Part 1: Why inside sales is a key strategy to successful lead generation

This article has been written to open up some strategic thinking and discussion for business owners, as well as sales and marketing managers in SMEs or corporate businesses, on different ways to increase lead generation success with inside sales.

It was refreshing to hear last month that a prominent marketing agency acknowledged marketing supports sales and that successful lead generation cannot be achieved with just marketing automation and digital content alone.

The challenge in lead generation and conversion efforts between marketing and sales departments are still causing inconsistent measurement of ROI and success.

It’s becoming even more important with the need for both sales and marketing functions to complement, align and integrate with each other and adopting a “full funnel” top-down view. So how can you start that process and get a business to commit to a shift in mindset?

  • Introduction to Sales Enablement

The term sales enablement comes to mind and applying the real meaning of this requires the focus of the inside sales role and joint ownership between marketing and sales – agreed upfront as a common shared goal.

The definition of sales enablement

Sales enablement is the process of providing the sales organization with the information, content, and tools that help sales people sell more effectively.

  • Common Lead Generation Scenario

One example and context was from a marketing agency feedback in running an ICT campaign for a successful Microsoft partner. The client challenge was to generate 2500 marketing leads for a sales target of $10M (4 sales representatives) through content driven marketing automation. That would mean over 200 leads per month just from organic digital content and use of marketing automation – a huge task to guarantee a cost per lead model that doesn’t quantify sales opportunity progress or success.

These metrics and expectations just didn’t add up realistically given the variables; length of follow up from sales, quality of leads, and length of the sales cycle. It seemed like the ROI and appropriate KPI would have been unrealistic to achieve in 12 months. These lead metrics are only part of the picture and can’t be relied on to generate consistent leads without first examining the sales targets. If you can reverse engineer the sales target setting process with the required amount of marketing activity and leads required, this usually highlights either a gap in sales target expectations or marketing budget allocation to support this. In an ideal situation the sales manager and marketing manager should agree on the common metrics and KPIs.

In the previous campaign run by the agency mentioned, the MQLs manifesting from the marketing automation platform were largely impressions, web visits, contacts, downloads and enquiries. This is purely a top of funnel focus.

However typical frustrations arose in lead follow-through between MQL and SQL when the sales team didn’t follow up the leads or several leads slip through the cracks.

It was refreshing to hear the marketing agency involved in this campaign quote that the missing link is (needing) “still a human to be involved”.

The other negative impact of relying on inbound automation alone as the primary channel for lead generation was that the sales representatives can became less motivated to generate their own leads as BDMs or Account Managers.

From my sales experience, the biggest challenge still lies in bridging the gap between MQLs and SQLs with a higher degree of skill over simply appointment setting to meet the metric. I believe that one of the keys to successful lead generation is for businesses to invest more in inside sales functions and achieving higher quality results.

  • Definition of Inside Sales, Sales Development or Sales Acceleration Lead.

What is ‘Inside Sales‘?

Inside sales is the sale of products or services by sales personnel who reach customers by phone or online methods, rather than travelling to meet them face-to-face. Inside relies on the phone, emails and the internet to reach customers and is common in the retail industry.

Breaking down ‘Inside Sales

Unlike outside sales personnel, insides salespeople do not travel. Despite this, they are still proactive about contacting potential customers and may make cold contacts. A company may also designate incoming calls from prospective customers as inside sales. In addition, a company may outsource their inside sales duties to a third-party instead of conducting sales in-house for increasing their speed to market. In a highly competitive, quarter-by-quarter sales environment, time to engage can mean a lost sales opportunity.

This Inside Sales function is commonly known in the ICT or telecoms world, or financial services, as an Inside Sales Role or Sales Acceleration Lead or Sales Development Representative.

The typical capability and profile is someone with 2 to 3 years of sales experience or telephone based sales who appreciates the technical/conceptual aspect of the product or service that is being offered. At market rates in Australia they are paid between $50K to $70K base salary plus commission of up to $100K OTE in an ICT role.

If you can successful build a team of ISRs who have senior industry expertise, the right sales aptitude and attitude, with attention to detail and appropriate training, this is a great foundation. The team can then enhance sales enablement process and help bridge the gap between sales and marketing. This investment may generate a higher ROI than employing just a field sales team and, in some cases, represent better value.

