All B2B appointment setting campaigns start with a contact list. It’s the fuel of every calling campaign and, in a perfect world, it would be a list of qualified decision-makers, all of whom have been verified with direct dial phone numbers and correct email addresses… but this is not a perfect world, and data goes stale from employee turnover to the tune of about 25% attrition each year.
To combat this challenge (and for other reasons), we recommend creating a SECONDARY PIPELINE / FUNNEL of verified contacts with whom you think there might be a fit. When a B2B inside sales rep runs through his daily dials, inevitably they will run into what look to be great prospects, judging from the job title and perhaps other factors – maybe it’s a potential high-value account, or it falls in your organization’s “sweet spot” for a new customer. Whatever the case, once the Inside Sales Representative dials into the contact, a number of things might happen. Hopefully, a conversation occurs, but more than likely, it won’t… yielding one of a few possible outcomes:
- The contact is no longer with the company
- The contact exists but does not make decisions on products like yours per the gatekeeper or other personnel
- The contact exists and has been verified as a potential decision-maker by the gatekeeper or other personnel
Obviously, outcomes #1 and #2 should be marked as such and removed from the calling queue. What to do with outcome #3? Well, here’s what you do:
- Create a designation for this “second funnel.” At SalesStaff, we use the term Callbacks, but you can use whatever term you like.
- Begin “bucketing” these prospects by marking them as a Callback.
- After an Inside Sales Rep has built a second funnel of a few hundred Callbacks, they can confidently call into this list with a much greater chance of success.
Our sales appointment production team evangelizes to our team of Inside Sales Representatives that 15-20% of their dials should result in a Callback.
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SalesStaff is proud to have been named the 87th Fastest Growing Private Company in America on Inc. magazine’s prestigious 2013 Inc. 500 | 5000 list with 3,833% growth over a 3-year period. (View SalesStaff's Inc. 500 profile here.) In general, the ranking is a testament to a surge in demand for inside sales outsourcing services among B2B tech sales organizations. This is evidenced by a 75% increase in market response to SalesStaff marketing campaigns. Increasingly, B2B technology sales organizations are turning to demand generation companies like SalesStaff for B2B appointment setting and lead generation services to expand their sales pipeline with qualified, actionable opportunities. As a result, these organizations can compartmentalize their sales teams’ efforts, allowing them to focus their activity on closing new business rather than taxing them with prospecting activity.
We are certainly in great company with other organizations worthy of the honor. We thought it would be a unique idea to reach out to some of these companies on Twitter and congratulate them, so we compiled a list of as many Twitter handles as we could find for all 5000 companies. We ended up with a list of 3016 Twitter addresses and thought it might be a nice gesture to offer the list for download to fellow members of the B2B sales and marketing community.
Feel free to use the button below to register and download a .CSV copy of the list of Twitter handles and make sure you wish them well!
Our whole office has been abuzz with the news. SalesStaff was recently honored by Inc. magazine as the 87th Fastest Growing Company in the United States on their 2013 Inc. 500|5000 list. (Press Release viewable here.) That’s good for #2 in the Houston metro area and #10 in the Business Services sector.
It truly is a blessing and we’re thankful to all of our team members, customers, partners, and vendors that have made SalesStaff successful. But when the afterglow subsided, I began to reflect. Why? What happened here? What are the primary factors that led to our massive 3,833% growth over the last three years?
The conclusion I landed on is this:
As a Demand Generation company, we are in the business of growth. Specifically, we are in the business of growing our clients’ sales pipelines. Doesn’t it stand to reason that we’ve flourished because we employ the same techniques to grow our own business?
That was my “aha moment.” But let’s talk about some of the more precise reasons we’ve experienced such tremendous growth. Here are five B2B sales practices that are ingrained in the very fiber of our sales organization and have helped make us successful – they might help you realize more success as well.
Activity-Activity-Activity (Tweet This)
In sales more than any other profession, what you do today determines your success tomorrow. Always ask yourself, “What can I be doing today to advance some of my opportunities?” Evangelize high activity-level within your organization. You can’t sit around and wait for the phone to ring. You have to stay busy doing things that move prospects along in your sales funnel.
