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Archive for November, 2011

Text Messaging for Sales Success

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Are your sales tactics dated? A barrage of repeated call attempts and e-mails may feel like the way to go in sales, but if they annoy or overwhelm the consumer they’re ultimately counterproductive. To maximize ROI, it is important to mold sales efforts to today’s savvy on-the-go consumers.

And if you need convincing on consumer behavior, take a look at these statistics:
The United States has more than 300 million wireless subscribers and a recent study by Pew Internet showed that at least half of Americans ages 18 to 29 send at least 40 text messages a day and half of those ages 30 to 49 send at least 10 per day. That exceeds the number of calls they’re making by factors of eight and two respectively.

This doesn’t mean throw out all the tried and true best practices. What it does mean, is looking for a good mix of old and new sales tactics that will ensure a positive initial brand experience, and give you a leg up on the competition.

By adding automated text messaging into the sales funnel, a savvy sales manager can open up a range of options for reaching the consumer. Here are a few tips for using text messaging for sales success:

  • Let prospective customers guide your practices: give your customers the option to receive text messages with appointment and deadline reminders.
  • Send friendly reminders: text messaging can be a nice alternative to phone or e-mail to provide a quick reminder of an application deadline, appointment, etc. Triocci University of Beauty Culture found that using texts in their recruitment was an effective way to remind prospective students of important deadlines and appointments.
  • Stay in touch with a busy customer that wants to respond on their time: a mortgage broker, for example, could use text messaging to communicate with a client who is often in meetings but wants updates and red flag notifications to keep the process moving forward and ensure he can lock in the quoted interest rate.
  • Appeal to the younger consumer: texting could allow younger potential consumers to absorb and respond to marketing information in a fashion they’re most comfortable with. You might consider running a promotion or contest via text messaging.
  • The new automated text messaging service offered by Leads360 are tailored to send texts with a timing and frequency balanced towards giving potential customers important, actionable information in a convenient, immediate package that ensures regulatory compliance. More importantly, the prospect’s replies go directly to the email box sales rep, eliminating the need to hand out cell phones to the sales force.

    We’d like to hear from you. How do you plan to use text messaging to improve the consumer experience?

Five KPIs every sales manager should track to increase conversion rates

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Every sales manager needs to track performance of their sales and marketing efforts and when it comes to lead management, understanding how leads perform and why one lead converted over another is critical.

Numerous studies and our own research have shown that contacting new leads quickly can dramatically impact conversion rates. Therefore, number one and two on our list of “must track” key performance indicators (KPIs) are speed-to-contact attempt and speed-to-contact. The other three come in the order all leads must go through, and when used together, these KPIs can be powerful in helping to measure the performance of sales processes, campaigns, lead sources, and more.

Here are the top five KPI’s every sales manager should track:
1. Speed-to-Contact Attempt – How much time it takes to call a lead for the first time regardless of whether or not the call is connected.
2. Speed to Contact - How much time it takes to contact a lead for the first time.
3. Contact Rate - The percentage of leads that have been contacted (meaning a sales person actually spoke to a lead on the phone)
4. Qualification Rate - The percentage of leads that have been qualified (meaning the lead is a fit for your product and could buy within the next 90 days)
5. Conversion Rate - The percentage of leads that have been converted to customers.

Company #1:
Dashboard company 1
Company #2:
Dashboard company #2

Above are examples of two dashboards, from two separate companies, tracking the top five KPI’s. Let’s drill into these numbers a bit and see what we can learn.
As you can see, company #2 is performing much better than company #1. So what’s going on, for company #1 the qualification rate is low at 14.8%, while the contact rate is relatively high at 70.2%. This drives one to conclude the quality of the leads is poor. The sales manager in this instance may want to drill into this data to determine where the lower quality leads are coming from. For company #2, contact relative to qualification rate is where we’d expect.

