Growing Revenue Without Increasing Headcount

Conventional wisdom says that to grow a business means spending more on marketing (to generate more leads) and hiring more sales people (to close more deals). But what if we can increase revenues without hiring more people? What if we can help your current sales team sell more by off-loading their ‘non-selling’ tasks?

In this difficult economy, smart businesses are investing in tools and programs to do just this. The goal is to automate non-selling tasks such as prospecting for new leads, initial follow-up, lead qualification, and the nurturing of leads who just aren’t ready to buy when we happen to call them. Your sales team can then spend more time closing deals from a pipeline of ‘sales qualified’ leads and become much more productive at revenue generation.

A past study found that only 13% of the leads generated by a typical marketing campaign are actually ready to buy. It also went on to find that 45% of them eventually buy (from someone) within 12 months. This certainly seems to confirm real-world observations that only 1 out of 10 leads we call are actually potential customers. It also says that if we continue to follow-up and nurture these ‘leads’ that we could get up to four times as many ‘prospects’ with real sales opportunities – without spending any more on marketing or hiring more sales staff.

The goal of a good Lead Management Program is to properly design and automate this process. A specialized CRM tool with advanced marketing and sales automation features is generally used to send out a sequence of emails (and/or direct mail) and to monitor lead activity – so your sales team knows who to call back first and spend time with.

This is not a ‘batch-and-blast’ newsletter but instead a nurturing ‘campaign‘ that builds a relationship of trust with your leads by providing relevant information in a non-selling manner. Done right it can provide a much higher ROI (return-on-investment) from your marketing-generated leads and (with the right tool) be very cost-effective for today’s SMBs (small to medium-sized businesses).

So how much can you really grow using a Lead Management program to improve the efficiency of your sales team? Well, it depends how much time they’re currently spending on ‘non-selling’ activities. Studies show this can be up to 50% in some organizations.

For those who like to ‘run the numbers’, download this Lead Calculator Worksheet (MS Excel). Enter some basic business parameters and it calculates the number of leads you’ll need!

- Steve (www.SPMsolutions.NET)

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Why Use Lead Management?

sales leadThe average business capitalizes on only a small percentage of it’s leads each year – sometimes less than 10%. In addition, many businesses are not taking full advantage of the additional revenue possible from leads they may already have (e.g. from past customers, partners, etc)!  Unless you’re using some type of lead management tool you are almost certainly not realizing all the sales revenue you should be!

Like the majority of businesses out there, your sales success is your number one goal. And in order to grow you need to be successful at marketing (i.e. lead generation), lead management (i.e. nurturing) and sales (i.e. converting opportunities to revenue). With e-marketing being the most cost-effective way to gather leads, optimizing your website (or landing pages) for lead capture and automatic follow-up is absolutely essential to your success. A good lead management tool will help you collect information from your website visitors and automatically organize and follow-up so you close more deals.

Managing your sales activities is also a time-consuming, administrative task that many salespeople complain about. Instead of selling, they’re spending countless hours keeping track of contacts, phone calls, emails, meetings, etc. and usually don’t even follow-up on leads that aren’t ready to buy something right now. With lead management software, day-to-day tasks are simplified using pre-written email templates, automatic reminders, and simple Outlook integration. Leads that aren’t ready to buy now (but might in the future) are added to an automatic  lead nurturing track where they receive regular email every few weeks or so. Your sales team then contacts them only after they are ready to buy. Everyone works more efficiently and every lead is followed up with which (in the end) means your business grows.

When implementing a lead management program;

  • Make sure ALL leads are put into your CRM database.
  • Keep track of each lead source to evaluate marketing ROI.
  • Segment your leads (by industry, job function, etc) so you can provide relevant information.
  • Automate the process so you can spend more time closing those critical sales opportunities.
  • Nurture leads who aren’t ready to buy now but may become a customer sometime in the future.
  • Make sure every lead is assigned to an account manager who is responsible for its progress.

These days most people aren’t ‘purchasing’ software; they’re licensing an online service (e.g. software as a service – SaaS).  Don’t sign a long-term contract.  If you’ve signed a long-term contract and the software isn’t a good fit then you’re stuck with something that won’t be used. Find a company that will consult with you and take the time to gather information about your company, customize the software to fit your business needs and devise a plan to help implement the new system so that all departments are utilizing it.

- Steve  (http://LeadMaster.SPMsolns.com)

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4 Types of Lead Management Campaigns

Lead Management is an exciting new area that allows you to get the most revenue out of your hard-earned marketing leads. It is based on a series of customized  ‘touches’ (email, letters, etc) that educate and inform your leads so when they have a buying opportunity they (ideally) contact you! This eliminates the wasted time calling on leads who might be aware of your product/service but not ready to buy yet.

