What if a company is great at closing deals, but not so skilled in beginning the conversations with the prospects they need? A predictable pipeline is built on the foundations of habit and consistency, and can take more than a couple of weeks to properly develop. A business that struggles to reach the prospects they need might feel doomed to fall further and further behind their goals, and that’s exactly where today’s guest comes in. Join Stefan Boyle and I for a discussion on how to effectively generate sales leads on your own, and how to know when it’s the right time to hire a professional for the job. Stefan Boyle is the founder and Managing Director of PrintRepublic, a UK-based online printing business. Boyle is also the force behind Marketing Republic, a B2B Lead Generation Agency that works with companies to bolster high conversion leads. When he’s not at work, Stefan enjoys both reading and writing books.
- Introducing Stefan Boyle
- Crawl, walk, run: generating sales leads
- Starting the conversation and handing it over
- The business of interrupting
- Inbound versus outbound outreach
- Should you outsource prospecting to someone else?
- Time length for prospecting
Resources: Marketing Republic Visit Stefan’s website and blog: Outreach Formula 2.0 Check out Stefan’s books : How to Be a Social Media Superstar and From Ordinary To Extraordinary: How I Transformed My Business In 12 Months And How You Can Too! Connect with Stefan on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @MKTGRepublic Pre-order Marylou Tyler’s new book Predictable Prospecting: How to Radically Increase Your B2B Sales Pipeline , out on August 19th 2016!
Marylou: There you are!Stefan: Amazing. I’m just outside London. Marylou: Tell me about you. I found you, as you know, through a search. Stefan: Yep. Marylou: Cold Calling 2.0 is what I usually search on and you popped up. Tell me what it is that you do and how you serve our audience. Stefan: The story is very simple where I read the book about, I don’t know, five or six years ago, it must be. I love reading, I love trying to learn new techniques, new ideas, new business skills, etc. Something just resonates about it with me because I’ve got a printing background. I have a family printing business. I had a small team about five to six sales people. I was always just frustrated where they were never caught doing what they said they would and what I wanted them to. Marylou: Right. Stefan: I realized that actually the problem was round-peg square holes. They were good at closing deals but they just didn’t want to prospect. They just make any excuse. As soon as we decided we need more clients, get them on the phone. Yeah, yeah okay. They do it for an hour and they go, “Oh, I’ve got to go out and see a client.” They’re gone. They go and see one of their on-going clients for a cup of tea or coffee. Marylou: Right. Stefan: Not prospects. I just realized actually the problem was me. I had to learn new skills, I had to put new systems in place. That’s when I started learning as a printer, you’re printing marketing collateral for people all the time but printers, traditionally, in this country anyway, I’ve got pretty bad marketing skills. That’s where I have to change. I have to learn new skills. Predictable Revenue is one of the books that—I did marketing programs, and courses, and seminars, continually learning. Predictable Revenue just resonates with me and we tested it and it worked, amazingly. Then, we started to say, This has got to have—there’s people out there who want this. There’s people using telemarketing agencies and I try telemarketing internally and outsourcing and it’s just— Marylou: It’s hard. Stefan: It’s hard as hell. You have to put an awful lot in it, a lot of money, a lot of time, over a long period of time to see if it works. With a commoditized service or product like printing, especially where there’s internet desktop publishing, actually telemarketing printing has declined significantly. It just didn’t work. I want to develop our services and our products, what we did I just lost the love. I’ve been printing all my life and all my dad’s life as well. It just changed. It just wasn’t fun anymore. Whereas actually, working with entrepreneurs of a business, sales directors, help them grow their business, it’s fun, that’s what it says is right. Well I’ve got my printing business called Print Republic and the marketing business is called Marketing Republic. Marylou: Okay. Stefan: We help people grow their businesses. We use Cold Calling 2.0 as the foundation of cold service. We did some inbound stuff like social media, we did some other things as well, but our fundamental service is helping become the secret source to our client’s sales teams by providing them highly qualified leads. Marylou: That’s great. Stefan: That’s basically the background. It’s fun. I actually really like it because one, I’ve got a great team of people. We’ve run campaigns in 21 countries. We’ve done it in Cantonese, in Mandarin, in Spanish, and Aussie-English