Now, if we look at the conversion rate of 2.7% for company #1, again this isn’t a great conversion rate, a sales manager might be scratching their head wondering why. The lower conversion rate is likely tied to one of four things or a combination of these (1) the company is not competitive in the marketplace (2) their sales people may need more training (3) lead quality may be poor as noted above, or (4) the poor speed-to-contact may be factoring into the conversion rate.

Company #2 on the other hand is performing much better on their speed-to-contact metrics, which could ultimately be having a positive impact on their conversion rate.

As you can see, the power of these four KPIs together can provide valuable insights into your sales processes, campaigns and more. Leasd360′s innovative lead analytics and sales lead tracking software makes it easy to monitor key success metrics. We make critical data useful, simple and actionable.

Favorite “Thankful” blog posts

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

On the eve of Thanksgiving there are several blogs popping up urging us to put our worries asside and consider for a moment what we have to be thankful for. In this vein, a few of our favorites from @MarketingProfs, @HSHassociates, @B2Community and @college4adults.

#1 from @MarketingProfs – a heart-warming blog post that includes comments from 45 of Ann Handley’s friends; the post reminds us in the marketing and sales profession that our jobs are about so much more than strategy, planning, blogging, social media, but also about building relationships! Thank you Ann and friends for this reminder! http://bit.ly/w1z9rl

#2 from @HSHassociates –highlights five things to be thankful for despite another tough year for the housing market and the economy, including low mortgage rates and HARP 2.0. Lots for our customers in the mortgage industry to be thankful for. http://bit.ly/v9LYhc

#3 from @B2Community – highlights five reasons to be thankful for your online community, including competitive advantage, lead nurturing opportunities, and more. It is a good reminder of the power of social in the sales 2.0 world we live in. http://bit.ly/uAKOr3

#4 from @college4adults – “Are you a thankful learner?” reminds us to take a moment and reflect on who has helped each of us get to where we are today. http://bit.ly/sFDUZS

Finally, we want to say thank you to our community — customers, partners, and shareholders — for a great year of innovation and success; you push us every day to make our software better and more competitive — for that we are greatful!

Standards and Workflow

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

What do standards do for a sales organization? In their simplest implementation, they draw a line in the sand that says, if you can’t perform at least this well, you cannot work here. The most common standard is the quota. Quotas have been around forever, and they are effective, if a little unrefined. What the quota says is, “Just get yourself to this level of earning; I don’t care how you do it.” And this approach may get results, but it leaves quite a few things up to chance. When you are protecting or building your brand, it’s important make sure your reps are treating prospects well as measured by any number of factors.

The good news is it is possible to establish standards for sales reps that ensure that your leads are being handled in accordance with your company’s policies and proven best practices. With a lead management system you aren’t limited to being able to establish only sales quotas, but you can also establish and enforce standards around several other key metrics. For instance it is possible to establish standards around speed to contact. Make sure that leads are contacted within the first minute that they enter your system. If a rep is consistently unable to reach out to leads in a timely manner, it may be because their pipeline is experiencing a bottleneck. In such a case, the flow of leads will be automatically slowed to such a user.

Contact Rate, Qualification Rate, and Conversion Rate are three more metrics that are easy to track on the Leads360 dashboard. Establishing standards for sales reps at different stages throughout the sales process results in leads being consistently well managed by sales reps. Well managed leads not only mean a higher return on your marketing spend it helps you protect your brand and reputation as a provider of first class customer service.

For-Profit Educators - Innovators or Villains?

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

By Nick Hedges, President & CEO of Leads360

The blogosphere loves to demonize big institutions, and few are cast more often as the villain than those in the for-profit higher education sector. Most of the hullaballoo revolves around admissions standards and practices, or the lack thereof. In a nutshell, the argument has been that for-profit educators have aggressively coerced unwitting, would-be students to sign up for studies that they cannot afford. Those students end up deeply indebted (usually to the government/taxpayer) and yet not more employable.

This populist view greatly simplifies and misrepresents what for-profit educators actually accomplish, for a host of well-documented reasons. If someone suggested a low-achieving child should be denied a high-school education because “it’s a waste of taxpayer’s money,” they would, fairly, be considered a lunatic (or worse), and yet saying the same thing about adults has gained popular support. America is the land of hope and opportunity, not pessimism and entrenched circumstance.

