, can potentially be a valuable contact for you. Take a look at all of your social circles – work, family, community activities, social organizations – and see how you can become more of a connector. Someone you know from church or from your kids’ school might have a friend or relative who works in a business that needs your help.

 

Networking is the constant, never-ending work of the sales professional. Sometimes networking feels like trying to navigate a maze – lots of blind corners and uncertainty and wrong turns. But at its best, networking is not a maze, it’s a safety net. One of the comforting truths about networking is that we are all supported by our own “safety nets” of contacts and all of their combined expertise, experience and relationships. If sales people can learn to network with planning and purpose (instead of just impulsively grasping around with no sense of direction), if sales people can learn to broaden their networks and connect other people within their networks (instead of only talking to the “usual suspects”), and if sales people can use networking as a way to deepen their relationships and build trust (rather than only trying to get what they need), networking will become a more purposeful and helpful tool – and a better way to operate as a sales professional.