Is Your Sales Team Killing Your Paid Search Performance?
by Jacob Baadsgaard • April 20, 2016
In paid search marketing, it’s easy to focus your efforts on generating leads for your sales team. After all, if you are sending inexpensive, qualified leads to your sales team, your campaigns will be profitable, right?
Unfortunately, it often doesn’t work out that way.
Where Things Can Go Wrong
Recently, one of our lead generation clients mentioned to me that his paid search campaigns weren’t paying off. He was making enough money off of paid search to cover his expenses, but he really wasn’t making any profit.
I’ll admit, this surprised me.
This wasn’t a new industry for us. We had helped clients in this vertical before and knew we were getting great results for this client.
In fact, by every metric we had available, we were absolutely killing it!
Our paid search efforts had sent their sales team hundreds of high-intent leads at a very competitive cost-per-lead. And, based on our previous experience in the industry, I knew that at least 10% of those leads should have been turning into sales.
They should have been rolling in profit, so why wasn’t paid search working?
As it turned out, this client was only closing 1% of their leads.
The client’s answer was remarkably insightful:
“Jake, the problem isn’t the leads. The leads are great. My sales team just doesn’t know how to close these leads.”
Sadly, it wasn’t the first I’d seen this problem. Effective paid search marketing is a great way to get leads in the door, but if your sales team doesn’t know what to do with the leads, your campaigns will never be profitable.
Paid Search Leads Are Different
Paid search produces more qualified, high-intent leads than almost any other marketing channel. But, to effectively close those leads, you have to understand what makes your paid search leads unique.
The Psychology of Paid Search
As paid search marketers, we know where our leads are coming from and how they got from click to conversion.
In paid search, leads enter our funnel with an online search. Our ad pops up and they think, “Hey, this looks like what I was searching for.” They click on the ad, read through the landing page and decide, “Yep, this is for me” and convert.
Yes, it’s a pretty straightforward process, but it’s critical to note that it is a user-initiated process. In other words, your paid search leads are out there on the internet looking for solutions.
This is important.
With most lead generation approaches (cold calls, TV advertisements, social media posts, etc), the lead reacts to your ads.
In paid search, your leads initiate contact with your ads—they start the process.
As a result, paid search produces incredibly qualified leads, but you have to close them before they start the same process with someone else.
Helping Your Sales Team Close Paid Search Leads
To successfully close paid search leads, your sales team needs to understand what these leads want out of their sales experience. With that in mind, here are 5 keys to successfully closing paid search leads.
1. Respond Immediately
Remember, your paid search leads found you because they were out searching for solutions.
Odds are, your company isn’t the only solution out there, which means your leads are probably looking at the competition, too.
For 50% of your leads, your sales team may be able to make the sale simply by responding first.
Since the average company takes hours-to-days to respond to a new internet lead, this shouldn’t be too hard to do—provided your sales team is responding promptly to new leads.
On average, a new lead is 100x more likely to respond if your sales teams reaches out 5 minutes (vs after 30 minutes) and several thousand times more likely to respond than if they a day or two after submitting their form.
So, if you want to improve your close rate, your sales team should be responding to paid search leads while they are still actively thinking about their problem and your company.
If you miss that 5 minute mark, you may lose them forever.
2. Call Again…and Again…and Again…
For a 90% contact rate, your sales team needs make a minimum of 8-12 contact attempts within 10-14 days of the lead being submitted. To contact even 50% of your leads, sales will need to make at least 6 contact attempts.
The problem is, most sales reps only make 1.3-2.1 contact attempts. Is it any wonder that only 1 out of every 4 internet leads are actually contacted?
At a cost-per-lead of tens, hundreds or thousands of dollars, can your company afford to pay 4x your CPL per contacted lead?
Paid search leads are so expensive because they are so hot. As a result, it’s in your sales team’s best interest to reach out again…and again…and again…
3. Don’t Let Your Sales Team Cherry Pick Leads
For many companies, paid search is something of a turn-crank system. You put money in, turn the crank and leads come out.
This works well from a marketing perspective, but it can make your sales team lazy.
With a never-ending, overabundant supply of fresh leads, ambitious sales people sometimes get in a bad habit of cherry picking leads. They grab a bunch of leads and filter through for the ones they know will be easy to close.
As a result, they often close a ton of sales and look like rockstars. The problem is, their close-to-lead rate is terrible.
For every cherry-picked lead they are closing, these “rockstar” sales reps may be wasting dozens of very expensive leads. As a result, the company often ends up paying more for wasted leads than they actually make on the rep’s closed sales.
The easiest way to avoid this is to keep your sales team hungry.
The hungrier sales is for leads, the more attention they will give to the leads they get. This will improve your overall close rate and improve the profitability of your campaigns…to a point.
If you give them too few leads, you’ll kill morale and productivity.
To keep your sales team hungry without starving them, it’s important to keep an eye on your close-to-sale rate.
If your close-to-sale rate is profitable and your sales team is chomping at the bit for more leads, up your paid search budget. If your close-to-sale rate is low and you aren’t getting requests for leads, turn things down a bit.
4. Get Marketing and Sales Aligned
Paid search leads typically convert because they believe your company can solve their problem. Your sales team’s job is to meet that expectation.
If sales tries instead to sell them something different than what your marketing promised, they’ll feel betrayed and lose interest.
However, if sales team’s response matches the marketing message, the lead will feel like reaching out was the right move.
To achieve this level of messaging consistency, sales needs to understand the expectations of their paid search leads. This will take some extra work on your part, but it will make your sales team more effective…which makes your paid search campaigns more profitable.
On the flip side, your sales team knows what messaging works best in the sales process and which leads are most receptive to your offer, so talking to sales can improve the effectiveness of your marketing efforts as well.
Personally, I’ve worked with dozens of sales teams and seen how aligning marketing and sales can produce millions in additional revenue from paid search. The results are well worth the extra effort.
So, if you want more profitable paid search campaigns, start talking to your sales team!
5. Stop the Search Cycle
As nice as it is to have leads that are looking for your solution, the dark side of paid search is the fact that those same leads often keep looking for a solution—even after you’ve contacted them.
The quicker you can convince them that they’ve found the right solution, the less time they will spend looking at your competitors.
This is particularly bad if you are a marketing an expensive product or service.
If you aren’t aggressively pursuing your paid search leads, they may keep searching and decide to try out a cheaper competitor’s offer, even if your solution is actually a better fit for them.
However, if sales can quickly convince your paid search leads that they’ve already found the right solution, they’ll be far less likely to keep searching for additional options.
If your sales team doesn’t understand how to handle your paid search leads, it’s going to be hard to make much money off of paid search.
The trick is to figure out why your sales team is struggling to close paid search leads and then equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to turn those expensive paid search leads into profitable sales.
By the way, if you’d like to discuss ways to improve your paid search close rates, let me know here or in the comments.
Ultimately, by creating great marketing-sales alignment, you will gives your sales team what they need to succeed and help your company to capitalize on the potential of your paid search campaigns.
You’ve heard my two cents, now it’s your turn. How have you seen sales short-change paid search marketing (or vice versa)? What have you done to help your sales team more effectively field paid search leads?