The objective of this article, however, is not to debate the for-profit education critics’ arguments, but to reflect upon reactions witnessed by many of the largest for-profit higher education companies to this scrutiny. It sits in stark contrast to the response of many large financial institutions to similar levels of criticism. The response says much about the state of innovation in the for-profit education sector.

This point began to germinate after reading an interview with a favorite business school professor of mine, Clay Christensen. He had this to say about the innovative approach of the University of Phoenix to teaching:

“University of Phoenix is spending about $200 million every year on making their teaching better… Do you know how much money Harvard spends every year to make its teaching better? Zero. The reason is that Harvard defines research as creating new knowledge, while The University of Phoenix defines it as finding new ways to provide knowledge. It blows the socks off of us in their ability to teach so well.”

The idea stuck because it mirrors the innovation we see among bigger for-profit educators when it comes to admissions and enrollment. As the CEO of one of the fastest growing technology companies in the education space, I am lucky to get a close up look at how these companies innovate, with three of the top seven for-profit educators utilizing our enrollment management platform. Our technology brings a new way of approaching enrollments that ensures conversations the institution has with each prospect exactly reflects the need and interest level of that prospect. This tool increases engagement yet eschews what I call “persistence warfare” i.e. making hundreds of calls and inundating prospects with email just for filling in a form on a website.

What is remarkable here is not that the big educators realized those tactics were out-dated but that they were able to embrace a technology like Leads360 so quickly. What took other verticals several years to catch on to; the for-profit education sector is embracing in a very short period of time indeed. Even more impressive is how these educators have adopted our platform. Without a doubt, for-profit schools have configured our software far more than any of the other 50 or so industries that use our product, and have pushed my product team for more ingenious features than Leads360 has ever previously produced. In many ways, entering the for-profit education vertical has breathed new life into a company that was already innovating at a fast pace.

Of course exceptions exist, many schools are fighting the “persistence war” and others neglect their prospective students by having chaotic systems and processes. But this is true of any industry. What is remarkable is that the for-profit education sectors largest companies are the most innovative, which is quite the opposite in the majority of sectors. Well-capitalized companies that are truly innovative, more often than not, significantly change the world we live in for the better. It’s a trend we see in the technology sector among companies like Apple, Amazon and Google and a trend that is clearly emerging in the for-profit education space.

Time will tell, but if my theory is correct, yesterday’s villains will become tomorrow’s saviors. That is quite fortunate - education in general needs saving quite badly.

Bank transfer season far from over, is your sales team ready?

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

The consumer driven ‘move your money movement’ that culminated to ‘Bank Transfer Day’ on Saturday, Nov. 5th, has credit unions and small banks driving incentives all over the country to encourage prospective customers to sign up for an account. Case in point, FirstBank Holding Co. in Denver is driving an aggressive free checking campaign, encouraging costumers to text their bank’s name to learn what the rival bank is charging for checking accounts, reported American Banker Magazine. The Credit Union National Association reports 650,000 new members and $4.5 billion in savings account assets since the end of September. And on Nov. 5, credit unions across the country signed record numbers of new members, Boeing Employees’ Credit Union in Seattle signed up a one-day record 659 new members, reported the Wall Street Journal.

But the first step of opening an account is just that – a first step. Despite big bank backlash to increasing account fees, stickiness is still a factor in the core banking relationship given the hassle for consumers to move their direct deposit and all of their automatic bill payments from one bank to another.

In the midst of this David vs. Goliath shakeout, lead management is of the utmost importance for small and big banks alike. While some movement may be good for big banks, they can’t afford to lose too many customers, and for the credit unions and small banks, their work has just begun. Customers who signed up for an account should really be viewed as viable leads that need to be converted to customers.

In this highly competitive environment – where every customer interaction counts, where lead prioritization makes all the difference – a good lead management program can separate the winners from the losers. Leads360 customers are heading into this battle prepared with the very best tools. Are you prepared?

