The subject of lead generation has always been near and dear to my heart – even more so when I am engaged by companies that are seeking to evolve their business development practices and struggle with where and how to get started. Lead generation has become an increasingly complex landscape to navigate with a plethora of services, solutions media and approaches.
In a previous blog, I helped make the case why enterprises needed to scrap the Rolodex and business cards in favor of marketing automation and CRM integration. But with trends continuing to put pressure on the way that sales and marketing teams align to grow business and revenues, I recently reached out to Dan McDade, a trusted partner and veteran in the outsourced B2B lead generation business, to get an update on the latest trends in this niche.
McDade founded his firm, PointClear, back in 1997 – and has spent two decades helping B2B companies interpolate the vagaries of their sales processes and to help them drive revenue growth through lead generation, qualification and nurturing.
Q. What has been the biggest evolution in lead generation today?
A. At about the same time the nation experienced the economic slowdown of 2008 and 2009, we were introduced to some of the first marketing and sales enablement tools, in the form of marketing automation. Now, there are more than 2,000 marketing and sales enablement tools.
From 2008 to 2015, every article written about marketing and sales contained phrases such as “cold calling is dead,” and “outbound marketing is interruption marketing,” and “prospects are 70 percent of the way through the buying process before sales needs to be engaged.” Since then, there is a growing recognition that if you wait for prospects to come to you, you are going to lose a lot of business. Waiting for a buyer to complete their research to engage means that, at best, you are column fodder for a deal already won by a more agile competitor.
While you don’t ask prospects “what is keeping you up at night,” or badger them with questions that you should already know the answer to, people still buy from people, and unless you are selling a commodity or a relatively low-cost product or solution, getting in as early as you can is critically important – just as it has always been.
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Q: For a long time, you have been talking about the importance of alignment between sales and marketing. Research by Sirius Decisions found that highly aligned B2B organizations achieve 19 percent faster revenue growth and 15 percent higher profitability. Can you talk more about this alignment, and steps that companies can take to drive this within their organizations?
A. Alignment is critical – but if enterprises expect that marketing and sales will simply align themselves – they’re just fooling themselves. In a blog, I wrote about the importance of creating a “judicial branch” to ensure honest and forthright alignment between sales and marketing.
Ideally, this “judicial branch” would be comprised of senior sales and marketing executives (and sometimes include the CEO). Their primary task is simply to evaluate leads that failed to pass muster with sales, but that marketing feels can still be pursued for opportunities. This leads to a “stay of execution” for some legitimate, closeable leads that can be fed back into the funnel and pursued with vigor.
Q: A Gartner report seemed to indicate that rapid response is the best way to nurture leads – finding that leads responded to within five minutes are 100 times more likely to be contacted and 21 times more likely to be qualified. Further, the report indicated that 50 percent of buyers choose the vendor that responds first. What is your view on the idea of a “five-minute” follow up, and how are companies trying to address this critical area?
A: I think statistics like these can be very dangerous. How could contacting a lead in five minutes impact the qualification rate? Simple -- it doesn’t, and won’t. In any kind of strategic deal, if a C-level or SVP-level decision maker sends in a form or otherwise reaches out to a vendor, do you think they want to be contacted within five minutes by someone who can’t really help them, or do you think they want to be contacted within a reasonable period (between six and 12 hours) by a very knowledgeable resource that can engage in a conversation that provides real answers?
The idea that 50 percent of buyers choose a vendor that responds first, outside of low-cost commodities, simply doesn’t pass muster with me.
Q: As a chief marketing officer, I relied on your services for many years to drive my lead generation programs. One of the things that most impressed me was the collection of integrated tools and processes you employed to drive and monitor activity, quality, and outcomes. How would you compare the metrics that an in-house business development resource team can generate versus outsourcing to specialists?
A: I always tell executives that while what we do is not rocket science, there are a LOT of moving parts --and it is difficult to own all of the technology, and have the IP, to do what we do on a small scale internally. Management, training, hiring, retention, compensation, and productivity are all challenges that will reduce the effectiveness of an insourced effort.
Just looking at productivity alone, the average insourced inside sales function makes 30 dials per day. Our team is tasked with making 80 – 100 dials per day – and these are experienced, highly educated individuals.
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Q: What percent of a sales representative’s quota should come from marketing-generated leads, versus the sales rep’s own generated leads?
A: This really depends. If you are selling a more complex, strategic product or solution (not a low-priced commodity) then the majority -- approaching all -- of the quota should come from marketing-generated leads.
Today, sales reps are sourcing about 60 percent of their own leads. For a talented hunter, this is way too much. They should be focused on closing business, not beating the bushes looking for business. If a sales rep is any good at closing, they are going to hate beating. The growth of inside sales is a direct result of CEO’s recognizing that paying a talented hunter to beat the bushes looking for new business is much more expensive -- AND they will lose the best talent, because that talent will go somewhere that will support them.
For more about Dan McDade’s viewpoints on lead generation, you may visit Pointclear’s website.