Building a Successful Lead-Development Program Part I: The People

If you have read any of my previous posts or heard me talk, then you know how I feel about the importance of building a lead-development team.  But you can’t build a strong lead-development team if you don’t know the distinction between lead qualification and lead development:

  • Lead qualification is the process of taking inbound requests and qualifying them before sending them to sales.
  • Lead development is the process of taking leads attained from avenues such as white papers and convincing registrants to hear more from your organization and then qualifying them.

Today, you may have a lead-qualification team.  If the volume justifies it, keep the lead-qualification team.  However, if you want to succeed with third-party-generated leads (such as white paper or webinar leads), it’s time to build a top-notch lead development team.

There are many aspects to the process. First, let’s concentrate on the people.

Lead development is essentially a sales vehicle, so the people involved in this process have to be able to:

  • Face rejection. Remember, the average third-party white paper converts from 4 percent up to 20 to 30 percent.  That means that a large number of these leads will not convert. Your lead-development reps have to be ready for a healthy amount of rejection.
  • Overcome objections. See above. Just because you’ve been rejected doesn’t mean you should give up.  You’ll likely never receive the response “I want to be sold by You.” A good objection-handling strategy (see below) can help handle these contacts.
  • Be engaging. Nobody buys anything from people they don’t like.  Plain and simple. The core trait of great sales reps is their ability to convince someone to do something they don’t want to do without their realizing it.
  • Dial, Dial, Dial. The best sales development teams manage their reps by output.  Tailor them to your organization, but watch your numbers.  Work backwards from “passed to sales rep.”  How many connections does it take before passing a lead to a sales rep? Ideally one. How many attempts does it take to connect? You need to have quotas, and those making the calls need to be overtly aware of those quotas.

Where do you find these people?

  • The “straight-out-of-college” model. I like this model a lot.  The lead-development team can be a farm team for your sales force.  The key to success here is training, training, training, as well as a real understanding of the “type” of person that will be successful. You need to follow your gut, because they usually lack tangible experience.
  • The “stay-at-home mom and dad” model. This model is hot.  A lot of the outsourced lead-generation vendors are going to this model.  A number of my customers have built rock-solid teams using stay-at-home folks.  The key here is you can get lots of experienced reps.  I do not think this is the best model for low ASP (average sales price) or fast sales-cycle type sales, but more for larger deal size, enterprise type sales.
  • Outsourced. People ask me this all the time: Outsource or in-house?  Outsourcing can work,  but it is not plug and play.  You have to put in the same amount of effort you would if you are building it in-house.  And it won’t work initially, you will need to come out of the gate slowly, but you can make it work over time.

Stay tuned for the next step: Process

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

3 Changes Marketers Must Make to Survive in This Post-Apocalyptic World

The economy is the pits, and things are looking to get worse.  I can’t get up on my pedestal and convince everyone why, but I can say that when every investment bank on the street falls on its face, we have a problem. And these aren’t small players, by the way. These are institutions.

We can’t play dumb, we have to be proactive. What’s incredible is the forthcoming list is not much different than my previous posts. They’re just more vital, and if you haven’t considered these already, get with the program now.

The Funnelholic list:

  1. Retarget: I am already hearing around The Valley that companies are making big changes in “who” they are trying to sell to. Companies whose revenues were tied to selling things to Wall Street and financial powerhouses have new targets in their sights.  Evaluate your market, because things are about to change.
  2. Remessage from “nice to have” to “have to have”: In an earlier post, I commented on the difference between selling steroids (the nice-to-haves) vs. pain-killers (the have-to-haves). During the recession, you have to solve problems. Forget about trotting out exciting new technologies. The term “ROI” is losing its allure as a selling point. You have to dig deeper. Figure out what the real pain points are and be the pain killer.
  3. Redefine: The qualified-lead definition will have to change.  I remember in ’01, the sales guys were still saying: “I only want budgeted projects with decision makers,” yet there were no budgets and  decision makers were all getting fired.  Recessions mean it’s time to evangelize and SELL.  The first reaction from buyers is to tighten those purse strings. You need the magic touch to open them.  Selling becomes harder.  One of our clients who sells to SMBs is telling me what used to take 1 guy and 3 phone calls to make a deal, is now taking 3 guys and 10 to 15 phone calls to sell.   Open up the lead definition to let more people in.

