Of all the processes involved in making a sale, the one process that is often overlooked or misunderstood is the process of Lead Generation. Good lead generation starts with good targeting and that requires the best data to win new business. This case study compares 2 clients that I have helped and the difference that the quality of data can make.
A few years ago I was asked by an agency to work on a couple of projects to help with telemarketing lead generation. The clients both ran small businesses. One client worked in the field of executive training, whilst the other client was a specialist in the financial sector. Both clients were intelligent, well-educated Company Directors, but their characters were like chalk and cheese. Each client favoured a different approach to using the best data to win new business which led to two very different outcomes for their campaigns.
Client No1 – A Sad story of a client who did not use the best data for Telemarketing Lead Generation
A good start using classic lead generation
The first client was one of the nicest people one could ever meet and he was able to build friendly relationships with just about anyone. The client was essentially a specialist trainer, which led to a mindset that “Everyone should place learning above all else in life.” Generally speaking, I have a long conversation with my clients before I begin any works, to explain the difference between their perception of the world and the perception of their prospective customers. My clients usually bow to my better judgement as an expert and say “Ok, let’s do it your way”, and that’s how matters began….
Gaining traction in the executive training market is not easy, with a plethora of competitors out there. Yet I made steady progress and within 3 months my client was quoting for a significant amount of business. Just as things appeared to be going swimmingly well, my client’s wife decided that a holiday in the sun was more appealing than my client spending money on Lead Generation. After all she said to me and her husband, “You’re already quoting for a significant amount of business and it’s time your Lead Generation expert made some leads for me and I have a few ideas of my own”. At a time when I was running low on fresh data, this comment could not have come at a worse time.
Should you hire a lead generation expert then tell him what to do?
I called the agency and said “I have a problem. The client is being persuaded by his wife to go on holiday and drop the project for 4 weeks. Worse still, his wife is about to start telling me how to do the job. Please can you have a teleconference with me and the client to put him back on track and to discuss a new data source – otherwise the progress of the campaign could grind to a halt?” The Head of the agency agreed to a teleconference. To my astonishment the Head of the Agency backed down on every area required and “fluffed” the client instead of guiding him. The Agency thought that this was the best way to deal with the matter and that giving the client what they wanted was better than giving good advice and guidance. The result was that the client felt great for a few weeks that he was the “genius of lead generation” and he was able to go on holiday with his wife and keep her happy. Thus the slippery slope began of the tail wagging the dog.
The client, “fluffed-up” by the Agency started to believe that he was the God of Lead Generation. The client believed that training and new ideas were the way forward for everything. Thus the client announced that my ways of Lead Generation were archaic and belonged in the past century.
A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing in lead generation
Working closely with his wife (a very intelligent lady but one who had never undertaken lead generation), the client decided that he had cracked the art of telemarketing lead generation. After reading a numerous articles on the Internet, the client announced that the answer to modern Lead Generation was to use Linkedin and Facebook to find the best data for the campaign. This is where a perfectly good campaign with a small but steady flow of high-paying opportunities, suddenly degenerated in to a bizarre experimental laboratory for new ideas. These were often complex ideas that required either significant resources or were at best untried or unproven.
Please don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not suggesting that Linkedin and Facebook are not credible tools for data mining; but the application of such tools is often misunderstood by the non-savvy lead generator who has read about the idea but never put it in to practice. I’ll save a full discussion of the use of Social Media Marketing for another case study. Suffice to say, if you want to target the right decision makers in the right industrial sectors and have the correct contact information, you’ll be hard pushed to find all the necessary data on Facebook where telephone numbers are generally hidden. Conversely, buying-in to a quality database with millions of contact details that is fully searchable can provide rapid and effective targeting.
To win new business through telemarketing lead generation, one must have all the pieces of the puzzle. In this case, the client needed the following decision maker details – the name, the phone number and the title of the correct potential person. My client was so “fluffed” by the Agency by this point as to his input on lead generation that a wager was mage. A bet was made that the client’s wife would provide a significant set of sales opportunities using the Facebook approach in excess of anything I could achieve using this data. I warned my client that this was not a good idea for me to compete in such a manner or to use the Facebook approach; but after being firmly being put in my place by the client and the Agency – the result was zero opportunities made by me or the client’s wife in 3 months using Facebook as the main database.
