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Everything we know about the lead business from everyone at the Leads360 family. From online lead providers like LowerMyBills.com to Mortgage Lead Management best practices. We'll tell you what we know and what we've learned.  

2010 Red Herring Top 100 Award Winner!

Leads360 is proud to announce that we have been selected as a winner for the 2010 Red Herring Top 100 award.  Red Herring is a well respected organization that chooses 100 of North America’s most promising private companies and evaluates them on both qualitative and quantitative criteria, such as technology innovation, quality of management, financial performance, execution of strategy, and more.

Yesterday we made the trip down to beautiful San Diego to accept the award and were humbled to be surrounded by companies that shared Leads360’s ambition and vision.  The old mantra, “competition breeds innovation” has never been truer and it was great to see American based companies living up to the entrepreneurial hype that we are so well known for.

About Red Herring

Red Herring is a global media company uniting the world’s best high technology innovators, venture investors and business decision makers in a variety of forums: a leading innovation magazine; an online daily technology news service; technology newsletters, and major events for technology leaders around the globe. Red Herring provides an insider’s access to the global innovation economy, featuring unparalleled insights on the emerging technologies driving the economy.

Five Reasons Why Leads360 Saas Has a Lower Total Cost of Ownership than Packaged Software

Price is a critical factor in any business expense and sometimes the deciding factor. One case where some distortion occurs in assessing the price difference between two options is when it comes to choosing between packaged software and Software as a Service(SaaS). But it’s not uncommon for business to take a shorter view and look at the initial investment required for a software solution and not at the total cost of ownership (TCO).

The tendency to focus on initial investment rather than TCO is encouraged by providers of packaged software solutions because analysis from that point of view seems to favor them. In reality total cost of ownership is lower for Leads360 SaaS.  What follows is a breakdown of what the ‘service’ in SaaS is, and how it makes SaaS a cheaper solution.

When you use Leads360 Lead Management Software as a Service instead of a packaged solution virtually all expenses you might expect to pay are included in your subscription cost. This is not the case with a packaged solution. Here are some examples.

  1. 1. Servers and Server Rooms: These are not necessary expenses for Leads360 SaaS.
  2. 2. Supporting Software: Leads360 is an end-to-end lead management solution that enables users to manage leads through the entire sales cycle. Using a packaged solution that has less a smaller feature set forces business to buy supporting software. Licenses, training, and server space are all costs associated with this.
  3. 3. Analytics: Businesses are increasingly valuing and making use of the data they generate.  Being able to make use of data for analytics can require a complex solution for packaged software, particularly if the data set is complex. This is included in Leads360 SaaS.
  4. 4. Minor Version Update: These require time and effort on the part of IT staff or consultants. This is included in Leads360 SaaS.
  5. 5. Major Version Update: These occur roughly every two to seven years in packaged software. They often require additional investment, training and implementation costs. Since Leads360 SaaS is updated roughly every two months, major changes that cause users to have to re-learn the software do not occur.

Using Leads360 Software as a Service is a smoother experience than using packaged software. Updates happen regularly instead of being sprung on users in the form of version updates. Maintenance and support contracts which are sold separately as part of packaged business software are included in Leads360 SaaS. This makes for a user experience that is seamless in terms of gradual product enhancement and uninterrupted usability.

The Customer is Always…

In a whitepaper called “Surviving and Thriving in the Customer-Driven Age” released by the CRM project, Michael Betzer astutely points out two facts that are changing the way companies do business. First: There is more competition than ever before. And Second: Consumers are more informed than ever before.

He roughly sketches an older way of doing business, where competition was local, media and advertising was not as pervasive as it is today, and companies had more information about the products they were selling than the consumers buying them.  These facts no longer hold true.  Buyers frequently begin conversations with sellers having already done research and looking for a level of insight into the product that goes beyond what is available through some web searching.  Having sales agents who cannot begin the conversation from that informed baseline will lead to a customer look elsewhere.

There’s never been a business without competition, so it’s nothing new, but what has changed is the sheer volume of companies competing from every corner of the world and the ease with which they can reach consumers, or be reached by them. When a company fails to deliver the kind of service that a customer wants, many alternatives are just one search away. And increasingly, these searches are carried out on a smart phone that the consumer has with him at all times. Consumers are smart and they are equipped. There are plenty of companies providing an alternative to companies that just don’t have it right.

So how do you succeed in such an environment? Customer-centricity. It’s long been an axiom of business that “the customer is always right.” But it may be more prudent in today’s competitive landscape to keep in mind that “the customer is always right about to get a better offer.” Any company that isn’t equipped to provide superlative service simply won’t survive. Providing the best possible service is only possible by creating an “organization that (is) agile and adaptable as market, competitive or regulatory conditions change.”

