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Archive for the ‘Business Process’ Category

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.

Everyone Loves a Quick Close

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

The path to a successful sale is fraught with obstacles. Not a few of which are inside our own heads in the form of assumptions and erroneous beliefs.

Before we wave our fingers at the salespersons’ tendency to favor the quick close and not follow up on leads well, let’s first acknowledge that this behavior is commonplace for a reason. It makes sense. And in a world without a dedicated Lead Management Solution, it may actually be considered a best practice. What behavior am I talking about specifically? Salespersons are ‘hooked’ on the quick close. If one lead in a hundred is the one that is going to close quickly, why would you spend time on the phone with the ones that aren’t? Since the salesperson’s skill set and experience equip them to recognize when they have a lead on the line that they can close, why wouldn’t they just keep burning through calls, until they get that feeling that they have a ‘live one’ on the line? Wouldn’t you? Choosing a path other than this would mean that the ‘live one’ winds up on the line with one of the other salespeople.

Three obvious problems with basing your sales approach around the quick close are:

  1. There is a margin of error. The lead may be a ‘live one’ that can be closed, but the sales agent can’t see it
  2. It ignores the fact that 40-50% of leads will eventually close, even if they don’t close right away
  3. Slow closing leads represent 77% of total sales

If those pieces of data are not persuasive enough, consider one even more critical fact: It’s not necessary to choose one or the other. With Lead Management Software, salesmen do not have to choose between chasing the quick close and nurturing leads. By using Lead Management Software, Salesmen can turn and burn calls, while funneling leads that are not quick closers into a nurture cycle.

A lead nurture cycle serves as an automated bidirectional reminder.

  • It sends emails to the lead: “Don’t forget about this company, this sales agent, when you’re ready to buy, we’ll be here!”
  • It sends reminders to the Salesman: “Don’t forget about this lead, when they’re ready to buy, you have to be there!”

Research in neuropsychology shows that one way the human brain organizes information is by retracing the steps that lead to a desired result and trying to replicate them. Your sales agents have for so long gotten positive results by working according to the old rules: Burning through calls as fast as they can to get to the one they can close. And Lead Management Software doesn’t require that sales agents ‘learn a new way to work’. Instead, it harnesses the sales agents enthusiasm for connecting to new leads while automating the more easily overlooked tasks of following up with leads that are not immediate closers.

The new lesson that salespersons are learning while using Lead Management is this: There are a lot more deals to be closed outside of that fish that just flops into the boat.

The Seven Universal Rules of Sales and Marketing

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

In the ever-changing world of sales and marketing, it’s comforting to know that some approaches  and best practices remain relevant and unchanged.  Leads360 founder Jeff Solomon’s Seven Universal Rules to Sales and Marketing provides seven universal factors that aim to help maximize your sales and convert a larger portion of your leads.

The Seven Universal Rules of Sales and Marketing are as follows:

  1. 1. Speed of Sales Process
  2. 2. Number of Decision Makers
  3. 3. Simplicity of Buying Process
  4. 4. Quantity of Leads
  5. 5. Role of Emotion
  6. 6. Value of Sale
  7. 7. Uniformity of Offer

In any sales situation, all seven of these factors must be addressed and you should ask yourself: where do I fall in each of these categories?  In particular, the differences between B2B sales and B2C sales are laid bare by these Seven Rules.  B2C sales are fast, where B2B are slower.  B2C involves one or two decision makers, where B2B will often have multiple people and departments involved in the decision making process.  The simplicity of the buying process is much easier in B2C sales than in B2B sales.  B2C involves many more leads than B2B sales.  B2C sales can often be closed with emotion, where B2B sales rely more on logical appeals.  The value of an individual sale in B2B will be far greater than those in B2C.  Finally, B2C offers will be much more uniform than B2B offers.

None of these rules are hard and fast though.  For every situation, whether it is B2B or B2C sales, it’s important to think of the Seven Universal Rules as being on a sliding scale. Once understood, the key to sustained success is understanding where you stand in each case.  Some small business sales will more closely resemble B2C sales than B2B sales when you consider the Seven Universal Rules, while other B2C sales might be on a scale where an approach that more closely resembles B2B could be more effective.  Whatever the lead, it’s important that you understand where your business is so that you can find the most effective approach to increasing your sales.

Customizing is So Web 1.0

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

When CRM and SaaS first started it was all about customization. Look at Salesforce.com or RightNow Technologies; both are web-based CRM software that is customizable beyond anyone’s imagination. I think this has been, and continues to be a big selling point for them. Think about it. Your pitching a powerful CRM system and you say to the client, hey, this can be customized to your exact business needs. Sounds great right? For a long time this was major selling technique for Leads360 as well. In fact, if you compare our lead management platform with just about any other B2C LMS on the market, you’ll see we have a much more configurable product.

Well its true, customization and configuration are benefits and we’ve certainly seen sales from it. But the tide is shifting and more companies, especially small and medium sized businesses are looking for pre-configured best practices. We get this question all the time; “hey, just tell me what my competitors are doing that is working and I want to do the same thing.” They don’t want to re-invent the wheel and they certainly don’t want to pay big bucks to some CRM consulting firm to customize Salesforce.com for them. This is a path we’ve been forging for some time. Not only do we give our clients best practices workflow templates to start with, but we continue to enhance the configuration based on feedback, research and analysis of what REALLY works. And believe me, some things work really well and some things don’t.

In the coming months we’ll be releasing more on this, both in terms of better templates and in the research reports we’ll be compiling. Stay tuned.


Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Please join us on December 9th at 11AM Pacific / 2PM Eastern for a brand new webinar about how to understand and leverage the unique characteristics of your sales process.  You can register here, for free, in about 5 seconds.


