When a prospect requests a brochure

Sometimes, when a prospect asks you to send a brochure, it’s really not a put-off. Some people prefer to do significant research on their own before they spend time with sales reps. Our friend Jill Konrath, author of the Fresh Sales Strategies Blog, offers three ideas to maximize the opportunity:

• Jolt them out of complacency with the status quo
• Show them what’s possible
• Keep educating them

Read more in the ZoomInsights article, “When a prospect requests a brochure.”

The ROI of Targeted Prospecting

Following our recent webinar “The ROI of Targeted Prospecting,” we asked ZoomInfo President Sam Zales and fellow presenter Jim Lenskold of the Lenskold Group to answer a few  questions they weren’t able to get to during the webinar:

Q: You touched Key Account Match functionality, would that work for all industries and how deep are you typically able to go with those requests?

 

Sam: ZoomInfo’s database (of 5M companies and 50M employees) covers a very broad range of industries (from business services to technology companies to finance and manufacturing firms, as well as government agencies, non-profit and education sectors).  The Key Account Match service allows clients to utilize their own list of companies in their prospect databases to match to the 5 million in ZoomInfo, to identify the key decision makers at those companies.  We’ve served clients who maintain prospect databases of hundreds of companies to those whose database contains millions of companies and our match rate and deliverability of contacts is market-leading.

Q: You mentioned that once you have established your segment types, “customized marketing can generate incremental impact,” does that mean I’ll need unique messaging and content for each segment?

Jim: Basically, yes. The benefit of creating multiple segments comes from generating increased effectiveness. Understanding the unique needs and interests of each segments, and creating unique messaging, content, and offers provides an excellent opportunity to generate incremental impact. Without the customization, you can use a common message but only choose to include or exclude each segment – missing an opportunity.

Q: You talked about the importance of Data Aggregation and Appending your database, do you find demographics such as title or Firmographics such as company type or revenue size are more critical to keep current?

Jim: Generally speaking, I would expect job title and an individuals’ contact info to change more frequently than firmographics. However, once you create your segments using analytic techniques, you can look at what drives the differences between segments and that will determine what matters most to you.

Q: In the Eloqua case study, you mentioned they found prospects that were early in the job tenure, were often more responsive. Are there any other common trends you’ve found across customers that show more activity or responsive among different segments?

 

Sam: Certainly adding decision-makers who have recently moved to new roles was a valuable input for Eloqua and a consistent approach to driving email deliverability.  Segmentation based on industry keywords has provided a unique benefit to our clients whose target audiences fall outside of the traditional SIC or NAICS code system.  For example, a client who searched for contacts at Virtualization Software companies found targets they never would have using SIC codes (that industry doesn’t exist in that system).  Likewise, using keywords for titles and products to find an exact match to decision-makers who have worked with specific technologies or products make them more likely buyers to specific clients.

Q&A: Dirty Data Best Practices

To offer even more insights into combating Dirty Data, our webinar’s presenters – Sam Zales & Jay Hidalgo – were willing to answer some additional questions asked by our webinar viewers:

Q. My organization wants to keep our salespeople involved in our database, however, they have a tendency of uploading bad data. What do you suggest is the best practice to discourage salespeople from skewing data without discouraging them from updating account information?

Jay: Controlling the behavior of the sales team is very difficult, so you should set up data control mechanisms for sales.  For example, provide data entry forms specifically for new leads. These forms can incorporate de-duping functionality.  Also, work with sales to determine exactly what data they need access to.  Allow them to change/update only THAT data, and nothing else.   Whatever rules are developed should be arrived at together with sales.

Sam: It’s hard to stop salespeople from doing what they do best, prospecting and uncovering information that can move the sales cycle.  Our experience shows that with inaccurate and incomplete data in this process, also comes valuable information.  The key is to perform cleansing, both internally managed, and against external databases to normalize, update and add to the database.  If that is done regularly, it will allow the good additions from sales to balance with the cleansing of the imperfect, on a quarterly basis.

Continue reading “Q&A: Dirty Data Best Practices”

Tackling the Middle Market: Top Tips

Guest Blog | Ian Gilyeat

Many b2b sales reps have a tough time successfully selling into the “middle market.”

