Lead generation 101: conquer fears of cold calling

The dreaded lead generation cold call. A recent study revealed that 48 per cent of B2B sales reps fear making them.  Even though sales forces are supposedly made up of outgoing extroverts who are happiest when approaching new prospects, the truth is, we’re all human. And none of us like the awkwardness that can result when a cold call goes sideways. Luckily, there are ways to prevent this from happening, which will also boost confidence among your sales people, and reduce the fear of picking up the phone. Lead generation 101 requires that you conquer fears of cold calling.

Don’t worry about sounding like a sales person

It’s what you do and it’s an honourable profession. Remember this truth about selling: you’re in business to improve someone’s life or their business. You’re a talented problem solver and by providing your product or service you are actively improving business processes or performance for your customers. You’re adding value to your prospect’s business, and in your first conversation you need to demonstrate this upfront with an example of how you can do this. For example, instead of calling a prospect and saying, “Hi, would you be interested in hearing about how my company can help your company?” start with something like this: “Hi, my company just released a research paper outlining three key ways to immediately improve profitability in your industry. I’d be happy to share it with you in an email.” Knowing that you’re providing valuable information to your prospects can go a long way towards removing the fear and anxiety you might have around B2B sales cold calling.

Practice makes perfect if you want sales leads

That takes care of the stigma some people feel at being in the sales business. But there is another fear, the fear of rejection, that keeps many people from initiating contact. Fear causes the blood to flow away from your brain’s frontal lobe so that the more reptilian part of your brain, the amygdala, takes over. The amygdala helps you fight or flee, not the kind of reactions you need to think and respond quickly, and definitely not the ideal state to be in when cold calling prospects. The way to alleviate this fear is to practice making calls for potential sales leads. Try role playing with coworkers, (who are likely experiencing the same pangs of fear), and you will not only get better at it, but you will feel more confident so that the fight or flight reaction goes away. To reduce your fear even further, try offering something to your prospect rather than asking something from them. Much less stressful and a better way to cultivate a relationship you want to last.

Cold calling is essential to lead generation

Cold calling is an essential part of B2B sales and to be successful you need to conquer your fears and get better at it. To overcome the fear of cold calling, see above. But if you’d rather leave the B2B lead generation and appointment setting to us, we’re happy to help out. Contact us today!

B2B sales lead generation gets a boost from chatbots

Filling out an online form is about as exciting as watching paint dry, yet they’re a standard B2B sales lead generation tactic for many B2B businesses. In essence their success depends on the willingness of people to spend time filling in blanks in order to receive something they perceive as valuable, whether that’s an article, a white paper, or an online tutorial.

A more modern and effective inbound marketing alternative is a chatbot. Chatbots boost B2B sales lead generation and they are a quick and easy way to start a conversation with very little effort required from your target.

Bots have been proliferating on websites for not only customer support, but also for sales lead generation.  They are easy to use, and can be entertaining too. Having somebody waiting for you to answer is surprisingly compelling. Without even knowing why, users find themselves slipping down the conversion funnel, quickly getting the information they need without having to look for it. Instead, they are treated to the much more fun experience of a simple interactive conversation.

Most of us have had a chatbot experience before, but if you haven’t, here’s how it works for B2B sales lead generation.

You head to a website and a chatbot pops up on screen, introducing their virtual self. They should also ask you for your name, so they can continue the conversation in a more personal way. To avoid any confusion, at some point early in the exchange they should clarify that they are not a human, but are in fact a bot.

Using a series of AI-powered questions they get to the heart of the matter, and find out what it is you are looking for. They should be able to get it for you in a nanosecond, after asking for a few more details, like your email address so they can follow up. In some cases they might pass the person along to a real, live human to assist.