as well. We’ve got clients in Iceland, US, India, UK, obviously. It works. It really works. Not for everything, there’s some things, with any prospecting process, you have to take into consideration it’s not the magic answer to everything but with the right proposition to a hungry market, we get results. Marylou: It’s interesting you say that because just this morning, I got an email from one of my colleagues who is starting to branch out into China, Spain, Germany, Japan. He’s from the UK as well. We all know, or we think we know that there are cultural differences in Europe. France versus Germany versus even UK. I have some clients that are in the UK as well. We have to craft those cold connection emails a little bit differently. We have to really take advantage of studying the culture of each. How have you overcome that? What are the types of things you do when you’re preparing for a cold connection email that is going to be processed through the predictable revenue framework? Stefan: I think the most important thing with any prospecting is testing. There’s no point to saying, “Cold Calling 2.0 works. Let’s just suddenly go mad and run up a program straightway.” With any marketing campaign, direct mail, telemarketing, anything, you test. Of course, it’s research. When we go live, we want to talk to not just our direct clients, you know the keepers and the director in that business but more importantly the guys on the front line, the sales guys. They’re the guys, the cold face of the sales process, they know their clients, they know their prospects. When we get those guys on board, it’s hard to understand what it’s like for them or what their clients like. The most important thing we ought to do is try and model success. I modeled the Cold Calling 2.0 and with the client’s sales process, we used one module, they’re best clients not just any client. Lots of us have got clients who drive us down on price, cost of service, they’re so demanding. We don’t want those sort of people, really. You got to really think who’s your best client, where do you have maximum value to, people who appreciate that value, how do you model that and profile that and find more. We start small. We start with very small amounts of data, pretty simple emails, we find out what works and then you get feedback throughout the process of firstly the email but also the telephone calls and then you start to understand how people behave, what sort of conversations you have. It’s all part of that learning loop, really. You’ve got to make sure it’s really important to know what happens after you’ve handed a lead over to our client’s sales team. We want to know is it successful or is it bad, is it a poor lead? Because we don’t want to be blindly carrying on prospects. It goes for an internal team or whether an outsource provider will ask. You need to know what’s happened off the hand over to the sales team. If it’s converting quickly into a lead, you do more of that. If it’s really not, it’s a bad lead, find out what’s wrong with it and if you can change that, I think that’s the key for us, always learning and always refining that process. Once you have got it right, you then scale it up. You never take it for granted, you’ve got to keep testing all the time. Marylou: Another thing too is that when people read that book, they immediately think instant success. A lot of times, the struggle that I have working with clients, there’s a crawl, a walk, and a run. It’s what I call stages and Aaron used to say this as well, that we could hit a home run right out the gate but it could be a one hit wonder. You know what I’m saying? What do you find on average, I know this is kind of a loaded question, it’s really based on probably the up market or wherever you sit. What do you find as a typical ramp from a crawl to a walk stage where you’re actually starting to see some consistency but it’s still not quite there? Stefan: This is the golden question that everyone of our prospects asks us. How many leads can I expect from a campaign? I always turn it around to say what are you doing now, how effective is that, how many leads you’re generating from that activity. I at least expect to match that if not improve on it with a systemized approach. It’s all about how much effort you put into it, how consistent you are with that system and what your marketplace is like. We’re not just doing it for our own business, we’re doing it for a whole range of different services and products and clients, everyone is different. Some clients, we’re generating a new lead every single day, qualified lead every single day. Other clients, they’re happy with one a month because it’s worth four, five, six, seven figures to those people and the lifetime value is excellent. If they find one new lead a month and convert one in two, one in three is where whatever, half a million, a million or more. That’s a good return on investment. If you’re selling something for four figures, you probably want more than that. But again, if you’re selling