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The Sales Whisperer® blog is a compilation of podcasts—The Sales Podcast and The CRM Sushi Podcast—How-To articles and videos, inspirational posts, a little humor, and a whole lot of common sense. Subscribe here to have Wes Schaeffer's musings sent to your inbox for free from time to time. It's the best way to keep your sanity in this world of flash, gimmicks, and goo-roos.

How to Sort Through Lead Generation Companies

Posted by Wes Schaeffer | August 22

"All inbound marketing / lead generation / marketing automation / all-in-one companies are not the same?" (Tell me something I didn't know, right?)

Lead generation, marketing, prospecting—whatever you call it—making the phone ring is the most important thing a business owner can do to grow the business.

(Do you know the lies you tell yourself as a sales manager?)

These are the items I recommend you consider as you sort through the ideal inbound marketing platform for your business... 

What is your REAL budget?

By real budget I mean you need to not only open the hood but take the engine apart and document what you're spending money on

In my Infusionsoft vs HubSpot analysis I realized I was spending time and money on a lot of other tools besides Infusionsoft, such as:

  1. Yoast SEO Plugin, a free Wordpress plugin for helping you get great SEO. (I've used it for years and it's a great tool and I'm still amazed it's free.)
  2. CMS - Content Management System - Wordpress was my CMS of choice from early 2009 to the end of 2015 before I switched to the HubSpot hosting platform they call "COS." I still use Wordpress for some smaller sites of mine—typically just a sales page—but I've moved everything I can to HubSpot.
    Start a HubSpot DemoBeing on the open, flexible Wordpress CMS platform gave me the ability to build and expand my presence online at my own pace. But I did/do have to login to my hosting / WP-Admin panel to create pages and posts, monitor and reply to comments on the site, upload media such as images and audio files, etc.
  3. LeadPages - a great landing page creation tool, but it's not free. It runs from $37 to $67 to $97/mo.
  4. Infusionsoft - as a certified partner I get a discount on this application, but it's $999 to $2,999 to setup and $199 - $299 - $379/mo and up depending on how many users, emails and contacts you need.
  5. Google Analytics - a free tool from Google but I have to login separately to get that information so I can make informed decisions about how I build my site, generate content, and drive traffic by both free means—SEO— and paid—SEM / PPC. (See "Online Advertising 101")
    • Since HubSpot is now my CRM, COS, and Inbound Marketing platform, it integrates nicely with Google Analytics to give me profitable insight into what is working on my site and what is not.
  6. HootSuite - a social media monitoring / publishing / aggregation tool. Easy to use and powerful with a limited plan that is free and $9.99/mo to get what I consider a useful tool.
  7. Bit.ly - a free tool to shorten your URLs. It helps you mask your URLs and/or make them fit in tight spaces - like Twitter - while also providing tracking so you know how many people clicked on the link. I still have to login to this separate platform to see how my posts are doing.
    • HubSpot leverages Bit.ly natively to provide detailed tracking on which of my social media shares are getting traction.

So as you can see, there's at least 8 pieces of software with different login screens and different subscription fees totaling around $540/mo, all with different interfaces and logins and not all of them working in a symbiotic fashion to help me optimize my lead generation.

Note: this does not account for hosting, which has run me $3.96/mo to $99/mo, or staff time to help me build fancy sites, monitor hosting, etc. I've paid upwards of $13,000/mo for key personnel to help me grow my business and service our clients, so it does take money to make money.

Finally, what is your time worth and what are your lost opportunity costs worth when you don't have everything in one place, synchronized, and optimized to help you capitalize on the shifts and needs of your marketplace?

If you want to make $100,000 a year then your time is worth $50 per hour. (40 hours per week x $50/hr x 50 weeks = $100,000)

If your average sale earns you $1,000, then you need to make 100 sales a year to gross $100,000.

If your margins are 50% then you need to make 200 sales a year—nearly one per business day—to gross $100,000 per year.

If you pay 50% in taxes (30% Federal, 10% state, alternative minimum taxes, franchise taxes, etc) then you need to make 400 sales a year—nearly two per business day or more than one every single day of the year—to deposit $100,000 per year.)

How many nights and weekends and holidays have you worked the last three years to get close to your earning goals?

How many deals have slipped through the cracks either because you didn't know about them or you found out about them too late?

Now you know why I'm encouraging you to figure out your REAL budget.

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What Is Your Timeline?