Beware of the Lead Generation Agency that blindly follows the client’s wishes
In the meantime, my client’s decision to spend his money on a holiday instead of a lead generation campaign over the summer months, had killed the essential call backs and the pipeline-building of sales opportunities. By the time my client came to his senses the recession had begun to bite deeply. All the opportunities that I had urged my client to close quickly in the spring/summer months were beginning to evaporate like the morning mist on a hot summer’s day.
By the final quarter of the year my client was beginning to show signs of desperation. Once again I urged the Agency and the Client at a teleconference, to invest in good quality data and to revert to classic lead generation tactics and an effective data source. My opinions fell on deaf ears and despite a few opportunities that I created by going against their wishes, I was forced to “Do as you’re told as the client knows best”. As I was just about getting the campaign back on track, I was asked to change tack once again on another new idea. The client asked me to utilise a Trigger approach that he had just read about on the Internet. I’m always happy to utilise a Trigger approach (I’ll explain this in more detail in another Case Study); but the Trigger approach to lead generation is a very, very intensive approach that requires a lot of front-loaded input and the clients budget was small.
I slaved away on the Trigger approach for a number of weeks (bear in mind I was only working one day a week on this project) and the approach started to create opportunities. Yet by this point it was too late for my client. This most jovial and lovable client had turned in to an incredibly stressed chap. The client was increasingly pressurising me to generate sales opportunities in weeks not months. When the client announced that “The Trigger approach should work immediately and why was I not using it quickly enough?” – I pointed out that the Internet article he had read on the subject was about one of the World’s highest-paid Trigger Lead Generation experts, who charged £1000’s per day not a few hundred pounds. I pointed out that if was prepared to increase expenditure on the campaign accordingly that I could do the same for him in days not months.
I was doing my best to help my client, but he somehow felt cheated. The result was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met turning into a complete monster. The client shouted at me down the phone for over an hour and I was barely allowed to say a word. He then called the Head of the Agency and shouted at him for an hour. A few days later, the client called me to apologise. “I’m sorry he said. I’ve forgotten who the expert is here and I’m lost. I don’t know what to advise you and you should be advising me. Why did I listen to my wife and to the man at the agency instead of listening to you?”
I’d like to say that the work for this client all ended beautifully; but in truth – the Agency’s attitude to pandering to the whims of the customer instead of providing firm guidance almost ruined the client’s business. The irony was the final comment of the client – “I actually have the best data that you mentioned from day1 in the cupboard, but I suppose it’s a bit late now…..?”
At the end of the campaign, the client’s wife called me to apologise and we parted on good terms. The client was kind enough to commend me for my help. My client learned the following lessons about Lead Generation:
- When sales opportunities are on the table – don’t delay in closing business if you want the business.
- When lead generation is working – don’t take a break or you will lose momentum.
- New ideas are good, but stick to one method for as long as possible instead of chopping and changing.
- Don’t be swayed by peer pressure to try experimental ideas unless you have deep pockets.
- Don’t forget that if you’re hiring an expert then you must listen to them – otherwise you may as well employ the services of a trainee telemarketing person.
- If it isn’t broke don’t fix it – when your campaign is working – keep doing the same thing.
- If you have the best data then you have won half the battle – match this with the best telemarketing lead generation person and you will succeed at winning new sales opportunities.
Client No.2 – A strange client, but one who understood the value of the best lead generation data
I was literally five minutes away from a meeting with a client when my mobile phone rang. It was the 2nd Agency project and the Head of the Agency was on the phone. “Sorry Stephen, I forgot to warn you that the client is a bit strange”. I wasn’t quite sure what the Agency meant until I entered their offices. The offices were full of people, yet it was very quiet. Everyone was doing their best not to make eye contact. After a brief wait with a cup of coffee provided by a young lady I was ushered in to the client’s office. I suddenly realised why the client was “a bit strange”….
As I firmly shook hands with the client and cracked a joke, the entire offices immediately fell silent. The client stared at me and paused for what seemed like an eternity. He suddenly burst out in to laughter and like some form of “clapping machine” on T.V. his entire staff suddenly started laughing as well. Then silence immediately fell as soon as the client stopped laughing and sat down.