I only have one thing to say: “It’s on.” Your life is about to become exponentially harder. Retrench so you’re ready for the Brave New World.

The Argument for Thought Leadership: Crude Oil and the Cult of T. Boone Pickens

Marketers ask me all the time the benefits of thought leadership, and I have only one thing to say: “Make it happen.”  When it doesn’t work, it’s often for a number of reasons:

1.    Poor execution.
2.    Not enough effort. In b2b, there really is no such thing as over-exposure.
3.    Poor choice of superstar – a.k.a., your thought leader. The one who is going to fill the house, put butts in the seats and pretty much make your brand the equivalent of a household name.

Masters of thought leadership include:

1.     Wall Street (the latest happenings not withstanding). Think Mary Meeker and the cult of Alan Greenspan.
2.    College Basketball and football coaches – remember, these dudes have even written books that smart people actually read! At least we are led to believe they actually wrote the books.
3.    Politicians – duh – for the most part.

And they can come and go. Witness Henry Blodgett.

But my favorite master of the thought leadership game is T. Boone Pickens.  In a nutshell, T. Boone is a wildcatter who made billions in the oil game.  Since 2001 until earlier this year, T. Boone could move the crude oil markets like no other.  He was always the thought leader du jour on CNBC, “The Wall Street Journal,” and you name it with his oil price predictions.  He always brought data to his commentary and was the first person to call  for the $100 barrel of oil.  What people were never told was that he was the single biggest holder in oil futures on the Nymerc (where oil is traded).  Pure brilliance: An oil speculator from Oklahoma, looked upon as the oil expert, who every time he got on tv made tens of millions for himself and his beloved Oklahoma State University (he donated $60 some-odd million to their athletic department).

Check out this Bloomberg article from ’07:

Boone Pickens, chairman of Dallas- based BP Capital LLC, told financial news network CNBC that crude-oil prices will rise to $100 a barrel, perhaps before the end of this year. “It could come this quarter,” Pickens said today on CNBC. “Within a year, you’re going to see $100 oil.”

Guess what this “genius” is doing now?  Selling alternative energy.  Guess what that means? He started selling his oil contracts at $150 a barrel and could be going short.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2bOug1d20c&w=425&h=344]

What’s the moral of the story?  I used to giggle at PR folks, but the reality is, companies need to create superstars in their industry.  I am not saying it’s easier in the b2b world, but there is a massive desire for content and b2b organizations need to take advantage.  Here are my tips:

1.    Think like a political strategist or Hollywood PR machine: Make sure the message, ideology, and goals are clear and well fleshed out.
2.    Pick the right superstar: its usually a CEO, but it can be a resident “smarty-pants.”
3.    Blog, panel and speak: Get in front of the masses.  Keep in mind, all three are realistic.  How many trade show companies send out requests for speakers?
4.    Pictures: Learn from the best, the face works.
5.    Leverage the other thought  leaders:  get yours in the loop with other bloggers, columnists, writers and talking heads.  These are the guys who will turn to your guru for quotes.

Take it from T. Boone, the thought leader can move the market in your direction.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

Viva la Revolucion!: 4 Reasons to Post on Whitepapers.org

One of the rules that I have tried to maintain has been not to use the blog as a way to shamelessly promote my company’s services.  With the exception of webinar promotions, I have done that fairly well.  Today I want to talk about Whitepapers.org, which belongs to Tippit’s family of Web sites.  There’s your disclaimer. However, I feel like this post still fits within my ethical rulebook because posting your white papers on that site is free.

  1. Join your first revolutionary movement: No one else is out there on the Web trying to take on Whitepapers.org’s big, hairy mission, which is to put “all the white papers in the world in one place”
  2. Or just jump on a bandwagon: 1,000 white papers posted in one year with no marketing or advertising.  That is what I like to call organic momentum.
  3. It’s doesn’t cost a cent, so ­— duh — why wouldn’t you?
  4. You can post anything , well not everything, but close. This is not merely a technology white paper site. Horizontal topics are free game. For example, check out “The World’s Worst Executive Photos” by some dude named Chips O’Toole.

