How to eliminate CRM data entry grunt work

August 4, 2006

EVA stands for Electronic Virtual Assistant…and it’s really cool.

You talk into it and it does most of the administrivia. All for a very affordable price. If you are an executive, or a field sales person, you need this service – unless you already have a personal secretary.

I’m not easily impressed when it comes to productivity boosting technology, but this is special. Having worked as a field sales person for years, I know well how much unproductive grunt work is involved. Call reports, trip reports, expense reports, follow-up items, next steps, pipeline reports, updating your boss, etc. etc. etc.

As a sales person you don’t really get paid for any of this administrivia stuff. Yet, you are required to do it. It’s what you get paid your base salary for.

Whatever your base salary is, it’s not enough to justify the time you have to spend doing this administrivia. It’s costing you and your company a fortune in lost potential productivity. Don’t do it, switch to EVA.

So what does this have to do with CRM? Everything. CRM is a big fat flop because there is nothing in it for the sales person. They get to do a bunch of administrivia that does not help them close sales now. Worst, no one else in the company is using the information either.

The other problem with CRM is that most field sales people don’t like to type and don’t have the time to, as they are on the road. So, no
return-on-effort for the sales person. Also, they have nowhere to do the administrivia, ever try writing a sales report on a laptop while in the boarding line?

This EVA thing looks really cool. Go to their website and watch the video. You’ll be glad you did.

P.S. – Don’t let the amateurish looking website throw you.


How to write an effective B2B cold calling script

July 14, 2006

“This is Fred Smith.”

Oh no, he actually answered his telephone. What am I going to do now. Panic sets in.

“Uh…Hi Mr. Smith…this is Bill Jones from Acme Software…uh, how are you today?”

“I’m in a meeting now, call me back some other time…click.” That’s it, your done.

Executives are busy. They don’t want to talk to you and they certainly don’t want a “relationship” with you. They don’t have a second to spare for anyone or anything that does not add value to them now.

If you think they are going to let you ask them any questions, then you are obviously new to this game.

When they answer the phone, they want to know who you are, where you’re from and what you what. If you can’t communicate that, effectively, in less than ten seconds, you’re done.

There is only one good way to approach a cold call. With a script that gives the person answering the phone the information they want, instantly. Doing so buys you a few more precious seconds without them hanging up on you.

Step one: “Hi Mr. Jones, this is Fred Smith from Acme Software.”

Step two: I’m calling so see if you would like a free copy of our latest document titled, “How to solve an important problem you are having now”.

Step three: Shut up. Don’t say a word. Wait until they say something, anything.

They will either say “no thanks” and hang up or there will be a pause as they think about it. After the brief pause, they will say “yes”.

You then ask them for their email address and let them know when to expect the document. Done. Fast, easy and painless for all parties concerned.

The key is the quality of your offer of information. If you offer product sales information you will get a zero response rate. If you offer interesting, value added, new information about how to solve a relevant problem, you’ll get a response rate of 3 to 8%.

Write your script, don’t wing it. Read the script on your calls, word for word. Make an offer of information and quickly move on to your next call.

Now you are positioned to make a warm follow-up call in three business days – and begin a dialog from a position of strength because you have begun the relationship by delivering value first. You’ve earned the right to begin a dialog.

Your Landing Page Should Resume Your Sales Letter In B2B Lead Generation

July 7, 2006

By Alan Sharpe

Do you tell this lie in your sales letters?

“Visit our website for more information.”

Too many sales letters invite prospects to visit websites that actually contain less information than what’s found in the sales letter. This makes no sense when the goal of a business-to-business direct mail letter is to make a sale or generate an inquiry.

So think carefully about what you want your prospect to do after reading your letter, and then write, design and code your landing page with that goal in mind.