Secret Sales Success
The client went on to tell me that he was far from the most well-liked person in the industry. In fact the attrition rate of his staff was somewhat phenomenal even for the financial services industry. The client leaned over the table and for a couple of hours most of the conversation took the form of a low whisper. His knowledge of the industry and his capability to save vast sums of money for organisations was evident. Yet the whole conversation was more akin to a clandestine meeting in a dark smoky pub than a briefing session for a lead generation campaign.
I was left in no doubt that this chap was indeed an industry expert and his company’s presence in the market place towered over all competitors. As he pawed over charts conveying his supremacy of the market place, he discussed market domination plans like an American General about to launch a blitzkrieg attack on Iraq. This chap was acutely aware of his capabilities. The client was also acutely aware of his unusual interpersonal skills. Whilst I can certainly say that I empathised with his staff in terms of the very awkward atmosphere in which they worked, I can without a shadow of a doubt testify to this man’s genius at making money.
Available Lead Generation Data
It turned out that the Agency had forgotten to tell me quite a few things about this client. Alongside the client’s strange interpersonal skills and the subdued silence at his offices, it turned out that the client had booked a number of agencies to work on his Telemarketing Lead Generation plan. The client was using an archaic online database system which had evidently been tailor-made about 10 years ago. This online data system was way-past its sell-by date as the client appeared disinclined to spend money unless asked to do so at gunpoint. The client provided me with access codes to the data and told me to work out how on earth the system could be used to create sales opportunities.
I didn’t find out that the client was using multiple lead generation agencies until I went online. Then I suddenly saw a few names of people that I know in the industry and put 2 and 2 together. The online database was appallingly clunky and did not work as a telemarketing lead generation tool; so I had to run a ghost system in Excel for lead-tracking purposes. The upside was that the data supplied by the client was excellent. There were names, titles, phone numbers, direct lines, mobile numbers, and an array of peripheral contacts such Personal Assistant details.
The Sales-Man behind the Mask
Conversing with the client whilst he was on the road was both a disturbing and painful experience. Imagine someone driving a car, whispering everything down a mobile phone to you as if it was a state secret? Imagine someone who would take about ten minutes to answer your questions, but generally discuss something completely different instead? Finally, imagine being subject to random insults due to someone possessing interesting personality skills? The strangest aspect was that once I understood that he couldn’t help the way he was and that he was evidently a business genius, eventually he began to seem normal and rather brilliant at his work. Perhaps it was my strict upbringing or I was suffering from some form of Stockholm syndrome, but I actually started to admire the chap for his business skills.
The Best Lead Generation Data and the Telemarketing Expert
With my usual flair, wit, charm and of course lack of modesty – I won opportunity after opportunity for this odd client. As the months went by and the campaign was drawing to a close, I noticed that all the other Telemarketing Agencies had slowly withdrawn their services and I was the last man standing. The data he provided was so accurate and up-to-date it was excellent. Combined with my lead generation skills the client was storming the market place like General Storming Norman. Yet I learned later from the other agencies that they had resigned due to his unusual manners. One of the other agencies later told me that they hadn’t even bothered to pursue the invoice with the client as she would have preferred several trips to the dentist. I’m not suggesting for one moment that being rude to people is a good thing, but I was evidently the only person who could see past his shortcomings and view him as the genius of his industry.
This client was not the most affable man or the easiest person to work with, but he was smart enough to look in the mirror and be aware of his shortcomings. I am pleased to say that the client provided me with a commendation and recommendation for my services and I would happily help him in the future.
Lessons my client learned:
- When in-house interpersonal skills are lacking for lead generation, simply hire an external expert who excels in this area.
- Accurate and up-to-date information is the backbone of quality lead generation.
- Understanding how to utilise the best data should be left to the skills of the expert that you hire – if you’ve hired an expert then let them do it their way for the best results.
- If you want to be the best then you have to be fairly thick-skinned – this is especially so in the sales industry and particularly for lead generation.
- There is always a balance between how hard you can push someone and how much you remunerate them – if you want to be the best then pay a premium for this and your chosen lead generation specialist will tolerate most things to help you win the market place.
- Don’t forget to thank and praise those who succeed for you – an ill-temper at times does not encourage success in others but balance this with praise and the results should be on target.