This interaction should be as pain-free as possible, so a good script is a must. If you need help writing natural-sounding language, check out any of the numerous tutorials that exist. A few helpful tips include:

  • Keep the messages short
  • Avoid slipping into a monologue
  • The bot shouldn’t post more than three messages in a row before waiting for an answer
  • Leverage GIFs, emojis and videos to up the fun factor

If a customer leaves a conversation, the bot can leverage the information it gathered the last time and use it to personalize the next interaction and continue where they left off.

Don’t let hot sales leads cool down

Having a bot is a great investment for any B2B business with a website, but the follow-up is even more critical. A study showed that the faster the response time, the better the odds of contacting the sales lead. In fact, it found that the odds of making contact with a new lead are extremely high within five minutes but drop off dramatically as the minutes tick by. Specifically a sales rep is 100x less likely to make contact if the first call is made 30 minutes after submission. The goal is to respond immediately and persistently to sales leads.

According to the Harvard Business Review, an audit of companies demonstrated the extremely short life of online leads and found that about half of all online leads were followed up only after 24 hours, or never followed up at all! What may well have been a hot lead may turn into a frosty reception for the salesperson making the call a whole day after the lead, if not later. When you’re paying mightily for each lead, that’s a big, fat waste.

So ensure your sales team reacts to a bot-generated sales lead with just as much speed and enthusiasm as your bot did in the first place. Or, consider your bot all for naught!

Find out how 360 Leads can help your business with a B2B sales lead generation campaign, whether that’s with a chat bot or not. Contact us today!

Why events are powerful for B2B lead generation

Who doesn’t love getting invited to an event? If that event is tied to one’s career, with a timely topic and interesting speakers, there’s an added incentive to attend. Events are powerful for B2B lead generation. For businesses, hosting events is a great way to increase brand awareness, reach out to potential clients and generate qualified B2B sales leads, both inbound and outbound. There’s no better way to present your brand and establish face-to-face relationships with potential buyers – at a time and place of your own choosing.

In-person events have been rated the most effective B2B tactic by the Content Marketing Institute for six years running, with 81% of marketers using them. And that should come as no surprise, since a well-organized event will inspire conversation and discussion – exactly the kind of things that build relationships.

Plan your own B2B lead generation event

Creating an opportunity for personal contact has never been as important as it is today. In the digital world we now live in, people crave interactions that are up-close-and-personal. That said, B2B lead generation events can take many different shapes and formats. It could be a small breakfast for 10 key industry leaders or a more casual after-work gathering for 50 or more people. These customized, bespoke events can be highly targeted, and just as highly targeted content works better than broad, catchall copy, smaller, ‘in-person’ events can bring greater results and potential sales leads for the bottom line.

Capitalize on someone else’s event

A tradeshow can offer the perfect opportunity to make a big impact on as many decision makers as possible in a limited time frame. From a sales lead generation standpoint, remember to put any new technology or products with a wow factor in the spotlight to attract attention and help you stand out in a crowd.

Remember that tradeshows offer an opportunity to stage an event within an event. You have a captive audience at a show or conference that you can invite to your own event, which can complement the overall tradeshow by showcasing the specifics of your products or services for a select audience.

Conferences also offer opportunities to sit on panels or be a speaker. Always accept these; they bring brand awareness and exposure to the right audience.

Pointers for organizing an event for B2B lead generation:

  1. Make sure events are convivial, entertaining and relaxing and ensure your invitation sets that expectation so prospective customers will be more inclined to attend.
  2. Events should be held in convenient locations and offer refreshments or a meal, i.e. breakfast sandwiches for morning meetings.
  3. Personalize your invitations and treat every invitee like a VIP.
  4. Events should have a main drawing card: a speaker who’s an in-demand major player in your industry, or a current topic that is of great importance to you and your peers. This could be new government regulations that will have an outsize impact, or a major trend that’s just starting to appear in your line of business.
  5. Events should allow for time to mingle over drinks or coffee, to create an atmosphere conducive to connecting with others in an easy-going, casual way.
  6. Make sure your event organizers are organized, goal-oriented people who have the same objectives in mind as you do.
  7. If you have speakers from your company participating, choose good storytellers with a deep knowledge of your company and business, and a knack for leaving an impression with an audience.
  8. Remember to keep it as short and relevant as possible. Avoid long speeches or too many speakers, and no hard sells. Always keep your audience in mind.
  9. For networking, send out a team of your best people. Set them up with the attendee list and have them pre-schedule some conversations with prospects.
  10. Be sure to gather all attendee contact information.
  11. Have an after-event plan: who will compile the insights you’ve gathered, who will follow-up with emails, phone calls and meetings to continue the conversations you’ve started.