The key to successful full funnel conversion from any marketing lead generation is to execute a marketing campaign with Inside Sales Representatives. Many marketing agencies spend a lot of time developing a top of funnel focus, driving online automation campaigns and leads from multiple channels and tactics. This may be moderately successful however the role and responsibility is handed back across to the client for the middle and bottom of the funnel engagement focussed on sales conversion.

  • Stopping the “Leaky Funnel” effect

In my opinion this is where the true ROI of a retainer is unlocked for sales effectiveness and still requires a level of knowledge and “human” interaction to bridge this MQL to SQL gap and “leaky funnel” syndrome – which is still being experienced as a common cause of disconnection between marketing agencies and sales teams.

A good inside salesperson should have the ability to grasp more complex concepts and think about a more meaningful business discussion on a follow up call to increase the quality of marketing qualified leads.

The benefit of inside sales is that star performers can be identified and nurtured towards a field sales progress path which provides sales engagement continuity to the business or a transition plan for staff retention.

  • The human skills factor can’t be replaced by digital automation

The human factor in consideration of the specific knowledge of the company’s products, services or solutions can provide a far more contextually-relevant delivery compared to a telemarketing representative following a script. Commonly the lack of depth of understanding isn’t appropriate to the conversation with the target stakeholder and decision maker on the prospect side and can lead to lost opportunities.

The buyer’s journey today means that more customers and prospects are well informed via multiple channels through their own research before being accessible and ready in THEIR timeframe to actively make a purchasing decision and engage their supplier of choice.

Traditional telemarketing conversion rates are still poor and the ROI is negligible without the due care of impact on sales revenue and profits. Would you rather have 10 highly qualified leads a month with a 50% ratio to convert with some strategic awareness or 20 average leads of inconsistent quality just because it was an agreed cost per lead engagement per month that was committed to deliver regardless of the chance of conversion?

Customised lead generation is highly recommended rather than a “one size fits all” approach to have a better chance of success. Inside sales is increasingly become the avenue to help achieve this.

Look out for Part 2 of this series on Inside Sales function as a key to successful lead generation.

We will talk about the value of Inside Sales versus Business Development and also the use of Marketing Automation to increase qualified leads.

Lead-GenerationAlchemise Consulting – Inside Sales as a Service Overview

Part 2: There are lead and there are leads, good lead generation approaches

Part 2:  From Lead Generation to Deeper Lead Qualifying and Nurturing – How to progress the sales cycle

Introduction

This is the second part in extending our previous lead generation discussion Part 1: There are leads and leads. effective lead generation approaches.

Before we dive into a discussion about what effective lead generation and lead nurturing is, how to effectively qualify your leads better and what our definition of MQL (marketing qualified lead) and SQL (sales qualified lead) is, let’s ensure we’re on the same page with a quick checklist based on the new marketing and sales funnel way of thinking ( if your organisation alignment has acknowledged the purchasing and decision making process of the modern buyer )

Marketing and Sales Lead Generation

Quick checklist

  1. Has your organization defined what a lead is?
  2. Is everyone in the organisation involved in the marketing and sales cycle able to articulate what a MQL is, and what a SQL is?
  3. Is there a clear ‘point’ at which marketing hands over leads to sales?
  4. Has marketing and sales reached agreement in terms of what a lead is?

If you can answer those questions, or at least go some way towards it in in functional maturity, let’s move forward to discussing lead nurturing!

Lead nurture is part of the marketing call process – which can be a lead follow up or a request for more information in call or email format over a period of time – if the prospect isn’t able or willing to commit their interest to set an appointment, we need to lead nurture in order to progress the prospect activity in the new business development process from marketing.

This lead is a warm lead to nurture and follow up on with further contract to progress a marketing lead opportunity or hot lead to provide to the sales team for sales engagement and then sales opportunity qualification (SQL) which is aimed to turn into a real sales opportunity to engage within the sales process to secure the sale within a timeframe.

What is our MQL and SQL process?

How we see a qualified lead appointment process – set during a marketing campaign for deeper lead qualification varies from organisation to organisation, however this is an outline of our higher quality qualification process for lead generation from marketing to sales and our approach aligned to:

  • We have reached the relevant prospect organisation and identified the correct contact relevant in the relevant audience area;
  • We are able to have an initial discussion to see how if we can assist the prospect with identifying or solving a business challenge or problem first and seeing if there is mutual acknowledgement for a brief follow up call or reason to meet.
  • We attempted to obtain at least 2 to 3 of the specific qualification questions and positive responses to minimum criteria or shown sufficient interest in a further discussion or information from company;
  • The process of data collection about the prospect’s current situation or environment is considered a warm lead that may or may not lead to an immediate firm appointment, pending timing of follow up or a lead nurture process;
  • The prospect did request to have some information sent first before agreement for a follow up or call-back before putting them into lead nurture or another marketing activity such as a subscriber to an event or company’s white paper over a period of time.
  • The lead appointment can either be phone based or face to face to handover to the sales person to further qualify from a sales engagement after the initial marketing lead has been completed.
  • The outcome of the lead appointment cannot guarantee a firm sales opportunity or a sale – this is up to the sales person to progress to determine and doesn’t take into effect any external factors that may impact performance or availability or prospect rescheduling an appointment.
  • From experience, there may be a need to engage multiple interactions (i.e a touch-point, call-back, email follow up) over a period of time (not just first call) with the prospect in order to convert the lead to a qualified appointment otherwise it will be placed to lead nurture status. This eventually leads to a defined sales opportunity that the sales person progresses through to signing an agreement to do business.

A Marketing Qualified Lead Appointment (MQL)

The type of marketing lead appointment we look at is the benchmark of a quality lead that is acceptable to the client’s specifications and we aim to bridge the gap between a traditional MQL and a SQL that requires an element or level of basic field sales experience or specific domain expertise that may/ may not uncover or qualify the lead with more depth

This applies for us typically within marketing B2B corporate complex solutions or professional services and technology campaigns such as cyber security or cloud application services to engage high level executives who are influencers, recommenders or decision makers.

A real example for Cybersecurity client lead generation campaign and appointment set:

Phone Appointment Set: October 7, 2016 10:00 AM, Date Last Called: 3rd October 2016

Contact Details: Mr GSPosition: Regional Risk Assurance Manager  Company: XYZ Pty Limited  

COMPANY NAME: XYZ Pty Limited, ADDRESS: XYZ Street, VIC, 3123

PHONE NUMBER: 61 3 123456  DIRECT LINE: 61 3 123456, MOBILE: None,  EMAIL:  gs@xyz.com.au

Marketing Qualification questions:

Q1. Do you have any identity management projects with governance and compliance process challenges ongoing or upcoming that will require preventative action?

Answer: Yes, they have an ongoing goal to enhance identity/security posture that includes identity management and access control. He declined to disclose their specific project.

Q2. Could I ask what challenges you have to provide visibility to business owners or auditors regarding access to corporate data? 

Answer: They have challenges like, how would they know who accessed the data or if it is not been compromised. He mentioned that they don’t have a control on whoever accessed their data.

Q3How do you perform access reviews, certification process and manage the enforcement of access policies today? Do you use manual Excel spreadsheets or Access databases?

Answer: Not Access DB, application revelation database depends on which application they use. It might be on the different flavors of database. Sometimes it’s integrated, sometimes not as claimed.

IMPORTANT TIPS:

  1. It is important to capture the context and content and work with a marketing agency or lead generation company who understands deeply the subject matter or concepts of the products and services when running a marketing campaign. It’s more effective if they have knowledge of how to attract and speak to the right audience (i.e IT level or C-Level executives) with field sales experience or some awareness.
  2. Please keep this in mind when partnering with an appropriate marketing agency or lead generation company.  Look out for marketing agency differentiation who can  run an integrated sales driven marketing campaign who understands how to execute the full marketing and sales funnel with deep Industry sector experience (for example with professional services and ICT sector domains with (SME – Subject Matter Experts on hand)

Summary

The current competitive and dynamic business environment, combined with a shift in traditional buyer behaviour, demands an understanding and respect of the importance of lead generation and nurture. An overall focus on ROI needs to guide exploration and investment, particularly in this time of shift from traditional marketing methods towards digital marketing automation in a go to market strategy.

If you are interested in a progressive or different way to address effective lead generation and lead nurturing campaigns; thinking about how the use of marketing automation tools such as Hubspot will assist to close the gap between sales and marketing and increase ROI for lead generation.  If you are open to exploring further specific lead generation strategies, methods and processed from both a sales and marketing perspective, please contact us for a confidential discussion.