The most successful lead management campaigns are those designed to address your leads depending on which stage of the buying cycle they are in. Think of a simple 3-stage buying cyle.

  1. Awareness Stage – where leads know you exist and a little about what you do.
  2. Interest Stage – when a lead ‘may’ have a buying opportunity and is open to more details.
  3. Decision Stage – when a lead turns into a prospect and starts to evaluate what you offer.

A good lead management program only gives your leads the information they really need so you maintain their interest and they don’t opt-out. Here are four basic lead management campaigns that address leads in the various stages of the sales cycle.

  1. Lead Acquisition – this should more accurately be called lead generation. The goal is to get leads to the ‘awareness’ stage and have interest in your product/service.
  2. Lead Engagement - addresses leads who are at the ‘interest’ stage and open to learning more. The goal is to ‘engage’ them by providing industry information, analyst reports, etc. so they see you as a trusted advisor. Ideally, they respond to your emails and phone calls because they don’t feel like you are trying to sell them something.
  3. Lead Conversion – addresses leads who are actually ready to buy (i.e. prospects). This is the time to provide buying guides, pricing information, customer testimonials, ROI analysis, etc.
  4. Keep-in-Touch – is a long-term campaign for inactive leads. This is your typical quarterly newsletter or even an updated link, etc. At this point the lead should know about your products/services so the goal is to be ‘top of mind’ when a buying opportunity arises.

Optimizing your lead management campaigns so they are automated and give true value to your leads is the key to engaging them. When they have a need for your product/service their activity levels will pick up and be ready to move to the next buying stage.

<Download> this 1-page illustration of the above concepts.

- Steve (www.SPMsolutions.NET)

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Building Your Sales Process

At some point even the most seasoned sales managers realize the need to write down how to sell properly. Perhaps they just can’t get their new sales people to come up to speed fast enough or (more commonly) they’re tired of putting together monthly forecasts that have very little credibility behind them. Having a documented sales process that works for your company is fundamental to growing your business. It doesn’t have to be long and complicated. In fact,  the shorter and simpler it is means the better chance you’ll have of people actually using it.

I found a nice (and free) online tool called ProvenPath from Landslide Technologies. This tool allows you to easily create and document a custom sales process for your company. It is based on a sales process that includes;

  • Phases – these are very high-level divisions of the sales process. You might (for example) prefer to use Qualification, Needs Analysis, Product Demonstration, Proposal Submission, Negotiation and Closing as your 5 sales phases. Each phase also includes the typical phase duration (in days) so you can track how things are progressing versus an average sales cycle.
  • Goals - these are the general goals you hope to achieve in each phase. If you haven’t achieved these goals then you can’t progress to the next phase. You might only have 3 or 4 goals for each selling phase. Make them as generic as possible so they apply to all selling situations.  Each goal will have a percentage confidence factor to better measure your overall likelihood of closing the deal. 
  • Activities – these are the typical activities done to achieve a specific goal. They are not specifically measured but useful to remind a sales person of the steps they need to take.
  • Tools - these are the resources available when executing activities and may include product brochures, email templates, white papers, etc. 

You can create a simple sales process that you follow for all your business or you can create multiple processes for different business segments. Either way, this is a nice and simple tool that can be used by sales managers to track progress and better forecast revenues from their pipeline opportunities.

Download this nice white paper on Building a Sales Process.

- Steve (www.SPMsolutions.NET)

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Just What Is SALES 2.0?

Sales 2.0 is all about breaking down the walls between marketing and sales. It is about using customer-focused methodologies along with product-enhancing technology. It’s about working with customers who are more informed than ever and turned off by old-school selling.   

Still a little fuzzy? Maybe it’s easier to explain it relative to Sales 1.0

In Sales 1.0 marketing used mass-marketed direct-mail campaigns. They handed out lots of glossy brochures and had very little data to justify their effectiveness at generating leads. Their sales team relied on personal relationships (and their Rolodex) to generate leads, they played lots of golf, and made cold calls when necessary to meet quota.

Contrast that to Sales 2.0 where marketing and sales collaborate as a single unit utilizing the latest web technologies. Prospects find you and research your product/service – sometimes before you even know about it. Selling now follows a process of providing information to prospects that helps them through the buying cycle – smoothly and quickly. Web technology is used to track who is looking for your product/service, how they actually found you, what information they downloaded, and how they would like to proceed.

Your marketing team now has data to measure how successful each campaign really was and can optimize for better performance. Prospects are nurtured along (using marketing automation tools) until they have an actual buying opportunity and then handed over to the proper sales rep to close.