Don’t forget

Remember, whether you organize your own targeted event, or participate in a tradeshow or conference, you’ll have the opportunity to meet people potentially interested in your offer. They might not immediately fall into your B2B lead generation sales pipeline at that event, but you’ll be better placed to approach them afterwards.

It’s because of the highly personal nature of these types of micro events that they are so successful. Face to face communication is always going to be the most effective marketing channel you can use. These events will require an investment of time and resources but if done well, you’ll make a great impression and will reap the rewards for a long time afterwards.

Find out how 360 Leads can help your business with a lead generation campaign. Contact us today!

A lead generation company with secret powers

Lead generation is the process of converting, and to some extent nurturing, business leads. The question of whether to hire an outside lead generation company is one that confronts many businesses who might otherwise consider doing this in-house. Nurtured leads produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities and businesses who nurture leads make 50% more sales at a lower cost than non-nurtured prospects. It’s not something you want to leave to chance. Hiring a lead generation company can make sense for a B2B business because they are focused solely on lead generation, have valuable industry expertise and can save your team time rather than trying to do this in-house. Here are the biggest reasons to hire someone to do it for you:

A lead generation company talks to the right people

Good lead generation is speaking to the right people at the right time, and it comes down to having the right contacts and the right data. Lead generation companies have access to databases with millions of business contacts covering a range of industries. Data specialists can determine which leads are qualified much more quickly than your own staff could.

They prioritize with lead scoring

An experienced lead generation firm will have proven methodologies that they can put to work on your case. Sales leads scoring is one of these techniques which can save a lot of time by not talking to people who aren’t as likely to convert.

They shorten the sales cycle

By having nurtured business leads sent to you the focus is firmly on selling, and the timeline to do so is much shorter. Time is money, and you will be saving plenty of it by having qualified leads sent directly to you.

They improve your company’s web presence

Many lead generation companies can assist with a blog strategy and SEO, so that potential customers can find you more easily through a web search. Then those prospects can be turned into leads and possible customers.

They can lower your costs

Developing a hiring and training program is costly. Sometimes it makes more sense to hire a company that is specialized and already has the skilled staff. Hiring a company to find leads frees up resources for other tasks. It eliminates the time and effort required to recruit and train staff.

They allow you to focus on your product or service

Whatever area of B2B your business operates in, one thing will ring true: it’s the USP of your company that generates revenue, and it’s the USP that you need to focus on. It’s the asset you possess which can’t be bought elsewhere and where you should focus your staff’s energies and resources. Outsourcing to an agency allows you to do just that.

How to find the right lead generation company

Before choosing an agency, it’s important to do your research. If possible, scan reviews, testimonials, and ask for referrals. Ask your shortlisted candidates questions about their processes, tools, and whether they have their own CRM software that will be able to integrate with your B2B CMS for a seamless experience.

While using a lead generation company will cost you money, it saves your business money too. So, unless you want to pay the true cost of generating your own leads, you’ll be wise to pass on the hidden costs to the experts.

You still have reservations about using an external company for B2B lead generation because you think they’ll take your money and run? That they’ll make a couple of calls and leave it at that? Well, it might surprise you to discover that not only will they deliver results, but they’ll deliver them in a variety of ways. Lead generation companies may specialize in one area, but often they’re multi-faceted experts who can cover all the following services:

• Email marketing
• SEO
• Social media
• Appointment setting
• Event promotion
• Content creation

In the B2B world, an individual sales lead or a sale can be worth a lot, so it’s important to put thought into the customer journey pre- and post-sale. Find out how 360 Leads can create a winning B2B lead generation campaign customized for your company and industry. Contact us today!