It’s that hard-to-define space that lies somewhere between large enterprises and small business.

Inherent issues with mid-market companies

Part of the problem is defining the middle market. Once a definition is agreed upon, the market presents several unique challenges. Middle market companies are often hard to justify because they don’t warrant the expense of a dedicated account executive. What’s more, mid market companies want the service levels and customization privileges of much larger enterprises, but don’t deliver the economic punch of their bigger brethren to justify the extra work and resources. Middle market companies are also quite diffuse geographically, so it’s difficult to build a direct channel.

Middle market success strategy? Pick up the phone

The real answer to selling into middle market companies is the telephone and technology. Pick up the phone, schedule a Webinar and use the latest in Web-enabled video conferencing to get your message across.  Marketing automation, automated routing of scored leads and deeply integrated supply chains mean the inside sales executive has everything at his or her fingertips.

This is a highly profitable strategy and can be used on just about any industry.  It works with servers, software, service contracts, financial services, printing, publishing, telecom and others.  These are often billion-dollar sectors.

Here are some tips on tackling the mid market:

  • Identify the middle market companies in your industry.
  • Develop a small “swat team” of inside sales professionals.
  • Enable your inside sales team with the best technology tools.
  • Put sales execs on the phone and let them sell.
  • Pay sales reps well with no cap on their earnings.

It’s also important for b2b sales execs to note that, in selling to mid-market firms, a “lead” may identify interest, but executives trafficking in the middle market demand a relationship before they can think about converting.

They want to know you and trust you.

_________________________________________

Ian Gilyeat is Chief Marketing Officer of I.R. Gilyeat & Co., which specializes in selling into mid-market companies

Finding the Voice of the B2B Customer

B2B sales execs can be forgiven if they view the “close” as the culmination of what, in many cases, can be a long and arduous process. However, for marketing guru Ernan Roman, the term “close” is deadly for B2B reps, like professional kryptonite.

“What the ‘close’ connotes is the end of the process: ‘I have finished my courtship. I got the kill, and now that I closed, I can move onto the next kill,’” said Roman, president of Roman Direct Marketing and author of the recently released, “Voice of the Customer Marketing: A Revolutionary Five-Step Process to Create Customers Who Care, Spend and Stay.”

But the close should be looked upon as the beginning of a relationship, not an end, according to Roman, whose clients include IBM, Life Line Screening, Microsoft Corp. and MSC Industrial Direct Corp. “This is as opposed to a life-time value oriented point of view, which says I have earned the right to drill deep into problem-solving, needs-assessment for the customer, which will make me a much more valuable resource and will drive, incrementally, significantly more revenue,” he said. Follow the Lead recently caught up with Roman for some other tips on how B2B sales can engage customers on their terms.

ZoomInfo: What are some of the most effective ways that B2B sales and marketing executives can improve their relationship?

Roman: One way of fixing it is having common metrics for success. Sales people are paid when they ‘close’ the sale and marketing is paid in tonnage, so its tonnage based versus quality-based. They both need to have a common measurement: lifetime value and satisfaction level of the customer. Marketing [also] has to be measured much more tightly, based on the quality and conversion rate of inquiries to leads, but it can’t stop there…[Both sides] are tasked with deepening the relationship. The ongoing communications stream that marketing drives is increasingly targeted and relevant information and the follow-up activity, whether it’s phone or a face-to-face meeting, that the field is driving to get to a deeper level of revenue for that customer.

ZoomInfo: What is the Opt-In process that you write about in your book and how does that differ from permission-based marketing?

Roman:The Opt-In process requires proactive engagement on the part of the customer in defining their message, offer and media preferences and establishing the rules of engagement the marketer must respect. By engaging in this level of proactive sharing of information, the consumer trusts and expects the marketer to safeguard and use properly this personal or business information. The price of reneging or violating that trust will be huge because customers will feel that their confidence and trust in the brand were violated and they were manipulated into sharing detailed information which was not used to provide value, but instead drove more ‘spray and pray’ blasts of irrelevant communications. ‘Permission’-based marketing was a good step in its time. However, it is passive, i.e., ‘You have my permission to send…’ instead of motivating the decision maker to proactively engage by providing detailed preference information.

