Bringing Science to Teleprospecting: A Complex B2B Lead Generation Test
This is the second part of a series which asks, “Is Teleprospecting Too Complex for Testing?” The first post outlined what could seem to be insurmountable teleprospecting testing challenges. This post looks at how teleprospecting can be successfully tested.
You see, complexity really does tax our ability to think clearly about testing. Still, what are free markets but a giant global laboratory that tests various business models? Every day, someone somewhere invests his life savings in an entrepreneurial dream. That dream is an experiment – a test – to see if the market will want enough of what that person is selling so he can make a profit and grow his business.
These experiments are multivariate and never ending. Think about it: businesses must adjust to competitive threats and market opportunities, and reinvent themselves on the fly with ever more experimentation. You can see which experiments work: those are the companies that make money. Breakthrough experimentation is obvious, too. Those are the companies like Microsoft back in the ‘80s, Google more recently, and now Facebook that exploded from nothing into a giant corporate mushroom.
Granted, some of this experimentation is not all that scientific. In fact, too often it’s random and ill-conceived. But it’s all just a bunch of experiments. So complexity is not a barrier, really.
I believe there are three key considerations:
1. It’s very important to look at experience – and the wisdom gained from that – in the marketplace and use that knowledge as a baseline. The most important part of that baseline is the model:
- What kind of people do you hire?
- What kind of training do they need?
- What does the compensation look like?
- What kind of metrics do you use?
- What is the charter of the team, and what are the mutual obligations of sales and marketing?
There are really many models to choose from. Choosing the right one for your business will simply give you a better jumping-off point and eliminate needless experimentation. And if you review all the models and come up with some new innovation, at least your innovation is coming from an informed point of view. So that’s why case studies are so very critical.
2. Once you have a baseline, I’ve found the best place to start the long journey of teleprospecting experimentation is with the first step. While the marketing funnel begins upstream of teleprospecting with various demand-generation channels and landing pages, the first step of teleprospecting is the conversion of the new leads produced by demand-generation efforts into some confirmation of their interest. This is achieved through a variety of methods: outbound calls, inbound calls, responses to emails sent either by the reps or on behalf of the reps, or even text chat. Some prospects confirm their interest on the first outreach effort. Some don’t. Each wave of outreach is, in effect, a sub-funnel.
3. The third guiding principle involves underlying economics. What does it cost to follow up, and what kind of revenue potential and conversion might you expect? This kind of lens will help ground your experimentation with the very practical and clarifying constraints of profit and loss.
So this should be the goal: set up experiments to see what percentage of leads move to the next funnel stage with each wave of outbound calls or emails. Inside MECLABS Leads Group (formerly InTouch), we’ve made about 5 million calls and, consequently, have quite a bit of real-world data that you can use as a starting point. What we’ve discovered is that speed matters. With one caveat. You can and should send out an email immediately, but a phone call should occur no sooner than one hour after the response event and no later than one business day. Call too soon and people have not had a chance to read the whitepaper and will often feel “stalked.” Call too late and the prospect may not remember the context.
Now a prospect’s thought-sequence during a particular campaign may provide an exception to this general rule. However, it’s probably better to experiment with other factors first. Since there is a large body of evidence available on email marketing and because email marketing is so scalable, it’s easy to focus your initial experimentation around the integration of email into outbound calling. Use what you have learned from your own email marketing, as well as benchmark and best practice handbooks, and apply it to teleprospecting specifically.
We’ve sent out something like a billion emails, millions and millions of them integrated into outbound-calling efforts. A few tips:
- Make the email look like it’s coming from the teleprospecting rep (again, there are always exceptions).
- Reference phone follow up in the email so the prospect knows that you’re calling.
- Position the teleprospecting representative as a concierge who can help the prospect get to any information or resources he needs. Merchandise the value of the teleprospecting function.
This area of experimentation in the teleprospecting arena is clearly the future of this function. Its broad and multivariate nature presents a seemingly endless list of scenarios to test.
We can challenge or accept these best practices against alternative approaches by clearly defining our research question at each step in the funnel. That’s what we constantly do at MECLABS.
I would love to hear your thoughts on what we should be testing and why.