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How the Pandemic Has Changed the Sales Lead Landscape

Thanks to Covid-19 implementing a global shut down, many bricks and mortar businesses are beginning to adapt and move online. Where some nay-sayers pessimistically believe there’s no point in continuing to pursue new sales leads, demand generation companies that focus on this industry are finding the most successful companies are doing the opposite. 

This time of great unrest and instability may seem daunting to some. Still, those of the more creative and problem-solving persuasion are realizing that this is the perfect time to think laterally and adapt their approach to accessing leads.

With the help of sales lead generation, hordes of businesses are now not only accessing leads they didn’t think possible, but also explicitly contacting productive and promising customers. These customers are being identified through critical intelligence operations that read between the lines, ensuring high conversation probability, alongside insider knowledge of the company you’re targeting.

The pandemic impact

We consulted with sales-lead generation vendors, agencies, and clients to get their perspective on how the pandemic is impacting their experience.

“In February and March, everything slowed down, possibly because the world was scared and business seemed to stop,” David Kreiger, CEO of SalesRoads said. “However, in April, companies realized that they needed to start investing in their sales engine if they were going to survive the lock down. As a result, our sales were up 300% in April compared to January this year.”

It’s no surprise that during the early stages of lock down, most businesses were thrown by the sudden shift in daily operations, and it took some time to adapt to our new normal. Thankfully, due to sales lead generation being able to continue effectively throughout quarantine, vendors have still been able to produce leads for their clients.

However, unfortunately, for some agencies, not all sales-lead generation businesses have had as much success.

“I haven’t found an uptick in companies looking, but I have found an uptake in companies offering,” Shira Abel, CEO at Hunter & Bard, said.

For users of sales-lead generation, their initial process, before the pandemic was working effectively to generate meaningful leads. We asked how these processes work, to help better understand the need for agency involvement.

“Our data research team goes through web research and databases to identify target customers,” Mateusz Kurleto, CEO at Neoteric, told us. “Using data sources such as Pitchbook, Crunchbase, and Google, we divide [customers] into golden outbound and regular outbound processes.”

“We then conduct in-depth research on selected golden outbound accounts, plan account-based marketing activities such as identifying decision-makers, then use social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to start the conversation. For regular outbound leads, we do fast research on the companies, so we can personalize even the automated messages to ensure you will not get irrelevant cold-mail from us. Leads that reply are scored and interviewed in after-sales qualification, and a business development manager (BDM) is appointed to follow-up with the conversation,” Kurleto said.

Kurleto does explain, however, that the process of lead acquisition has changed during the pandemic, to remain above water during these uncertain times and keep producing effective sales-lead generation for clients.

“Firstly, the leads that we started talking to before and during the early phase of the pandemic either went radio-silent or canceled, resulting in our sales pipeline value getting seriously hit,” Kurleto said. “Fortunately, we had anticipated that since early March, changed the way we operate so we’re able to adjust accordingly to the new situation and focus on customers that are thriving, regardless of the crisis. If we hadn’t changed our outreach strategy, we would have been in trouble. Instead, we have many deals that will happen regardless of the pandemic, such as the digital transformation of a gym, or AI augmentation within the aviation industry.”

Interestingly, Kurleto also told us that there had been an increase in mental health projects within the sector.

“Over the last month, I’ve discussed two projects supporting cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and we have taken part in a Covid-19 hackathon, organized by the European Commission, who have partnered up with a medical university head of psychiatry, to help monitor and prevent PTSD among medical staff,” Kurleto said.

In addition, Abel has expressed her outlook on the changes within the industry during the pandemic and how impactful it has been.

“There are a ton of companies stating that their technology can find you the right people to outreach to, more than before. The prices these companies charge has reduced since there are considerably more options. more in the market,” Abel explained. “If a marketing team is full up with campaigns and needs support, or doesn’t want to take it in-house, particularly if they don’t have the skillset, then taking an agency is the way to go.”

Outsourcing or in-house?

We’ve also asked our contributors about the importance of outsourcing sales-lead generation, as opposed to hiring internal resources.

“Appointment setting and Sales Development is a challenging and important activity for companies,” Kreiger told us. “As a result, to do appointment setting well, an organization needs to both have the experience and resources to focus on hiring the right SDRs (sales development representatives), training and coaching those representatives as well as building and iterating an appointment strategy. We have seen companies underestimate how difficult it is to do all three of these things well.”

David Kreiger - President - SalesRoads | LinkedIn
Kreiger “wrote the book” on sales prospecting.

He uses an impactful analogy to explain just how important it is to outsource and why it can be a make or break decision for companies who don’t fully appreciate the entire sales lead recruitment system.

“Just like a three-legged stool, if any of the three building blocks of a high performing appointment setting strategy aren’t done right, the program will underperform,” Kreiger said. “By outsourcing appointment setting and sales development, companies can rely on an organization, like SalesRoads, whose only focus and goal is to get all three of these pillars done right.”

To help explain the efficiency of SalesRoads, we asked Kreiger to explain the implementation process for the average customer.

“It takes us 14 days from our kick-off meeting with a new client to start a program,” Kreiger told us. “We first understand from them what has and hasn’t worked when it comes to demand generation. In addition, we ask about their best clients and what types of companies and prospects they would like to be meeting with.”

“We then develop what we call our Demand Generation Playbook – our strategic guide to helping clients dominate their industry,” Kreiger said. “This playbook includes target call approaches, email cadences, and our overall go to market strategy. Once the playbook is approved, we do extensive role-play with the SDRs before they start calling and booking appointments for our clients. While a program is running, we have coaches who are listening to calls and giving the team feedback on their call approaches so we can continuously improve the appointment process.”

In addition, Abel told us how Hunter & Bard deliver for their customers.

“We do account-based marketing (ABM), which is very specific,” Abel explained. “We’ll do the research and build an exact list of who you are looking for, then design the cadence, write and design all materials, and also facilitate the direct mail and calls. We get a vendor email and do the outreach then hand things over as a sales accepted lead (SAL). The ABM approach is only appropriate for large sales, and there are an account executive and a sales engineer involved in the handover.”

We’ve been fortunate enough to gain insight into the behind the scenes processes of sales lead recruitment and how Covid-19 has impacted both the sales recruitment agencies and the clients themselves. In conclusion, we wanted to know what else helps agencies with the call and appointment-ready sales lead process, to better serve their clients.

“What we find very useful is working with the matter experts.” Kurleto sums up for us. “Our team is constantly trained and challenged by consultants in both outbound and inbound strategies to up their game.”