ZoomInfo: How can sales executives enhance their methods for listening to their customers and work to capture their voice in every stage of the sales-and-marketing process?

Roman:Two ways. Number one: conduct formal voice of customer (VOC) research to understand how customers and prospects define their needs as they purchase products. [In surveys the company has conducted] we’re shocked at how often the answer is, ‘[Sales and marketing] don’t understand our needs, they are just order takers’…Many customers feel that most of their reps are not actively seeking to understand the needs of the business and how they could best use the sales rep’s products. Secondly, for many companies with multiple channels, customers in the VOC research indicated that they were often not aware of other sales or service channels offered by their vendors or suppliers because their sales reps didn’t tell them about these options. The reason for this was that field reps would lose some of their commission by introducing these other channels into their customer account. So, how crazy is it to have a compensation plan that builds in a channel conflict, versus encouraging multiple avenues of value for the customer?

How to Budget for Social Media in 2010

 

It’s white-hot. It’s sexy. A feature film about the founder of Facebook is coming soon to a theater near you. Social media is all the rage, yet businesses are still trying to figure out how to make money from it. Despite the current economic headwinds, companies continue to invest in social media, and budgets for social venues online have actually grown significantly since 2008, according to a new study from the Direct Marketing Association.

The study, titled, “Deploying Social Media to Cultivate Customer Loyalty,” based on responses from 369 executives with either all or partial responsibility for social media spending, was conducted by the Direct Marketing Association and market research firm Colloquy, to get a sense of how marketers are using social media today.

Social Media Objectives and Growth

Three goals surfaced as top priorities for social media spending:

  • building brand awareness, identified as the top goal by 28% of respondents
  • increasing loyalty and engagement from existing customer (25%)
  • acquiring new customers (19%)

Companies appear to be getting the biggest bang for their social-media buck through cultivating existing customers. From 2009 to 2010 customer loyalty/social media budgets increased by 293%, whereas brand awareness and customer acquisition budgets rose by 189% and 214%, respectively. Companies with an objective to cultivate customer growth/loyalty spend an average of $88,000, compared to $53,000 for brand awareness and $30,000 for customer acquisition.

Social Media in the Marketing Mix

Although there has been solid growth in social media budgets, it’s good to keep in mind that they still represent just a tiny portion of a company’s overall marketing budget. Asked what percentage of their company’s overall annual marketing budget was spent on social media initiatives, 24% of the respondents didn’t know; 17% allocated only 1% and 16% allocated 4% to 5%. “There’s continued resistance [to social media] because it’s hard to quantify,” said Yoram Wurmser, acting head of research at the DMA. “Companies are setting aside budget [for social media channels], but still want to quantify the affect and the revenue impact.”

As with other marketing vehicles, one size does not fit all when it comes to using social media. Cultivating loyalty among existing customers is most likely to be among the top marketing goals for large companies and the product industry while small companies are more likely to deploy social media for customer acquisition, the study said. Facebook and YouTube are used markedly more for brand awareness than customer acquisition, the study said, while no clear leader has emerged for customer loyalty acquisition.

 

Is SEO an Effective B2B Marketing Strategy?

Search engine optimization (SEO) and social media have proven to be effective at helping to drive certain marketing objectives, such as increasing Web traffic and boosting product awareness.  However, when it comes to lead generation and sales revenue, SEO and social media are proving less effective at moving the needle. Those are two of the key findings “The 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition.” The report was recently released by MarketingSherpa.

The report, which took the pulse of nearly 2,200 marketing executives specializing in search, includes an overview of the search engine market and benchmarks on organic search challenges, objectives, tactics, metrics and budgets. It also examined the impact that social media is having on SEO.

While 64% of respondents said they integrate social media into their search engine marketing plans, just 34% said they have formal a process to perform SEO practices; 46% said they have an informal process and randomly perform SEO practices and 20% said they have no formal process whatsoever for performing SEO tasks. Although SEO has been in play for more than a decade, many companies are still behind the curve with establishing processes, the report said.

There were some bright spots in the study. According to the study, 35% of respondents said SEO has been effective at increasing lead generation, while 26% said SEO has been effective at increasing online sales revenue.  Yet the numbers were less encouraging on social media: 18% of the respondents said social media has been effective at increasing lead gen and just 9% said social media has been a boon to online sales revenue.

