Outsourcing Lead Generation: Who Do You Trust?

Practically every business has a dirty little secret: It’s called customer attrition. Rarely can a company claim someone as a customer for life. There will always be pressure from the competition — and as a result, there will always be customer attrition.

Certainly, businesses do everything they can to retain their current base, but retention isn’t enough. It’s essential for any organization to continuously grow revenue. From moving van companies to travel agents to software providers, every business struggles to obtain the most valuable of assets: customer leads.

Generating leads is as much science as art. Successful lead generation requires a methodical plan, and the discipline to execute the plan effectively over time. Rarely does a sales blitz work without a consistent, longer-term execution.

Consistency is where most small-to-mid size organizations fail in their lead-generation efforts. Certainly, smaller firms have limited resources, and as such, a dedicated lead-generation team is practically unheard of. After all, even in a mid-sized company, everyone from the CEO to the janitor is expected to pitch in on any-and-all business efforts.

When business is booming, it’s easy for the company to neglect essential lead-generation strategies for want of resources, because the entire staff is focused on serving current customers. This approach can be especially damaging when tough times hit, as we’ve seen over the past 18 months.

Without a primed funnel, customer attrition can be fatal.

The Advantages

Still, it’s near impossible for a small-to-mid sized company to bear the overhead cost of dedicated lead-generation personnel. That’s where lead-generation outsourcing can be the lifeblood of a business. The concept of “micro-sourcing” is becoming ever more prevalent as a means of outsourcing small, niche programs without a significant commitment on the part of the business owner. This concept works particularly well for outsourced lead generation, where initial programs can be launched with as few as three sales agents, or scaled upward with many hundreds of agents.

An outsourced lead-generation provider can apply the methodical, consistent elbow grease needed to keep a successful initiative alive. A micro-outsourcing partner will work in collaboration with a business to establish a framework for the outreach.

It will

  • develop a prospect database with specifics on the decision maker, contact information and buying profile of a prospect;
  • mechanize the outreach to prospects, either through telephone, email or Web-based methods;
  • create a snappy and simple sales pitch;
  • ensure a thorough feedback and follow-up engine;
  • guarantee a consistent volume of contact activity;
  • regularly evaluate and update training to determine what is — and what is not — working; and
  • allow for a high-touch handoff to internal sales personnel.

Besides a proven framework for providing outreach, there are myriad other reasons micro-sourcing lead generation can benefit a small-to-medium sized organization. Aside from providing the simple mechanism of consistent customer outreach, it becomes an extension of the business at a fixed level of investment for a predetermined outcome. Companies can scale them up or down, and control the program without constantly expanding or contracting the internal workforce.

Finally, despite its niche focus, a micro-sourcer still provides the level of expertise, experience and best practices that small-to-medium sized organizations may not otherwise have access to. For example, when cold-calling prospects, discovery and research are vital elements of every call. A skilled agent with a reputable micro-sourcer will know how to ferret-out decision makers, obtain additional contact information and get consensus agreement on a follow-up scenario. This is the “art” side of the business that only comes with extensive sales training and experience.

Sounds great, right? A micro-sourced team (read: small, experienced, focused, low cost) purely dedicated to the methodical and consistent lead-generation function. A resource-strapped business couldn’t ask for anything more.

Neutralizing the Risks

But what about the risks? Is it ever smart to hand over a list of prospects to outsourcers?

The answer is yes, if done right. A good lead-generation provider will do more than simply make call downs. A successful partner will profile the business, tailor a program and — this one is important — incorporate an equity stake in the outcome.

This last component is essential. With a micro-sourcer that’s vested in success, the lead-generation program becomes mutually beneficial. The more entities with a stake in success, the better.

Micro-sourcers can be more creative in structuring a lead-generation agreement with a client than, say, a multinational large-scale BPO outsourcer. Because micro-sourcers take on small projects — even five-agent deals — incentives, equity stakes and other bonus options are powerful. What’s more, a lead-generation program implemented by a micro-sourcer will allow for a highly transparent program, removing risks associated with shady sales practices or brand-damaging agents.

Ultimately, lead generation needs to stay top of mind for any business. As the economy gets back on its feet in 2010, businesses are again going to be forced to divide their resources between serving current clients rather than acquiring new ones.

However, without a strong line of interested prospects, virtually any blip spurring customer attrition — such as a competitive promotion or a service blunder, can significant dampen a thriving business.

John Vanderpool is general manager, North America, for KenCall.

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