When I was a stockbroker (about 100 years ago it seems) a mutual fund sales rep came to give us a presentation and I've always remembered what he said...

"People over-estimate what they can achieve in a year, and under-estimate what they can achieve in five."

He was referring to investment gains but that holds true in everything we do from getting in shape to building a home to building a business.

Entrepreneurs are notorious for jumping into something with vim and vigor, only to lose interest when the project is only 1% done or, worse, 1% from being done.

There are no overnight successes, so what is your real timeline and time horizon?

Sure, you can get a "quick hit" with a flashy launch of a product but that will require either

  • a great list.
  • a lot of marketing dollars.
  • a shady offer.
  • a huge affiliate / joint venture launch (which is just another form of a great list)
  • some combination of all of the above.

But big launches done right take way more time and planning than you realize.

You need to synchronize your webinars, get your shopping cart lined up, develop your pricing structure and bonuses, create the actual content for the webinar and launch that with killer sales copy and introductory videos, to name a few steps.

Click HERE to Claim Your Spot at the Table

Are you willing to incorporate multi-media, multi-step follow-up sequences to build your launch and/or your day-to-day business?

That requires the coordination of direct mail, text messaging/mobile marketing, email, voice broadcasts, blogging for SEO, and/or PPC / SEM campaigns.

The nice thing about SEO is that your work can essentially live forever. The downside is it can feel like it takes forever for it to start working.

The nice thing about PPC/SEM is that you can see results immediately, but it takes a good bit of skill and at least a little bit of time to do it right and of course it takes money, which may be tight for you right now.

How Will You Qualify The Leads?

What are you willing to do to qualify the leads you generate? Do you want your marketing automation software and lead pages and videos to nurture and educate your prospects until they are 80%-99%-100% closed?

Do you want a company to make outbound calls for you and turn over warm leads to you?

Or maybe you want them to make calls and then direct interested prospects to a website where they sign up for a free report and then they are put into a drip campaign that coordinates a multi-media, multi-step approach to nurturing them along?

Each of these different processes require different considerations such as:

  • Call center integration.
  • VOIP / click-to-dial capability.
  • CRM with user permissions.
  • Web analytics and reporting.
  • File storage and delivery.
  • Social media integration to include monitoring, scheduled posts and reporting.

The part about having good scripts for outbound calls including creating voicemail sequences and also handling inbound calls is an entirely different subject. (But if you need some help there check out my Initial Process Assessment service here.)

How good is your own team at closing warm leads?

This is tied closely to the point above.

Regardless of your training effectiveness, you'll never turn Shaquille O'Neal into a jockey that wins the Kentucky Derby, and you'll never make a ballerina a winning rugby player.

True sales success starts with your recruiting. (Need some help here? Check out my No More Sales Duds program.) Make sure you have the right people on the right bus in the right seat going in the right direction.

Once you have good people, give them good scripts and support to help them make more sales.

I can't think of an outsourced telemarketing firm that has ever lasted long term with any of the customers I've ever worked with, so be tough when you interview lead generation companies that you are bringing on to either make and handle calls and qualify leads for you or install and maintain the software you want to use.

  • Ask if they charge by the hour, by the call, by the appointment or by revenue generated.
  • Ask and verify their referrals and testimonials.
  • Make sure they have a track record both in your industry and with firms your size and even in your part of the country if you are not national.
  • Things have changed since the great recession took hold. Ask them how their success has been before 2008 and in the last 12 months. If they've been around that long, that's a good sign in and of itself. (We're seeing who has good business models and leadership in place now that people aren't spending like drunken politicians sailors any more.)
  • Ask them if they provide any type of trial period or even money-back guarantee.
  • And prepare all of these questions ahead of time and have them written down before you go in to negotiate.

Then put on your sales manager's hat and "recruit!"

By that I mean retain two or even three lead generation companies and have them start at the same time and see who performs the best.

After a week fire the worst one.

After the second week keep the best one and then recruit another.

If you need more help growing your sales, check out the following resources scattered around this site and a few others I operate, such as:

Now go sell something.

Topics: HubSpot, Sales and Marketing Automation, Ontraport, HubSpot vs Infusionsoft, Internet Marketing Consulting, Infusionsoft, Lead generation, Lead generation companies

Written by Wes Schaeffer

The Reassuringly Expensive, Ruthlessly Pragmatic pig-headed entrepreneur dedicated to discovering proven, transferable, effective tools for creating inbound sales so he can help you automate, integrate, and dominate your niche.

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