The study begs the questions: Is skepticism about whether social media can drive online (and offline) sales revenue justified by the anemic numbers in the report or are the anemic numbers a result of a lack of process at integrating social into other marketing channels? Which came first – the chicken or the egg?

Right now, SEO is viewed as the more effective tactic for increasing bottom line and commonly measured objectives, such as increased Web traffic and lead generation, and not very effective at improving public relations and reputation, the report said. In contrast, social media is believed to be the more effective tactic for objectives that are new to measurement, such as improved brand or product reputation, and not very effective at driving lead gen and sales revenue. The goal for marketers is finding the right balance. Using just one tactic – either SEO or social media – is not as effective as using a blend of the two skill sets.

Study: Is Social Media a Source for B2B leads?

If you fill a glass with water, is the glass half-empty or half-full?  Sure, social-media channels offer B2B sales and marketing executives with the opportunity to engage with individuals who are visiting their websites and otherwise might not be reachable. But do people visiting websites via social networks represent a legitimate demand for a company’s products and services? A recent study sheds some light on the question.

Visitors from the top social sites were generally uninterested in product or contact pages, suggesting they were not in the market for the company’s products or services, according to a new survey.  The study, which was conducted by lead generation company LeadForce1 was released by eMarketer. It examined the behavior of visitors to B2B websites who had been directed to the sites from social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Wikipedia.

According to the survey, most site visitors referred from Facebook or Twitter visited only one page before leaving. This suggests that social network users are willing to follow company links to check out content but unlikely to make the jump to doing product research or other sales-related activity.

However, sales and marketing execs should not be so quick to dismiss people who visit their websites via social networks, said Nicole Perrin, senior editor of eMarketer. “Just because they’re not going to the product section doesn’t mean they’re not prospects,” Perrin said. “If they’re engaging with any of your content, it’s an opportunity for the company to build brand awareness and present [the individuals] with original content, experts and services.”

Part of the problem is perception. Compared with their B2C brethren, B2B execs are still having a tough time with buy-in for social media. Forty-six percent of B2B respondents said social media was perceived as irrelevant to their company, while only 12% of consumer-oriented marketers had the same problem, according to a separate study that was recently released by eMarketer.

Perrin said companies could sharpen their conversion rates among people who visit their websites via social-media sites by already having a strong presence on (their respective) social networks and getting involved directly in the conversations that are going on.  “It’s the ability to start a relationship with people before they’re ready to buy.”

Perrin pointed to IBM’s “Listening for Leads” program as a prime example of how B2B companies can deploy an effective social-media strategy. The program has people Big Blue calls “seekers,” who on a voluntary basis go to particular social media sites where they listen to conversations and determine whether there’s a potential sales opportunity. Ed Linde II, whose team is responsible for building web assets to support the IBM.com sales channel and organic web visitors,  told eMarketer that the program has “uncovered millions of dollars worth of sales leads,” so far, and is expected grow even more. “It’s going to these [social-media] sites and directly identifying” potential buyers, Perrin said.

When Social Media Will ‘Be Like Air’

Charlene Li sympathizes with B2B sales and marketing managers who, despite the explosive growth in the last 18 months, remain skeptical and/or skittish when it comes to using social media as a vehicle for sales lead generation.

“I can understand if you don’t want to use LinkedIn or blogs, but nobody’s forcing you,” said Li, founder of the Altimeter Group and author of the recently published, “Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead,” which explains how Facebook, Twitter, Yammer, YouTube, et al. can improve efficiency, communication and decision-making for senior managers and their organizations.

It’s one thing for sales managers who prefer not to actively engage with social media tools. However, it’s another thing to dismiss the phenomenon outright. “If you have a key client who wants to talk to you and wants to hear what you have to say on Twitter, are you going to say, ‘No, that’s not the way I work’ ? I don’t think so. And I can guarantee you that B2B [conversations] are happening on Twitter. I see them every day: ‘Just had a great conversation with my vendor.’”

Li, who was formerly VP-principal analyst at Forrester Research, said many B2B sales reps undervalue social-media tools because they view Facebook and its ilk as a “personal” medium and not a “business” medium. (Facebook currently has more than 400 million active users and 50% of Facebook users log in every day.)

