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Archive for February, 2011

Smart Features Make a Smart Solution

Friday, February 11th, 2011

The benefits of using lead management software as a service are many. Among them is the fact that winning sales strategies are incorporated into the software design on an ongoing basis. Software as a service is in fact a kind of business partnership. This partnership manifests in many ways, offering a lot of different types of benefits.

One of the most obvious benefits of LMS SaaS to the user of such a system is the customer support. Having a professional services team that works with you to make the software work for your business is one of the hallmarks of the SaaS. The best LMS SaaS providers understand that in order to succeed, they must make sure that their clients succeed. Working hard to ensure client success begins with configuring the system to work with your established workflow. The next step is to make available to clients the proven best practices are the bedrock for the software’s strategy.

Lead Management Software needs to have a strategy, a point of view about the best way to close a lead. In the case of Leads360, that point of view comes from the analysis of over 20 million leads under active management. Leads360 has seen what works, and has built the software around it. The fact that lead management strategies can be divined by analyzing leads that flow through the funnel of Leads360 leads to the next element of the LMS SaaS business partnership. The ongoing analysis of winning lead management strategies is something that continues to benefit all clients. When new insights are uncovered, features are added to the software to capitalize on the new research.

A good example of this is Leads360’s Lead Prioritization feature. Lead Prioritization leverages research on the effect of speed to contact on lead close rates and research on optimal lead response strategy. The feature creates a queue of leads that is re-prioritized in real time to always put sales reps on the phone with the ripest opportunity. A lead will appear at the top of the prioritized queue when it is brand new. After one contact attempt it will drop off the queue, but will appear again 30 minutes to two hours later, when it is ripe for another contact attempt.

Lead Prioritization is a smart feature. It’s just one smart feature in a smart solution. And smart solutions close more deals.

Lead Management in Under 200 Words

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

LMS lead capture - Your leads may come from advertising, cold-calling, your website, or maybe you buy them from an online lead provider. By whatever means you get your leads, they enter the system and are associated with the campaign or lead provider that generated them.

LMS lead distribution - Leads are instantly and intelligently distributed to members of the sales team. Distribution is rules based and customizable. So leads representing the best opportunities can be assigned to the best sales agents.

LMS speed to contact - With a built in intelligent dialer, lead management software puts sales reps in touch with leads quicker than any other method. That means reaching the lead before competitors do.

LMS lead follow up - Lead prioritization leverages research on best practices which has shown evidence that six calls is the optimal number of contact attempts before results cease to justify the effort. Automated nurture emails make it easy to follow up on leads with no effort from sales reps.

LMS reporting - A robust reporting engine shows managers performance data for lead sources, sales reps, etc. This easy to read data allows you to change your marketing strategy based on hard numbers.

A Changing Insurance Market

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

In a recent article on Insurance & Technology called  “Insurance in the Digital Age,” Christian Bieck identifies core changes in the way people shop for insurance.  He closes with this:

Unimaginable just a decade ago, the rise of the Internet, mobile phones, and social networking is changing how consumers shop for and purchase insurance. Customers are becoming harder to satisfy and harder to maintain, so that means insurers have to work that much harder at building and sustaining their customer relationships.

Insurance has shifted from a seller’s to a buyer’s market.

Bieck has highlighted a very important point: life for the insurance broker is changing rapidly.  They no longer control the flow of information going to consumers and they’re dealing with better informed leads with plenty of different options.  As such, insurance agents need to find new tools to help them adjust to the changing market.  One of these tools should be a Lead Management System like Leads360.  Using a LMS will give your sales staff an invaluable resource in organizing and automating the sales process and ensuring that every lead is worked as efficiently and thoroughly as possible, maximizing your ROI by streamlining your sales process.

Bieck lays out three ways that insurance brokers need to improve their sales process to compete in the digital age: increase the number of available interaction points, follow your customers and invest in analytics, and improve interaction quality.  In each case, the use of a LMS can provide immediate improvement for any sales staff.

