As the rough economy intensifies, you may ask if you’re taking key steps to keep your sales results on a safe course. A key decision point for many organizations is: what is the best way to structure and support building a pipeline of quality leads for field sales? Should you outsource? Should you improve your in-house lead generation process? Here are seven strategies to consider for optimizing your internal lead generation function and shoring up your pipeline of sales leads.
1. Maximize sales growth.. For inside sales to be effective, the telephone prospecting function must be run with the discipline of a military boot camp. Are your inside sales employees able to engage your prospects in 30 seconds or less? Do your telesales employees average 100 calls per day, the standard for building a successful lead generation pipeline? Are the volume and quality of leads sufficient to meet your sales forecast? Are your inside sales representatives continually trained on your value proposition and how that relates to your prospects’ pain points?
Your inside sales team must have the same unremitting focus on volume and quality results as would a lead generation outsourcer. The outsourcer’s sole responsibilities are producing quality, actionable leads for your sales pipeline. Period. The outsourcer’s managers are singularly focused on building and improving the processes required to deliver quality consistently. Ensure that your internal managers do not have multiple operational responsibilities.
Producing quality, actionable leads for a robust sales pipeline on a daily basis is an all encompassing function. The discipline of prospecting requires a unique set of attributes and skills for both managers and the telesales employees. The difficulty of communicating complex value propositions in the hostile climate of a cold call demands ongoing training. A managerial laser focus on recruiting, screening, hiring, training, and performance monitoring is essential. Early identification and termination of employees mismatched for telesales is crucial. Verify that your managers are prepared to execute on this key responsibility. To achieve optimal results, your managers should maintain ongoing training and education programs that prepare your telesales employees to maintain a peak performance level and continually produce quality leads
2. Evaluate corporate risk appetite. Significant investments in both human and financial capital are required to establish, build and maintain a high-performing inside sales force. Capital commitments include skilled managers devoted to inside sales, a technology infrastructure of telecommunications and complex lead management systems, among others, as well as healthcare and real estate expenses.
To ensure success you must not only make the initial investment required to establish and build inside sales, but also make the ongoing operational budget commitment needed to maintain a high level of results. Before getting started or expanding your internal program, evaluate your company’s risk appetite to ensure that sufficient funds will be allocated to build and sustain an internal sales team that can consistently deliver a pipeline of sales-ready prospects.
3. Assess costs. Consider the skills and attributes of a successful inside sales representative—an employee that encounters even more rejection than the average field sales person. The combined compensation can be up to $100,000 annually including commissions. Add to these costs the supervisory and management expenses, the cost of high turnover, and the discipline required to manage the function. Re-evaluate whether it makes financial sense to build or continue maintaining an internal inside sales force by calculating the true value of a sales-ready lead and determining whether the inside sales force is generating enough leads to justify their cost.
4. Optimize results. Impose the urgency to create value on your team that is typically required of an outsourced partner. Outsourced partners are usually given six months to prove the viability of their entire program. Maintain the same razor-sharp focus on metrics, results and the alignment between the company’s marketing, and sales functions that an outsourcer would. Revisit the performance of your current in-house lead generation process to validate its results.
5. Establish your Return on Investment (ROI) Requirement: If your field sales employees have a base salary of approximately $100,000-$150,000, and are spending 10-20% or more of their time on the phone generating leads, this has a serious impact on your sales ROI. Seriously consider building an inside sales force if you do not already have one. Evaluate the financial viability of your inside sales team if you already have one in place. In many cases, the cost of recruiting, hiring, training and retaining an inside sales team is higher than the cost of outsourcing the function so weigh your options carefully.
6. Enhance internal accountability. Inside sales managers are frequently torn by other operational responsibilities that diminish their accountability for their managerial role in demand generation. If the managers have been promoted internally to lead inside sales, they have typically accumulated goodwill in their organizations which makes it more difficult to hold them as accountable as an outsourcer that is new to the organization. Outsourcers are more accountable and strict adherence to metrics is a way of life for them. Internal inside sales teams are frequently given longer lead times to produce results—it can take six months to identify and terminate a low-performing telemarketing employee. If you will not outsource, then develop the mentality of an outsourcer and put the right metrics in place to increase your chances of success.
7. Sharpen your marketing message. Start from the inside out. Examine every aspect of your target market(s), value proposition, and marketing message. Enlist the ‘best of the best’ inside your entire organization for a marketing message review. Along with your marketing team, include customer support, product management, and even trusted loyal customers in this exercise. A fresh look and new sets of eyes on your prospect profiles, your message and your targeting will be invaluable in boosting the quality of your sales pipeline.
Conclusion Whether you outsource your lead generation function or strengthen your internal demand generation process—the strategies, metrics and performance requirements should be the same. In order to produce an ongoing, successful sales pipeline of quality, actionable leads that meets and exceeds your forecast, you must establish bullet proof processes and accountabilities.
Andrew W. Sallay is the founder and CEO of GrowthInfusion. GrowthInfusion builds pipelines of sales-ready prospects for clients selling products and services to C-suite executives in small and midsize businesses. GrowthInfusion develops the intellectual capital to become as good as or better than its clients’ own marketing and inside sales forces. Sallay’s new approach to the age-old challenge of building actionable sales pipelines is built on his previous experience as a private equity investor and an operating executive at Ofer Group, the world’s largest private shipping conglomerate. He can be reached via email at
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