We have assembled a panel of sales experts to share their insights and ideas about how to successfully build and manage an outbound lead generation team.
At the expansion stage, many B2B technology companies have validated their products, proven their markets, established their vision, and formulated a plan for scaling a successful business. What they often haven’t done, however, is figured out how to drive the volume of high-quality leads they need to effectively execute that plan.
The solution to that problem, typically, is to develop an outbound lead generation team.
Done right, outbound lead generation can speed up the sales process, lower sales costs, improve brand visibility, reveal critical market intelligence, and, perhaps most importantly, deliver a significant volume of high-quality, qualified leads to your sales staff. Done wrong, however, it can waste precious time and resources.
To help you navigate some of the pitfalls and challenges of building an outbound lead generation team, we have assembled a panel of sales experts to share their insights and ideas about how to build and manage a successful team.
Meet the Experts
What are the most important characteristics of an effective outbound lead generation team?
Christy Weymouth: I think it depends a bit on your organization and your goals, but in my opinion there are five key characteristics:
Steve Richard: I absolutely agree with Christy. At Vorsight, we use the acronym “(DEPT)^T” to describe how to build a team of rock star sales hunters. That acronym stands for DNA, Environment, Performance Self-Management, Training to Mastery, and Technology. Building a team that has all of those things takes a lot of focus and fine-tuning, but it is possible. And I think the core principles of that acronym speak exactly to Christy’s points.
John Barrows: A highly effective outbound lead generation team must also have a clear understanding of its target market, appropriate messaging to deliver to that market, a clean database with accurate information, tools that allow for efficiency relative to researching and tracking, and both quality and quantity metrics.
Zorian Rotenberg: That’s very true. I think it’s critically important that companies focus on call effectiveness metrics, which go beyond simply tracking the number of dials to actually measure “dials to opportunities” and “dials to deals” conversions.
What factors most often cause outbound lead generation teams to fail?
JB: Keying off of what Zorian just said, I think the biggest downfall of failed outbound lead generation teams is a lack of structure to their approach. They’re too driven by quantity metrics (e.g., 100 dials a day), and are plagued by bad data or inaccurate contact info.
ZR: Exactly. And missteps like those are often fueled by bad sales managers. The bottom line is that your product typically isn’t your biggest competitive advantage, your outbound lead generation team is. And, in my view, the number one reason that outbound lead gen teams either succeed or fail is the effectiveness — or lack thereof — of their managers.
SR: I agree. Outbound lead generation requires a specific type of DNA, and if you hire a manager who isn’t passionate about the function and lacks the ability to coach his or her team through tough patches, you have no chance of succeeding.
Many outbound lead generation teams also fail because their company’s management team doesn’t establish a clear career growth plan for them, and instead treats lead gen reps like second class citizens. If you don’t train, coach, compensate, and develop your lead gen reps just as you would sales reps, you’ll experience massive turnover and your program will fall on its face. For outbound lead generation to produce real results, the entire company must have a vested interest in its success.
Is there any specific advice you would offer outbound lead generation managers to help them lead their teams to success?
SR: For me, it’s pretty simple: Get on the sales floor with your reps. Put on a headset splitter and get yourself in their workflow. Take turns making calls and coach your reps using technologies like Team Visibility. Understand their challenges and frustrations as well as the high points and opportunities for praise. At the end of the day, a manager’s goal should be to achieve total solidarity with his or her team.
ZR: I totally agree. The more a manager focuses on coaching his team — as opposed to simply overseeing it — the better that team will perform.
CW: That’s true, but it’s also important that managers conduct research in their space to better understand how effective lead generation teams operate. Armed with that knowledge, you should be able to tailor a framework and methodology that is modified to meet your company’s needs and objectives, and continually adjust that process until the desired outcome is achieved.
Secondly, I highly recommend bringing your sales and marketing teams together as much as possible, and wedding both organizations’ goals and objectives. At ExactTarget, our outbound lead generation team reports to marketing, but we believe that we have two types of customers: the prospects and clients we reach out to, and the sales organization we serve. The bottom line is that we cannot achieve our goals unless we’re providing value to those prospects and helping the sales organization exceed its bookings objectives.
Outbound lead generation teams often struggle with the issue of quality versus quantity. In your experience, what’s the right balance?
ZR: It definitely skews toward quality. There is a minimum number of calls that you have to make, of course, but too many prospecting teams focus on the number of dials when they should actually be measuring downstream conversions to deals or the effectiveness of those dials. If you make fewer calls but produce more deals out of them, then that’s what really matters.
CW: I agree with Zorian, but I also think that it’s important to consider the unique goals of every company and sales process. This is where sales and marketing leaders need to know the numbers. For example, managers should be able to determine the number of sales opportunities their company needs to generate in order to yield “X” amount of bookings. Ultimately, that type of demand generation analysis will reveal the right quantity/quality mix for your company.
If your close rate and average contract value is low, your lead generation team will need to generate more opportunities to fill the funnel. If your close rate and average contract value is high, your lead generation team can focus more on quality.
JB: I like to break down my prospects into three groups based on certain characteristics:
My prospecting activities are different for each group. The “A” prospects are the ones I focus on the most and take a very quality approach with, while I deploy a more quantity-based approach to my “B” and “C” prospects.
SR: For me, this issue really boils down to how you define a sales qualified lead. It can’t be too broad, because the quality of your leads will suffer, and it can’t be too narrow, because you won’t be able to generate the quantity of leads you need to be successful.
Unfortunately, there is not — and should not be — be a universal definition of a qualified lead that applies to all businesses. There’s too much variability in organizations and sales cycles for that, so you really need to spend some time figuring out which variables affect your organization the most.
On Wednesday, July 17-18, these sales experts are participating in OpenView’s Outbound Lead Generation Workshop. To find out more about the event, click here.
Download our free eBook
Everything You Need to Know to Build Your Team and Boost Your Pipeline
OpenView’s eBook, Get More Customers! How to Build an Outbound B2B Lead Generation Team that Drives Sales provides a detailed overview of B2B lead generation and how to create an effective B2B lead generation machine. Specifically, it will help you to:
- Understand what outbound lead generation is and why it’s important
- Learn the components of a successful outbound generation implementation
- Improve your outbound approach and process
- Explore the various technologies available to sales managers and how to utilize it effectively to manage the outbound lead generation process