Your friend, the forward slash

I’m talking about a campaign-specific landing page, the kind that you create for a particular direct mail campaign. These landing pages have a unique URL and unique content designed to move a particular prospect to take a particular step in the buying process. The URL for campaign-specific landing pages should look enticing and promise value. For example:

Over, please

The best way to write an effective landing page is to think of it as the irresistible continuation of your sales letter. Your pitch on paper describes the crime scene. Your landing page reveals who dunnit.

This means your landing page creative has to match your sales letter creative. Visually, the two should share a common theme and color palette. And tactically, each should share the same goal.

If your visitor wants more information, put it all on the landing page and then ask for the order. Don’t make visitors hunt around by clicking all over your site. Give them what they need in one place. Remove from your landing page any graphics, navigation buttons and copy that have no immediate bearing on your goal—moving your visitor to act.

For example, if you’re selling Product A, do not show a photo of Product B. If you want your visitor to download a white paper and supply an email address, do not also request that the visitor complete an online survey. Stick to your single-minded goal of moving your prospect to take the next step in your direction. Eliminate all distractions.

Sell them again

And remember that you need to sell your visitor again. Your landing page needs to reiterate the same sales proposition and offer that you featured in your direct mail piece. Word your offer in the same way. Name your product or service in the same way. Feature your price, guarantee and product photos in the same way.

Make sure your landing page stands alone as a complete sales pitch in itself, in much the same way that business reply cards and paper order forms (assuming you still use them) reiterate the offer found in your sales letter. Your prospect may chuck your letter but bookmark your landing page, or forward the landing page URL to a colleague. So make sure you tell your landing page visitors everything they need to know to respond, including how to respond.

Buyers today prefer to visit a website than mail in a reply card and wait weeks for a catalog or product brochure to arrive. Capitalize on this trend by writing sales letters that motivate buyers to visit your landing page, and then writing and designing your landing page to deliver on your promise.

© 2006 Sharpe Copy Inc.

About the Author: Alan Sharpe is a business-to-business direct mail copywriter and lead generation specialist who helps business owners and marketing managers attract new clients using direct mail marketing. Sign up for free weekly tips like this at


Sell Your Offer, Not Your Offering

July 7, 2006

In B2B Direct Mail Lead Generation, Sell Your Offer, Not Your Offering. 

by Alan Sharpe

In business-to-business direct mail lead generation, sell your offer, not your product.

This sounds like lethal advice to a sales person, and it is, to a salesperson responsible for closing sales and meeting quota. But your direct mail is not responsible for closing a sale but for opening a dialogue. Your goal with a B2B lead generation letter, postcard, dimensional mailer or email is not to persuade prospects to buy but to motivate them to respond.

This makes perfect sense in B2B direct marketing more than anywhere else, particularly when you are selling to large companies, where:

1. Sales cycles are longer (months or years rather than days or weeks)
2. The buying process is more involved (gathering information on solutions, establishing specifications, requesting proposals, interviewing promising suppliers, checking trade references, testing the product, haggling over terms and price)
3. The buyer isn’t a person, but a committee
4. The costs of making a poor buying decision are usually great

Not all B2B direct marketers face these challenges, of course. One of my clients, a Brazilian manufacturer of high-end women’s footwear for the North American market, is able to generate sales with a simple two-step process. The company mails a postcard to prospective business buyers (women’s fashion boutiques, for example), and offers a free pair when the prospect buys a case of shoes from the company website. The postcard generates the lead and the website closes the sale. Cha-ching.

But most B2B sales aren’t that simple. And that’s why your B2B direct mail shouldn’t sell your offering, which is your product or service. It should sell your offer, which is the incentive or reason you give prospects to respond now.


In practical terms, what this means is that your direct mail package should offer prospects something that is so compelling, valuable and exclusive that they take action and respond. They “raise their hand,” as we say in the trade, and show their interest. And they usually do that when you show, through your offer, that you can solve their problem.

“When you are responsible for generating sales leads, focus on promoting your offer as the solution to your target audience’s pains before you start selling them on your company or product,” says Russell Kern in S.U.R.E.-Fire Direct Response Marketing, a book I highly recommend and sell from my website.

