Outsourced Demand Generation – 10 Questions to Answer Before Hiring an Agency

Looking to boost your lead generation results this year? Using an outside appointment scheduling (sometimes called outsourced demand generation) firm could be a key piece of the puzzle. I’d recommend anyone selling B2B experiment with these outside firms. They bring a level of data science and marketing technology that is difficult to replicate in-house. But they are not magicians or miracle workers. They will need to overcome the same hurdles that your own sales organization wrestles with. The failure rate on outsourced demand generation engagements is fairly high. But it is possible to increase the odds of success by having a deep understanding of your needs before you select a vendor.

Below are ten questions to consider before you start reaching out these firms. The more answers you have the faster you will be able to narrow down the best match for your needs.

1) Activity – What activities do you want the firm to perform? Do you want them simply to schedule appointments with the right buyer personas at your target accounts? In other words, generate leads? Or do you want them to also help with your marketing programs? For example, these outside firms can often help to drive attendance for upcoming webinars or seminars. Some firms will even conduct research about the current needs of potential buyers.

2) Lead Generation Goals – What are the goals for the engagement? In other words, how many leads do you want them to generate? 10 per month? 50 per month? 100 per month? How do you define a lead? Does the prospect need to have budget, authority, need and timing verified before you take a meeting? Or can they simply be a decision maker at a target account willing to have a conversation? And what is the action that you want the leads to participate in? A discovery call? A product demo?

3) Number of Accounts – How many accounts will you assign to the outside agency? And how many will you keep for your own sales team to hunt? This can be a complicated question for larger company that might have their own inside sales team and field sales organization who will want to continue generating their own leads. Suppose you have a list of 10,000 target accounts. Do you want to give 5,000 to the outside firm to prospect and reserve 5,000 for your inside sales team? What level of control do you have over the field sales team? Will they honor a “no fly zone” around the 5000 accounts you give to the outside firm?

4) Account Segmentation – Once you decided on the number of accounts, how do you divide up the market between your own sales organization and the outside agency? Will you segment by vertical industry? Perhaps, the outside firm calls on retail, manufacturing and energy accounts while your internal team calls on financial services, health care and telecommunications. Or you might segment by the size of company. Perhaps your in-house sales teams call on Large, Global 500 accounts and the outside agency pursues everything below $2B in revenue. Understanding your ideal customer profile will simplify this exercise.

5) Channel Conflict – Do you have reseller or referral partners that work with you on deals? How will the go-to-market programs already established with these partners potentially conflict with using an outside appointment scheduling firm? Suppose you assign 5,000 accounts to the outside agency to generate leads. What happens when your VARs, systems integrators and other partners begin to register leads in those 5,000 accounts? Do you need to revisit your account segmentation model (#4) to factor in channel conflict?

6) Target Contact – Who do you want the outside firm to book appointments with? Human resources, finance, sales, marketing, operations, IT? What level of seniority does the prospect need to be? C-Level, VP-Level, Director-Level, Manager-Level? Will you accept meetings with individual contributors? If you have your buyer personas defined this will become a straightforward exercise.

7) Payment Model – How do you want to pay the outside agency? Some firms will charge a monthly retainer to have N number of callers working on your account. Other firms will charge a fee based upon the number of hours they spend on outreach. Others have a pay-for-performance model in which you only pay for leads that are generated. And, of course, there are various combinations of the payment models above. Perhaps, you might agree to a target payment of $20,000 per month. You commit to pay $16,000 per month regardless of the outcome, but also pay up to $4,000 per month for leads generated.

8) Project Length – How long do you want to use the outside firm? Some companies make a strategic decision to eliminate their inside sales team and move to a fully outsourced model. In this case, a 12-month engagement might be appropriate. However, many companies are nervous about the results they will get from outside calling efforts. As a result, they want to limit the engagement to a short, trial period. But how short a time period is enough to really evaluate their performance? There is a learning curve for any sales rep to learn a product and master the art of generating leads. In some cases, three months (or for that matter six months) may not be long enough. How long does it take your in-house sales team to be productive?

9) Contact Database – Whose database will you use? Some outside firms have built their own databases over time as they compile contact information. Other firms will request that you provide all the account and contact information needed for prospects. Do you have names, titles, email addresses and phone numbers for the prospects you want to generate leads with? Obtaining complete and accurate data for your prospect universe could be a considerable effort that could take you months to complete.

10) CRM System – Whose CRM application do you want to use? Some appointment scheduling firms prefer to use their own CRM system, because they have built their own technology stack optimized to provide performance advantages. But many will use your Salesforce.com (or other) application. The decision will drive a number or logistical issues for you. If you use their CRM, how will you keep data in sync? If the outside firm discovers that an email address or phone number is correct, how will you ensure that it is updated in your system? If the outside firm has a conversation with the CIO at a Fortune 500 company, how do you capture that detail in the account history of your CRM? Some outside firms will charge extra fees to get exports of CRM data.

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