Agility and speed are core concepts to survival in modern business. Being the first to contact a lead is critical in turning that lead into a customer. Being able to engage the customer in an ongoing way with relevant content is critical in maintaining a meaningful customer relationship. Know as much about your customers as they know about your product. And know more about your product than they do. With a lead management software and CRM, it’s possible to transform your organization into one that can thrive with empowered consumers in today’s super competitive marketplace.

Insurance Case Study: Larry and Ted

The insurance industry is changing more and more every day, and, in this day and age, any sales manager who is serious about keeping up with the changing nature of the industry and maximizing the ROI on his marketing spend will be ready to invest in a Lead Management System.  Lead Management Systems like Leads360 provide sales teams with a metrics driven, analytical approach to their leads that will helps them with everything from speed to contact to properly following up on every lead.  However, some sales managers continue to drag their feet on embracing the inevitable and refuse to invest in Lead Management.  To illustrate this problem, lets take a look at two sales managers working in insurance who we’ll call Larry and Ted.

Larry is “old school” and prefers to rely on his gut.  He likes playing his hunches when it comes to leads and he doesn’t abide by relying too heavily on data.  He pays extra for high quality leads and then distributes them based on his own hunches about who will work them the best.  He believes in his instincts and relies on them to make his decisions.  While he’s struggling to meet the bottom line, Larry insists this is an offshoot of the bad economy and there’s nothing to be done about it.  After all, if Larry and his hunches are failing to close leads, there must be something wrong, right?  The only smart approach is to increase their marketing buy to get higher quality leads because, after all, the more you pay the more you get.  Larry has a lot of friends and he gets along well with them, but he’s decidedly less popular with the CMO of his company, who wishes Larry’s process were much more transparent.

Ted, meanwhile, is more objective and prefers to remain results driven in his thought process.  As a result, he invests in a Lead Management System from Leads360 to keep track of the leads he’s investing in and collect data on who is working what leads and how effective they are.  Ted is flexible in his approach, willing to accept what the data tells him and working hard to maximize his ROI and get the best results.  He doesn’t like relying solely on his personal conclusions about his staff and instead allows the Lead Management System to manage his lead distribution so that they can get to every hot lead as quickly as possible and allow other leads to be nurtured until they’re ready to be closed.  All of this is facilitated by his Lead Management System which allows him to automatically track leads, distribute them, and follow up in the most efficient way all while keeping detail metrics on what, precisely, is and isn’t working for him.  Ted is not as popular at the local watering hole as Larry is, but his CMO beams with pride every time you mention Ted’s name, thanking the heavens that he has such a competent sales manager.

Larry and Ted are each confronted with similar problems.  Internet leads are both expensive and necessary.  They have little choice but to fork out the money to buy these high quality leads, but it means that they need to make sure that they’re getting the most out of each lead.  For Larry, this means a frenetic approach to his sales staff.  As soon as he gets a lead, he immediately routes it to the sales person that he thinks is best fit to handle them.  Larry has a general sense of why he does this the way he does.  Some sales people seem to do a better job at closing leads from certain regions, while others are stronger at closing hot leads.  Sometimes this means giving a lead to a sales person who is already working on another lead, which means that they don’t get to it right away.  Other times, he gives too many leads to certain sales people, meaning that some of their leads aren’t being worked and never get follow up calls.  Larry, though, knows that he’s a veteran sales manager who knows the business and relies on his good sense of which member of his staff will be most effective at working the lead.  If some of his leads don’t get enough follow up calls or don’t get contacted in the first twenty minutes, so be it.  Some of the leads are bound to slip through the cracks, Larry assures himself while sipping coffee from his “#1 Boss” mug, thumbing his suspenders and firing quotes from Glengarry Glen Ross.  This is sales and it requires a gutsy manager who is willing to play his hunches to find success.

Things are different at Ted’s firm.  Ted prefers to rely on hard data rather than hunches, and his Leads360 software proves invaluable in this regard.  When Ted gets a lead, he puts it into the system and it immediately and automatically gets routed to the next available sales person as soon as possible.  Instead of playing hunches, Ted has honed his Lead Distribution System to route leads to the appropriate sales person based on a variety of customized factors, including availability, closing rates, region and lead scoring.  Because Ted uses a Lead Management System, he knows which sales people are going to be able to immediately call their leads, making contact during the critical first five minutes and closing immediately those leads that are already interested in buying.  What’s more, sales people are given reminders to make follow up calls to leads at the appropriate time, ensuring that no lead goes to waste.  Those leads that aren’t ready to close are carefully nurtured until they’re ready and then routed back to the sales staff so that they can spend more time closing leads that are ready and less time working leads that are dead ends.  On the whole, Ted knows that every valuable lead that he’s paid for is getting contacted as quickly as possible, getting followed up on and getting nurtured until it’s either closed or can be qualified as dead without a shadow of a doubt.  What’s more, the details of every lead are carefully recorded so that Ted can go back and refine the approach of his staff based on the data they collect.  At the core of this is Ted’s Lead Management System from Leads360.  It’s precisely and specifically calibrated to Ted’s business, it’s automated and makes routing and following up leads an easy and efficient process and it ensures that he’s working as hard and as smart as he possible.  Ted drinks green tea for its antioxidants, he prefers to wear a belt and while he has seen Glengarry Glen Ross and enjoys a timely reference, he doesn’t overdo it.