By phone, fax, email, web or mail, your prospects respond to your offer. Then you follow up with them, qualify them, sell them on the features and benefits of your offering, or nurture them until they are ready to buy.

Here’s an example of selling the offer and not the offering. Every couple of months, I receive a phone call from an affable chap from Pitney Bowes. He doesn’t try to sell me an expensive digital postage meter for my office. He doesn’t tell me the mailstation™ has a built-in scale. Or that it processes up to 20 pieces of mail per minute. Instead, he offers to let me test drive the postage meter risk-free for 60 days—and he throws in $30 in free postage to make me respond then and there.

That offer would work just as well with direct mail. It’s a great lead generator because Pitney Bowes doesn’t sell the digital postage meter. That’s the offering. They instead sell a free trial and free postage. That’s the offer.

When Pitney Bowes sells its high-volume mailing systems to larger accounts, it uses offers that match the needs of these prospects, which is not a simple trial or $30 in free postage. They offer:

• White papers: “Managing Content Through the Enterprise”
• Case studies: “Bank of America Saves Millions in Postage and Operational Costs”
• Featured articles: “The Future of Mail”
• Webinars and online presentations: “Bringing Customer Communication Into The Boardroom”

Whoever your target audience is, make your offer irresistible. And make sure your list is gold. After all, I should respond, take the Pitney Bowes trial, use the free postage and become a long-term customer. But, even though I’ve enjoyed hearing their frequent sales pitches for the last two years, I remain a lousy prospect. But that’s another topic altogether, isn’t it?

© 2006 Sharpe Copy Inc. You may reprint this article online and in print provided the links remain live and the content remains unaltered (including the “About the Author” message).

About the Author: Alan Sharpe is a business-to-business direct mail copywriter and lead generation specialist who helps business owners and marketing managers attract new clients using direct mail marketing. Sign up for free weekly tips like this at


My secret B2B lead generation two-step formula

July 7, 2006

I love direct mail.  You drop a bunch of mail and then sit back and wait for the phone to ring.  It’s more fun than making cold calls. And a lot easier, when you know how to do it.

The hard part about direct mail is getting the offer right.  You need one that “pulls” a response rate that results in you getting as many leads as possible.  You actually have to get the whole direct mail “package” right, but the most important part is the offer. 

Side-note: First first, you have to get a good list…but that’s another story.

Okay, so how do you get a good offer for your direct mail piece? 

Simple, you test.  You drop some mail, see what response you get, change the offer, drop some more and so on.  You track the results and drop the lower response rate offers in favor of the better ones.  Simple.

It may be simple, but it’s not easy.

There’s a lot of time and money involved in creating and changing direct mail offerings frequently enough to produce a nice test set.  Often you need specialized marketing people to do it. It’s not something a sales person or organization can do alone or easily.

Here is my solution.  Create and test several offers using cold calling, first. Write short scripts that contain your offer(s) and cold call on each one for two hours.  At the end of two hours you will have established a response rate for the offer. 

After you have tested a few, say four or five, then pick the one with the best response rate.  Next, validate the response rate by doing the two hour call test on the script again.  If it performs as well as it did the first time out, you’re ready for the next step.

The next step is to “move” the offer from cold calling to direct mail.  In a simple one page letter or on a post card, print your proven cold call script language. 

Now mail out an initial test run of you new mailer.  Perhaps a few hundred.  If you get a decent response rate, you are now ready to go big. 

Final step, go big.  In other words, mail the rest of your list with your now proven offer.

Follow-up on the leads that result.

Now, drop this same mailer to your entire list, every month, until your response rate starts to fall. Be sure to suppress your responders so as not to hack them off and or look like a moron.

If you’re really on the ball, you’ll do the first part of this process, the offer testing by cold calling part, every quarter.

This “formula” will result in a nice steady flow of initial contact sales leads.  It will also be a nice complement to your cold calling program.  The mailers will warm up the cold calls.