to market place that has a real apathy about your product and service, whatever the system you use, it’s really hard to generate massive results because if people aren’t hungry for it, there’s no demand, it’s commoditized or whatever it is, it’s really difficult to do. I think typically, one team properly with a consultative sale, high value, we’re looking somewhere between five to fifteen opportunities a month. That kind of range. A good month is five to fifteen, an average is probably seven to eight of what we’re wanting. That’s from our top clients, the people we’ve worked with. They’ve got that high value, consultative sales process and process services. Marylou: That was what the book was designed on. The waterfall for the book—I still use the same waterfall even though the book was released in 2011, written by 2009 so it’s really outdated. I still use the waterfall from that book which is very simple. It’s 50 emails a day per SDR, 250 emails a week. Of those, we have 100 conversations, meaningful conversations. What I mean by that is if you’re driving down a highway, a meaningful conversation means you move to the next mile marker or out, you exit off the freeway. That’s a meaningful conversation, you’ve learned some things. We want 100 of those. Of those, we get 10 to 15 to go through our disqualification or discovery call and then of those 8 to 10 move to a sales qualified lead status or SQL we call here in States. Stefan: Same here. Marylou: Same there? Okay. Then, like you said, the hand off is so important because we have this metric that is SQL to SAL which is Sales Accepted Lead. It sounds like you already covered that because one of the things that I see a lot is we’re off prospecting, doing our thing, but then when it gets to sales, they don’t accept the leads. Our goal is somewhere in the 90% to 95% acceptance but I’ve worked with some clients that was down to 40% range. Stefan: Really? Marylou: Big disconnect. Yeah. Big disconnect. Some of it is culture, some of it is the sales reps in the field want close business. They just want to go out and close it. Some of these leads have to be worked as if they’re starting from scratch but we have the connection. The cold connection is now warm, they have a need, we’ve used some type of disqualification criteria but there is still disconnect. The SQL, the SAL which we don’t talk about in the book is something that is really very important for us here because that drives predictability like you said, going all the way to close, close one. Stefan: I completely agree. The clients we’ve worked with, they’ve got a problem. Their sales team need more leads. The good thing is the hand overs, they’re actually grateful and eager to take those leads on because for those guys, that’s what they want. I think there’s always that learning curve with any campaign to understand what a good lead, and what an SQL looks like. It’s not black and white always. When you’re selling to large organizations, large corporates, you don’t phone them up and say, “I’ve got this amazing product, I’ll send you over an order form.” It just doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t. It could be our client sales process vary from three months minimum probably up to two years. I always say my job task was Chief Conversation Starter because that is what my business does, we start conversations. Marylou: Hey, you stole that from me. Stefan: I did. I did steal it from you. That’s exactly what I did because it is absolutely true. Marylou: It is true. Stefan: That’s what we’re about. You don’t close deals over the phone, there’s sort of process. We start conversations. I absolutely thought, “My god, that sums it up in three words. We start conversations.” That is what this process is all about. I think that is what people get once we explain it to them. When you’re handing over that lead, you’ve just started a conversation, you qualified, and sometimes we have email responses that don’t respond for three or four weeks and then all of a sudden you get an email back or they don’t respond through anything a cold email or anything. Out of the blue, you get an email back and you can see the trail where it’s going around the business and it’s a senior person that says, “We’re ready to talk to you, when can we meet?” It’s like, “Wow, we haven’t even spoken to these guys, they haven’t respond or anything.” I always say to our clients, we’re in the interruption business, we’re ready to speak to those prospects right now. Doesn’t mean they’re a bad fit if they don’t respond, it just means they’re not ready. You can’t force them to be ready now if they’re not ready. They don’t want to speak. It doesn’t mean that you don’t persevere. At the right time as long as you’re still persevering to chase that lead with that prospect when they’re ready, they’re ready. You can’t make it happen, these guys are busy. When you’re selling a high level, you really do get engagements with Cold Calling 2.0 but only when they’re ready to do it and that’s the whole