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Archive for November, 2010

The Importance of Campaign Management

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

I came across this article on entrepreneur.com by Kim T. Gordon called “Seven Ways to Energize Sales.” It’s a good article and all of Ms. Gordon’s tips are good. Taking her advice is easier and can be done be so much more effectively using a lead management solution that has campaign management and reporting functionality.

In light of that, I’d rearrange her list a little bit. “Polish Lead Management” appears at number three on Gordon’s list. In my opinion, not only should Lead Management be number one on the list, but all the other items should be subsections under the heading “Polish Lead Management.” If “Energizing Sales” includes “getting new customers” then there’s no question, lead management software should be at the top of the list. There is no more effective tool for converting prospects into customers.

So how would I rearrange this list? Instead of “Seven Ways to Energize Sales” I’d put all these activities under the heading of lead management and re-title the article, “Seven Ways That Campaign Management in Lead Management Software Can Help You Energize Sales.” Admittedly, my title is not quite as pithy. But here goes my re-worked list.

1. Use Lead Management Software

1a. Reestablish Listening Posts

In this item, Gordon talks about the importance of getting feedback from your customers; getting to know them. Great idea. But how are you going to know how much value you are getting through these channels unless you have a way of measuring the conversion rate of leads generated from this source. With lead management software, measuring the value of leads in a given campaign is quick, easy and accurate.

1b. Announce Special Promotions

So which special promotions are working? Which methods of announcing them are working? You won’t know unless you have a way of tracking your lead generation efforts.

1c. Focus On Fresh Ideas

Put your whole company in charge of innovation. More solid advice. But whose ideas are working? Do you want to see the numbers? Lead management software is going to deliver all that information with real time campaign reporting.

1d. Renew Retention Campaigns

Drip email and direct mail campaigns are a cinch to set up and track with lead management software. And how well is it working? Which content gets results? You’ll know if you track your campaigns with Lead Management Software.

1e. Enhance Your Giving

In addition to being a good thing to do, corporate giving can generate leads. How many leads, and of what quality? Manage your campaigns with lead management software.

1f. Freshen Your Content

Track incoming leads from all your content sources. Some of your content is driving traffic to your company’s website. Which content? And which content is getting the attention of serious buyers? Use lead management software to keep evaluate your lead content driven lead generation efforts.

So yeah. There is a lot of good advice out there on how to increase sales. When you read some of it, it’s like a lightbulb turns on inside your head and you can’t wait to incorporate it into your sales strategy. But unless you have a way of tracking what works and what doesn’t, you’re really engaged in a kind of blind experimentation.

Implement all your ideas. Try out advice. Play your hunches. And use lead management software to track your campaigns to see how well they work.

4 Questions Whose Answer is “Lead Management Software”

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Where should I get leads?
If you are an online lead buyer who’s not sure where you should buy your leads from, you’re in luck. The short answer is that you should be using lead management software. Some lead management software providers have as many as 25 million leads under management and are integrated with 1400 lead providers. Working with such a company will give you the opportunity to benefit from a wealth of expertise that can help you get started with the right lead providers. If you generate your own leads through your website, direct mail campaigns, or cold calling; you can hugely benefit from lead management software. See which marketing campaigns are effective and which are not. Create campaigns in your lead management system to measure how the leads they generate are performing.

How should I distribute leads among my team?
Lead management software makes lead distribution a powerful tool in improving close rates. If you are passing out leads round robin you can benefit hugely from lead management software provider with a robust distribution engine. Being integrated with 1400 lead providers is the first part of what makes the lead distribution engine so powerful. When leads are instantly posted to your lead management system, they are instantly distributed to your sales agents by distribution programs that assign leads according to configurable rules. Monitor the rules and the success of your different distribution programs to fine tune them; so that each agent gets leads according to his expertise. And of course, whenever it’s an issue, everyone is getting leads that they are licensed to handle. A state of the art lead distribution engine puts the right agent in touch with the right lead right away.

What’s the best way to work leads?

Some lead management solutions are designed around best practices that are always being improved by ongoing research and analysis. This means that using the software aligns your sales process with proven methods. Lead management software can be customized to meet your businesses unique needs, but the out of the box solution is developed not just by software engineers, but by industry experts, sales strategists, and business practice consultants. A proven and enforceable sales process is easy to adopt across your entire company. Such solutions make use of configurable tools such as lead prioritization, drip email campaigns, click to call that increase agent productivity and accountability.