Provide a Buffer between Marketing and Sales to Qualify Hand-Raisers (Tweet This)
It’s not usually a good idea to hand raw, unqualified leads over to your sales team. It simply isn’t efficient. They’ll be chasing many leads that are just not a fit. Compartmentalize that task to someone or a team of people (if you have the volume of inbound leads to support such a position). When a prospect indicates interest by responding to an email campaign or filling out a form on your website, there should be personnel dedicated to qualifying leads. At SalesStaff, we have a team of talented Market Response Managers whose sole responsibility is to follow up on inbound leads and qualify them BEFORE sending them along to the sales team in the way of an appointment.
Nurture Your Leads (Tweet This)
Always be building a pipeline of qualified prospects. Whether your preferred method of marketing is email, web, telemarketing or a combination of these, you need to be good at maintaining a funnel of qualified targets – targets that should hear from you periodically to stay top of mind. You might choose Email Marketing Automation to nurture leads with content or you might choose to put them into a Callback campaign. Either way, once you’ve verified that a prospect is viable, nurture them.
Be a Follow-Up All-Star (Tweet This)
First of all, go download our whitepaper Be a Follow-Up All-Star: The 1-2-3 MethodBe a Follow-Up All-Star: The 1-2-3 Method for critical tips on executing proper follow-up. We say that follow-up activity is as much about moving deals along as it is about “clearing the field” of tire-kickers and time-wasters. You want to separate the pretenders from the real deal prospects. That’s not to say you should ignore the guy that says, “Contact me back in six months.” But you definitely don’t want to spend time chasing a bucket of 30 prospects that have gone silent on you after 12 attempts each. Be diligent in your follow-up and have direction.
Be Fanatical about Tracking your Sales Metrics (Tweet This)
Stating the obvious? Sure. But it must be said. When it comes to top-of-the-funnel activity, there are some appointment setting metrics that make up the Magic Formula. Check out this blog, Know Your B2B Appointment Setting Metrics: The Magic Formula, for more on that. For B2B sales closing activity, you can follow any number of statistics but pay close attention to the ones that matter most, like closing percentage, quote-to-win ratio, etc.
We invite you to take a look at the processes that we have developed that have made us so successful and see if they might be a fit for your organization:
The end of the month is usually scramble time for B2B sales representatives. Hurry up and get all of those deals in before the 31st. Pull out all the stops to meet that quota. We’ve included four of our best closing strategies to help get those deals in just under the wire. The common theme of these closes is to present some advantage or incentive to signing sooner rather than later.
Typically, these B2B sales closing strategies are executed after other trial closes have indicated the deal has a high probability of closing. They are specifically designed to move the prospect to a signature. As always, if it’s going to happen, it’s up to you to make it happen! Prospects require gentle prodding and these closes are far from intrusive and they work!
Project Kickoff Close
This is best used with those prospects who have given you a verbal indication to move forward or some other indication that a signature is imminent.
Subject: Orientation Call Times
I recommend we schedule your New Client Orientation call for later this week to introduce you to your Program Manager and schedule the Discovery meeting.
How does your schedule look for a 15 minute call Thursday or Friday of this week?
Upon your confirmation I will forward a calendar invite to all attending the call. Once you have this scheduled, a must have date is in place to get a signed agreement back.
Promo Expiring Close
This close is best used when you have created some urgency with a promotion that has a definitive expiration date. (See more on creating urgency in our blog article: 4 Compelling Events you can Create to Drive B2B Sales.)
Subject: June Promotion Expires Friday!
Just a gentle reminder that the promotional offer I presented to you expires this Friday June 28, 2013. We are not likely to see another Promotion like this until late in the year and I want to make sure we have you in our onboarding pipeline before time expires. Do you expect to be part of this group?
Project Timeline Close
This is yet another way to move the deal along in a softer manner. It’s a prodding close. The idea is to attach a project timeline to your email and prompt the prospect that in order to adhere to their project specifications on time, you need to get the agreement in.
