I experienced one of those ugly moments when a bad memory comes flooding back to the fore for no discernible reason. This one dates back almost a decade, to my early years in the marketing department of SoftBrands, a one-time enterprise software company that was acquired by Infor, a much larger enterprise software company, a bit more than one year ago.
The pain started when the sales manager stopped by my office to discuss the need to increase qualified sales leads. It seems her team was not busy enough with the 50 we were sending each month (10 m0re than the 40 required to meet quota), so she wanted us to increase the total to 80.
Happy to accommodate her request, I tried to start a discussion about the additional dollars that would be necessary. It is a discussion that went nowhere. Not to be stymied, I brought up the subject of changing the definition of a qualified sales lead. With a few tweaks to the criteria, like purchase time line, my team would be able to achieve the doubled quota. That suggestion was less popular than increasing the budget.
So, there I stood, staring at a sales manager who wanted me to perform the modern-day equivalent of the fishes and loaves. Being a mere mortal, I told here it would be easier if she would ask me to spin straw into gold. I quickly found that was the wrong thing to say.
Sales people are always asking for more leads, but they fail to see that, when lead generation is done correctly, less can actually be more. Let me explain.
Some time later in my tenure at SoftBrands we made the strategic decision to focus our efforts on penetrating a handful of very specific manufacturing micro-verticals that we were really good at: medical device, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and food & beverage. At first the sales team was concerned about the inevitable reduction that would result when we choked off the flow of leads. But as we implemented the strategy, they came to realize a few important facts:
- The number of leads did drop dramatically
- The quality of leads increased in the same way
- They were spending less time chasing deals that were unlikely to result in wins
- Wins – individual and team – increased considerably
For us, the ultimate road to success was not expanding the criteria and pumping more leads into the pipe. On the contrary, by focusing our resources and tightening the definition of a qualified sales lead, we were able to achieve our sales goals and do away forever with the mantra:
More leads! More leads! More leads!
As a rule, it is better to give than to receive. However, as with all, there is an exception to this long-standing rule: voicemail.
I love receiving voicemail from people. So much so, that I rarely pick up the phone unless the caller ID is from someone I know. My love of voicemail comes not from an irrational desire to feel needed, rather it is based in my completely rational desire to be entertained – and have I been entertained.
A couple of years ago we started receiving voicemail in a wav files. Not coincidentally, I started saving the best of the worst for future use. Today I can announce that the future has arrived. I’ll be sharing share some of the voicemail I’ve saved, edited to remove names, companies and phone numbers for your amusement.
My aim is not to embarrass – hence the heavy editing- but to inform.
As a means of communicating, the telephone is irreplaceable and it is imperative that we learn how to use it properly. Nothing new here, right? The problem is there are far too many people who’ve not been trained to use the phone as a tool for doing business.
I suffered from the same lack of training until 1998. I was working as an account executive for the MNN Radio Networks in the Twin Cities at the time and one of my colleagues had the good fortune of meeting Steve Kloyda (@SteveKloyda), founder of Telemasters. Station management arranged for the entire sales team to take Steve’s 5 week training.
Each week, we met individually with Steve to listen to calls we recorded – voicemail and connections - with prospects and customers. I won’t speak for everyone, but through self critique and with Steve’s coaching I learned to use the phone as a business tool.
I don’t mean endorse Telemasters – although I highly recommend it – but I do want to endorse telephone training for anyone in your business who uses the phone for their work. Keep in mind they are representing your company and the impression they make will last forever. Make sure that impression is positive.
I’m off to the studio to begin editing and commenting on the worst of the worst.