Marketing KPIs for B2B sales growth

Do you know whether your marketing is working for your B2B sales growth efforts? Whether it’s improving, or it needs assistance? Without a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) it’s impossible to gauge the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and determine whether you might need some lead generation assistance to boost B2B sales.

KPIs exist in every industry, but some are more revealing than others. Not all KPIs will have applicability to B2B sales and lead generation, and old school metrics like brand awareness or impressions aren’t as helpful as they were once thought to be. Here are some of the essential marketing KPIs that will give you clarity on whether your current marketing and lead generation efforts are paying off.

B2B Sales Growth

After all is said and done, the best way to measure the effectiveness of marketing is by seeing a concurrent uptick in sales growth. As you look at the trend, think of which marketing efforts have been applied in that period, and you will start to get a sense of which marketing tactics are contributing to growth and which aren’t moving the needle. Sales figures are something to share with the entire team so that all employees, regardless of their role, have the same goal: to drive sales skyward.

Cost of Customer Acquisition (COCA)

This is the cost of convincing a prospective customer to buy a product or service from you. For example, if you spent $100,000 on sales and marketing in a month and this resulted in 10 purchases, then your COCA would be $10,000. As your marketing strategy improves, this number should go down and each customer should cost less to acquire.

Lifetime Value of a Customer (LTV)

While it’s not an exact science, the lifetime value of a customer is worth figuring out. Add up all sales your average customer has initiated over the course of your relationship and use this equation to find out the LTV of your average customer: revenue x gross margin x average # of repeat purchases.

Sales Team Response Time

Because the quality of a B2B sales lead degrades over time, sales response times are incredibly important. Yet, according to a study of the effect of sales response time on lead close rates, B2B leads typically receive shockingly slow response rates from sales teams, much slower than B2C leads. Perhaps there is less urgency in the world of B2B, but the fact is, the longer the gap between receiving a sales lead and responding to it, the less likely the sale will close. In fact, the study showed that “firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.” So start tracking response times and try to close that gap; it’ll pay off.

Email Marketing KPIs

Your email marketing strategy is one of the key lifelines to your customers so it’s essential you know how well each and every email has done. The most relevant marketing KPIs are delivery rate, unsubscribe rate, the open rate, the click-through rate, the conversion rate and the number of forwards or shares it got. By tracking these and improving on them with each new piece of email, you will be cultivating your audience.

Social Media

The reach and engagement on your social media platforms is of vital importance because this is how you both distribute content and interact with potential customers. Certain platforms might not be where you get the best traction. Find out which platforms make sense for your audience and where you can build a following and concentrate on those.

Remember, if you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it. And if you are the marketing point person on your team, you need to be on top of it. Start with a few basic marketing KPIs and add to them as you become more proficient at assembling reports. We can help you get started.

At 360Leads we use our expertise to deliver a constant B2B sales growth pipeline of qualified new business opportunities to our clients. If you’d like to chat about how we can turbocharge your current marketing efforts, contact us.

Inbound versus outbound: which is more effective for lead generation?

With every new platform come new ways to reach out to potential customers, and B2B company marketers have a wide selection of tactics to choose from when planning a strategy. Simply put, these tactics fall into two main categories – inbound and outbound lead generation tactics – though the two are often combined in an integrated strategy. But what are the main differences between inbound and outbound marketing? Simply put, outbound marketing is the kind we grew up with – TV, radio and billboards, magazine and newspaper ads, direct mail and event sponsorships – whereas inbound draws customers to the product or service because of their innate interest in it.

