“Get Me More Qualified Sales Leads – ASAP!!!” Said by every entrepreneur, every sales leader and every sales person. Every week.
For more than fifteen years as a salesperson and sales executive in the software / high tech industry, I worked on every aspect of the lead gen and sales cycle. Hundreds of deals, tens of millions of dollars in revenue. In my experience, the number one performance driver was always effectively generating qualified leads.
Sure, there are a lot of well-known ways to generate qualified leads, such as:
- Networking, warm intros and referrals
- Attending conferences and industry events
- Inbound content marketing and PR
However, for most start-ups, even those that have the above techniques working effectively, these methods alone are just not enough. This is especially true when the goals are to grow a tech start-up’s revenue to $5-10M+ and eventually $25-50M+ over several years.
Why not enough? These techniques can get you some fantastic initial deals for $1-3M of revenue and compelling lighthouse customers. But these time-tested tactics just don’t extend far and wide enough outside your existing network. They don’t enable at-bats with 80+% of the entire addressable market for your prospects.
For example, one of our clients was kicking off a new campaign to target companies in the auto space and had great initial traction with three prospects. Then, we complied a comprehensive and complete list of targets and did an outbound campaign. They got another TEN prospects in their pipeline within the first 30 days.
Another client initially had a list of prospects in the electronics industry they had talked to via introductions, people they knew, and inbound inquiries. This list seemed encouraging, but was not comprehensive and complete. Again, we sat down and identified everyone in their target universe. Then we contacted everyone on that list and talked to people who replied. This process took their salesperson from doing a few intro calls each week, to doing a few intro calls each day, and filling their pipeline with qualified leads.
It’s critical for early stage founders to move beyond the short list of early adopters, usual suspects and comfortable networking-based deals that feel encouraging. A list of all potential targets must be built and outreach attempts to that entire group is a mandatory step for big success. And if you’re not building awareness among most of your target market, competitors will swoop in and hijack most of your market traction.
So then, how can cold outreach be truly cost and time effective?
Hardly anyone goes for the boiler room approach of cold calling any more. The few companies still using this method rarely get a buyer that answers their phone, resulting in voicemails that never get heard.
LinkedIn is great, but not enough. Unless you’re only selling to a very small audience of 5-10 companies, LinkedIn based networking and sales is not scalable for the level of growth the venture capital investors are expecting. You’re just bouncing around the people you know and those a level or two away. And what about the prospects you’ve not even identified yet?
For large tech companies, there’s several expensive resources available. But what about start-ups? In my experience one great option could be Discover.org, which used to be known as Rain King. https://discoverorg.com/product/ They don’t list pricing on their website (any more) but when I last used them the bill was ~ $50,000 for a very high quality data set that covered several large countries. For most startups, that is a huge nut to cover, especially since that ONLY gets you the data. The researcher to understand and query the data set is then a people cost. There is also D&B data available, but personally I’ve not had good experiences with that. And I get weekly emails from random companies offering lists. Never had a good experience when I tried these.
At Barnett Strategies we have partnered with a San Diego-based firm @CIENCECOM to bring this capability to our clients. We work with CIENCE to provide access to a suite of several enterprise contact info databases, resulting in the ability to easily get access to data like this:
In the past two years at Barnett Strategies we’ve had some frankly stunning successes with the following approach.
First, we work with our client to write an Ideal Customer Profile for a client’s offering, the profile of our target audience based on industry, geography and the functions titles of the right execs (among many other variables). Next we quickly have in hand expertly done database research on the Companies and Contacts that need to be targeted including verified emails and phone numbers. From there we build a messaging questionnaire based on our client’s go to market strategy and tactics. Using this questionnaire, the writing team creates a sequence of four to five emails plus a LinkedIn touch. This professional writing creates urgency with a call to action relevant to the prospect, while “keeping it classy” – so not spammy and not cheesy. The open rates (above 50%) and positive response rates (6-10%) on these messages are often way higher than marketing industry norms.
If you would like to see a sample of the results or a two page case study please send me an email to chris (at) barnettstrategies.com.
Relevance and value add – that is what the members of a target audience are expecting. If a cold email is about a topic the recipient does not care about (like Viagra) or reflects a lack of research and targeting (like trying to sell accounting services to the engineering team) then recipients are bored or annoyed. But when your audience really cares about what is happening with “Fu” – and you bring them something new and unique in that world of “Fu” then you’re going to get a good result. We often get replies from campaign recipients that start with “Thank you for reaching out…” and nothing warms my heart more than that.