Bill Rice recalls the late 1990s and the first several years of the 21st century, when lead-gen campaigns on the Web turned acquiring sales leads into a volume game. “Leads were plentiful and a 1% to 2% conversion rate was considered successful,” said Rice, chief sales officer of Kaleidico, which provides software for b-to-b sales. But when the market collapsed in late 2008 so, too, did that particular model for b-to-b sales. “All of a sudden, the market drops out, customers stop inquiring about leads, call centers are scaled back and sales execs are in scarcity mode,” Rice said.
Although certain economic indicators suggest that the economy is starting to recover, 2010 is shaping up to be another lean year, with budgets still difficult to come by. To combat the current austerity among b-to-b buyers, sales managers “need to get more adamant about creating disciplined sales processes,” Rice added. “If you look at the average CRM system it continues to promote bad behavior. You open them up and they generally look like an Excel spreadsheet – a list of names and phone numbers with which sales people can do whatever they like.” He added: “Sales execs must demand lead management systems that enforce sales processes proven to consistently produce results in the sale organization.” Rice, who blogs about sales on BetterCloser, talked with Follow the Lead about how companies can embed process into the sales gestalt.
ZoomInfo: When should a sales rep know when to stop “collecting” and start “processing?”
Rice: You’re processing immediately. The collecting activity is something you always have in your process. In the case of marketing reps providing sales reps with leads, that first point of contact is crucial because it enables [the sales rep] to gather momentum. I don’t see collecting and processing as serial processes, one at a time, but parallel activities.
ZoomInfo: Is part of the problem a lack of process and the collecting of information – particularly in a digital age – starts to feed on itself?
Rice: Absolutely. They key area that always defeat a sales person is that sales is hard; there’s about 90% rejection and 10% affirmation. But when you are collecting names and phone numbers it feels good and when you have a bigger and bigger list you feel productive, but there are times when [sales reps] get distracted with that. So you have sales people defeat themselves because they never start the process. The Web makes it worse; a lot of sales people are going to social media because they can observe people in the buying process and think they can grab real-time opportunities. [But] there’s a danger there, too. I find salespeople who are just literally staring at the screen. The voyeurism is overwhelming.
ZoomInfo: Do sales reps automatically cut down on their chances of a successful sales cycle by targeting prospects with a title-based approach?
Rice: To some degree. The challenge with going after titles and levels is, because of the modern age and the way people behave all across organizations, there are more and more gatekeepers. With cold calls, the challenge used to be to get past the receptionist and get into the decision maker. Now you can’t even get into receptionist, and if you do get to the decision maker you get his voice mail because nobody answers their phone anymore. So if you’re going for whom you perceive as decision maker you’ll fail because there are so many barriers to overcome. The other thing is decision makers themselves are dispersed and organizations have flattened. You need to go in at various levels. You can get an evaluation by trying to talk to the CIO or CMO, but at the same time you can go through social media channels to reach network engineers [at the same company] who are already involved in looking at solutions. The chances of those two people meeting within the organization [and discussing your product] is powerful.