Deciding to use an outside company for lead generation is a tough decision for any organization. First, there is the concern that the people making the phone calls to potential customers will present your organization in the professional manner that you personally conduct business every day. Second, there is the price. Lead generation is not cheap.
To address the first concern of professionalism, use a company that works with clients in your industry. We use a lead generation company that works with other independent office products dealers across the country in creating appointments for office products, office furniture and coffee service. This allows their staff to become familiar with our industry and learn how the conversation should flow with a potential customer. And that’s what you want; an appointment setter that can take a “script” and turn a call into a “conversation” with another person.
As for the second concern of price, did I mention that lead generation is expensive? Yes it is.
I gained a better understand that we were on the right path, when I overheard a salesperson talking to an associate and claiming, “I don’t do cold calling.” It surprised me because this salesperson was in a brand new market and most of what she did was cold calling. From the perspective of the salesperson, just having that appointment set for them was all that was needed for her to go in and meet with potential customers for the first time. And with the “cold calling” removed from the process, her closing rate soared to 55% in the second year. That was an amazing return on the investment!
Since then, we have expanded our sales team, and have continued our lead generation program three more years. We began to see a lowering in our closing rate over that time. That gave cause to question whether we still had the right lead generation partner, had we tired of the process and was this still a valuable expense to our sales growth initiative. After reviewing our client list that started with an appointment from our lead generation company, we found about 40% of our revenue today is generated from that group of customers. That proved to us the long term value of lead generation. We are going back and revitalizing the program for our sales team to get that closing rate to soar again. This includes some new marketing materials but more importantly a reemphasis on the dividends for the individual salesperson. That first appointment you make today with a potential customer can become a client for years to come.
It is important to find a lead generation company that guarantees their appointments. Some people will cancel or decide not to meet with a salesperson once they arrive for the appointment. A good company will provide a replacement so that 100% of your investment leads to an appointment with a potential client. And be sure to prepare your sales team that cancelations can happen to anyone and to report them so they can get a replacement.
Am I a proponent of lead generation? Yes I am. Finding the right company to partner with; one that knows your industry and guarantees their appointments is key. In the office products industry, you’ll know if you partnered with the right company, hired the right salesperson and have a solid marketing program when your closing rate is 30% or more.