Subject: Project Set-up Timeline
Attached please find a timeline of our on-boarding process. We do all of the heavy lifting and very little of your time is required. It typically takes us about two weeks to get your account set-up. Once that is accomplished, we can begin doing [VALUE STATEMENT] for you.
Do you anticipate movement in your decision process this week?
Staff Allocation Close
This close is yet another soft approach to prod the prospect for a decision with some benefit in mind if they close sooner rather than later.
Subject: Staff for your Project
As the end of the month approaches, we are planning the allocation of staff for next month’s projects now and will finalize shortly. Does it look as if you will be part of this group? If yes, I want to get you in our pipeline ASAP to ensure we have our most experienced staff members assigned to your program. Do you expect movement this week in your decision process?
Happy selling and here’s to a great 2013 selling season as we move swiftly into the second half of the year.
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Imagine there are two school buses, each picking up two very distinct groups of young toddlers for a field trip to the zoo.
School Bus #1
Last week, Mrs. Washington, the children’s teacher, gave the students a choice of where to go on their field trip – the zoo or the museum. These students went home, researched both options. The museum looked just so-so, but as they investigated what exactly a “zoo” was, they grew excited by all of the different animals they would see at the zoo – the lions, elephants, and monkeys. Some of the children even researched the map of the zoo to figure out which animals they wanted to see first. As the bus trolleyed around town to each bus stop, these students piled onto the bus willingly. They knew exactly where they were going and what they could expect to see on their field trip to the zoo. When they arrived, the tour guide immediately started the tour and amazed the toddlers with all of the wonderful animals.
School Bus #2
This group of students is also going to the zoo, but they were never given the option to research independently. In fact, the day of the field trip, the teacher merely said, “We’re going on a field trip. It might be fun. We’d like to have you come with us. Who’s in?” Some of the children got on to the bus, still not knowing where they were going. They simply relied on the information that the destination might be fun if they took a chance and hopped on the bus. When they arrived at the zoo, the tour guide began to walk to the first exhibit. He didn’t get but a few steps before one of the students looked up and asked, “Ummm. What is this place and what do we do here?” The tour guide stopped in his tracks, realizing that most of these toddlers didn’t even know what a “zoo” was. He proceeded to tell them a little about what exactly a zoo is, and all of the interesting animals they might see at the zoo. By the end of his explanation, the children were abuzz about the day ahead and the tour guide continued the tour and amazed the toddlers with all of the wonderful animals.
You get where I’m going, right? In this analogy of the B2B sales world, the tour guide is the closer (sales presenter), and the children are the sales prospects. The children on School Bus #1 are Hand-Raisers and the children on School Bus #2 are prospects that have been cold called.
Hand-Raisers are prospects that have indicated to you their interest in your offering. They’ve flagged themselves as a hand-raiser by one of the following methods:
- Downloadable Content Online form fill
- SEO & Inbound Marketing “Contact us” form fill
- E-mail Marketing Replies
- Webinars & Seminars Agreed to receive more information
- Pay-per-Click Call-to-action completed (form, call-in, etc.)
- Various Techniques Call-in
The common denominator is that these prospects have come to you. They’ve gotten on the bus because they have prior knowledge about your company and at least a preliminary understanding of what to expect in regards to your service offering. They have educated themselves through your videos, About Us page, and other resources and have independently acted to reach out to you. (Find more on hand-raisers in our entry on The B2B Sales & Marketing Alignment Funnel.)
On the other hand, a prospect that has been cold called hasn’t been given much information prior to the sales presentation. Usually the appointment setter has interrupted the prospect, and explained just enough to qualify the prospect and get the meeting scheduled. So this type of sales prospect is only minimally prepared for what your organization can do for them. At the beginning of the sales presentation, they may require more education about your company and solution. It’s not entirely uncommon for a cold call prospect to get on the sales presentation call and say, “What is it exactly that you do?”
A little side note here… a great B2B appointment setter (like those at SalesStaff), if they’ve done their job well, will properly prepare the prospect for the sales call with enticing information about how some of the prospect’s challenges may be solved. But, even sales appointments scheduled by the most thorough inside sales reps might require a little bit of warming up at the beginning of the call. However, there is a great equalizer.
The Great Equalizer… The Consultative Approach
We suggest that you open every sales presentation call (hand-raiser, cold call, or otherwise) with the opportunity for the prospect to ask some questions right off the bat. This will give the prospect the chance to warm up with some preliminary questions… and it gives you insight on how to lead and maintain control of the presentation. Should you jump right into the tour? Or should you spend some time warming them up to who you are and what your company does? We usually open our sales presentations with something like:
“I have been to your website and done some other research on your company and solutions. This is your time; therefore I want to make sure you get what you need from our discussion. Maybe you have some questions you would like to ask or you can tell me what you’re looking for or I could tell you about SalesStaff and how we help companies like yours? Thoughts?” Then, shut your mouth and listen.
Essentially, this great equalizer puts sales prospects from dissimilar sources onto a similar playing field from the outset.
In the course of marketing, sales, or B2B appointment setting, surely you’ve used email as an indispensable tool. You’ve crafted a well thought out email and hit send only to be greeted five seconds later by an Out of Office reply or even worse an Automatic Reply. This might normally be the end of the road until your prospect returns, but not so fast. There are a few things you might learn if you actually look at the return email rather than watch the baby blue Outlook notification fade away from the bottom right corner of your screen.
It does take time to scroll through Out of Office replies and get some valuable information, especially if you’ve sent an email campaign of sorts that yields many of them. Only you can decide whether it’s a valuable use of your time as a marketer or salesperson.
In any case, here are a few real examples of useful intelligence you can extract from Out of Office replies and Automatic Replies:
When Will the Prospect be Returning? (The Most Obvious Piece of Intelligence)
If you feel so inclined, you can take a note of when the prospect is returning and email or call them back on that date.
Additional Ways to Contact the Prospect
Sometimes the prospect will include additional contact information with which you can update your database and utilize in future attempts to reach out to the prospect. Most notably, prospects will often leave their cell phone number in an Out of Office reply.
Additional Contacts within the Organization
Often a prospect will refer inquiries to an additional contact within their company. That referral might in fact be a valuable influencer for your solution.
Sometimes, they even include a whole slew of additional contacts.
Contact is No Longer with the Company
An Automatic Reply might indicate that the contact is no longer with the company and, if you're lucky, it will include a referral to someone else. That way, you can remove the old contact and replace with the new one in your database.
Prospect is Quite the Joker
You may have to look really hard, but you might uncover a jokester or two.
So, if you have the time and the inclination to cull through the Out of Office replies and Automatic Replies, there may be some actionable information in there. Use it if you can and happy hunting!
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As we approach the middle of the year, sales managers begin evaluating where they stand against their 2013 goals. (Download our 2013 Sales Goals Worksheet here.)
It’s the time of year that we ask questions like:
- Are we halfway to where we need to be in 2013?
- What do we need to do to continue moving in the right direction?
- How can we increase revenue the rest of the way?
- Which products have performed well and which have under-produced?
- What lead sources have been the biggest contributors to our sales funnel?
- Which team members have shined and which need improvement?
But now let’s move from the general to the specific.
- How much revenue has your department or organization brought in?
- According to current closing ratios, how many B2B sales appointments do you need to reach your sales revenue goal?
One of the resources we gladly share with the sales & marketing community is the Sales Appointment Calculator that can help forecast roughly how many sales appointments you’ll likely need to reach those goals.
Whether you rely on your internal team or use appointment setting companies like SalesStaff, it’s a number you should know… a number you should commit to memory and share with your sales team.
Simply enter a few figures below and we’ll output an estimate of the necessary sales lead/appointment volume to reach your targets:
Google’s search algorithm is very much a living, breathing organism. Always changing and always moving search results based on different criteria. This can make it grueling for webmasters to keep up with the changes to the Google algorithm to ensure their sites remain in a favorable position. In fact, Google recently unveiled Penguin 2.0, the most recent update to its Penguin algorithm – this time intending to cut down on web spam.
While keeping up with every single change to Google’s formula seems futile, many SEO factors are carved in cement. We found the infographic below, issued by digital marketing firms Backlinko and Single Grain, which aggregates about 200 factors Google uses in ranking websites. The information has been brought together from a variety of sources, including credible SEO blogs and even Google’s head of web spam.
It might seem a bunch to chew off but pay attention to the three sections having the greatest effect on your site’s SEO:
- Target keywords: Title tags are one of the most important factors. Make sure your keywords are there.
- Backlinks: Build quality and quantity links.
- Social signals: All signs point to Google’s increasing the weight assigned to retweets, Facebook shares and Google +s.
This may have value for business executives, but it’s especially good to share with your team members who manage your website's SEO operation.
Sales and marketing people eat up stats like they're Gummi Bears. And it’s no wonder why. First, we are driven by numbers and secondly, they are so very telling about the nature of the sales and marketing funnel (for more on that, download our B2B Sales & Marketing Alignment Funnel).
Hubspot recently ran a similar article and we picked off some good statistics and added a few other new ones. Here are thirty stats we thought you should be aware of:
Research shows that 35-50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first. (Source: InsideSales.com) Tweet this stat
42% of sales reps feel they do not have the right information before making a sales call. (Source: Lattice Engines/CSO Insights) Tweet this stat
Nearly half (45%) of companies report that their sales reps need help figuring out which accounts to prioritize. (Source: Lattice Engines/CSO Insights) Tweet this stat
More than a quarter of all B2B sales cycles take seven months or more to close. (Source: Harvard University and Gallup) Tweet this stat
90% of business buyers say when they’re ready to buy, they’ll find you. (Source: DemandGen Report) Tweet this stat
53% of sales leads are generated by sales people, compared to 24% by the marketing team. (Source: CSO Report) Tweet this stat
4% percent of the salespeople in the U.S. sell 94% of the goods and services. (Source: Harvard University and Gallup) Tweet this stat
58% of buyers report that sales reps are unable to answer their questions effectively. (Source: Forbes Insight) Tweet this stat
90% of marketing deliverables are not used by sales. (Source: The New Rules of Sales Enablement) Tweet this stat
80% of the average salesperson’s day is spent on non-revenue generating activities, including not knowing where to find good prospects or recognizing them once they find them. (Source: TeleSmart.com) Tweet this stat
50% of marketing leads are qualified but not yet ready to buy. (Source: Gleanster Research) Tweet this stat
79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance. (Source: MarketingSherpa) Tweet this stat
61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to Sales; however, only 27% of those leads will be qualified. (Source: MarketingSherpa) Tweet this stat
Just 56% of B2B organizations verify valid business leads before they are passed to Sales. (Source: MarketingSherpa) Tweet this stat
Nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads. (Source: DemandGen Report) Tweet this stat
Just 16% of B2B marketers are producing mobile-specific content as part of their content marketing efforts. (Source: Smart Insights) Tweet this stat
57% of B2B marketers say SEO has the biggest impact on their lead generation goals. (Source: Mindjumpers) Tweet this stat
49% of B2B marketers confess to not measuring ROI. (Source: The B2B Barometer) Tweet this stat
93% of business buyers use search to begin the buying process. (Source: Marketo) Tweet this stat
64% of marketers indicate that email is their most important digital marketing tool. (Source: BtoB Magazine) Tweet this stat
Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost. (Source: Forrester Research) Tweet this stat
46% of marketers with mature lead management processes have sales teams that follow up on more than 75% of marketing-generated leads. (Source: Forrester Research) Tweet this stat
Companies with mature lead generation and management practices have a 9.3% higher sales quota achievement rate. (Source: CSO Insights) Tweet this stat
More than two thirds (68%) of companies report struggling with lead generation. (Source: Lattice Engines/CSO Insights) Tweet this stat
Only 27% of B2B leads are sales-ready when first generated. (Source: MarketingSherpa) Tweet this stat
Only 25% of leads are legitimate and should advance to sales. (Source: Gleanster Research) Tweet this stat
57% of B2B organizations identify 'converting qualified leads into paying customers' as a top funnel priority. (Source: MarketingSherpa) Tweet this stat
Only 19% of CMOs identify improving database hygiene as a top strategic priority for lead generation activity. (Source: MarketingSherpa) Tweet this stat
59% of B2B marketers say SEO has the biggest impact on their lead gen goals, followed by social media (21%) and pay per click (20%). Not surprisingly, 98% of B2B marketers plan to maintain or increase SEO budgets next year. (Source: Marketing Charts) Tweet this stat
17% of marketers spend 15+ hours a week on lead generation. (Source: Marketing Charts) Tweet this stat
Can I get a drumroll please? So as a continuation of last week’s blog on the top 10 sales books of all time, I present the top 5.
5. The Psychology of Selling Brian Tracy
Much like Tom Hopkins, when you read Brian Tracy’s work, you can tell that he is a salesman that has “walked the walk”. Much like Hopkins book above, this is also a great primer for new salespeople and a refresher for those that have been in the game a while. While I recommend all of Tracy’s work, including my favorite Advanced Selling Strategies, I’d say that this is one of his more comprehensive works.
“When you are talking about your product or service, your prospect is having an internal discussion where he's asking, in order of importance: ‘What’s in it for me?’ then ‘what will it cost?’, ‘what will I gain as a consequence?’, ‘when will this outcome actually happen?’ and ‘what guarantee are you offering?’.”
4. Secrets of Closing the Sale Zig Ziglar
Honestly, what is a top anything in sales list without the man himself, Zig Ziglar. His passing last year marked the loss of a true American icon. In his landmark book, he focuses on the art of persuasion to increase your sales numbers. He uses simple anecdotes and examples to explain his points and the beauty is truly in the simplicity of his work. In the sales community, we stand on the shoulders of this pioneer, who explained to us the basic principles, which is the basis for much subsequent sales technique and training since.
“There are five basic reasons people will not buy from you. These are: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, and no trust. Since any 'reason' or 'excuse' for not buying will cost you a sale – and will cost the prospect the benefits he would accrue from the purchase – the missed sale is a loss for both buyer and seller.”
3. Little Red Book of Selling Jeff Gitomer
Geoffrey James put it nicely in an Inc. magazine article when he said, “I like to think of Jeff Gitomer as the ‘Seth Godin’ of the sales world. “ This is essential sales reading at its finest. It’s a super-easy, super-quick read that is densely packed with real-world, practical, entertaining advice. The profit per number of pages with this one is HUGE. As salespeople, we want quick, concise answers and this book delivers.
“When you’re in a slump, you begin to press for orders instead of working your best gameplan (which is: ‘sell to help the other person,’ and let your sincerity of purpose shine through). When you have the pressure to sell, the prospect senses it, and backs off.”
2. How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie
I have had this book by my bedside for twenty years now. It defines the word “timeless.” Published in 1937, it still rings true today and always will. Why? It’s all about people skills. And people will always deal with people. Ultimately, this is the authoritative work on the art of dealing with people, on how to arouse genuine interest in the other person.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
1. Spin Selling Neil Rackham
This book brings sales from an art into science. Neil Rackham, the former president and founder of Huthwaite Corporation, amassed twelve years and $1 million worth of research over 35,000 sales calls into this book. Where most sales books are largely anecdotal (which is fine), this book stands tall on cold, hard evidence. In addition, it addresses the intricacies of the complex sale, one with multiple influencers and a more thorough sales process. Other sales books might be good for car salesmen and IT product salesmen alike, but this one is especially geared towards the complex sale, and that hits home with a lot of salespeople in today’s B2B world.
“People do not buy from salespeople because they understand their products but because they felt the salesperson understood their problems.”
So how did we do? Any books out there that you find conspicously missing. Leave them in the comments.