A bit of history we all know too well

In the early years when advertising was novel, people enjoyed reading magazines and newspapers and relied on them to alert them to sales and promotions. People enjoyed watching TV commercials because they were told about products that were genuinely new and that they were interested in learning more about. As the decades passed, advertising lost its value to surprise and delight in the same way. Today we call it interruption-based marketing, which few people have any patience for anymore.

But it still has its adherents, who believe there can be value if you find a platform or medium with a big enough audience. The rationale is, and was, that if you hit upon an above average association with enough audience members, then that percentage of the audience would listen to the interruption and sales leads would convert into bonafide customers. But today, this kind of investment is looking more and more like finding a needle in a haystack. A big reason is the availability of ad-blocking apps and technology, along with new streaming services that are completely ad-free.

What the stats tell us

A couple of statistics to prove that point: 65% of people skip through online video ads. People don’t like ads for a few reasons: they’re in your face and intrusive; they don’t come across as genuine and don’t inspire trust or confidence in the product or service; there isn’t enough relevance to who the customer is, and what solution they are looking for.

B2B marketers might continue to place advertisements and send out direct mail as part of their approach. But to earn the trust of customers and build a long-term relationship based on that trust, B2B marketers turn to inbound marketing for generating sales leads.

Instead of pushing messages out to an audience who may or may not want to hear it, inbound marketing pulls already interested customers in. Customers find you when they need you, which almost guarantees they’re pre-qualified. So not only is inbound cheaper, more measurable and more targeted, it can also generate sales leads that are farther down the funnel.

Here is a short list of some lead generation inbound tactics:

  • An SEO (search engine optimization) strategy where we take a look at your website, do a keyword audit, and ensure your content includes keywords that will draw more organic traffic to your site.
  • PPC (pay per click) advertising also uses keywords that people are using to search and require buying an ad that will appear on search engines at the top of the SRP (search results page). You only pay once a customer has clicked on the ad and has gone to your site.
  • Content marketing is creating useful, relevant information that people need and want, and using it to draw people to your website, to sign up for a newsletter, or to download a piece of content in exchange for their contact information that you can follow up with.
  • Social media accounts. Creating and programming social media accounts with valuable information that people want to read or watch is a good way of demonstrating your expertise in your industry and becoming a trusted source. As noted above, millennials and more people in the business world actively search for this and you will earn their trust which hopefully converts them into a paying customer.

At 360 Leads we’ve run many successful B2B lead generation campaigns and would be happy to discuss how we can help. If you’re ready to explore a lead generation campaign, contact us today.

 

Generate leads by opening the gates to your content

The majority of B2B content to generate leads is gated, meaning to get access to information, users must submit some of their personal details. But is this the best approach? Consider that once you’ve put the final touches on a white paper or a case study and you’re ready to unleash it on the world, putting it behind a gate could reduce its download rate by about 95 per cent.  That might be fine if you already have a profile in your market, like IBM or Cisco. But what if you’re in the middle of rebranding or just starting to put yourself out there as an expert? Wouldn’t it be more important to create meaningful touchpoints and get the word out about your services or solutions to as many people as possible, rather than just lock it up and hope the downloads happen?

A one-two punch for generating leads

While gated content remains a mainstay of B2B lead generation marketing, some experts believe a one-two punch works better. Real-Time Marketing and PR author David Meerman Scott suggests companies offer one of their best pieces of content ungated and at the end of it list a secondary and equally compelling offer. The idea is that if you show customers the kind of expertise you can provide, they will want more. If you immediately ask for emails and info before providing any information, you’re setting up an adversarial relationship that is a turn-off for most people.

Scott estimates that ungated content gets between 20 and 50 times more downloads, therefore a gated white paper that gets 2000 downloads could potentially get up to 100,000 if offered up for free. Then, if just 5 per cent of them go for the second piece, you’ll end up with potentially 5000 sales leads.