point. Marylou: Exactly. I think, like you said, there’s breadcrumbs that we leave. One of the things that I like to share with clients initially is you’re going to see a spike or a little bit of a lift in inbound because we’re reaching out to these people. We are resonating with some people but they may not reply back but all of a sudden you’ll see them on the website poking around or they fill out a form or they download a white paper. All of that can be attributed to the outreach cold connections because they all of a sudden are waking up out of their sleep. Stefan: You’re putting yourself on their horizon, aren’t you? That’s the thing. They might never have heard of you before but if you keep that gentle poke every now and then, “Oh yeah, I recognize that.” All of a sudden they start investigating. Some people don’t like to have sales to call them up. They like to do their own research before they take a call or respond. They like to make sure it is a good fit and they’re not wasting their time. That’s how it works sometimes. Marylou: One of the things that’s really frustrating sometimes for me is this overwhelming sort of massive let’s just do inbound. The problem with that is there are five levels of awareness. Inbound really deals with interested people that are aware of a solution to their problem and then also people that are ready to engage. But, there are three other levels that when we’re doing our outreach programs, we’re working with those three levels which is the unaware level, they don’t have a clue, they don’t know they’re not happy. You have to kind of wake them up out their stupor and say, “Yes, this is a problem and you should be aware of this.” Then you have those people, it’s like you open the refrigerator door at night, you know you’re hungry but you’re not quite sure what’s going to solve the hunger. Stefan: I know the feeling. Marylou: That’s also our domain. That’s also where we say, “Here, this is a really great cheesecake sitting right here that you absolutely have to have.” I think that it’s a disservice when you put all of the eggs in one basket and not—outreach doesn’t work for everybody. But when it’s blended with all these other mechanisms, even direct mail in the States now, we’re sending postcards out again. Why? Because it’s a novelty for people to get a postcard. We embed it into our outreach streams. We do postcard, then we make a follow up with a phone call or an email but it’s in a sequence, it’s in a good rhythm. We experiment with everything like that because we don’t know what’s going to resonate with our clients, intended clients. Stefan: I totally agree because—it’s a novelty, like you say, from a printing background. DM was a huge part of my business, we have millions of printed DM. All of a sudden, it kind of went off a cliff primarily because our clients are financial services and the crash, they kind of stopped. That’s when we look at other ways of doing it but it’s definitely coming back. We’re seeing an interest in DM from clients as well but integrated campaign and those things of the same entry. You’re right with the inbound thing. I have this conversation we’ve got inbound campaigns going on. For me, that works very well for some people. The trouble is you don’t know, apart from paying traffic, you don’t know who is visiting your site. They could be your best ever client or it could be someone who’s just browsing, they’re never going to buy but they’re interested in what you do. You can’t always determine what it is. With an outbound campaign, you’re defining who it is you’re reaching out to. You’re profiling them and it is much more targeted. You might get a million businesses on your website but if no one buys, it’s just ego. I’d rather be having ten conversations with really good prospects than have a million people on the website with no sales. Marylou: That’s what I describe as minnows versus whales. In the book we call it Recast the Wide Net and your reaching out but you’re going to get a lot of babies in with the big fish. Outreach is all about targeting the accounts in that quadrant—I don’t remember in the book, but it’s the highest probability of closing with the highest revenue potential for you. That’s what we’re going after and we have to—but we have to be respectful of where they are like you said. When they’re ready to buy, they’ll talk to you but our job is to continually ping them with relevant content and relevant messages that get them sort of leaning in, thinking this might be something that I could use or that I need. We keep after them in a way as Aaron used to describe as patiently persistent. Stefan: That’s sales, isn’t it? That is the ought of sales. Marylou: Yeah. Stefan: To have results, you have to be persistent. So many salespeople give up after I don’t remember the stats but it’s after I think two or three. Marylou: Two or three. Stefan: If you keep going 8, 9, 10, the odds are converting, great increase. Marylou: Definitely. Stefan: It’s the perseverance. That’s the pain we solve for our