Who is best for prospecting and setting up appointments?

I happen to be a member of some LinkedIn Sales groups, and yesterday, I saw an interesting discussion started by a person on one such group. He was pondering on what is best — having a specialized team for Prospecting and Lead Generation vis-à-vis training the existing sales team to prospect. Given that having an Inside Sales team or Lead Generation team is a classic ploy used by many companies to either have a higher volume of leads, or simply to cut costs, I thought this was a pertinent question.

I believe that it makes best sense to have a separate team who is goaled specifically on the number of daily calls they make to prospects, AND the number of qualified leads they generate. This takes away a lot of drudgery from the lives of Field Sales persons and can make them more productive — they don’t need to spend hours scouring through industry lists, or cold calling company receptions to find out key contact information or set up meetings. Good sales guys tend to be more expensive, and hence in a sense, their time is more precious. We cannot afford to have them spending too much of their time on prospecting. Also, a steady stream of qualified leads keeps Sales persons motivated, and also helps improve their ability to make meaningful forecasts — more on this in a later article. Thus, it does seem to make sense to have a specialized team which is focused on only prospecting.

However, there are a whole lot of qualifiers I would add to make this approach work:

  • This approach works better in the Small and Midsize customer segment. In the Large Enterprise customer segment, I don’t think customers would appreciate anyone other than their “named” account manager calling them for demand generation.
  • We must have well trained persons doing the prospecting. The Field Sales Management must invest quality time into deciding which groups of customers to target, validating the call script, giving precise directions on objection handling and qualification criteria and set KPI’s on daily call volume and leads. There must also be a constant review of the efficacy of the process.
  • If Account managers — by organisational design — are just constantly handed leads on a platter, there could be a tendency for them to relax, only judge leads and not put any effort themselves on lead generation.
  • It is also essential for every sales person to not become dependent on anyone or anything to achieve his or her sales quota. The best sales persons don’t blame the lack of leads for their performance; they just keep working on business development in addition to their regular sales and account management activities.

What works best in my opinion — depending on the size of the company — is to have a small team of well trained lead generation specialists, who have a clear set of objectives and guidelines set by Sales Management, coupled with regular reviews. This ensures that the prospecting team works with clarity, and the consistent cadence ensures that both sides are committed to the process and the quality of lead keeps increasing.

I welcome comments…

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