Leads360 can use automated nurturing e-mails to keep in contact with prospective buyers and supply links to information while prompting agents to make follow-up calls at the most appropriate times.  What’s more, it provides a single, unified software platform that can allow a sales team to coordinate each of their interaction points with any given lead into a unified front and ensure that the potential customer is finding all the information they need or want.

A LMS is also an essential tool for collecting and analyzing analytics and then implementing the changes called for by the data.  A program like Leads360 collects data from every customer interaction and carefully tracks the results to determine what is going into successfully closing leads.  Meticulously recorded metrics, over time, can reveal a lot of valuable trends in your customers and help isolate ways that efficiency and closing rates can be improved.  What’s more, it can identify the best sources for potential leads and ensure that your sales team is investing their time in ways that will maximize your overall ROI.

Finally, improving the quality of each and every interaction with a lead is one of the biggest strengths for a LMS like Leads360.  With the competition for each lead being fierce, things like speed-to-contact, number of contacts, and the timing of those contacts can all make or break a sales team.  Leads360 has collected data from millions of interactions to help hone in on best practices and can automate the sales process so that your agents are the first to call a lead, keep calling until they’ve either closed the lead or exhausted the opportunity, and even make contact attempts at the specific days and times that are most likely to have success.  Leads360 is designed to make the most out of each and every interaction automatically.

In the end, selling insurance is not what it used to be.  The market is rapidly changing and anyone hoping to keep up needs to find the right tools to adapt to the changing market.  In this battle to impress ever savvier customers, a LMS like Leads360 can be invaluable in getting to leads in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Leads360′s Dial-IQ and DoublePositive’s HOT Lead Transfers

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Today, Joey Liner from DoublePositive wrote a great piece on how Leads360′s new dialer suite, Dial-IQ can compliment DoublePositive’s HOT Lead Transfers. See below for some highlights, and click here to read the whole post.

“What’s the difference between the two? With dialers, the phone rings, and the first available salesperson picks up, with a contact on the other end who may or may not be qualified or interested in talking. With transfers, the phone rings through to only your top performers. On the line is a live, interested consumer who has been screened and is ready to have a meaningful conversation.”

“You don’t want salespeople sitting there staring at the phone all day, waiting for inbound marketing to deliver. Neither do you want them making outbound calls all day without ever having a meaningful conversation. Both scenarios are bad for morale and have a negative impact on productivity.”

“Instead, you want a mixture of automatic outbound calling and automatic inbound transfers. The math bears this out. Because we call leads all day, every day, we at DoublePositive know that, out of 100 leads, only 50 are contactable. This means that Dial-IQ will help you get in contact with only 50% of your leads. We have also found that fewer than half of those contacts are ready to have a meaningful conversation. In the end, only 20 of the 100 leads will transfer – therefore it is a tremendous waste of the salesperson’s time to call all 100.”

Click here to read the whole post.

Mystery Shop Your Business

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Running a small business is like creating a complicated machine. Whether you are building the machine from the ground up or running a machine that was built by someone else. Each piece has a function and throughput. It takes in some resource and outputs something else. When you find that two people are handling the throughput that could be handled by one person, you have to address the redundancy. Managing the business, or just a part of the business is like tinkering with the machine to make sure it runs smoothly and efficiently.

Not only does each piece of the machine have it’s own resource that feeds it, but the business as a whole has resources that it must consume in order to keep the machine from stalling out and ultimately failing. The main resource that the business needs to keep moving is, of course cash. Cash from existing customers and even more importantly, cash from new customers.

Your company’s sales team is the piece of the machine that is in charge of processing those new customers into revenue. This, it would seem, is a bit of throughput upon which the whole endeavor largely depends.

So how’s that going? It’s common for sales managers and small business owners to look at the output from a sales team and draw conclusion about effectiveness based only on the end results, i.e., Are they hitting their quotas? Are their close rates good?