What are the results of the two approaches?  While their choice of beverages, method of keeping their pants up and frequency of quoting Glengarry Glen Ross are entirely irrelevant, Ted’s use of a Lead Management System makes all the difference in the world to his business.  Ted has ensured that he’s getting the most out his staff and his leads by taking a quantifiable approach to things and incorporating the right software to track and score leads while maximizing his ROI.  While Larry is going to his CMO and insisting that they need to increase their marketing buy and purchase more expensive leads, Ted has impressed his CMO by discovering that some of their less expensive leads are actually yielding a higher ROI.  Larry’s approach prevents his sales people from responding quickly enough or following up enough to get these kinds of results, and, even if they did, Larry wouldn’t be able to identify the trend because he doesn’t have access to the same metrics that allowed Ted to make his discovery.  Ted’s staff respects him because there’s transparency in their sales pipeline and they know what to expect.  What’s more, the results are undeniable.  Larry’s staff enjoys his company, but they’re growing frustrated with his leadership style while it fails to produce results.  They’ve talked to the members of Ted’s staff and they’re jealous of the systematic approach offered by a Lead Management System.

In the end, investing in Lead Management is just good business sense.  No one, no matter how good their instincts, can handle the speed of business on the internet without a clear, methodical approach that is transparent enough to change in response to inefficiencies.  A Lead Management System will improve every element of a sales staff’s approach and ensure that a firm can squeeze every ounce of value out of every lead they purchase.  In the end, Larry doesn’t stand a chance when going up against Ted because Larry’s instincts, no matter how good, will never be able to compete with an automated, metrics driven approach like the one provided by a Lead Management System.

“New School” Approach at CCA

Last week Leads360 made the short trip to Las Vegas for the Career College Association’s Annual Conference & Exposition. Jeff Solomon lead a great session entitled A “New School” Approach to Successful Enrollment. The point of this session was to discuss the ever changing landscape of the higher education area, and how utilizing new school best practices can allow institutions not merely survive and maintain but to compete and thrive.

One of the key talking points was the comparisons between the standard tired enrollment process model, and the newer more sophisticated approaches. Jeff also outlined a checklist for “re-inventing the recruiting and enrollment management process” which can help your institution make the switch from “old” to “new school.” Check out Jeff’s presentation slides here.

Lead Scoring Helps Find Needles in Haystacks

Everyone who has bought internet leads knows that buying leads is not the same thing as buying deals. Buying internet leads can sometimes feel like finding needles in haystacks. Because when you buy a lot of leads, it is inevitable that some leads will contain bad data.

Technology solves the problem of helping a sales agent own, contact quickly, and follow up on an unprecedented number of leads. Taking advantage of automation that is made possible by lead management software enables sale agents to work more quickly. Making use of analytical tools that give sales agents and managers real time performance data that enable sales teams to work more intelligently.

These factors, the added speed particularly, let sales agents take more leads and manage their pipeline with less wasted time and higher close rates. This greater efficiency promises more engagement with prospects. But scaling your lead buying can lead to new challenges that are not as much of an issue with fewer leads in the pipeline.

More leads, more management

Owning such a massive amount of leads creates its own challenges. In lead management software, sales agents have a tool to stay on top of more and more leads, but as the wheat increases so does the chaff. There is still leg work involved in determining which leads are less likely to close.

Sometimes leads have bad data. With more leads going through an agent’s pipeline, identifying these less qualified leads takes more time. Fortunately there are tools available to sift through large numbers of leads and get make determinations about them that will save sales agents time.

Lead scoring checks the lead data against an existing national lead database and returns a score based on how accurate the data is. A lead management system that uses lead scoring enables managers to route leads to agents based on lead score. Lead scoring is another tool that helps get the right leads to the right agents and get the wrong leads out of the way.

Why Lead Management Software?

This article answers some high level questions about what kind of a tool lead management software is: What the technology can do, and how it affects the sales agent work.