clients where if you go to sales team they’re prospecting, they’re trying to close those deals all they’re doing that, the prospect then jumps off a cliff and they close deals then they start again. Whereas we provide the source where they’re consistently prospecting all the time. The sales team are just focusing on closing deals. We keep replenishing that pipeline all the time. Marylou: The separation of roles is one of the main principles of the book. Not everybody can do it. Smaller companies may have just two sales people. What we try to get them doing is let’s get in a rhythm. Tuesdays and Fridays, or whatever day, Tuesdays and Thursdays, let’s take the two-hour block time and that’s our prospecting time. We close out all distractions so that we’re just prospecting. As soon as we can, we move to a separated model but sometimes they don’t have the luxury of that especially in the startup community where they’re just struggling to get a team together. I don’t know if you’ve experienced that but on the smaller guys, we start them off, if there’s one guy we start them off with half of the time prospecting or we look at the balance of what they should do. The other thing too for us now is the focus on account selling, account-based selling where AEs, account executives, have their top 20 accounts, top 10 accounts whatever it is. We teach them how to sort of partition their day so that they are doing prospecting into those larger accounts as well. The model has sort of been morphed and hybridized all over the place. Stefan: Completely. Marylou: At the core of it is we’ve got to set the time for prospecting. We call block time and you got to do it consistently because that reduces that peak and valley of the pipeline. Stefan: I think the mistake that I made in my printing business was that hiring what I thought are expensive, experienced, capable salespeople, that was sales tied up. Actually, the realization wins specialization in roles is absolutely crucial. Now as you say, most sales people can prospect but once you’re established and you’re at a certain level, I think, in my experience personally and the clients we’ve talked to, those guys kind of don’t want to go back to doing that, it’s going to credibility and I did that when I was starting out. Marylou: Junior. Stefan: It’s a junior role. Now I’m just dealing out with it. I’m selling the big deals. Whereas there’s nothing inferior about prospecting or beneath people. It’s equally as important as closing deals. It’s just the mindset I think, but it’s just fine as long as there is a consistency and the dedication to that process. Process is the absolute crucial factor for me because it’s so easy. We say it all the time, I’ll give you an example where we had a client who about a year before we started working with them, we are at contract stage, the day before we’re supposed to go live waiting for the contract. The Marketing Director called me up and said, “I’m really sorry Stefan, we see poor plug us on this deal.” He wants to bring in-house. Okay fine, this stuff happens. What they did was a classic thing where they hired two telemarketing people. They bought a list, they wrote a script and then they left them to it. Nine months later, he called me up and said, “That contract, I still got in my desk. Is it still available?” Yeah, it is. He said, “Why?” I said, “Well, we did have two people for nine months, not the same people. One left, one had to be replaced, one got fired. But after nine months, I haven’t created a single opportunity.” The perception was it was cheaper and better skills are bring in house instead of outsourcing. Very quickly, we we’re 80%, 90% of their pipeline just because we had a proven process. We worked with them for about 12 to 15 months. It was amazing. Nine months of the course of two people without a single opportunity. It was transformed in a couple months really. Marylou: It’s a great story. Stefan: It wasn’t his decision. He was sort of that it was going ahead but the CEO pulled rank I guess but proven to be wrong and was brave enough to go actually wrong source it. We must re-help transform the business. Marylou: Those of you who are listening to this broadcast, the framework, the sales process framework that’s Predictable Revenue and soon to be the book that I’ll be releasing called Predictable Prospecting, but it is a model that can be outsourced or in-housed. Here, Stefan is talking about an outsource model that works really well. Stefan: It really does. We speak to people all the time and then some people just want to do an in house. I’m fine with that. It’s one of the works individual business. I want to take on clients who really wants to use our services. They want to do in house, they want to stick to what they’re best at. That way, we’ll be closing deals. They just don’t want the aggravation of sourcing data, creating emails, contents, following up and being persistent and consistent at that. They just want to close deals. That’s where we come in. I don’t mind, as long as businesses