If you are a B2B technology or software company, Online Lead Generation (aka Inbound Lead Generation) should be a key element in your sales and marketing activity.
But there are times when Online Lead Gen isn’t enough – that’s when you also need to use Outbound Lead Generation.
Quick Recap – why Online Lead Generation is important
Online lead generation is really important because today when anyone starts searching for a product or solution, they look online. According to a DemandBase report from 2011, 4 of the top 5 sources of leads are online. According to a Savo Group research study, 58% to 70% of the B2B buying process is completed before a buyer speaks to a vendor. And in a 2012 DemandGen report, 25% of B2B companies said they only initiated contact after they had already established a preferred list of vendors.
So for all these reasons, you need to make sure your prospective customers find you online or they’ll find your competitors. And when they do find you, you need to capture their contact details – that’s online lead generation.
When Do You Need Outbound Lead Generation?
If your product category is mature then potential customers will be searching for it online. For example, CRM is a mature category. People who want a CRM solution will search online for relevant terms. There will be a lot of search traffic. So CRM vendors should concentrate on inbound marketing for online lead generation.
But if your product category is new, or you operate in a highly vertical/niche market then potential buyers may not be aware of or searching for your type of product. There will be a low volume of search traffic looking for terms related to your product and you won’t be able to generate enough leads online.
In that case you will have to reach out to prospective customers in a targeted, efficient and cost effective process – Outbound Lead Generation.
And sometimes Outbound Lead Generation can produce faster results for early stage technology companies who are only beginning to establish a presence online.
How Does Outbound Lead Generation Work?
Outbound Lead Generation involves a set of clear phases, managed through a well defined process and supported by automation.
The main steps are:
1. Define Target Customer Profile
Clarify who your ideal target customers are. This definition should be clear and focused – type of companies, roles at those companies, territories, sectors etc.. Looking at your best existing customers helps with this definition. The output of this step should be enough for an intern to use as a guide when searching for prospect names and contact details.
2. Value Proposition for Campaign
Clarify what your pitch will be for this campaign. This step helps when preparing the draft emails in step 3. You can start with some bulletpoints covering what value your product provides, how quickly do customers obtain that value, why it’s better than alternatives, why it’s better than doing nothing.
3. Build Targeted List
This is the second most important step after defining your ideal customer. The more effort you put into producing a good list the higher the likelihood your campaign will produce results. You should try to sell high, so it’s important to get C-level / Director level names on your list. Confirm that every name and every company on your list is genuinely relevant – they meet your target profile and you have good reason to expect they will be interested in your proposition.
4. Draft Emails 1, 2, 3 and 4
Draft the text for your outbound emails. There should be a first email, then a second, third and fourth for follow-ups. This is because quite often you only make contact on the third or fourth attempt. The emails should be simple, direct and text based, and should look like they come from a specific named individual at your company, not the marketing department.
5. Prepare Follow-up Material(s)
When prospects respond they may not be ready to engage, or they may want some information to assess whether your proposition is relevant to them. You can send follow-up materials to prospects as a way to maintain their interest. Example materials include presentations, case studies, white papers and industry news or analysis. The goal is to have 4 to 5 items of content that you are sure will be of interest to your target customers.
6. Send the Emails
Send emails to blocks of your prospect lists. About 50 to 80 per day, 3 days per week for each sales person. The goal is to generate 5 to 10 responses per day. Sales people won’t be able to deal effectively with more than that number of new responses per day (as each week progresses, the total number of prospects to manage quickly increases).
7. Manage Responders
As a percentage of prospects respond, handle those responses consistently and record what’s happening. Typically the first interaction will be by email (the prospect emails you back). In some cases the prospect will call you – make sure you can access their details and know who you’re speaking with if they do call.
8. Schedule Call
If the first response is by email then your next goal is to schedule a call. You are not trying to sell on this call. The purpose of the first call will allow you to gauge whether the prospect is genuinely a good fit. Are they interested? Are they the right person to talk to at their firm? Are they ready to take a next step? The key point is to focus on their business to ensure you have a clear understanding of how they view the world. Then your objective is to (a) get agreement to have another call or demo or (b) get introduced to the right person to talk to.
9. Send Follow-Up Materials
In many cases the prospect is interested but not ready to engage e.g. they are in the middle of some kind of project, or under pressure to complete quarterly or annual reports. If the time delay is likely to be 6 to 12 weeks then send follow-up materials over that period to maintain contact.
If the time delay is likely to be significantly more than 12 weeks then the lead can be put in a Lead Nurturing track.
10. Schedule Demo / Meeting
For most technology companies part of the sales process will involve an online or in person demonstration of your product. If that is the case, then in this step we schedule and then execute that demo. This means an email exchange and, when the date and time is confirmed, immediately putting this in the client’s calendar. Other steps include confirming the client can take a web demo / Skype video call / Google hangout. The demo format should include a short intro presentation (‘tell them what you’re going to tell them’); the demo itself (‘tell them’); and a wrap up (‘tell them what you told them’).
For other companies the goal will be to schedule an initial meeting. The format of this meeting will differ, but the key rule when meeting a new prospect is to gain further insight into their needs – “listen before you talk”.
11. Hand Off to the Sales Process
If the demo has proceeded well and we have confirmed genuine interest then the prospect can be added to your sales automation / CRM system as an opportunity and it should be passed to a named sales person.
This handover is very important, so closing this step should only be allowed when the sales person confirms they are happy to accept the new contact as an opportunity. If not, then the reasons why not should be recorded.
Useful Outbound Lead Generation Resources
Aaron Ross has written a great book on Outbound Lead Generation called “Predictable Revenue” – you can find out more at www.predictablerevenue.com.
Brian Carroll, author of ‘Lead Generation for the Complex Sale’ wrote a detailed guide on building an Outbound Lead Generation team for OpenView Partners – you can access it here (registration required)
And David Skok of Matrix Partners has a good introductory presentation on Outbound Lead Generation here.