More Appointments With Decision Makers Is Not the Answer

“Meetings. Meetings. We need to get more appointments with decision makers!” cry owners, managers and boards of directors. But inside and digital sales organizations need better meetings, not just more. Sounds obvious, but are you doing everything possible to get better meetings and demos with decision makers?

“Meetings. Meetings. We need to get more appointments with decision makers!” cry owners, managers and boards of directors. But inside and digital sales organizations need better meetings, not just more.

Sounds obvious, but are you doing everything possible to get better meetings and demos with decision makers? I’ll bet you’re not.

Rushing into meetings gives your team:

  • Less motivation to hunt
  • Pipeline filled with unclose-able deals
  • More “no decisions” by clients

What it costs to generate a sale matters just as much as revenue. From a business perspective, wasting time on bad leads drives profit down — by driving cost up, profit decreases.

When salespeople rush meetings it decreases productivity. Under-qualified meetings waste reps’ most valuable time — speaking in real-time with prospects.

Because qualification happens purely in meetings. Objections are increased.

Instead, a qualification (screening) system ensures reps spend time on phone/in demos/appointments only with close-able customers.

Qualification is faster.

You Don’t Need More Appointments With Decision Makers

Here’s the rub: Courting un-closeable leads decreases what you want more of — time and money. Instead, field sellers (your closers) need pre-qualified discussions with decision makers most likely to close.

Before you say, “Obviously, Jeff, that’s why we have inside sales/marketing/demand generation people,” think about what you’re doing, right now, to earn more meetings. You’ve probably got a system in place, or are pursuing a systematic way to get more meetings.

Are you also giving reps ways to effectively qualify — to ensure better meetings and demos?

Too often, our “prospecting mindset” is bent on chasing quantity of conversations — at the exclusion of quality.

The lure: More activities put into the system, more sales come out. Naturally, without question. It’s a fact.

That’s what makes systems great, according to “experts.” Systems are controllable. Want more sales? Increase prospecting outreach. Bada-bing, bada-boom.

But is it really that simple? Is more appointments with decision makers the answer?

No and no. Spinning wheels on bad leads costs you. It drives profit down. Perhaps worse, sales people are demotivated.

Because your sales reps’ profit comes in two pieces: Commissions and time spent doing what they enjoy, working less. Or you might say there is a third component — enjoying their work.

Qualifying leads — before investing quality time with them — is vital to success.

The Truth About Systems

There’s a quality component to every system. It what makes one system better than another. Look at motor vehicles. Cars, motorcycles, aircraft engines.

Quality of systems drives quality of output: performance.

Purely? Of course not. Input matters. Quantity of fuel, air … inputs demand proper amount. When quantity and quality are in harmony resulting output is effective and efficient.

It’s the same in sales.

We don’t want more appointments. We want better quality pipeline. More meetings and more close-able opportunities.

Effectiveness Versus Efficiency

The happy marriage I’m describing conflicts with culture and philosophy of sales managers… even boards of directors … who want more, more, more! (promoting effectiveness, demoting efficiency)

Many are calling this model Activity Based Selling (ABS). This strategy (and philosophy) mandates quantity. Minimum number of activities.

ABS requires sellers to make X number of calls, push Y number of emails, share Z numbers of articles on LinkedIn. All good, so long the difference between effectiveness and efficiency is appreciated.

Time for Dictionary.com:

Effective: Adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected result.

Efficient: Functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort.

In many cases, activities-focused selling is damaging inside/digital and field sellers’ ability to efficiently generate more and better conversations with potential customers.

Don’t care about efficiency? Not a priority? Then you don’t value money nor your time enough.

Scott Channel, a B2B cold calling expert, says “every call not made to the worthless is a call that could be made to the worthy … or lead to finding a prospect that is worthy.”

Don’t waste time. Efficient use of prospecting time drives what you want — and don’t want!

Why Efficiency Is Worth It

Being effective is simple compared to being efficient. Setting more meetings isn’t difficult when you take a meeting with practically anyone. Effectiveness takes less time, effort and communications skills than efficiency. But it’s not worth the trade-off.

People choose getting more meetings over better meetings because they’re too lazy to get the better ones. There, I said it! But this is slowly killing you/your business.

Cold calling expert, Wendy Weiss, recently profiled financial advisor, Jerry Iancangelo. Jerry invested in a quality-driven way to screen out decision makers with lower chances of closing.

Iancangelo says he learned, “How to pre-screen people better so I could stop driving everywhere and meeting just anybody.”

As a result he’s built a $200,000 recurring annual income while doubling his time off.

“With the extra money and time, I can now vacation in Hawaii every year … take better care of myself and have a happier, healthier lifestyle with good food and proper exercise,” says Iancangelo.

Being effective is simple compared to being efficient, but pays benefits.

Better Appointments at Scale Is Possible

Constant over-valuation of more meetings is diminishing the value of better meetings. Don’t let this culture poison your prospecting strategy. Invest in scale-able ways to drive more and better appointments with decision makers.

Beware of over-focusing on reps hitting activity quotas — neglecting the qualitative communication skills needed to approach C-level decision-makers

We live in a world where sales managers struggle to differentiate between marketing automation and effective sales follow-up. Lines are blurred by the tech tools.