Some of the web technologies used in Sales 2.0 include …

and many, many, many more!

Other good references to help explain Sales 2.0 include;

- Steve (www.SPMsolutions.NET)

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Basic Principles of Good Lead Management

Many business owners believe that business growth requires increased marketing to generate more leads. Many times they already have enough leads but haven’t done a good job following up and nurturing them.

In this challenging economy customers are doing more research and delaying their purchases which leads to longer sales cycles.  Remember, customers buy from you on their time frame, not necessarily when you contact them. It may take up to 20 ‘touches before a prospect actually buys something so never give up after the first few emails or phone calls. This is why a good lead management program (also called follow-up, keep-in-touch, or marketing automation) is critical.

So what are the principles of a good lead management program?

  1. Have Leads Opt-In - Nobody likes SPAM. Just because someone gives you their business card doesn’t mean they want to be added to your newsletter. A better approach is to send them a few short (but informative) emails and then ask if they want to continue receiving information from you.
  2. Use Mixed-Media - Mix up your correspondence using a combination of email, direct mail, phone calls, face-to-face meetings and even the old-fashioned FAX.
  3. Make It Concise, Informative, and Timely – If you want your emails/letters to be read then make them short and concise. You’ll also want to offer something informative (and timely) so it’s worthwhile reading. As you can see, this is much more than sending a generic newsletter to a distribution list!
  4. Give Something of Value –  As the saying goes ‘givers gain’. Offer a good article, a link to a new website you found, or maybe suggest an upcoming webinar you heard about. The goal is to be a trusted advisor in their business world. Resist the temptation to send them too much stuff about you and your business.
  5. Customize Your Follow-Up -  Don’t send everyone the same email. Categorize the people you meet. You might (for example) categorize your contacts into leads, partners, customers, etc. and optimize a sequence of correspondences for each category.
  6. Regularly Check Their Interest Level – Ideally, you want them to tell you when to contact them to discuss a buying opportunity! There are great lead management tools out there that monitor email opens, clickthrus, forwards, etc. that can used to ‘score’ your leads and highlight the ones with current activity. Alternatively, simply remind them every few months to contact you if they want more information. Also don’t forget to ask for referrals (in a casual way).
  7. Allow Them to Opt-Out -  The last thing you want to do is keep sending information to someone who doesn’t really care. If you think there is a potential business opportunity then put them on an extended ‘keep-in-touch’ program but if they aren’t showing any signs of interest then offer them a simple opt-out opportunity.

By properly implementing a well thought-out lead management program you will soon be able to hand over sales-qualified leads to your sales team.

For more information check out this nice article:  Ten Tips for Best Practices in Lead Management from Marketo.

- Steve (www.SPMsolutions.NET)

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Lead Nurturing Tools for Higher-Quality Sales Leads

Lead NurturingIn today’s economy, it’s critical that all leads are followed-up appropriately, nurtured along until they are ready to buy, and then efficiently handed over to your sales team to close. According to the Sales Lead Management  Association (SLMA), 69% of  small businesses fail to qualify leads before giving them to their salespeople which certainly seems to explain the common sales persons complaint about poor leads that are not ready to buy!

There are a number of new vendors with really exciting tools for lead management (or as some call it - marketing automation, lead nurturing, drip marketing, stay-in-touch marketing,  etc.). All of them can run independently or as an add-on app that conveniently integrates with salesforce.com (SFDC).

Most marketing automation tools now include the following features;

  • Integration with popular CRM solutions (SFDC, Outlook, etc)
  • Email marketing and templates
  • Landing page builder
  • Web sign-up forms
  • Website visitor tracking
  • Lead scoring (email opens, web visits, downloads, etc)
  • Assignment rules and work-flows

Eloqua – Probably the biggest player in the field but seems to target Enterprise class companies. Includes both lead generation and lead management tools.

Marketo – Full-featured solution for Enterprise and SMBs. Website also includes a lot of useful resources.

Pardot -  New solution targeting SMBs. Also integrates with Google (analytics and adwords), Jigsaw, and LinkedIn.

LeadMaster – Easy-to-use and cost-effective tool targeting smaller businesses. Includes all the features that most small businesses need.

If your business has been around awhile then your probably have plenty of leads (i.e. current customers, past customers, lost business, trade-show attendees, purchased lists, etc) and could benefit from a well thought-out lead management strategy.

Many believe it takes 7 or 8 ‘touches’ with a prospect before they ever buy from you but in the current economy some are saying it can now take 20!

It certainly seems like all businesses can benefit from staying in touch with potential prospects. Providing them with useful and relevant information, in a timely manner, is the goal so when they are ready to buy, they buy from you!

- Steve (www.SPMsolutions.NET)

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