In September 2013, Winn Technology Group invited Jason Hekl, Service Director, Demand Creation Strategies, at SiriusDecisions, to speak with us about current and future marketing trends for complex B2B sales.
Jason Hekl is a seasoned B2B sales and marketing professional. With an emphasis on developing and executing demand generation strategies to accelerate growth, Jason has sourced, developed and closed millions of dollars in new business throughout his 19-year career.
Here is part two of our three-part interview where we discuss the role of teleprospecting in reaching decision-makers, effects of demand center implementations on teleprospecting, and causes and cures of lead leakage.
Winn: Jason, as you know, connecting with decisionmakers is much more complex than in the past. With so many channels available (e.g., email, content marketing, search engine optimization, events, direct mail, social media), what strategic role do you see teleprospecting playing in this complex marketing landscape?
Jason: I think it plays a critical role. I was particularly excited when we updated the waterfall to reflect the importance of this. I use the word "thoughtful," and I use that word very specifically – thoughtful lead development teams or teleprospecting teams can be a key connector in complex buying cycle. You see a proliferation of channels and a preference on the part of the buyers to self-educate, to do some of their own research online, but for everything except the most highly transactional deal flow, in a b-to-b environment with a complex sale, buyers need to speak with someone. People buy from people they like, and they like people who help them.
There is no team inside an organization that spends more time with prospective buyers than your lead development teams. Marketing may do a lot of broad-based programs to reach a broad audience, but they don’t actually speak one-on-one with these key buyers. Your sales people should – and actually do – spend most of their time talking with opportunities that will close in the current month or in the current quarter. The number of people they speak to is fairly limited.
For lead development teams, I look at them as that critical conduit that connects the right buyer with the sales rep at the right time. When you think about that from a strategic standpoint, a well run, well managed, thoughtful lead development team provides an important service to the buyers. If you have a tele team out there picking up on those buying signals, prioritizing leads in the right way and calling out at the right time, buyers value that responsiveness. Sales reps value their time because their capacity is limited. The tele team plays a really important role in qualifying and prioritizing those leads, and when they do it well, you make that downstream sales function – the quota-bearing function – much more productive. That's how I look at it. In a complex world, the teleprospecting function is an important conduit between buyer and seller and a very effective filtering mechanism. At Sirius, we spend a lot of time looking at the inquiry volume we take on or the advisory work that we do, and teleprospecting and how to run it effectively is actually one of the big areas we focus on.
Winn: There was a recent blog post by Meta Karagianni, Research Director at SiriusDecisions, related to the demand center. She looked at a number of organizations that implemented a demand center versus those that did not. One of the key findings is organizations that implemented a demand center have more than doubled their use of teleprospecting. With that finding as a backdrop, what do you see as the strategic benefits and challenges for a company that is establishing a demand center? Are there some strategic benefits or challenges that you see from deploying the teleprospecting role internally rather externally?
JH: We look at this issue every single day. It's a complex one because there is an overwhelming desire on the part of some companies to over-standardize some of their processes. So, I have clients that are looking at it from a teleprospecting standpoint, saying “How do we come up with a model?” A lot of times, that's the wrong question to ask. It should be the right model for the right circumstance. I see a lot of our highest performers have a blend of internal teams that they developed and strategic outsourced relationships.
The benefit to outsourcing, in my opinion, is the immediate access to expertise, defined processes and, ultimately, scale. For outsourcers, this is their entire business, so they are very good at defining process around it, recruiting the right personnel, training them effectively and having all the reporting systems in place. I think that's a huge advantage for companies to leverage. It's a lot easier than building out that function internally. And usually it can be done at a lower cost.
The challenges, however, are pretty significant. What I run into is this mindset where companies think they can flip a switch and it's automatic. I don't see that work well too often. What I am seeing is a lack of integration between the outsourcer's effort and the client’s sales and marketing activities – and poor oversight from management. I see companies treating an outsourced relationship as a way to spend $20,000 or $30,000 at the end of a quarter to generate a number of leads without putting a lot of time and effort into defining what that lead is, what the target audience is and whether there is buy-in from the sales organization.
The most successful relationships I see, by contrast, are ones where the client and services provider truly do consider themselves part of the same team and are aligned very tightly around working toward the same objectives. And that doesn't just include the service provider (outsourcer) and the marketing team that generally retains their services, but also the sales teams you are trying to feed. I really do think they should be a key participant in any initiative, even if it's funded by the marketing team. I think that's actually the biggest challenge. I talk to some marketers who just do not give teleprospecting the mindshare that it deserves and think about it as a program they are spending money on just like they would, for example, on syndicating a white paper asset. That's a problem.
They will ask me if teleprospecting should be the responsibility of sales or marketing, if it should be internal or be outsourced. My response, is who do you have on your team who has any experience at all building an internal team or managing service providers as part of your demand creation process? Telequalification is not a program just like everything else you do to drive response. This is people talking to people and having some qualitative criteria that you are trying to get out of each one of these conversations. It's not something as easy as flipping a switch.
Winn: At the SiriusDecision Summit in San Diego this past May, one of the presentations included recommendations about the percent of automation qualified leads (AQLs) that should go directly to sales. Sirius’ recommendation was 15 percent, but it was also noted that the percentage, in reality, is often as high as 70 percent. What advice do you have for companies that are on the higher end of that percentage to avoid letting warm leads leak out of the funnel?
JH: When we did that analysis and pulled out that data, I actually found that pretty shocking myself. But that said, there are only so many companies that have implemented the new demand waterfall yet, so there's a limited data set relative to the overall group that implemented the original waterfall. But to your point, in terms of what can companies do to avoid letting warm leads leak out of the funnel, we at Sirius spend a lot of time on this. First and foremost is having strong service-level agreements in place that define the circumstances under which the leads are routed around the teleprospecting function. Companies want to make sure that the hottest leads go directly to their quota-bearing reps, assuming those reps are prepared and able to handle them in expedited manner. For some companies, that can be anybody who submits a sales request or a “contact me” form or asks for a phone call, and for others, it might be a free trial or some combination of what they did and what profile they fit.
It’s one thing to define the “what,” and another thing altogether to estimate expected volume and define what sales reps should do with leads that bypass the teleprospecting function. The service-level agreement should really make clear the criteria for bypass, but also make clear the timeframe for the acceptance or rejection of the AQL and the estimated timetable to work those leads into opportunities. If they don't promote the lead into an opportunity, what is the corresponding response? If they disqualify a lead, is there a corresponding action?
So having those SLAs that are both time-bound and require specific responses, I think, are a critical way to eliminate – or at least reduce – that lead waste. Those responses should include both marketing and the tele team, so if you route a lead around your tele team and it goes directly to sales, sales should be rejecting or accepting the lead within 24 hours. But you should also define how long sales has to promote or disqualify that lead. It can be as little as a week to two weeks, depending on the sales cycle. Failure to promote or disqualify should trigger a workflow that prompts sales with an offer for a recycle program – essentially marketing and tele saying to sales, “What can we do to support you?” Should the lead be pulled back into the marketing or tele function? If they disqualify a lead, based on the reason it was disqualified, it should trigger some type of nurture flow that could be a combination of marketing and tele outreach.
All of these are things you've got to do when you have route-around rules. They have to be governed, and they have to be time-bound. Otherwise, you run the risk of taking your best respondents and your best leads, and not having the appropriate follow-up from the sales standpoint.
In the third and final part of our interview, we discuss, covering marketing automation trends, social media’s role in the complex B2B sale, saturation of content, key driving factors for markers in 2014, and new and emerging marketing tools in 2014.