What Planet Are You On? Leverage the Differences between B2C and B2B Sales and Marketing

Applying the 7 universal ground rules of sales and marketing and the 3 keys to lead conversion

Knowing what factors are critical to success in your business is not as obvious as you may think. The most successful sales and marketing organizations understand which planet they are on, and they know which sales and marketing approaches align with their needs.

Understanding the characteristics of your sales and marketing efforts are essential to achieving higher lead conversion and sales success.

Sign up for this free webinar to learn how the 7 universal ground rules of sales and marketing apply differently to B2C and B2B sales. Find out what the unique characteristics of your sales efforts are, and see how to leverage the 3 keys to lead conversion using powerful lead management software from Leads360.

From this webinar, you will learn:
•    Questions for better understanding the rules of your target marketplace and sales process
•    The 7 universal ground rules of sales and marketing
•    The 3 key drivers of sales lead conversion
•    How lead management software can boost your sales and increase ROI
•    Why implementing the wrong technology solution can cripple your business

We’ll see you there.

How Many Times Should You Call Each Sales Lead? Read Our New Call Attempts Study

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Here’s what our own Nisheeth Singh had to say about the study:

As you may have read on Lead Critic today, we released our newest research regarding the impact of call frequency on sales lead conversion.

To misquote a famous author: “Elementary, my dear Watson”. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s written works never actually saw this phrase although the first and second parts of the phrase were seen in close association during conversations. But I digress.

As many of you opined above and is the central premise of the paper (found here), sometimes the most obvious and logical actions are never taken by lead buyers. I don’t necessarily understand why they don’t but I do revel in the fact that it means significant upside for those that choose to engage with their leads smartly.

We conducted the study based on several million leads that our clients tried contacting over a period of many months to have as diverse a data set as possible. We studied the effects of multiple call attempts all the way to 20 and I’ve published the entire results of our study below just to whet your intellectual curiosity. Some explanation is in order:

* Column 1 denotes the call attempt

* Column 2 denotes the percentage of ‘Contactable leads’ contacted – this is key to understanding the study and is NOT the same as Contact Rate. This means that the data set excludes any leads that were never contacted. This metric is a percent of the remaining leads in our study which we define as ‘contactable leads’

* Column 3 denotes the percent improvement in the ‘% of Contactable leads contacted’ metric for each successive attempt over the very 1st call attempt

* Column 4 denotes the percent improvement in the ‘% of Contactable leads contacted’ metric for each successive attempt over the preceding call attempt

Contact    % of Contactable   Improvement       Improvement over

Attempt   leads contacted    over 1st attempt    preceding attempt


1                              39%

2                              72%                        87%                        87%

3                              83%                        114%                     15%

4                              88%                        128%                     6.5%

5                              91%                        136%                     3.4%

6                              93%                        141%                     2.1%

7                              95%                        145%                     1.5%

8                              96%                        148%                     1.1%

9                              96%                        150%                     0.8%

10                           97%                        151%                     0.6%

11                           97%                        152%                     0.5%

12                           98%                        153%                     0.3%

13                           98%                        154%                     0.3%

14                           98%                        154%                     0.3%

15                           98%                        155%                     0.2%

16                           99%                        155%                     0.2%

17                           99%                        156%                     0.2%

18                           99%                        156%                     0.1%

19                           99%                        156%                     0.1%

20                           99%                        157%                     0.1%

As you can see, the benefits of calling start trailing off pretty steeply after the 5th or 6th attempt, we chose to prescribe 6 attempts as the cut-off. I beg to defer with LeadCritic in that this is a very statistically relevant study with a data set this size and of this heterogeneity, at least at a high level. I do agree though that to get maximum benefit from a study like this, one should conduct the same study but specifically for their own sales team to understand the effect of call attempts on their contact rate.


Nisheeth Singh

Director of Strategic Intelligence, Leads360

True success exists only when you understand the “how?” and the “why?”

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

This post was inspired by a great article written by Sean Hannon this week. In his article, which is focused on understanding investment results, he used this simple chart to illustrate the possible results of an investment (I have reproduced this chart with my own color-coding):

Sean’s point is that you should only feel truly successful about when you have a good outcome that is produced by a good process. If you invest in a stock on a whim and it happens to produce a great return, you should not consider yourself a great investor-you should think of yourself as a lucky gambler. Similarly, if you are using a proven system that works, and you get a bad outcome sometimes, you shouldn’t feel too bad. Over time the right process will produce good outcomes more often then the bad process.

This idea is common across many endeavors where the process to achieving results has a strong “luck” factor. Poker is a great example. If you have the best hand, correctly estimate your odds of winning, and bet big, you will still lose a significant portion of the time. Even a good process can produce bad results, in the same way that a bad process can produce good results.

Building your business to perform requires understanding how process and outcome are correlated in the long term and yet can produce totally inverse results in the short term. During the housing boom, the problem that many mortgage brokers, banks, and direct lenders ran into, was that they used a simplified lens to measure their success. They looked at the world like this:

It’s counter intuitive but the outcome is not sufficient to measure success. Plenty of banks, brokers, and lenders made a killing and subsequently lost their shirts because they were only measuring outcome, not process. Building a good process builds a framework to produce more good outcomes in the future. Building a business around good outcomes often produces a process that will produce fewer good outcomes in the future; it’s self defeating in the long run.

As a company that builds lead management software (LMS), we understand that helping our clients by providing best practices goes a long way towards making them successful in the long run. But beyond that we know we can help our clients by getting them to place an equal or higher value on their process over their immediate outcomes.

Lastly here’s the way that we see the world. :

We see four kinds of businesses. We try to push our clients towards a good process and good outcomes. Yet, we are never satisfied. Every company, across the board, can always be more successful.