data.pngImagine this. You have just completed a successful inside sales campaign; you have a healthy pipeline of appointments for the coming weeks and months. The prospects you will be meeting are eagerly anticipating meeting you to discuss a set of needs for which your business is ideally placed to help them.  I’m sure you agree that this really would be the ideal outcome of any business development campaign. I’m also sure that you know the kind of results described above also don’t happen by magic.

Preparation is vital to the success of a telemarketing campaign. If you have failed to prepare effectively before you pick up the phone to your prospects how do you know what the best thing to say to them is when you eventually speak to them? The answer is you don’t.

This article will set out some fairly simple steps to take you right at the beginning of your business development campaign activity to help make your life much easier once you try to speak to your prospect base. Some of these tips may seem obvious to some, however I hope to provide that extra bit of detail that will allow you make the most out of your preparation time. Remember, these are the fundamentals of lead generation, the base upon which you will build a strong and healthy pipeline and that foundation can always be improved.

Knowledge is power

Data is central to the modern world, an increasingly valuable commodity which has drawn comparisons with the importance of coal to the industrial revolution. And of course b2b sales has benefited from the data revolution just as much as the rest of the economy.

Making sure you have the right data at the very start of any lead generation campaign is central to the success or failure of that activity. You can spend your time calling the right people and having the right conversations, or you can waste time talking to the wrong contacts at the wrong companies, it’s really very straightforward.

First things first, make sure you develop buyer personas, ideally run a workshop with the entire inside sales team to build an idea of who your ideal prospect base is. Once you have developed buyer personas you should have an idea of who the best companies are for you to talk to in your marketplace, and who within these companies will be most receptive to your message. Think about what industries you have had particular success in, what types of contacts do you do the best business with?

Is your data in date?

Now you know who should be reflected in your data at both contact and company level, we are now on our way to building a high quality database of hot prospects. The next thing to be conscious of is the age of your data, be careful if you decide records haven’t been updated within the last six months. Six months is a long time in business and people can leave jobs, companies can change phone numbers, and businesses can disappear from the map completely. If you are working from older data, maybe running a short data enrichment campaign prior to starting your lead generation campaign would be a good idea. This would ensure that the database your inside sales team will be working from is as relevant as possible and you are not wasting valuable time fixing your database when you planned to be speaking to your market.

Online sources such as Linkedin and the free to use Companies House website can provide a wealth of relatively current information about prospects in your database and there is really no excuse in this day and age for all the 'basic' information on your database not to be 100% accurate. At this point in the process, if you have not already, now is the time to think about getting a CRM. A CRM will allow you to easily manage your database and make sure your sales team are equipped with the most current information available. Some platform’s such as Hubspot will even allow you to grow your database from the traffic to your website and other online content.

What you need to know

In some ways your imagination is the only limit to the number of possible fields you can record on your database. In practical terms you need to strike a balance with your data, you want to have enough fields so your sales people are never caught short for knowledge and at the same time have a user friendly experience. Really there is nothing worse than getting into difficulty on a call because you are struggling to get information from the database fast enough.

Before starting any telemarketing campaigns make sure the basics are recorded accurately on your database:

  • Company name – make sure that this accurately reflects what the people that work for the company call the company. For example, if the company is John Smith Holdings but trade as Smithtex make sure you know they are called Smithex. Also make sure that you are recording any parent/child relationships between companies in your data and are leveraging these relationships where possible.
  • Contact name – Make sure your prospect’s 'Sunday Name' is on the database. Also make sure if Michael likes to be called Mike you record this. Make sure you have more than one contact within each company, with two really being the very minimum. These contacts should reflect your buyer personas and ideally be someone who will have a need for your product and be at least influential in the final decision. Ideally, your database will end up with a contact record for everyone involved in the decision making process for your offering.
  • Contact job title – Again, make sure that you record the prospects official job title. How would this person’s job title appear on a contract?
  • Phone numbers – Ideally have fields on your database for three phone numbers. Company main number, direct dial and mobile number.  Make sure that you try all three numbers, how do you know that your prospect doesn’t leave their mobile in their car all day but just loves answering the main line when it rings?
  • Email – 21st Century, email is the primary form of written communication.
  • Address – Good to know, especially if you intend meeting your prospects in person.
  • Notes of every conversation that has happened previously – Make sure your database contains notes discussing all previous interactions with that company. Also make sure your inside sales team are in the habit of recording review cycles so they know exactly your prospects will be interested in what you are offering. Good notes are a massive asset for an inside sales team and no notes can lead to an embarrassing interaction.
  • Time and date of previous calls – This will probably be recorded on your notes but it's so important that it deserves a point of its own. Recording time and date allows you to track when your prospects are most likely to take your call. People have routines and by keeping track of the time your prospect takes your calls will make it easier for you to predict the best time to get them on the phone. Recording the number of times you are calling a prospect also makes it easier to ensure you are not scaring any potential customers of by over calling them.

These eight points will provide you with a very basic structure from which you can begin to effectively engage your buying market. There will be many more fields that could be useful specific to your companies offering such as details of a prospects current solution, company turnover, number of sites, number of employees all being examples. The most important thing to think about when deciding upon categories for your database is what information is important for you to know to be able to have a meaningful conversation with the ideal buyer personas that I identified at the very start of this process.

The work never ends

So you’ve followed my guide and you have a nice fresh database of relevant information that will allow you to speak contacts that you are confident will be interested in talking to you about what you have to offer. Great, what now?

The thing about having good quality data is that building a high quality database is really only the beginning.  You will now have to constantly work at maintaining the quality of your data and with regular diligent work; you will quickly see improvements in the results of your inside sales team.

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