1. Distribution and Speed to Contact

How does a lead get distributed by lead management software? Quickly, Intelligently. An LMS integrated with online lead providers that has intelligent distribution rules can get a lead from the lead provider into the hands of the appropriate agent in minutes. Speed to contact is critical.

What is meant by Intelligent Distribution?

Leads can be distributed according to customizable rules. Agents with relevant expertise or credentials have corresponding leads send to them. Lead can be scored to gain insight into the quality of the opportunity. Intelligent Distribution means

So what does the technology do? The technology gives the best agents get the biggest opportunities.

And what does the agent do? More targeted selling.

Why is speed to contact critical?

Leads contacted within the first five minutes are 22 times more likely to close. Being the first one on the phone with a lead creates loyalty. If the lead doesn’t close quickly, that loyalty increases close rates.

So what does the technology do? The technology equips agents to reach more leads, more quickly.

And what does the agent do? Quicker selling.

2. Lead Nurturing

What is lead nurturing? Lead nurturing is keeping your name in the mind of the lead and the leads name on the mind of the agent who owns him. This is achieved through drip marketing email campaigns and phone calls. An LMS automates emails and sets reminders for agents to place calls at intervals that are proven most likely to get results. Sales Process is critical.

What is meant by Drip Marketing?

Drip marketing email campaigns can be customized to keep agents in contact with leads with no time or effort on the part of the agent. Drip Campaigns offer the lead patterned and relevant content that build on the initial quick contact.

So what does the technology do? The technology automates correspondence between leads that don’t close quickly and the agents who own them.

And what does the agent do? More selling.

Why is sales process critical?

Only 5% of leads close quickly but 40-50% of leads will eventually. Having a standardized sales process that can be enacted, monitored, and refined based on proven results is the difference between letting your agents ‘wing it’ and handing them a winning playbook.

So what does the technology do? The technology automates hundreds of daily decisions about who and when to call and email.

And what does the agent do? Smarter selling.

3. Performance Metrics

What are Performance Metrics? Performance Metrics are the data collected about the leads that move through your system. Know with certainty which lead sources give you the best ROI. Know with certainty which agents are the top producers. Performance Metrics allow you to see at a glance what is working and what is not.

So what does the technology do? The technology collects and analyzes data on every lead that your company touches

And what does the sales manager do? Smarter managing.

Working smarter means getting better results. Lead management software is a proven tool to you work smarter.

Leads360 Hometown Quotes Webinar

Leads360 and partner Home Town Quotes presented a webinar on Wednesday, June 2, 2010. It includes information about the unique value add of each company. Watch the webinar to see how using both services will enable help insurance agencies to make more money.

Watch below, or to watch full screen click here.

The Generalist vs. the Specialist

People often ask me what the difference between CRM and Lead Management is. One way to look at the comparison is with an analogy I like to reference from the 1912 summer Olympics in Stockholm. The winner of the decathlon was Jim Thorpe. He had the best overall scores javelin, shot put, hurdles, dashes, high jump… a bunch of track and field events. The King of Sweden, King Gustav the 5th, was so impressed by Jim Thorpe, he said, “You, sir, are the World’s Greatest Athlete.” And he was.

Generalist vs. Specialist

That said, somebody else had the best times in each of the individual events. Jim was the “generalist” and someone else was the “specialist” in each of the individual events. In fact, in every track and field event the world record is held by a specialist not the decathlete. That’s CRM; it’s the generalist. It’s good for a lot of functions, but it’s not great at any one thing. When it comes to converting sales leads into customers, if you want to achieve the best results, get a specialist, get lead management. Get Leads360.

I did a great webinar about this a while back, check it out here.

Tune In to Why You Can’t Trust a CRM with Student Recruitment

UPDATED - Listen to the Recorded Radio Broadcast!

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The world of career universities and colleges is booming, yet many schools are losing out on prospective students due to out of date best practices and aged recruitment and enrollment solutions. Hear from the experts as they discuss why CRM’s are not the answer educators have been looking for. Leads360 founder Jeff Solomon will be joining Ryan Busch (founder of .eduMarketer and Principal of Higher Ed Gadfly–a digital marketing, social media, and e-learning innovation consultancy) and Josef Katz (manager of .eduMarketer and VP of Marketing for StraighterLine) for a discussion about “Why You Can’t Trust a CRM with Student Recruitment.”

“Show Summary: The term Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has become a must-have for post-secondary institutions. Many schools begin their journey towards improved enrollment business processes and recruitment results by looking at a CRM. However, there is often a gaping chasm between what a CRM can do in the recruitment process and what it needs to do. A CRM is often not the one-size-fits-all solution they are portrayed to be, especially when it comes to recruitment management. This .eduMarketer Radio Show will discuss what a CRM is good for and what it lacks.”