If all went as planned, your program is up and running and producing results you are happy with.  Now it’s time to automate and outsource.  I’ve heard Zairmail is good.

Two channel B2B lead generation model

July 6, 2006

Thanks to the folks over at for providing some statistics (average response rates by lead generation stage). As a result, we are able to fill out a nice little model.

The information comes from Alan Sharpe’s newsletter (volume 3, Issue 27).

In summary, he said that the B2B industry average for qualified leads is 25% of total leads generated by a given campaign. This means that 25% of the leads you generate are qualified, on average.

His next data point is that 30% of your qualified leads result in a sales appointment, on average.

His final data point is that 25% of the leads that take appointments, go on to close, on average.

When you combine this with an initial response rate of 3.5% (mail and or cold calling) you can go on to build a very helpful model, based on the following:

step 0: mail or call your list

step 1: 3.5% will respond to your offer

step 2: 25% of the responders will be qualified

step 3: 30% of the qualified leads will go on to take an appointment

step 4: 25% of those taking an appointment will sign on the dotted line

Using this information I was able to determine that I need to make 1,530 calls or drop 1,530 pieces of mail in order to generate 1 sale.

The cost of dropping 1,530 pieces of mail is about $765 and the cost of calling 1,530 names is about $2,295, or so. This is the cost of generating the initial response and does not include the cost of whittling the 1,530 down to 1.

Email is not included because SPAM has destroyed it as a viable channel. Response rates are basically zero for cold email.

I recommend Alan’s website and newsletter – lots of good information presented in an uncluttered way.

This kind of modelling is okay for giving you a rough estimate and or budget. The problem is that life is not so neat. In enterprise B2B sales, the truth of the matter is you will never know for sure how and or where a prospect or customer became aware of you.

Was it at a trade show last year? Was it the post card webinar invitation from three months ago? Was it an article someone read and passed on to co-workers from a year and a half ago? No one knows for sure, even if you ask them.

Still, the information is helpful from a planning standpoint.

Direct Mail Business-to-Business Lead Generation: 5 Ways To Attract Hotter Prospects

July 4, 2006

By Alan Sharpe

In B2B direct mail lead generation, as your volume of leads goes up, your quality goes down, and vice versa.

The people in marketing prefer volume. They want the most leads for their dollar.

The people in sales—the folks who must follow up on the leads that marketing supplies—want quality. They have no time to waste this quarter chasing down tire kickers and brochure collectors.

One way to keep sales and marketing happy is to write lead generation packages that improve the quality of leads generated. Packages that attract the hottest prospects. Here are some ways to do that with your next campaign.

1. Discuss price. The best prospects are the ones who don’t faint when you talk price. They have the budget to buy what you’re selling. So attract them, and scare away the time-wasters, by mentioning your price.

2. Say “A salesman will call.” This should chop your response rate in half by my reckoning. But the prospects you’ll attract will be the hottest prospects, the ones who don’t mind talking to a salesperson, and actually want to (these people do actually exist!).

3. Ask their age. Just kidding. Maybe. Asking qualifying questions on your reply device or website landing page helps you weed out the people who are not ready to do business with you right now. This can involve asking them their age (if you’re selling life insurance, for example), but it normally involves soliciting the kind of information that tells you how serious a prospect you have.

Think BANT: Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe. Asking qualifying questions in your lead generation piece helps you attract prospects who can afford your offering, have the authority to buy, need what you are selling and are ready to act within your timeframe.

4. Charge for information. Putting a price, even a token amount, on an information booklet, white paper or demo will soon separate the cream from the milk.

5. Ask for a stamp. Don’t use a postage-paid business reply card or envelope. Make the prospect buy and affix the stamp. The replies you get will be qualified inquiries.

Putting these tactics to use should keep your sales force happy because the quality of the leads you give them will be the highest possible. And your friends in marketing should be happy, too, since sales people close more sales when calling

© 2006 Sharpe Copy Inc. You may reprint this article online and in print provided the links remain live and the content remains unaltered (including the “About the Author” message).

