ben wright

B2B Startups: Why your bought outbound sales lists are killing your sales team's productivity (a

You’ve got new sales people – perhaps even just made your first sales hires – and they need people to call. So what do you do?

You do what many people in your position have done and continue to do.

You decide on a few sectors to target and you buy a list. Maybe more than one. It’s got companies, contacts, phone numbers and emails, everything your new sales folks need to start them down the path of success, profitability, perhaps even world domination.

Except that doesn’t happen.

What does happen is that your crack team of sales folks work their butts off, yet as the days turn into weeks and the weeks turn into months, you win a few new customers, but really don’t seem to be making the inroads into the sectors that you expected.

You start thinking, maybe your new sales folks aren’t as good as you thought they were. They do seem to be struggling to engage with the right decision makers. They do seem to be to be doing a lot of work for a relatively small return. They do seem to have become a bit demotivated.

Well, it is hard to find great sales people who thrive in a startup environment, so that may be an issue, but before you start thinking too hard about that, let’s take a moment to understand not what your team are doing on a day-to-day, but what they’re doing on an hour-to-hour basis. Because it’s likely their productivity is the issue here, but perhaps not in the way you think.

One problem I often come across when I get called into a client is that their sales team isn’t as productive as they think it should be. And while I sometimes do find that one or more members of a sales team aren’t performing at the level they should be, the bigger – much bigger – problem is usually due to the poor quality of lead data the sales people are dealing with.

To put it bluntly, those sales lists – the ones you bought to set your sales team down the path to success – are rubbish. Company names will be wrong. URLs will be wrong. People’s names and job titles will be wrong. Phone numbers will be wrong. Email addresses will be wrong. And your sales folks will have to wade through this great steaming pile of rubbish each and every time they make a call.

Doesn’t sound like fun? That’s because it’s not. And not only is it demotivating to even the best and most enthusiastic of sales people, it’s also wasting your time and money.

Of course, one of the best way to solve this problem is to have more inbound leads – leads where people have already self-identified themselves as potential users of your solution. (See my recent blog “B2B Startups: Outbound Sales vs. Inbound Marketing – When Should You Do Which” for more details on this).

However, as an early stage company, no matter how good your inbound strategy is, you’re also going to have to do a lot of outbound to win new business. So, what are you going to do about those limiting sales lists?

The most important change you can make is to not give them to your sales people at all. At least, not in the form you receive them.

This is important, so I’m going to repeat it. Do not. Under any circumstances. Give your bought list data directly to your sales people.

Good sales people are hard to find and even harder to hire. And they are not cheap. So why would you waste this valuable resource on something so mundane as cleaning up a list.

Create a Sales Data Team whose job it is to do this for them (and you’ll see in a few paragraphs that if you create a Sales Data Team, you may not even need the lists at all).

Your Sales Data Team could start simply as an intern or two, or university students during the holidays or maybe even a high quality outsourcer (personally I’ve used several times with good results). It’s your Sales Data Team’s job to make sure that every single prospect has accurate data and that they meet whatever qualification criteria you may have (e.g. company size, revenue, location, tech used etc.) before the prospect is passed to the sales team.

Why do this? Simply look at what you pay your sales people per day. Then look at what you’d pay an intern or high-quality outsourcer for the admin work. The numbers will speak for themselves, not to mention how much more productive and motivated your sales team will be to have someone else deal with this mundane task for them.

There are two keys to making this process work.

The first is to develop and document a process that anyone can easily follow. Don’t be afraid to experiment to find out what works best for your company and your target markets. But give someone the job of owning, documenting and maintaining the process so as your interns leave, they can hand all of that knowledge straight to the next round of people coming in. If you do decide to outsource, I’d strongly recommend working out the process first so you can simply ask them to follow what you know works for the sales team.

The second is to make sure you have a feedback loop so that your sales teams are continuously providing feedback to whoever owns this team on the quality of the sales data they are getting. You’ll most likely give your Sales Data Team targets for the number of leads they’re passing across to the sales team and you want to make sure the data quality isn’t being compromised by them trying to hit their numbers (and make sure you’re giving them realistic targets to allow them to do this job properly – you may have to adjust whatever targets you start with once you understand the process better).

Oh, and as an added bonus to this process, you’ll probably find that some of your Sales Data Team folks end up being great hires for your sales team.

So, back to those lists.

If you’re selling at the head of a sector to larger companies, where data is freely available through other resources (LinkedIn, internet searches, top 100 report in any industry), then I’d probably recommend not using a bought list at all. Have your Sales Data Team build the list for you. There are plenty of resources out there to help them find people and email addresses, and the quality of your data will be much higher and much more reliable. You’ll have to use these resources to check your bought data anyway, so why pay for the list in the first place?

If you’re selling to the long tail to smaller companies, where company information is harder to find, you may have no alternative except to use lists. But use them as a starting point, not an end result. Have your Sales Data Team check every element of every prospect and contact, and check them against your qualification criteria, before they’re passed to the sales team.

And if you want more ideas on checking email addresses, just drop me a line, I’ve got more info on this than space to go into here.

Do this and you’ll not only make your company more productive and more profitable, but you’ll also have put a process in place that will allow you to scale more easily as those new customers come rolling in.

You’ll also be a hero to your sales team. What’s not to like about that?

Want to know more? Give me a call or drop me a line.

Ben Wright

07718 909739

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