Secret Shopping Pulls Back the Curtain on Bungled Lead Follow-Up

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

How quickly and consistently are your agents following up with prospects? It’s well known that speed to contact is the single greatest contributor to successfully establishing a relationship with a new prospect. (For the unconvinced, check out this study on the effect of speed on lead conversion rates).

And that when it is not possible to reach a prospect immediately, following up with them via emails and phone calls strategically, (i.e., in accordance with proven best practices) is the next most important step that a sales rep or enrollment counselor can take to try to establish a relationship.

So are these things being done? Are calls being made immediately when leads are received? Are leads being followed up on? If you’re using a lead management system, it’s easy to take steps to ensure that every lead is called immediately, and followed up on appropriately. It’s automatic.

But if you are not using a lead management system, there is still a way to see how quickly leads are being called and how consistent is the follow up. Secret shop your reps. Get a Google voice number and submit a bogus lead with it. See how quickly it gets called and how often. I think the results might surprise you. Even in the biggest for profit schools, mortgage lenders, and insurance carriers sometimes earn failing grades when it comes to following up with leads.

Whom Should I Call Next?

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

That’s a good question. Who needs a call right now? Who has been called enough, who has not? Whom did I tell I would call back today at 2:15? These questions are simple enough, but answering them is not. Answering the question, “Who is the best lead to call at this exact moment?” requires knowledge of the following factors:

Is there a lead with whom I have scheduled an appointment?

Which lead is brand new?

Which lead came in today, but has only been called once?

Which lead is being ignored by a colleague and is available to be taken by way of shark tank distribution?

Answering these questions would give you a list of leads among which you would find the next best lead to call. But answering each of those questions takes time. And each step of the way there are opportunities for distraction and the temptation to quit researching and make the decision based on partial information.

The sales manager or small business owner may be inclined to say, “So what? This is the sales rep’s job, to keep track of their opportunities and do what it takes to close deals.” And this is true. Administrative drudgery is part of everyone’s job. But when there’s a simple shortcut to take to cut through all of that type of work and focus on selling, shouldn’t reps take that shortcut? Shouldn’t they spend more time selling and less time figuring out to whom they should be selling.

Demand Connect is a feature that is part of Dial-IQ, Leads360’s intelligent lead dialer. With it, it is possible to pull the next best lead with the click of a button. Let sales reps put an end to the endless estimating, reconnoitering, and prioritizing. Get them on the phone with the lead who most needs a call.

Top 3 Tips for Improving Enrollment Processes

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Leads360 released a study today evaluating the enrollment processes at the top private sector higher-education schools in the US. Unfortunately, many schools had a hard time earning a passing grade, you can download the full report here.

We thought we’d provide some practical advice on Coffee for Closers, providing a few tips for admissions departments at for-profit schools to improve their approach to recruiting high quality students.

Tip #1 – Don’t Underestimate the Power of an Email: Many prospective students do their research online, and make their first inquiry to a school by filling out and submitting an inquiry form. A simple way to instill candidate confidence in the professionalism of the school and provide additional information relevant to that particular candidate’s interest is through email. Remember to use each email touch-point effectively, with the optimal number of e-mails being two to four according to research.
Tip #2 – Be the First to Follow-up via Phone: Leads360 research has also demonstrated attempting to respond to an inquiry within one minute of its receipt increases the chances of enrolling the prospect by 391%. This dramatic increase is due to the fact that prospective students are most likely to engage with a school right after making their initial inquiry. Schools can also increase their success by not only being the first school to contact the student but also matching the candidate to the ideal admissions personnel through “skill-based routing.”
Tip #3 – Calling too much or too Infrequently can be Detrimental: Just as important as the ideal number of calls – six per previous research – is properly timing contact attempts. Calling three times during the first day, once on day three, again on day four, and a sixth and final time on day 11 or 12, is the optimal call attempt strategy according to research on building the optimal inquiry response strategy.