Growth Insights for CEOs

Are You Staying Apace With Lead Generation In 2015?

Posted by Karen Hayward

Six Best Practices To Consider When Choosing a Trusted Partner

shutterstock_174409097In 2015, the sales funnel is under assault. No longer is it adequate to pour a bunch of unqualified leads – business cards, napkin scraps, pink-sheeted phone messages – into the top and to expect a steady stream of sales to drip from the bottom.

Technology has turned the funnel into a James Cameron-directed version of its former self – connected via online link to a multitude of data streams that pulse information through its core – constantly working and evolving.

It’s little wonder that a recent survey of CMOs found that 57 percent felt their existing lead generation processes were not up to today’s standards. Trying to stay current -- while ensuring alignment with best practices, and amid rising expectations of plugged-in sales teams – requires specialized expertise.

Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone – as with many marketing disciplines, there are a growing number of trusted partners to whom you can outsource your lead generation process.  By doing so, you’ll gain fractional ownership of a completely managed lead generation solution that incorporates the optimal blend of people, technology, and best practices.

Consider the systems and productivity needed to equal that of a specialist – the typical mid-market inside sales team is likely making 35 or fewer dials per day, while a trained outsourced specialist can deliver almost triple. Why? They have established processes supported by technology, metrics and the coaching in place to do so.

While this might seem like pretty straightforward advice, over the years, I’ve learned many of these lessons the hard way. Hopefully, this list I’ve compiled will help you deliver the quality sales ready leads to achieve your revenue growth targets.

When choosing a lead generation partner:

1. Avoid outsourcing a single aspect such as lead development.
Successful lead development today is much more than dialing for dollars. The most successful such campaigns are developed as an integrated set of processes comprising list acquisition, database management and segmentation, email, social media, phone, call flows and detailed reporting and CRM integration - just to name a few.  To be most effective, these activities need to be executed in a highly choreographed sequence.  Most mid-market companies simply don’t have the resources to focus on -- or be experts in -- all areas. A good lead generation provider should be helping you through the entire lead generation value chain.  Your program needs an integrated process. Ask questions about database management, hosting your database, purchasing lists for you based on performing segments, lead quality assurance process, recruiting & staffing, training, program management, and data analysis and content.  A good program is more than “smiling and dialing.”
2. Hourly rates. Always negotiate your agreement on the basis of actual hours worked. Never commit to a monthly retainer for a set number of outsourced staff. Staff gets sick, goes on vacation, gets promoted, or quits -- leaving you paying the same monthly retainer regardless of whether productivity is consistent or inconsistent.
3. Training process. Turnover on your outsourced team is inevitable. It’s essential to assess the onboarding process for speed, completeness and training capacity to ensure you have uninterrupted coverage (or at least minimize the effects of unexpected staff changes or performance management).
4. Claims they can call the CXO level. Be sure to check this claim out – CXOs only engage in conversations when they perceive parity in business stature, and quickly leave scripted conversations. Look for a partner who offers the credentials and demonstrated ability to engage in a 20- to 30-minute business level conversation that results in an understanding of business priorities and a meaningful next step (in other words, a marketing qualified lead). 
5. Alignment with sales goals. You won’t achieve the desired results if the sales team isn’t onboard with the approach, process and lead definition. Developing a shared vision and buy-in to the program from sales leadership is critical. This way, when a lead is sent from marketing to sales, it is treated with professionalism, a tremendous sense of urgency , perseverance and appreciation. Gaining buy-in with the sales organization on lead attribute definitions is crucial – even if it means fewer but better qualified leads. My good friend and trusted partner, Dan McDade, wrote a book called “The Truth About Leads”. It is a marketing must-read for anyone wanting a practical guide and insights into lead generation. In it, Dan outlines the attributes of a well-qualified short-term lead. They are:
    1. Industry or SIC code
    2. Firmographics (revenue, # of employees, # of locations)
    3. Identification of decision makers and influencers
    4. Documentation of environment
    5. Validation of business issues/opportunities
    6. Decision making process and timeframe
    7. Documentation of allocated budget allocated or the process for budgeting
    8. Documentation of the competitive landscape
    9. Sense of urgency or a compelling event 
6. Reporting. Comprehensive reporting is a key enabler to driving the efficiency of your program and gaining real time market feedback from conversations with your target audience. Request a synopsis of all conversations, whether they resulted in a qualified lead or not – they are a tremendous source of market insight as well as potential coaching on objection handling for the team. Understanding the lead rates by market segment will be invaluable in directing your list acquisition and prioritizing activities to top performing segments.
7. Remain engaged. To ensure a successful program, remain engaged in managing the partnership. Set up weekly meetings to drive continuous improvement and to make sure your partner remains in step as your offering or market focus changes. Also, schedule regular quarterly business reviews to analyze the program, to gain market insights and to identify strategic and tactical opportunities for improvement.

With a partner to take on the burden and accountability for lead generation results, your internal team will have a renewed ability to focus on content strategy and assurance of a closed-loop feedback process with sales and partner stakeholders. By following these steps, you’ll find that the funnel you’ve built is up to the demands of today’s market forces – and able to drive the continuous improvement needed in your competitive environment. 

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