“Clyde, you have three pistols and you only have one arm. Well I just don’t want to be killed for lack of shootin’ back.” That quote is from Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, where a one-armed deputy prepared to fight it out with a well-known gunslinger.
I like that quote because it epitomizes my philosophy on demand generation. I want to try everything I can to get in front of my buyers. After all, an unrequited solicitation isn’t a no – and interpreting it that way is like getting killed for lack of shootin back.
My team is no different from most sales teams. We have a finite number of prospects for our B2B solution and a CRM tool to help manage our activity. We can’t depend upon marketing to give us leads so we have to create our own. We have different levels of skills and enthusiasm when it comes to creating demand but like most, we have a deep reservation in picking up the phone and calling a stranger. To overcome this obstacle I banged the war drums for cold calling with both stick and carrot. However our reports revealed a less than 1% return on traditional cold calling activity.
Our next approach was to stop cold calling all together and perform strictly targeted solicitations. We researched the hell out of a few select companies and wrote perfectly tailored correspondence – with an even worse result. All the energy and effort to craft these letters fell on deaf ears and left my sales team disillusioned. We needed something new, effective, and could reverse the tide of apathy around demand creation.
Our thought process was to understand the limitations of cold calling and targeted solicitation then try to build a system around their inadequacies.
- Wrong Approach
- Wrong Median
- Wrong Message
- Wrong Person
- Wrong Time
Wrong Approach: There was a study from PWC that found a CFO receives an average of 57 solicitations a day. With all the e-mail automation tools and inside sales teams that have sprung up over the past decade, I bet that number is more like 100. So our challenge is to get above the noise. You could have the perfect solution for the perfect buyer at the perfect time, but if you are caught in a spam filter or the buyer never gets the message – what good does that do?
Our remedy is to ensure our message gets above the noise by a multi-touch campaign style prospecting effort. Our friends in B2C marketing learned one and done marketing is just as effective as none and done long ago. They tell us we need to be simple, short, and persistent if we want to capture our buyer’s attention. My goal is to “touch” our prospect eight times over the course of a three week campaign. That way we can feel somewhat comfortable he or she understands that we are trying to get their attention.
We also want to avoid the one-off targeted solicitation that will be written and re-written only to be ignored like a piece of spam. Our approach invests the same amount of time it takes to wordsmith a letter to one individual but we write correspondence to a group of individuals that have something in common. For instance, instead of writing a specific letter to the CFO of one of our top prospects, we write a letter than would benefit any CFO. We then select 30 to 50 CFO’s from our CRM that will be the target of our campaign.
Wrong Median: There are numerous ways to contact today’s buyers. We can call them directly like most of the English speaking work will do. We can e-mail them; even put a read receipt so they know we mean business. We can work with the executive assistant who is paid to keep us at bay. We can use snail mail that will sit in a pile of like solicitations in its own version of purgatory. Or, we can do all of them knowing that the whole, in some cases, is greater than the sum of its parts.
We know that busy executives actually do have a preferred method of communication. We just don’t know what it is yet. Our campaigns start with a piece of snail mail – except we bypass mail purgatory by sending it in a FedEx or UPS envelope. These absolved pieces of literature are guaranteed to be opened and set the campaign off on the right note because you earned the buyer’s attention. Next, we follow up with a series of e-mails referencing the package. The next touch is a dial directly to the prospect, working with the executive assistant. Touch four is an e-mail, five a voicemail, six an e-mail, seven voicemail, and touch eight transitions the prospect to lead nurturing.
We use an e-mail aggregator called BuzzBuilder that sends the e-mails directly from the rep’s address, helping to build name recognition. We set the four e-mail touches up at the beginning of the campaign and notify the reps via Outlook when that e-mail will hit their prospect. We schedule two hour dialing sessions the day after the e-mails drop. What were cold calls are now much warmer with correspondence sent ahead of time, giving less phone reluctance. BuzzBuilder will let us know who has opened the e-mail or forwarded it to a colleague. This helps triage the effort for the dialing sessions. There is much less pressure on these dials because we are only asking for a voicemail to help solidify the multi-touch campaign. .