About the Author: Alan Sharpe is a business-to-business direct mail copywriter and lead generation specialist who helps business owners and marketing managers attract new clients using direct mail marketing. Sign up for free weekly tips like this at


Book review: Rivers of Revenue

July 3, 2006

This is a great book. Jam-packed with real and helpful information. If you have anything to do with B2B enterprise technology sales and or marketing, you’ll love this book.

The first nugget I got from this book was a convincing case that the only way to build and run a company is to take counsel primarily from customers. This involves interviewing customers. It’s hard work, it’s inconvenient and it may be tricky from a political standpoint.

The author, Kristin Zhivago, says that even though it may be hard, it’s the only way to keep from going astray. She accurately points out how companies begin making “bonehead” decisions that lead to the river of revenue drying up and what to do about it.

The next concept I found very helpful was that of categorizing products by the amount of scrutiny prospects apply during the buying process. I sell a “heavy scrutiny” product and was pleased to see the laundry list of information needed to support this kind of a sale. Most companies don’t have enough of the information she lists as mandatory.

This book is going on my “read every year” bookshelf. It’s that good. Read it.

“Holy smoke Batman…Nomea changes everything”

June 30, 2006

Those of you who know me, know that I’m always on the prowl for the latest tools, techniques and or process tips. Anything that makes sales, inside or otherwise, better faster quicker.

In finding prospects who are interested in what we have to sell now, leverage is very helpful. For example, about a year ago I began using a dialer. Using a dialer tripled my productivity. Before the dialer I could make about 100 calls per day. When I’m on my dialer I can make 300 per day. That’s a big deal.

Another lower tech approach to dial leverage is what the old boiler rooms used to do. They would fill a room with manual dialers who would dial lists as fast as they could. When they got someone on the line, they would manually transfer to a “closer” who was sitting in the middle of the room. This was mostly B2C conman stuff. This would never work for reputable B2B for a million reasons. Anyway.

So here comes this smart company that has found a way to use cheap labor to do cold calling for U.S. based companies. This is certainly not new. There are lots of cold call outsource companies that have call centers in places like India and the Philippines. The rub is that the callers are not native English speakers.

If you are IBM or Microsoft then you can get away with having non native English speakers calling U.S. based executives. If you are not a mega brand, then forget it.

Okay, so what are these guys offering? Their program is that they buy outbound capacity from call centers in India and have the agents dial your target list. When they get the target executive on the phone they transfer to your sales person. The transfer is done so fast the target is not aware it even occurred. This is perfect. A lower cost, non native English speaker does all the work necessary to get the target on the phone, but does not speak to him.

Instead, the call is transfered to a higher cost native English speaker who knows the target’s space and the product being sold. This could be an inside or field sales person.

The Nomea contracted agents, a cluster of them, all dial the list during a two hour window of time. During this two hour period, the sales person receiving the calls, or transfers, stands ready to take the transfers. If the sales person is busy, it rolls over to a backup sales person, so no calls are missed.

So a group of about six agents all make as many calls as they can in a two hour period. When they reach a target, they transfer to the sales person in the U.S. Nomea guarantees five transfers per hour. That’s five target prospect conversations per hour for two hours. This level of productivity far outstrips what any single U.S. based sales person can do, with or without a dialer.

As long as the service is not too expensive it should be a winner. Even if it’s pricey now, it won’t be in a year. The model appears easily duplicable so all the big outsourcers will be on to it soon.

This is a big deal. This is the future of high volume cold calling.

Even though their website is next to useless, it does have a good PDF that uses pictures to describe the process. Go take a look.

Are you passing the first contact test?

June 30, 2006

Most technology companies aren’t – and it’s costing them.

You spend millions and months on your mix, all to get someone to call you – and then you blow it!


Kristin Zhivago outlines exactly how we drop the ball at a critical time. My only addition to this really good article is, “ditto for email.” Very solid read.