But are they? The best sales and marketing email solutions are working overtime to help sales reps understand—sales qualifies the leads marketing warmed up. I think I know why.

Because buyers of such tools prefer effectiveness (more meetings) over efficiency (better meetings).

More meetings, they believe, requires more activities. Not getting enough deals closed? Simply pull a lever and force reps to make more outbound dials, emails or LinkedIn connections.

But it doesn’t work that way. There is no room for mass emailing messages in sales environments.

Sales is (and always will be) a numbers game. But business growth, profitability and earning more free time is not driven purely by quantity of outbound activities. Excluding quality of conversation from sellers’ strategies is a mistake.

Make sure you and your organization are not over-focusing on hitting activity quotas — neglecting the qualitative communication skills needed to engage C-level decision makers.

What has your experience been?

 

How Performance Marketing Accelerates B-to-B Prospecting

Every time you turn around, a new “performance marketing” opportunity turns up for B-to-B marketers. What a treasure trove! And on the face of it, a real boon, because you only pay when your prospect takes the action you’re looking for—the click, the download, the purchase, whatever. But there are some potholes to consider. Let’s look at how marketers get value out of this approach to finding new customers.

Every time you turn around, a new “performance marketing” opportunity turns up for B-to-B marketers. What a treasure trove! And on the face of it, a real boon, because you only pay when your prospect takes the action you’re looking for—the click, the download, the purchase, whatever. But there are some potholes to consider. Let’s look at how marketers get value out of this approach to finding new customers.

To back up, what is this performance marketing thing, anyway? It generally means that the media channel owner conducts a campaign and charges the marketer an agreed price for every respondent, according to predetermined criteria. There are scads of ways performance marketing is being applied across the B-to-B go-to-market spectrum. So far, this is what I know:

  • Pay per click. The grand-daddy of performance marketing, the system that sent Google’s fortunes into the stratosphere. You only pay when a prospect clicks on your selected keyword(s). The secret to success here is choosing the right keywords and sending the clicker to a brilliantly written landing page, where you have a prayer of converting them from a mere clicker to something else, like a prospect with whom you can continue a conversation. Some banner advertising and email rental lists are sold this way, as well.
  • Pay per lead. This highly popular technique was pioneered by trade publishers looking for ways to extend the value of their customer access. Ziff Davis and TechTarget are leaders in the tech industry world, using “content syndication,” distributing marketers’ white papers and research reports, and charging by response. MadisonLogic offers pay per lead programs via banner ads to a network of 300 publishers, with particular strength in the HR and technology sectors. Another player is True Influence, which uses email to its own compiled database of business buyers.
  • Pay per appointment. Hiring a telemarketing shop to conduct appointment-setting programs for sales reps is a long-time staple of the B-to-B marketing toolkit, and often priced by the appointment. Myriad call centers offer this kind of pricing.
  • Pay per PR placement. Several PR agencies have taken the big step of pricing their services on a pay-for-placement basis. Amid much hand-wringing among PR professionals, the model’s strong appeal to marketers is likely to mean continued experimentation.

Is the next logical step some kind of pay-for-performance results guarantee from creative agencies? I doubt it. I posed that question recently to Warren Hunter, Chairman of DMW Direct, who said firmly, “No way.” Since they are a direct marketing agency and thus used to delivering highly measurable results, I thought there might be a shot. But here’s how Warren explained his position. “If you give me control of the creative and the media, sure. Without that, there are too many variables that impact the results.”

The newest entrant in performance marketing is the daily deal business, pioneered by Groupon and Living Social. You might call this “pay per new customer.” In the B-to-B space, some experiments are underway like BizyDeal and RapidBuyr, but they don’t appear to have really taken off yet. Except for very small business, this is not how businesses buy.

My net takeaway on this subject is the old adage that you get what you pay for. When you think about it, the performance model has an inherent bias against quality, so marketers need to do the math. Avoid this model unless you have good data on conversion rates—conversion to qualified lead, and then conversion to a sale. With that data in hand, you can determine a profitable price and buy leads and appointments till the cows come home.

Based on my experience using PI (Per Inquiry) deals with cable TV operators years ago, I know that the “pay per” model works best if both sides have a track record with that offer in that medium. The media owner knows what kind of response it’s going to get, and the marketer knows the lifetime value of the new customer. So one way to increase the likelihood of success is to run a campaign using traditional pricing and then convert to performance-based pricing after generating some experience.

Where is performance marketing in B-to-B headed? Erik Matlick, founder of MadisonLogic, shared a few observations with me recently:

  • Marketers will get savvier about recognizing the importance of nurturing these contacts and converting them to eventual revenue. The new trend is assigning separate budgets, one devoted to generating “net new” leads and another to nurturing them to the right level of qualification.
  • Suppliers of leads should begin to offer account-level services. Most marketers need to reach multiple contacts in a target account to influence the various buying roles.

I would add my own prediction: The sky’s the limit for creative ways vendors can craft new performance-based marketing programs. Marketers have plenty to look forward to.

A version of this post appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.