are doing an element of each part of the sales process to get results, that’s the important factor for me. I don’t want to take anyone’s business for people who don’t want to value it. It’s important to decide what is right for each individual business. It’s more than feasible to do this in house. You just have to be dedicated to it and learn, and have the right skills, set the right management to get better at it because you don’t hit the ground running day one, it can take time. You have to have the skill set internally to monitor what’s happening with every email on the sequence, response rates, what’s happening and how to refine that, how’d you come up with an idea to make it better. Once it gets on telephone, it’s all the same thing. That’s the important thing. You don’t just say, right I’ll use this process, we will buy data, we’ll write emails and off you go, it’s done. It’s an ongoing learning and that’s the important factor. If it is in house, those daily analytics of understanding what is going on in your prospecting, over time it does become predictable. I see you try and predict that predictability as well but ultimately, this room wasn’t built in a day with the prospect in processing. It doesn’t just happen. As you say, sometimes you come out the blocks 100 miles an hour, you’ll already amazed. You get results quickly, a lot of time you can take from anywhere between one weekend to six months to really get it right. Marylou: Right. I usually say three months because we go through an assemble process and a lot of that is finding out why we matter in life. Those discussions are tough. Why change? Why should people change? Why change now? And why you? We go through it. I have now a 28 step processes that I get people on board which is an assemble process and activation process and optimization which is really necessary in order to continue to build consistency in your lead generation whatever framework you’re going to be using. I think that three months is a good time. We certainly have done it faster and we’ve certainly taken longer to do it but three months is like a number. 90 days if they’re very committed to working through the assemble piece then we have a good shot. Stefan: All our contracts start with a 3-month term. Whatever process you use, there’s still the individual elements of it that you have to test to get right. If someone’s doing in house already and then you outsource it using that knowledge, of course it hits the ground quicker. But if you’re starting from scratch, I will say three months because it’s exactly the same as you because it really does take that time sometimes to get it right. Even then, it can sometimes take longer. It’s not a clock. It doesn’t suddenly get all three of us and you’ve got magic. It’s an ongoing process. Sometimes you almost don’t know you’ve hit it because you’re just working continually to make things better but you start looking at the trends, that’s when you can start seeing this is the parameters that we’re working to. Then you know. Marylou: Perfect. If I am looking to have a service put in to my company like yours, how do I reach you? What’s the best way for us to get a hold of you? Stefan: Well, Marketing Republic, just Google that, you’ll find us or my name is Stefan Boyle, on Twitter @mktgrepublic, YouTube find me on there, Instagram, kind of a bit everywhere, you have to be. Marylou: You do. Stefan: Google Marketing Republic and we come straight out. Marylou: LinkedIn. You’re on LinkedIn. Stefan: Find me on LinkedIn. Definitely, yes. We actually use similar principles of Cold Calling 2.0 on LinkedIn as well. Marylou: Yeah, I do too. I have a whole process in place for clients and that’s what we’re talking before about the sales reps, the AEs. Instead of calling it prospecting, I call it networking. That seems to resonate better with them but it’s a process of building your network on LinkedIn but it is at the heart of it, prospecting, it’s Cold Calling, it’s the ability to start conversations with people we don’t know. Stefan: What’s really interesting I find because it’s really deemed to be as a networking site is that people still use the same principles as anything social media, is the business social media platform but they’d launch into it sometimes. I get messages all the time from SEO companies, outsourcers where I’ve no idea who they are. The first message is an absolute essay, a thousand words, I don’t know even know who you are. Apply the same principles to reaching out, building relationships, engaging with those people, almost exactly the same principles of Cold Calling 2.0 on LinkedIn as the same as we do we’re building LinkedIn into our client campaigns as well. Marylou: That’s great. Stefan: Dual approach. Marylou: Well thank you so much for your time. I really enjoyed speaking with you about this and I think everybody is going to learn a lot from this Cold Call. Stefan: I hope so. Thank you. It’s really nice to speak to you. Marylou: Thank you too. Buh-bye. Stefan: Okay, buh-bye now.