Wrong Message: One of the fatal flaws in demand creation is that our message just isn’t compelling. Think, why would your decision maker want to see you because you are in town or you have free time? Where is the value in “checking in?” Along those same lines – cold callers make the mistake that their company’s credentials are going to get them in the door. Again, I fail to see how you rank in Gartner’s magic quadrant, product differentiation, or when your company was founded will compel someone to call you back. Those superlatives are only effective if there is an active evaluation – we are just trying to spark one.
To grab a decision-makers attention, you need to first change jobs. Put yourself in their position and forget every last thing you know about your robust product suite. What are the top things that your stakeholders care about? If you don’t know – look it up. The CFO is a key stakeholder in our sale so they are often the target of our campaigns. If I wanted to understand and reference their top concerns I can Google CFO top concerns. An article from CFO magazine comes up that states the Top 10.
Not all pains are created equally. If we want to gain traction in our accounts we need to take the most strategic pains and link out solution to help solve them. For our demand creation campaign – we have to be generic enough to appeal to our entire targeted list but strategic enough in our messaging to attract their attention. I wrote this blog about keeping messaging P.I.T.H.Y
We also want to evolve our messaging over the course of the campaign. Again, take the CFO Magazine article that lists the top 10 concerns of the CFO. Our strategy is to take 3 of those concerns to reference and link to solving over the course of the 8 touch campaign. If one of those pains doesn’t resonate – then perhaps one of the remaining three will.
Wrong Time: The reason we selected 8 touches was found that was about the right number of times to guarantee you got the attention of your buyer. However, when we first started doing this, we tried to collapse the process into one week. We learned from multiple out of office auto responders or executive assistants telling us that our prospect was out of pocket for the week – we were not taking full advantage of the system.
We chose to spread the multi-touch campaign over the course of three weeks to make us feel as though we were going to reach our prospect at a time of convenience. After all, we ask for a specific date to meet in our solicitation and it is just too easy for the recipient to ignore the e-mail if they know they can’t make that date. That process will happen three different times with three different dates over a three week period. Our goal is for a more well-thought out decision to meet with us on a permission basis.
Our final solicitation (or touch 8) states that we have made multiple attempts to reach the prospect and the lack of response must be either one of two things. They were either not concerned about the pains we can help solve or they just don’t have time to discuss them. This is usually gets the best response with an apology from the buyer for being difficult to reach with a time they can meet.
Wrong Person: Just like pains, not all organizations are created equally. The CFO is a key stakeholder in our sale but so is the controller, the CIO, the VP of HR, and the HR Director. When it comes to creating demand however, we let the law of gravity dictate how we navigate our prospects. We equate it to the ease of pushing a bolder down a hill. Start at the top and get sponsorship all the way down the org chart until we find the eventual business owner of our solution. By starting low and trying to cultivate an evaluation, you are doing the equivalent of trying to push a bolder up hill.
To wrap it up in a nice little bow – our demand creation methodology looks like the below over the course of three weeks. We have seen results as good as 10% and as bad as 1%. We know for this to be effective, the reps have to make touch 3, 5, and 7. Otherwise, they will be treated as a spammer.
- Snail Mail Touch – In a Fed Ex envelope to ensure it gets to the recipient. Reference top 3 pains
- E-mail Touch – Referencing the letter and Pain 1
- Executive Assistant Touch – Referencing Letter, E-mail, and Pain 1
- E-mail Touch – Pain 2, second date to meet
- Voice Mail Touch – Pain 2, second date to meet
- E-mail Touch – Pain 3, third date to meet
- Voice Mail Touch – Pain 3, third date to meet
- Transitioning E-mail Touch
This process takes six hours out of three weeks of work to make the dials. Even then, phone reluctance is hard to overcome but the results should convince the biggest skeptic.
Filed under: Demand Creation, Sales Execution | Tagged: Cold Calling, Demand Creation | Leave a comment »