But what kind of experience are your leads having? The author of this article suggests that business owners should “Stop Wasting Leads! Mystery Shop Your Business.”  This is great advice. I think business owners and managers would be surprised at how ineffective lead follow-up often is.  Here’s a recent study of ten major insurance carriers that shows that grades their lead response.  The average grade for the ten carriers was a C-minus.  Even the few carriers who did well had areas where they underperformed, i.e., Speed-to-Contact.

Mystery shopping your company is a great idea. This simple experiment can help you find out how well your sales agents are handling incoming leads, and how much money is being left on the table at this critical stage of your company’s overall operation.

The Slow Burn

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Getting the highest return on your leads means closing as many leads as possible. This fact might lead to the conclusion that in order to close more leads, a sales rep needs to have more leads assigned to him. And if that solution is implemented, there will probably be an increase in closes. Not close rates, but actual closed deals.  So if no one looks too closely it looks like the problem has been identified and solved. But it hasn’t. In order to get the highest ROI on your leads, it is necessary to increase close rates, i.e., lead spend remains constant, but more deals close.

Sales reps tend to rush to the new leads and cycle through them; working to indentify the quickest close. This is normal human behavior. In any given situation, only one thing can be designated the “most important.” And for a sales rep, the “most important” thing is the hottest, ripest lead. So a sales rep works through his leads looking for the ripe ones, and focuses on them. The problem with this is that only a small minority of leads are ripe, quick closers.

But if you ask most sales reps about their pipeline, their mind will focus on these “most important” leads. You’ll get information on this small minority of leads which are riper, quicker closes. This pipeline conversation will ignore the fact that there have been many more leads assigned to this sales rep which are effectively being ignored; ignored because the human mind can only focus on so much at one given time.

Here is a little thought experiment. Imagine a forest fire. Picture the blaze spreading through the forest. The burn line leads the way with the most intense blaze. The burn line gobbles up all the quick burning fuel; i.e., brush, leaves, dead wood, etc. The burn line is the most intense part of the fire and it is constantly moving, leaving behind the less intense flames to chip away heavy, solid tree trunks.

Those less intense flames take time but they pull down the trees one by one. These less intense flames are natures drip marketing campaigns.

Sales reps are going to focus on their ripest deals. This can’t and shouldn’t be avoided. But It is no longer necessary to ignore less ripe leads in favor of riper ones. Using a lead management platform with marketing automation features it is possible to remain in contact with these leads. Using drip marketing campaigns, sales reps can stay in touch with leads automatically. It doesn’t require that they take their focus off of the quicker closes. Drip marketing campaigns that provide relevant content establish trust and build brand awareness.

Using lead management empowers sales reps to give attention to prospects who are slower to convert without requiring them to take their focus off the quicker closers.

The Phone Experience

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

The Customer Experience

Ms. Jones is your customer. Every time you engage Ms. Jones you contribute to her experience with your company. When you speak with her. When you send her an email. When she sees an ad. Even when someone else tells Ms. Jones about their experience with your company. Every touch adds to her aggregate impression of you. And her aggregate impression is the deciding factor on whether or not she will do business with you.

There is some reservoir of goodwill that can be accumulated by providing a positive experience again and again. But the scary truth is that even when you’ve solidly cultivated a positive customer experience it is yours to lose. You’ve been strategic, you’ve been disciplined and you got it right 90% of the time. Congratulations, but be warned: there’s a decent chance you’ll lose your hard won customer from the 10% of the time you got it wrong.

These are the facts of customer experience. In today’s business environment with educated, empowered consumers and a cutthroat competitive landscape, it’s no mean feat to get the customer experience right. The margins for error are that small.

The Prospect Experience

Giving your customers a good experience is critical. But what about your prospects? For a prospect to become a customer their prospect experience must be positive. And if the margins for error are small in providing a consistently excellent Customer experience, they are even smaller when creating a positive prospect experience.

The reason for this is obvious. Take the example of a seller reaching out to a prospect over the phone; whether the sales rep is responding to an inquiry made by the prospect or cold calling, the sales rep reaching out over the phone may only have one second to make a good impression.