OK, so the “no stumping” rule has now been broken – or let’s say cracked — but I believe it is for a good cause.

If you’re in the dark, by the way, about what a white paper actually is, check out my enlightening comments on the topic.

By the way, if you have any thoughts or recommendations on the site, send ‘em over via email or the comments section.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

Memo from Hollywood: The Joker Markets Better than Batman

How many times these days has the trailer been better than the movie?  Movie marketing is more important than the actual movie production itself.  The job of the Hollywood marketer is to get people into the movie house on opening weekend. That’s it.

They don’t worry how much of the plot they have given away in so-called spoilers, whether they have away the best jokes or scenes in the entire movie in the previews, or whether they market the actor  that sell vs. the actual “star” of the movie. Forget the fact that  actor getting top billing may only be on “stage” for a brief stint in the movie. You could almost argue that the shooting of the film is where the marketing machine gets rolling. How many shots of movies midproduction have you seen in the pages of “People”? And don’t forget The old bait and swith. Dark dramas have been cast as comedies in TV ads just to lure you into the movie theater. Been there. Seen that.

Case in point: “The Dark Knight.”  It should have been called: “Joker Returns.”  As a matter of fact, did we even see the actual Batman in the previews?  Batman was played by the obscure Christian Bales, whereas the movie was all Heath Ledger, all the time.  He basically had an academy award nomination from the preview alone and the record shattering box office stemmed largely from the studio’s brilliant marketing campaign. Unfortunately, the untimely death contributed  to the posthumously released film, but the marketing cogs were moving full throttle before his tragic demise.

So, what can we as b2b marketers take from this?  Two things:

1.     Get ‘em in the seats. Sound crazy?  There is a difference between marketing to get buyers to register and commit vs. overwhelming them with your overall messaging platform goals. The b2b marketer often falls trap to two things: A new, fancy acronym or market they are trying to pioneer (insert acronym flavor of the month here) or a high falutin’ value proposition that doesn’t really say anything.  Yes, you want to get your point across, but you can’t do it if no one is listening. Don’t let your ego get in the way. Yes, you know the latest terms and technologies, but does your audience? How can you convince someone that they need something when they don’t know what it is?

When you are promoting your white paper or webinar, think about what actually sells. You can explain everything until the cows come home once you have captured the audience.   Focusing on the benefits and targeting is key to get interest, not big words and obscure acronyms.  “Seven Reasons your business needs…” will work better than: “The primer on Acronym X, the dynamic, robust, dada, dada…”.  Give them a call to action. Give them something they can print out and give to their boss to justify a new investment.

2.    Don’t be afraid to give away some of your best scenes to get buyers to bite:  Yes, there is a fine line between temptation and giving it away, but there are sooo many choices today and so little time.  This is especially true in the case of business targets. Remember, they have their day jobs.  I talked to one of my contacts at ON24, the webinar platform company.  He sees what works and doesn’t work in both producing and marketing webinars.  He said one of the better advertising vehicles is to preview the webinar itself when users click on the page. Nothing sells like the real thing.

See you at the movies.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

The Origin of White Papers

So I was watching the movie Tropical Thunder and a random thought popped into my head. Where did the term white paper come from?  I wish there was some clever analogy I could draw between the term and the movie that led me to such philosophical noodling, but no such luck.

The phrase white paper is part of my daily vernacular, and I realized I don’t even really know what it means. So I went to the font of all thing obscure — Google — which in turn led me to, of course, Wikipedia.

According to Wikipedia, the definition is:

A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that often addresses problems and how to solve them. White papers are used to educate readers and help people make decisions. They are used in politics and business. They can also be a government report outlining policy.

As you can see in the definition above, the government bandies about the term as well, and while I’m not explicitly pointing my finger at the government as the source, I believe we can credit them in this case.

It seems the British actually dubbed the term white paper, but it’s the informal variant of the more common “command paper,” which is used to lay out government policy. Interesting, the British also publish “green papers” (a.k.a. “consultation documents”), which propose strategy and even, on occasion, take public opinion into consideration. That’s a novel concept and a possible precursor to social media, but that’s a topic for another day.

