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Sales Prospecting Perspectives

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Sales Prospecting: Who's Helping Your Sales Team?


Sales Prospecting Perspectives is pleased to bring you a guest post from Chris Lang, AG's Sales Director.  Chris lives and breathes sales and sales prospecting, and we are very happy to have the opportunity to share this entry from him with our readers.  Thanks Chris!

01/07/09 - "My sales rep's are going to do all of their own calling. We gave them each a list of a couple hundred accounts and they will need to prospect, navigate and develop their own forecast. We think that is the best way to build the relationship and sell to our prospect base." -VP Business Development, XYZ Corp.

03/25/09 - "Things are going great! We have a lot of deals in the hopper and should see some closed business pretty soon. I think we will stick with this at least through the end of the year. Ping me towards the end of Q4." -VP Business Development, XYZ Corp.

04/21/09 - "We have been closing some great deals, but I'm worried about my forecast for the 2nd half of the year. Can we talk at some point mid next week?"
-Panicked VP Business Development, XYZ Corp.

Those are a couple of excerpts of an ongoing email conversation I had with a VP Business Development in 2009.

It is a fairly common one actually.

The powers that be think the sales team should be able to cold call, establish their own relationships, nurture their accounts and then close business. The company will save money on not having to use an inside team, marketing will feed the sales teams leads, commissions will only have to be paid to the sales reps....everyone wins! While this method does work in some cases such as very small target universes, some government and aerospace solutions, etc., the effectiveness of this approach for the majority of technology companies is very much in question.

Let's say you have a sales team that is 100% on board with cold calling and they love it. They wake up everyday and tell themselves, "Its time for the gold calls!" If one were to go to this odd and upside down world, you would eventually see a major issue with having your sales team make all of their own dials. Having your outside team do inside work creates major ebbs and flows in your forecast. The Sales Executive starts with little to no forecast. They don't have a lot of deals to work on so they fill their time with cold calls (as they should in this scenario).

After a couple of months the reps should have built up an adequate amount of opportunities to keep them busy working on and closing deals. As soon as they have active deals to work on they focus as much as possible on closing, because that is what you compensate them for.  I don't know any VP of Sales that compensates based on conversations, number of dials, number of leads, etc.  While they are working on all of these deals they aren't cold calling to the level you need to provide consistent levels of forecast . The result is a lack of back fill to promote closed business in future quarters. The deals they are working will eventually come to disposition one way or the other. When the dust settles, the Sales Executive will have to start all over building forecast again. During those forecast building months you will have minimal amounts of business closing as the reps feverishly try to replenish their own forecast. The resulting ebbs and flows in forecast result in sales executives that aren't making enough money, a VP Sales with a lot of gray hair and a very unhappy CEO.

Your outside sales executives are trained to close deals. They identify pain, propose solutions, move a prospect along the sales process and bring a client to a yes or no answer. The sales executive role is a full time position. The teleprospecting role is a full time position. The effectiveness of both is in major jeopardy if you try to pay one person to do both.


Completely agree Chris. Separating the opportunity generation and qualification from the opportunity management and closing brings much needed predictability to the quarterly sales funnel. I would even take the point two steps further: 
(1) Test out a slimmed down, lower entry cost version of your service, see if the inside sales team can close the business without a client visit, and feed the outside sales team with these upsell opportunities. See if the Life Time Value to COCA ratio is better with this approach. 
(2) Hold the marketing team accountable for generating a percentage of forecast-able pipeline through inbound leads. It is highly likely that these leads will close in half the time at twice the rate. If the marketing team is generating less than 50% of the pipeline through inbound leads, they are behind the benchmark.
Posted @ Tuesday, April 13, 2024 9:27 AM by Mark Roberge
Thanks for the post Mark, great points listed.  
We promote multiple methods to produce forecast here and I rely heavily on marketing to keep the top of my funnel full. Thus far marketing has been great in producing high quality inbound leads within our target market. I think it is key to ensure that the marketing team's leads are within a very specific audience. One thing I hear about quite often is that the sales side doesn't put a good sales effort forth on a large majority of MQL's. When I talk to the sales side of the house they tell me that those MQL's are too indiscriminatory aka, any Tom, Dick or Harry can reply to a marketing campaign even if they are clearly not a fit to purchase the solution. Those leads then get passed to the sales team and sales begins to ignore them if they think the leads will not bring them to closed business. I have read several reports that say that up to 80% of MQL's do not receive a full sales follow-up and there are other reports that show that if a sales executive receives 2-4 opportunities consecutively that are deemed "bad leads", they will tune out that particular lead source.  
In your experience, how do you ensure the inbound MQL's are at the appropriate level to go to the sales team?
Posted @ Tuesday, April 13, 2024 10:56 AM by Chris Lang
Great question Chris. Tough problem. We do two things. 
(1) Lead Filtering: We constantly run regressions on the lead segments that find us and how they perform in our sales funnel. We filter out about 60% of the inbound leads, which are not a good fit for our product. For example, B2B companies typically quadruple their lead flow in 6 months of using our product. Those leads are great. However, eCommerce sites and desitinate sites are just not a good fit for us. They are filtered out automatically. Sales reps never see them. 
(2) Marketing and Sales SLA: Marketing and Sales have agreed to an SLA on the leads that make it through the filter. Marketing agrees to maintain a particular lead quality, as measured by a variety of factors such as lead conversion to opportunity, sales acceptance rate, company size, etc. Sales commits to calling the "workable" leads at a minimum frequency and depth, depending on the lead quality.  
That is what we do. Sales and Marketing alignment is an interesting topic that is growing in importance as Inbound Marketing and Sales 2.0 continues to be adopted.  
Great dialogue.
Posted @ Tuesday, April 13, 2024 2:02 PM by Mark Roberge
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