Consumer exposure to advertising and marketing has exploded in recent years. Filtering it out is done quickly and automatically, almost reflexively. When no relationship exists with the sales rep or the company it’s important to start strong and establish trust instantaneously. It is the only way to penetrate the barrier that consumers instinctively put between themselves and the barrage of marketing messages.

The Phone Experience

It is important to keep the prospect experience in mind when making nuts and bolts strategic decisions about how your company is contacting prospects. Take for instance dialer technology. Many companies dealing with a high volume of leads choose a predictive dialer to speed up the execution of outbound calls. The predictive dialer works on the assumption that many phone calls will not reach live prospects. So on a sales floor that has 10 sales reps, the predictive dialer will place 20 calls. Many of those calls will be disconnected since they won’t reach a live prospect. But the calls that do reach a live prospect will be transferred to a sales rep.

The predictive dialer sounds like a real time saver. But as a consumer, have you ever received a call that was placed from a predictive dialer? When you answer your phone, there is silence, some clicking and finally a sales rep comes on the line. The rep calls you and you wait for them. When they finally come on the phone they try to represent their company as a place where you are going to want to business. Because they provide superior service. Those pledges of positive customer experience to come are meaningless in the shadow of how the phone call began.

It is all too common that companies make the penny wise, pound foolish choice of trading a positive prospect experience for high contact rates. But this is by no means an unavoidable tradeoff. There are intelligent dialer products available now that make it quick to contact leads without sacrificing the prospect experience. Companies looking to improve contact rates and prospect experience concurrently should consider using an intelligent dialer that integrates with a lead management solution. A lead dialer such as this leverages all the distribution capabilities of the lead management solution to use lead data to strategically connect sales reps to prospects. The quality of the connection can also be boosted using a lead dialer that leverages built in lead prioritization to ensure that leads are being contacted in accordance with established best practices.

Managing your prospects experience is a complicated undertaking. There are a lot of aspects of it that are difficult to control. But there are some aspects of prospect experience can be controlled. One such aspect is the experience a prospect has when answering a call from one of your sales reps. Why would you choose a solution that increases contact rates at the expense of prospect experience when you can use an intelligent lead dialer that boosts both the quantity and the quality of contacts?

Identify Your Need and Choose Your Solution

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

There’s an old saying: Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. In other words, don’t use the wrong tool for the job when your life is on the line. It’s not hard to imagine how being unprepared in such a way could spell trouble.

This article offers a good take on set of principles on how to automate the sales process. His approach is decent. Standardizing the sales process and automating it is an important step in streamlining your efforts, not wasting leads, and getting consistent results from your sales team. The problem with the author’s approach is that he is taking a knife to a gun fight. In other words, he’s using a CRM to manage leads. Use CRM to manage customer relationships. Use LMS or lead management software to manage leads.

It’s not uncommon for companies to try to use CRM to manage leads. Companies are sold on CRM as the one solution to rule them all. CRM often comes with a few lead management features. And these features, it is often wrongly assumed, are enough. This assumption leads to companies bringing knives to gun fights.

In fact, lead management software is built around a few core principals, i.e., speed, process, and persistence. Speed is the single most critical component to closing leads. As such, LMS is designed to optimize speed to call. Lead management, particularly when enhanced with an integrated dialer, is the single most reliable way to equip sales reps to be the first on the phone with a lead.

The other two core principals; process and persistence refer to LMS’s capacity to create an enforceable workflow that optimizes your chances to connect with a lead. These principals are baked into software features such as lead prioritization, email nurturing, and a robust reporting engine that gives real time feedback around which lead sources, marketing campaigns, and reps are underperforming.

The thing is, the analogy of bringing a knife to a gunfight isn’t exactly accurate. It’s really more the case that the opposite is true. It is so prevalent that companies are using CRM or no method at all to manage their leads. So using LMS is more like bringing a gun to a knife fight. Companies who are using it constitute a dominating minority that is reaping huge benefits from its use. The benefits include skyrocketing contact, qualification, and close rates. In short, LMS is the best way to turn leads into customers. CRM is the best way to manage customer relationships. Identify your task and choose your solution.