Heck, Churchill even produced a couple white papers. Because they proposed topics of international importance that are still controversial today, I think it may be untoward to compare them to those that have become common parlance in the business world.

In fact, according to Wikipedia, business folks didn’t start dubbing their marketing treatises as white papers until the 1990s.

So while the industry uses the phrase “white paper,” many of whom without knowing the origin of the phrase, I may start using “command paper” in reference to my writing. That should garner me some more respect.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

The First Volley in the iPhone App War

I have a number of iPhone business apps on my phone: LinkedIn, Twittleator, Facebook, Google. I haven’t seen much data on business user adoption of the iPhone or its apps, but progressive organizations have built iPhone apps and others will follow suit.  So it is with great pleasure that I award my “First to Market” honor to Marketing Profs.  They have provided an iPhone widget, and I love it.

My award presentation to Marketing Profs goes as follows:

  • Thanks for thinking of those of us who commute by public transportation. It’s hard to keep up during the day, so it’s incredible to be able to read your content for our coveted 20 minutes a day.
  • The app is easy and convenient. Waiting for a Web page to load is a waste of precious time.
  • Thank you for recognizing that marketing folks LOVE shiny new gadgets.
  • Speaking of gadgets, sales guys use Blackberrys, marketing people like iPhones.  Good call again.
  • Expect others to join your revolutionary approach (probably not me), but I will forever uphold your role as a pioneer.
  • Respect.

You have to be pretty savvy to market to marketing folks, so follow these 5 rules:

1. Social network just to keep up

The social networking sites like Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook are table stakes today. You have to ante up to begin with, because every marketer is on them and suspects every other marketer is on them as well.

2. First to market = street cred for you

Take a risk and be a pioneer.  Especially with shiny new gadgets.

3. Content works

Marketers love content, and the Marketing Profs app — while slick in and of itself — is actually truly compelling because it provides immediate access to the content we want to read.

4. Make a big deal about everything

Marketers, the creators of buzz, are also the biggest suckers for buzz.  If you promote it, we will come.

5.  Marketers are afraid of being left out

See rules 1 through 4.  The reason these work is because marketers never want to be the one “who didn’t know” or “doesn’t already do it.” There are few things more humbling than hearing about the latest and greatest from another marketer.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

The Marketer versus Call Center Reputation

I am writing this blog from one of my customer’s conference rooms.  They are demand generation marketers supporting a 19 person call center that follows up on their leads.  They brought up that a couple of their lead sources had developed acute “Negative-Call-Center-Reputation” and they can’t resuscitate  them.

What is “Negative-Call-Center-Reputation?”

That is the reputation propagated by the people responsible for following up on marketing’s leads.  (This could be defined as a call center, sales, lead development, etc).  Successful marketers and lead generation vendors are constantly gauging and managing call-center reputation.  Not all leads convert, but a rash of really bad leads combined with a streak of non-conversion can simply kill a lead source or even in some cases, kill  a whole marketing department.  Getting negative call-center reputation is crippling, and that is the truth.  There are a couple variations:

  1. Lead Sources – a bad reputation can kill a lead source.  Once the reputation hits, the lead source gets less effort, less enthusiasm, then a slow death.  You can send good leads, but your metrics will be horrible as the Negative-Call-Center-Reputation virus overcomes you.
  2. Marketing Departments – That’s right, Negative-Call-Center-Reputation can kill an entire marketing department.  We were at a Top 50 software company, where the head of Inside Sales basically said he told marketing that they will not call their leads. INSIDE SALES!  They would rather cold call than call marketing leads…that is the ultimate curse.

How do you avoid “Negative Call-Center-Reputation?”

  1. Marketing Automation–that’s right, even lead development teams have feelings too.  Work some magic by gathering more dispositional data via email and web habits, give it a score, and avoid harassment by having guys call leads more likely to be receptive to talking about your solution.
  2. Set expectations – Do the math.  Most companies can live off single digit conversion rates.  So, if you have a 9% conversion rate from lead-to-opportunity, then that means for every 100 names, 91 will be thrown in the garbage can. If people are not on the same page, that means you have 91 opportunities to inflict irreparable harm to your leads.