Generate leads with gated versus ungated

There are believers in gated content who say experience has shown them that gating content is the better way to acquire sales leads. Debra Ellis, founder of Wilson & Ellis Consulting tried ungating and gating the same piece of content on alternate days. While she found that downloads were almost 50 times higher on ungated days, the contacts who ended up calling her company had downloaded the guide on a gated day.  It proved to her that those who are seeking the kind of information and service your company can provide, are willing to pass through the gate to get to the stuff they want.

Both insights are valid when it comes to demand generation performance, but if you have a piece of content that is dynamite, why not offer it for free? It’s a way of getting your expertise, services or solutions out there, and those who take you up on your second gated piece are those who really want to work with you in the long run.

To recap, creating great content is no longer the finish line, it’s the starting line in successful lead generation business campaigns for a conversation with your customer. Businesses have to cultivate new relationships starting with some “no obligation, risk-free information” that will help potential customers with their everyday struggles. If you deliver relevant, actionable business information to readers, they will want to keep getting that from you, and your content will have done its primary job of generating sales leads.

B2B lead generation leaders are…

B2B Lead generation is a massive industry, with countless verticals capturing qualified leads that can be sold to companies looking to acquire new customers. But according to The Black Report, only 17.3 per cent of companies actually reach their lead generation targets.

There are different lead generation verticals geared to different industries, but the most effective are those which attract numerous, deep-pocketed buyers with a high volume of search traffic (as opposed to a reliance on personal recommendations). A few of the standouts are the legal and education industry, in which the value of a converted lead is high. Some others are business and professional services (which reach 23.3 per cent of their targets), Technology (which reaches 21.4 per cent), and Financial services (which reach 41.7 per cent of their targets).

But what, beyond their demographics and size, do these markets have in common that leads them to perform better in B2B sales performance?

A few things.

People looking for legal services and educational opportunities are actively searching online and are typically heavy users of digital services, and therefore easier to reach with an online lead generation campaign. Sales lead generation is a better-established practice in financial and professional service industries, and digital lead generation has a long standing prevalence in technology industries, so the fact that these sectors are top performers in this area is understandable.

Manufacturing (where lead generation reaches just 7.7 per cent of their targets), and the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries (reaching just 12.5 per cent) are more recent adopters of lead generation, so there’s a learning curve there. In addition, these companies may have less marketing-oriented cultures, and may operate in environments with rigorous regulatory and privacy requirements that limit certain types of lead generation activities.

If this sounds like your company, you might need to retool your lead generation programs to get better results, and that means:

  • Examining channel choices, measuring ROI, eliminating what isn’t working, and doing more of what is.
  • Combining a mix of tactics anchored by relevant offers to build effectiveness across all channels.
  • Matching budget priorities to B2B sales objectives to ensure lead generation is sufficiently resourced.

If you are handling your own lead generation you have to find a way to bring sales, marketing and operations to the table to commit to a shared focus and accountability for topline growth. For some companies this is easier said than done, with teams widely dispersed or working remotely which can prove difficult to coordinate. Sometimes it makes more sense to get an outside lead generation company to put their focus and expertise to work for you.

A lead generation company can address specific needs, such as these:

  • If data acquisition is an issue, an expert can provide specific, targeted data matched to an ideal customer profile (industry, business size, geographic location, job title etc.).
  • If lead generation program strategy and planning is weak, an expert can create an efficient, systemized approach to lead sourcing, nurturing, qualifying and sales appointment booking.
  • If website results are limited, a digital lead generation expert can improve website metrics and develop digital advertising campaigns and optimized landing pages.
  • If outbound telemarketing isn’t getting results, a lead generation expert can get sales reps off the phone and in front of the right people.
  • If there’s a great story to tell, but it isn’t being told, a lead generation company with integrated marketing and communications expertise can help craft a compelling brand message and awareness-building campaigns.
  • For companies of every size, effective, ongoing sales lead generation is the foundation for sustained topline business growth. If it’s not on the radar as a key strategic priority, it should be.

Learn more about how we can help you with qualified B2B sales leads by contacting us.