How do I know if the leads are being worked?
With lead management software, it is easy to see which of your lead sources and sales agents are underperforming. And with that knowledge, it’s easy to improve your sales process over time, using agent and lead performance data that is displayed in built in reports. Which agents have the best success with which types of leads? Know now, and re-distribute your resources as necessary. Make decisions based on data, keep your company running clean, and keep close rates at their highest.

Bonus Question: What is at stake?
Everything is at stake. Profits are at stake. The growth of your company is at stake. Market share is at stake. If you like buying leads from lead sources that have a poor ROI, and having sales people on staff who are not following your strategic sales process, then you should be comfortable without lead management software. But if you want a crystal clear, real time picture of what works, and what doesn’t, lead management software is the best suite of tools for staying on top of your sales team, your sales process, and marketing spend.

Transcript from SLMA Radio Commentary by Jeff Solomon

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Last night I did my first radio commentary on the Sales Lead Management Radio show. I think it went well, but I didn’t have any live feedback, so I’m not sure. Here are the recording and the transcript.

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Good afternoon. My name is Jeff Solomon. I’m the founder of Leads360; lead management software for B2C companies. I’m pleased to be participating in this radio program today and want to thank Will for having me back on.

Today I’m going to talk about B2C vs. B2B sales. And I’m going to ask the question, what’sthe difference, and why does it matter?

I’ve got 7 minutes, so here goes.

A leads a leads a lead right? It doesn’t matter if you sell Snuggies to couch potatoes or network firewalls to Fortune 500 companies; if someone is interested in your product, they’re a lead… right?

Yeah, I guess that’s true, but there’s a big difference between consumer leads and business leads. And when it comes to the tools you use to manage your leads, there’s an even bigger difference.

So I guess the answer to my question is, no, leads are different; and yes, it matters what you’re selling to them.

Ask yourself these seven questions which are applicable to both in B2C and B2B sales; and then let’s compare the differences.

  1. How fast is your sales process? How long does it take to convert your leads? A day, a week, a year?
  2. How many people are involved in making the decision to buy your product?
  3. Are the products or services you sell straightforward or ultra complex?
  4. How many leads do each of your sales people get every day or every month?
  5. Does emotion play a role in the buying process for your customers?
  6. Are you selling big ticket items or simple widgets?
  7. Are the things you sell pretty much the same or can they be customized?

Ok, so let’s go back to my example from before, the Snuggie vs. the firewall;

  1. Speed of the Sales Process
  • Suggies are a one call close; “hi, are you ready to buy, yes, great, give me your credit card…
  • Firewall, “oh, you’re interested in a firewall, we better have a discovery call first… and this is gonna take a while.”
  1. Number of Decision Makers
  • Snuggie, just one dude on his couch eating potato chips
  • Firewall, CTO, CIO, IT Manager, Director of Technology, Procurment, etc.
  1. Simplicity of the Buying Process
  • Snuggie, come on, it’s a blanket with arms, enough said
  • Firewall; when was the last time you tried to configure a Cisco product, forget about it?
  1. Quantity of Leads
  • Snuggie, one 5 minute spot generates thousands of inquires
  • Firewall, “what, we did that whole tradeshow and you only got 5 leads?”
  1. Role of Emotion
  • Snuggie; “gosh that looks comfy; I sure would feel a lot better about not going to the gym if I was hanging out in that thing all day.”
  • Firewall; [ROBOTIC] “Yes we need a firewall, it must do X, Y and Z or it won’t be effective for our needs…” you get the picture.
  1. Value of the Sale
  • Snuggie; $9.99 Bam!
  • Firewall, um, thousands of dollars… hundreds of thousands of dollars?
  1. Uniformity of the Offer
  • Snuggie; “well we’ve got red, blue, green and cowprint”
  • Firewall; bells and whistles galore

Alright, I think the difference is pretty clear, so how does all this apply to the tools I we use to manage leads? As long as I have lead management software, I’m all good, right?

For those listeners who are on the solution provider side, like me, you might be slightly blinded by the fact that we all call our solutions the same thing; and we expect clients to understand what we mean. When Marketo and Eloqua say “lead management” they mean one thing; but when Leads360 or LeadMailbox say it, we mean a totally different thing. Even companies like Salesforce, Constant Contact, TargusInfo, and all these other guys have a totally different definition of lead management; jees, it’s become such a ubiquitous term I don’t even know what it really means.

Going back to those 7 characteristics of sales and marketing again. If you think about it, the difference between selling Snuggies and firewalls is so significant it just makes sense that the sales tools would be different as well. And that’s the truth, they are. That’s why when companies say “we do lead management” it’s true… and it’s not true.

Let me break it down a bit more. If the speed of your sales process is quick you need tools that are velocity driven, that focus on repetition and consistency. Things like auto dialers, sophisticated lead routing and configurable workflow engines. If the process is much slower you might need something to monitor the website behavior of your prospects does to gauge where they are in the buying cycle.

When there are a lot of decision makers in the process you need a system that allows you to create an org and attach a bunch contacts to it.

When the buying process is pretty simple you might need a scripting tool or a pre-defined sales workflow. And if it’s much more complex then you probably need detailed product documentation, use cases, demos, vides and all that jazz.

Got a lot of leads, you need a system that can prioritize them for one by one follow-up; in other words, “just tell me which lead to call next”.

If emotion plays a role, then maybe you want to do some type of skills based routing to align Joe the couch potato with the sales rep that has actually seen every episode of the Honeymooners.

Cisco firewalls can be pretty pricey; if you’re selling expensive stuff be prepared to build customized pricing proposals and business cases. If Joe simply needs to skip one meal to pay for the cowprint Snuggie, well he’s probably pretty used to that.

And if the only customization you offer is what color to choose, you won’t need a sales engineer with shared access to the record in your CRM.

So the moral here is - know what you sell. Understand specifically what the problems you need to solve are. Look at your sales process and ask yourself the questions I posed in this commentary. And then find solutions that align with those needs.

When it comes to sales and marketing, there just isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution out there; sorry Salesforce.

I think the best companies you’ll run into know what they’re good at and know what they’re not. Staying focused, even if that means having a slightly smaller market, allows you to be the best. And when it comes to finding solutions to help you maximize sales, why wouldn’t you want to the best?

And that’s all I got.

The Two Way Street of Great Customer Service

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

In a previous article on this blog I used the analogy of catching your balance. The article suggests that having reports that return real time data is the best way to limit wasted resources; enabling a quick course correction when a sales agent or a lead source is underperforming. This principal of learning as you go, and constantly improving your process is one that we practice as well as preach at Leads360.

Being able to build software that is useful to clients rests on a few key practices. This article will explores how one of those key practices, Customer Service, helps product development. Our customer service team provides more than just training. They guide our clients through the process of configuring our software to adapt to the clients business practices. In many cases, configuring the software results in clients clarifying their own vision for their workflow. While adapting the software to established client workflow is a snap, many clients benefit from our best practices templates and improve their own business practices just by using our system.

On our end, we’re always learning ways to improve our software. The front-line back and forth with clients helps us gather information about how to make sure our software is a tool that works in the real world. This dialog with our clients, making sure that they get the most value out of our software, is a huge benefit to us.  This is one of the virtues of Software as a Service, the process of improving our software is continually being informed by our interactions with our clients. This means a better product for you, better than yesterday, but with plans on how to improve tomorrow.

Leads360 Has Two Nominees on ‘Most Influential’ List

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Leads360 has two of its own nominated to be included on a list of the 50 Most Influential People in Sales Lead Management in 2010 by Sales Lead Management Association.

Dan Morefield, President and CEO and Jeff Solomon, Founder and Chief Evangelist are well known in the Lead Management industry and appear on the list of nominees. Voting occurs until December 6 and winners will be announced thereafter.

Catching Your Balance

Monday, November 8th, 2010

When you stumble, being able to right yourself depends on having a sense of balance. The fluid in your inner ear needs to stay level. When it’s not, your brain recognizes that you are falling. And if you don’t act fast, you’ll hit the ground. All day long we pick up information from our inner ear and our nerve endings that tell us when we’re engaging in something that will harm us. Conversely, we receive messages of pleasure from things that we need to do in order to stay healthy.

In the body of your sales organization, it is just as important to heed information about which practices make your company more healthy and which practices will do it harm. When the sales numbers come in, and it becomes clear that Salesperson B isn’t pulling his weight for the second month in a row, it’s easy to see that some kind of change has to be made. If your lead generation, or lead buying efforts are falling flat, you can’t continue trying the same thing and expecting different results.

Making these type of decisions is probably the easy part of managing your sales team and your marketing spend. Once you have the information about what works and what doesn’t, it’s practically an automatic response to cut the dead weight; an automatic response like catching your balance when you start to stumble. Quickly and accurately collecting and analyzing performance data is a bigger challenge.

Because unless you’re seeing information in real time about the performance of your sales agents and your lead sources, you can’t make adjustments in real time. The ability to make an immediate course correction belongs to those who can see  up to the minute information on where their sales and marketing machine is underperforming. Lead management software gives you actionable insights around your employee and campaign performance.

Managing a sales team without lead management software is choosing to make business decisions with incomplete information. Know what works and manage to win by using lead management software.

Two out of Three

Friday, November 5th, 2010

This service industry marketing blog posted today on the top three sales lead management best practices.  Their top three (not in this order) are:

-Lead Response
-Lead Nurturing
-Manage Leads with a CRM

Two out of three ain’t bad.

In terms of lead response, the best practice they advocate is that inbound calls should be answered on the first ring, and never go to voicemail. That is solid advice. But to take it a step further, how would this approach be applied to leads that come in not over the phone, but from an online form. Using lead management software, it’s possible to get a prospect on the phone within a minute of the lead submitting their request.  Some lead management software providers are integrated with as many as 1400 lead providers, and have distribution capabilities to route leads to specific sales agents using rules based distribution programs. Answer quick when they call you. And call quick when they submit an inquiry. In both scenarios, quickness is key.

The best practice this article suggests following in terms of lead nurturing is to call a lead 7-8 times over a 20 day period. Again, solid advice. According to recent research, six call attempts over two weeks is the optimal calling strategy. Beyond those limits, the likelihood of making contact diminishes to the point that the effort doesn’t justify the return.  Lead nurturing isn’t just about trying to make contact, but also includes drip email campaigns. Using the right lead management software makes lead follow up effortless. Automatically triggered emails keep you in touch with your prospects; and lead prioritization puts the lead right at the top of your queue just when it is the right time to reach out to them with a call.

The third best practice recommended in the article is that leads should be managed with a CRM. This is an all too common misconception. CRM is a great tool for Customer Relationship Management. But CRM is not the most effective tool for managing leads, i.e., prospects who are not yet customers. Prospects and customers are two entirely different categories of individuals and need to be approached as such.

If you read the original article espousing these lead management best practices, you’ll see that there are no references to the specific tools to help you execute these best practices. This is probably because the tools do not exist in a CRM. Lead management software is built specifically to turn prospects into customers. Lead management software makes it easy any sales agent to act on their every lead with speed, process, and persistence.

Lead Confusion, Meet Lead Prioritization

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Too many leads. Is that a problem? That can’t possibly be a problem. A certain percentage of your leads will close. So clearly, at the most basic level, more leads means more revenue. But more leads also means more work. And for sales agents who may be operating at a level of organization that is less than perfect, more leads may mean more confusion. One problem with funneling increasing numbers of leads to sales agent and expecting them to close more deals is that the human brain isn’t infinitely scalable. There is a point where focusing and finding opportunities becomes difficult. At this point, the law of diminishing returns sets in and hard earned leads are left to rot on the docks, neglected by overwhelmed sales agents.

Here’s how ‘lead confusion’ sets in

Companies using best practices and benefiting from the ongoing research by lead management companies see improvements in speed to contact and closure rates. These improvements naturally result in business owners and sales managers buying and distributing more leads. And why not, data mining and business intelligence have empowered analysts to crack the code of the successful sale. New technologies have given them tools to automate and replicate the processes that support the successful sale. So buying more leads, and expecting a proportional increase in revenue is logical. Until you factor in the human element; the human brain, which has finite capacity, and may not deliver expected results from an increased lead buy.

Tools for clarity

Help is on the way. Lead Management software provides sales agents with tools to manipulate large numbers of leads and process amounts of information far beyond what they can keep fresh in their short term memory. One such feature that some lead management solutions provide is lead prioritization. Lead prioritization is based on proven best practices for high closure rates. It puts leads in the order of “Who needs to be called right now?” The rules that govern lead prioritization differ from industry to industry, but an example of how leads might work their way to the top of the prioritized queue in an insurance company is this:

-Leads with reminders in the next 60 minutes
-New leads
-Leads with the ‘follow-up date’ of today
-30 minutes after the 1st message is left (Contact Attempt)
-2 hours after the 2nd message is left (Contact Attempt)
-The next day after the 3rd message is left (Contact Attempt)
-Every day after the 4th, 5th, and 6th contact attempts/messages are left
-Any lead in the Contacted/Call Back, Pre-Qualified or Awaiting Decision statuses that have not been touched within the last day
-Any lead in the Win-Back status with a future Policy Renewal Date (X-Date) in the next 30 days
-Any lead in the Future Follow-up status that has not been touched in the last month

Lead Prioritization focuses your efforts on the hottest opportunities. It is fully configurable so you can tweak your prioritization rules to make them fit your own patterns of opportunity.

Life On Easy Street

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

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