You have a “Negative-Call-Center-Reputation” problem, can it be cured? Yes, but it is tricky:

For Lead sources:

  1. Some people change the name of the source.
  2. Pass troubled leads to reps you can trust and have them help you rebuild reputation.

For Marketing:

  1. Announce you are getting marketing automation and that you will be only sending highly scored leads to be called. (They love that)

Just remember: Beware the curse of negative-call-center-reputation.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

Jerry Jones Part II: Closing isn’t just for sales guys anymore

As promised, here’s the follow-up to the Sales 101 article. The question of the day is: Can marketers be closers too?  The answer is yes.  There’s a great Allbusiness.com article I used for inspiration entitled “How to ask for the order.”  The article is written by Ivan Levison, an award-winning copywriter.

This is a great quote from Levison’s article:

It kills me when I read terrific copy in an ad or direct mail piece, then I get to the end and find the company has blown its best chance to make the sale. … The whole point of direct response marketing is to grab the prospect — vigorously. And readers don’t mind. They’re usually in a hurry and want direction, not just a wimpy suggestion that they should “call for more information.”

With Ivan’s article as my inspiration, I have decided to write a post on how to close in direct marketing.  Quite frankly, it has been a challenge to write. Bottom line, in certain types of markets you simply can’t close a sale via email. But you can still close in other industries.

There are two types of marketing closes. I have labeled one SMP (small-to-medium-sized purchases) and the other EP (enterprise purchases).  Both categories are defined by a couple of factors:

SMP:  “Closing” means getting a business to buy your product via email or other marketing campaign.  The SMP attributes are:

  • Small Business (roughly 1 to 25 employees)
  • Average selling price of your product is under $40,000
  • Short sales cycles

EP: “Closing” means getting a prospect to “do something” such as view a demo or talk to a sales rep (notice I didn’t say “download an introductory white paper”). EP attributes include:

  • Mid-sized business and up
  • Average selling price is over $40,000
  • Long-considered purchasing cycles

With these two categories, I think I can give you the five elements you need to be a marketing closer:

1.    Make them buy SOMETHING.

  • SMP: Get them to buy the actual product. Attach things like: “request a quote” forms (love this), discounts, order forms and coupons to your email. Go for the close.
  • EP: Get them to “buy” an online demo or a call from a sales guy (love this too, see funnel economics below).

2.    Understand your funnel economics. (Well, I am the Funnelholic.)

  • Especially in EP: Understanding how the sales funnel works and where you can insert prospects will tell you what you should close on.  For example, you may find that prospects who view the online demo have shorter sales cycles.  Boom: you know that the demo is the right thing to close for in marketing.

3.    Light the ticking time bomb.

  • Urgency, urgency, urgency.
  • SMP: Ivan wrote about urgency particularly with expiring coupons or discounts which is totally appropriate for SMP.
  • EP: This doesn’t work for EP.  What does work is creating business urgency: “Dow Jones executives fired after customer data was breached.”  It has been known for years as FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and it still is!

4.    Answer buyers’ objections.

  • Ivan brought this up and I liked it a lot.  Too much collateral in technology especially has “pie-in-sky” esoteric marketing messages that nobody knows.  I like Ivan’s example, which can work for both SMP and EP:

“Straight answers to tough questions about XYZ Software” is better than “Why you should buy our wonderful product.”

5.    Create an easy-to-understand, frictionless buying process and then CLEARLY tell people how to to do it.

  • Everyone talks about Salesforce.com Inc.’s rise to power and the many reasons why, but one reason that gets lost is how Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff made it easy to buy software.  You know how hard it used to be to buy software?  With Salesforce.com, it was totally frictionless.
  • If you can achieve this type of buying process, let people know how to do it in your marketing!  Try something like: The “3-easy steps” to buying Solution XXX: “To buy, it’s as easy as clicking here and filling out a simple form.”  Note: this is primarily an SMP phenomenon.

I think this post may be confusing, but the goal is clear.  Think like a sales guy in your marketing, answer customer objections, create FUD and close!

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter