Do You Think You Have a Lead Generation Problem?

If you’ve zeroed in on lead volume and prospecting as your number one issue, you are in peril.

I say this because I was once head of strategy and sales for a lead generation company.

The lead generation company followed a number of practices that I now flag as “traps” for companies seeking to grow their lead volume.

This was great experience, as I learned about effective outbound practices — and what not to do.

The lead generation company followed a number of practices that I now flag as “traps” for companies seeking to grow their lead volume:

  • The business development director reports their own data to the client. You need to record all sales calls. We never had any idea when sales opportunities were missed or if a lead was truly qualified until we created this feedback loop between strategy, sales and prospecting.
  • Letting the prospecting team create their own messaging, which drifts completely off target and wastes weeks of effort creating tight campaign strategies. Record the sales calls.
  • Having the same individual handle strategy, list building, prospecting, sales and reporting. Sales and prospecting are not the same thing; sales people forget to prospect when they get busy. Prospectors won’t waste their time on complex, hard-to-close deal cycles. They want to call new leads, not nurture existing opportunities.
  • Measuring leads generated, meetings scheduled and cost per lead as client results. “Meetings scheduled” is not a result. New revenue is.
  • Passing leads to a client without any involvement in opportunity creation, pipeline management, content marketing or directly impacting closed business. (All critical, even if the lead generation company is passing leads to a great client sales team and not responsible for closing.)
  • Emailing cold lists without the input of a company whose sole mission is to improve email deliverability and manage domain and server reputation.

I brought these “bad habits” to my new company and spent the first couple of years delivering a high volume of qualified leads that didn’t close at a satisfactory rate. (Most of our clients couldn’t close to save their lives; I talked about this in the consultative selling chapter.) In some cases, we only got a couple of meetings a month, which were qualified but rarely ready to buy. This was decent performance by the standards of some lead generation companies, so I felt I wasn’t doing too bad. That was not the case!

I brought these “bad habits” to my new company and spent the first couple of years delivering a high volume of qualified leads that didn’t close for some clients.

I’m not saying cold outreach can’t work. It does. I’ve made millions for companies from deals that came from cold calls. But the baseline of malpractice in the industry is significant. Without being careful, you can pay for teams of script readers from India, home-based burnouts dialing for dollars with zero backing from a strategy team or spammers who “spray and pray” with huge cold email lists.

Do any of these methods sound like the right way to generate new business for your niched, nuanced and (hopefully) wildly differentiated company?

When I started in this field, sales campaign strategy did not exist. This is the case with appointment setting companies that write generic product/feature-style emails and telemarketing firms.

Making a 21st Century Lead Generation Process: Thinking Off-Script

We had a client that worked in B2B branding and lead generation for technology companies (I’ll let you savor the irony of them reaching out to us because they couldn’t get new clients.)

When I started cold calling for this client, the list included everything from wine companies to software startups. The messaging strategy was simple:

  • Only senior people work on your accounts.
  • We are full-service.
  • Our expertise in your industry is deep.

This is useless information. Do a quick search and review websites for small agencies and consulting firms. They all make these claims. Are you a full-spectrum, full-service agency that solves tough business problems with brave creative and on-point analytics? Do you “go the extra mile” to provide a fantastic experience? Do only senior leaders work on client projects? Good for you. Get in line.

In the first year or so of our company, my business grew from the strength of rigorously positioned business outreach that got past the “pain points” marketing boilerplate of so many of my competitors.

But cold sales outreach is a vicious game. The cycles are dizzying. A technique that got you $500K in closed business last year gets beaten to death by copycat competitors and actually becomes a liability this year.

But cold sales outreach is a vicious game. The cycles are dizzying. A technique that got you $500K in closed business last year gets beaten to death by copycat competitors and actually becomes a liability this year.

What was missing? I talked about it in the last chapter: Tighter integration of marketing, strategy, messaging and sales efforts. A few weeks ago I listened to a recording of a salesperson who had landed a call with a $5B company. He had the lead generation skills to get the meeting, but I almost fell out of my chair when he started the call with, “Tell me about your company.” (The prospect was willing to talk to him, but was driving in her car when he called.)

The person he was on the phone with had done TED Talks. This could have been a great entry point to a conversation about the prospect’s view of the world. But he was too wedded to old-school cold-caller mentality to pivot off the script. But once you take that cold caller and back them with Close.io and thoughtful messaging, you’ve turned a leadgen hack into a business analyst. (Which is where the market is going: Not drones pushing features and scripts, but peers who help you think about your business drivers.)

A traditional lead generation approach will get you lots of crappy meetings. (That’s if the prospect shows up at all. In one instance, the prospect did not show for the first scheduled call that she agreed to on the phone with our business developer. After a follow-up call from our head of sales to reschedule, she not only agreed to the meeting, but talked with him about her current plans to sell the company and need for fresh ideas. It happened because our sales guy asked the right questions.)

My current obsession is finding every juncture in the company where I fuse a marketing system with the daily routine of a business development person.

My current obsession is finding every juncture in the company where I fuse a marketing system with the daily routine of a business development person so they can qualify better, set the right agenda for a call and run playbooks so that they sound like specialty consultants off the blocks.

I’m lying if I say this is easy. Or that I’ve got it mastered. But using this approach just got me 5-6 quality prospecting sessions for a new campaign one of my business development people wanted to try. We had a 100% attendance rate for the calls and three new closed clients in the first two months.

Which feels a lot better than hammering the phones all day and praying. Or paying somebody to do it for you.

It took many years for me to get this right. The great news is that there is a high barrier to entry for companies like mine. This business is really hard, which is great for those that figure it out. We struggle each and every day to get results for clients. It’s possible, but requires major effort, a dedicated team and a very smart strategy, prospecting and sales process.

Takeaway:

Don’t let too much of your efforts ride on pure lead generation. That’s old school. You should be making teams of business analysts and marketers who integrate smoothly with a sales director’s routine.

Make sure you don’t rely only on yourself; bring in a team that knows how to close as well as prospect for leads. You are too busy and most likely don’t have the required skills despite your feelings that you know how to sell your company.

If any of this resonates, reach out using the form below and we’ll discuss!

 

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