But in a digital age – and particularly in B2B sales, which, ultimately, is about building relationships – business in personal, Li said. “You don’t market to a business, you market to a person and that person has a life, has feelings and gets excited about certain things and not excited about other things. It’s important to be able to tap into that,” she added. “If you have clients, don’t you want to know what they’re saying? In fact, they’re expecting you to be listening to what they’re saying.”

Li said it’s backward to look at social media in terms of: How can I use Twitter? B2B sales managers first have to provide context, from which the social media strategy should flow.  “If you can imagine relationships drastically changing in a way that’s deeper and better, what would it look like? How would you paint that relationship?” Li said. “And then, how do you define those changes along with future goals?” Only att that point, Li added, managers should assess how “open” strategies and social media support those goals.

Li said that social media will eventually “be like air.” “So many of the things we do are social. It’s not about the technologies. It’s about relationships that are being formed.”

Contact ZoomInfo today for more information about B2B sales and marketing.

How to Sell to the C-Level

Q&A | Steve Martin

This week we’re going to stay in that rarefied air around selling to the C-level. Earlier this week we discussed a recent a Webinar that tackled myriad ways that B2B sales reps can get in front of C-level execs. In a similar vein, we recently spoke to sales consultant Steve Martin about the delicate yet crucial role ego plays in getting buy-in from the tippy top. Martin, author of “Heavy Hitters Sales Psychology: How to Penetrate the C-Level Executive and Convince Company Leaders to Buy,” stressed that, contrary to conventional wisdom, B2B selling is not necessarily about alleviating pain.

ZoomInfo: When trying to reach C-level buyers, there seems to be an increasing number of gatekeepers in the purchasing process, from “fans” to “champions.” How do B2B sellers navigate this matrix in order to get to C-level executives?

Martin: There are two strategies. One would be the top-down strategy, when you’re contacting [the C-level] directly via one of three communication modes: e-mail, letter or cold call. The other is an indirect strategy, whereby you’re using your internal ‘champion,’ as an internal advocate to relay your message to that C-level executive so that you can get the meeting with the C-level executive directly. Both strategies require very clear messaging and the messaging has to be based upon a ‘business-operation’ language: how the solution you sell impacts [the buyer’s] day-to-day operation. If you have an internal champion, the psychological theory of ‘attached relationships’ comes into play, meaning if you have a strong relationship with that internal champion and that champion has a strong relationship with the C-level executive, the attributes of the relationship between the two of them will be imposed on you and you can get that meeting.

ZoomInfo: Once sellers do get an opportunity with a C-level buyer, why do they tend to ‘show up and throw up’ and bombard the buyer with information about products and services?

Martin: The number one reason is that it’s hard to get that meeting. And when sales reps do get that meeting there is a tendency for non-senior salespeople to feel compelled to explain the worthiness of their products and how great their company is. And it’s the exact opposite. You’ll be granted continued access to that C-level decision-maker when you’re able to explain how you help that person’s business. Remember, in [the buyer’s] mind you’re just a footnote to his day. You have to stand out and, instead of doing an infomercial, you’re there to understand and do an investigation of the person’s business and find out what’s on his mind and where the problems are. And then you can tell the buyer how your other customers are solving those [particular] problems.

ZoomInfo: Do think this notion that B2B reps should sell on alleviating pain for the buyer is a misnomer? If so, what are the alternatives to getting prospects’ attention and subsequently getting them through the sales funnel?

Martin: Pain is a great motivator. However, the greater motivation for big B2B purchases is ego.  Behind every major purchase there’s a huge ego that’s driving the purchase through the organization. There are two other elements to ego. The first is appealing to self-preservation; that is, buyers need to maintain position and status within a group. For example, a company buys SAP software, not just solely for the software, but now it puts them in league with the other companies using the software and allows the buyer to put SAP on his resume and be in league with people who are competing for jobs [at the C-level in that sector]. The other element is physical and mental well-being. Everyone wants to keep their job and a lot of products are bought so buyers can keep their jobs and stay mentally prepared for the future.

Contact ZoomInfo for more information about our B2B sales solutions.