The Secret to a Happy Sales Team? Inbound Marketing!
The Digital Gaggle Conference is a bi-annual ideas fest for marketing professionals. In October, the Gagglers asked me to deliver a talk about how marketing teams can deliver more leads to their sales bods.
This is a long read - in a hurry? The summary will do ya...
Sales teams say they want more leads.
Marketing teams often think the most effective way to achieve this is to get more traffic to the website.
This is all wrong.
What sales teams actually mean is that they want higher quality leads.
In 2017 marketing teams can’t effectively deliver higher quality leads through SEO (long game) or PPC (rising costs).
The way to get more leads, of better quality, (and therefore more sales) is to focus on the middle of the sales funnel. Converting more of your existing traffic is typically more achievable (or affordable) than driving more website traffic.
The money, as Ms Love was fond of saying in the ‘90s, is very much in the middle.
How Outbound Sales taught me about Inbound Marketing
Back last century, my job was to sell laser printers and the consumables that went in them. It was a pretty lucrative business and therefore pretty competitive. The little company that I worked for consisted of less than 10 people and often we were competing with the likes of HP, Canon, Xerox plus a burgeoning market of IT peripherals re-sellers – all of whom were trying to sell laser printers and consumables to our prospective customers.
What I learned all those years ago is still at the heart of Noisy Little Monkey’s approach today.
Lead quality > quantity
In the '90s the web was fairly new (it took literally minutes to download a picture of someone naked), so we had to use “outbound” and “interruptive” sales techniques.
The way I was tasked to generate leads was to make outbound phone calls to interrupt people during their day-to-day business. I’d ask what sort of printers they had, if they needed any toner or maybe even any new printers.
About 1 in 10 of my outbound sales calls were “yes, tell me more”, about 1 in 10 calls were “not right now, I’m busy” and the rest normally ended in hang ups by the prospective customer, often accompanied by a volley of expletives. Then, as now, people don’t like to be interrupted.
Stuffing the top of the sales funnel isn’t the answer
I had targets to hit, so I had to fight through the negative responses. To earn any decent commission I needed to get more than 10 people in a day to say “yes, tell me more”.
My conversion rate from outgoing calls to “yes, tell me more” was 10%. That is to say when I made 100 outgoing calls, I got 10 appointments to call back and discuss how I could help.
I thought to myself, “if I make 150 calls per day I should get 15 sales appointments.”
The quality of my outbound calls went down. So even though I put in an extra 50% effort, the return was only 30% more income.
My bosses (two clever and excellent blokes - Kevin and Barrie) told me to flip it. Make the normal amount of calls per day but to think about the people who said “not right now, I’m busy”. What was going on in their world? Certainly they’re busy but our products could save them time! How could I help them in a way to be mutually beneficial?
I started to ask the “not now, I’m busy” prospects if they’d like to set aside a time to discuss ways in which I could help them become more efficient (and possibly save a few quid too).
Sounds simple, but it worked. From the same number of outbound calls, I got more appointments to call back. I started hitting and occasionally smashing my sales targets because I had more appointments than anyone else in the business.
In early 2000, I switched from telesales to SEO and more recently to Inbound Marketing…because this technique works for websites, only more so.
What Inbound Marketing must learn from Outbound Sales
Often new clients think I’m going to show them how SEO will drive more traffic to their website. Of course, I’ll do that because I’ve been doing SEO for like 17 years. But more traffic is never where we start. My salad days in sales demonstrated that the money is in the middle of the sales funnel which means, if a client is getting website traffic already, that's where we focus.
This is an example of a typical B2B website and its ability to convert 5,000 website visitors into leads and for a sales team to convert those leads into new business.
How can you get better leads from your existing website?
Start by concentrating on the people who are already visiting your website. Ask yourself what’s prompting these people to visit your site?
I’ll bet there’s a small percentage who are converting into leads right now. These are pretty motivated buyers – they’re looking for a supplier of services like yours and they're occasionally filling in your Contact Us form.
The problem with these kinds of sales leads is simple – they’re already pretty far down the sales funnel and are probably close to making a decision on which supplier to choose. They might even have chosen the supplier and just need 3 quotes to prove some sort of diligence to their purchasing dept. So, while these are OK – they’re not your sales team’s favourite leads.
More high quality leads are higher up the funnel
The vast majority of visitors to your site are not trying to shortlist suppliers (bottom of sales funnel) they are trying to identify what their problem is (top of funnel). These "top of funnel" visitors are unlikely to convert on your Contact Us form.
To convert more top of funnel visitors, you need to get into their mind-set.
Here's an example to demonstrate the idea...
Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has a printer that keeps jamming. You don’t really know why, but with a bit of Googling you find a website that tells you that you can reduce jams by:
- Storing the paper next to the printer because reducing the temperature and humidity fluctuations will reduce paper jams
- Buying better quality paper
- Getting the printer serviced by a certified engineer
- Buying a new printer.
You look at your perennially jamming printer and you think to yourself “I store the paper in the cupboard under the printer. The paper I use is the stuff recommended by the engineer who came in 3 months ago to service it. That same engineer did mention that our printer is one of the few like this he still finds out in the field… maybe it’s time to think about a replacement”.
And you look back at your screen and see a nice, friendly looking button that says “Free Checklist – How To Choose The Right Office Printer in Under 10 Minutes”
You’re a busy person, you can’t waste time looking at printer brochures, so you click to download the checklist. To send you the checklist, this useful website needs your name, your email and you’re asked to tick a box that says how many people work in your company. Not much to ask and it's going to save you ages...you fill out the simple form.
Imagine I'm the marketing manager behind the website on which you’ve just converted to a lead. I know my sales manager is going to be pleased with this lead because the sales team:
- Is in at the beginning of the sales cycle (you downloaded top of funnel content)
- Has the name of a person who’s involved in the decision making process, along with their email (required to send you the free checklist)
- BONUS they have an idea of how big the opportunity might be (you told us how many people work in your business because we asked you to).
When you do this sort of thing on your site - you'll see you not only get better quality leads, you get more of them, Here's our example of a website that did just this, and how many additional new clients they signed up as a result.
Imagine, in a few weeks, you could be standing in front of the board presenting your quarterly marketing results as “leads that closed to new business”. The sort of numbers the directors really want to know about.
SEO BONUS: Content that drives more high quality leads usually ranks well
The great thing about producing content focused on the perfect customer is that it’s just the sort of stuff that ranks well organically on Google and is more likely to get shared on social media. Check out nearly every other article on the Noisy Little Monkey blog for ideas / validation.
To do this most effectively you need to think about your ideal customers – often called buyer personas. Think of each stage of their journey along the buying funnel and where your website’s content can be optimised to help them out. Occasionally, some of the help you can give them is nearer the bottom of the buying funnel and then it makes sense to think about what sort of calls to action you can employ to turn these visitors into high quality leads.
It can be difficult to know where to start but guess what? We've made a free guide because we practice what we preach.
Use the above guide to help you produce relevant content that will elevate your leads from standard guff to something that your sales team crave; high quality web leads that also include an indication of budget, timescales and the authority of the person who’s making the enquiry.
It takes time but it’s worth the effort. Not only will you have a happy sales team, you’ll get a pat on the back from the MD. Use that as leverage to your request for a pay rise at your next annual review.
We recorded each talk from the latest Digital Gaggle conference. You can view the slides and watch the full video of each of the speakers here: Digital Gaggle October Conference 2016.