You need leads for your business to grow, but generating your own leads can be demanding of your time and budget. If you’re considering outsourcing your lead generation to a specialized firm, there are a few questions you should ask yourself before choosing which company and pricing model is right for your business.
Many companies looking to outsource are attracted to the pay-as-you-go models because you only pay for the leads or sales appointments that you receive, so all of the risk seems to fall on the hired agency.
After all, they don’t get paid if they don’t deliver.
If you’re experiencing a lack of leads, try not to let desperation influence you to pick the first agency you stumble upon. Trusting your lead generation in someone else’s hands is an important decision for a company, so think through some of the points below before making any selection.
Every sales manager wants more leads to provide their team with more opportunity, but don’t mistake more leads for more closed deals.
Firms who get paid by the lead or by the appointment scheduled can offer you volume, but the high number of leads they send you is often undermined by the quality of those leads.
Pay-per-lead and pay-for-performance firms realize that they only get paid if they’re sending you leads, so they encourage their agents to send as many leads to you as possible. This can mean they’re sending leads or setting meetings indiscriminately without making sure the lead is an appropriate fit for your company.
Agencies who offer annual or monthly contracts, compared to pay-per firms, are more incentivized to bring you quality leads because they know they must provide value or risk losing your renewal.
This focus on value and gaining your loyalty means you’re likely to see higher quality leads sent over instead of a mass of leads that bring you no gain.
With pay-per-lead services, you usually don’t get a meeting set, so very little discovery is performed. You may be sent any lead that meets your specified criteria whether they are looking for solutions like yours or not.
Firms who set sales meetings on your behalf are more likely to send you prospects with some intent toward making a purchase. However, keep in mind that clients see much higher meeting reschedule rates from pay-per-appointment firms due to their focus on volume.
During the appointment setting process, firms focused more on value than volume are able to spend extra time asking leads individualized discovery questions to uncover more context about their organizational environment and needs.
At EBQ, we send lead summaries for every meeting set. The summary includes discovery information about how we found the prospect, how the conversation unfolded, and what to expect on the sales call.
Pay-as-you-go firms typically find leads through data collection or form submissions on their site. If the lead indicates they match your specified industry or role, the pay-per-lead firm will likely send it to you and, unfortunately, also to a number of other companies who have hired them.
Pay-per-lead companies frequently resell their leads to multiple clients, so you will be fighting your competitors for the lead’s attention. You may get a great deal on your cost per lead with these services, but the reason they’re able to offer such a low price for each lead is that they’re getting paid for one lead multiple times.
Another way pay-per-lead and pay-for-performance agencies sustain their lower costs is by employing low-paid workers who rely on impersonal forms of automation to do their jobs.
Without comprehensive training, these agents are uninformed on best practices for understanding the complexities of a prospect’s needs and motives.
These firms are the cheaper option because they don’t take the time to fully learn your product and value proposition or ensure the leads understand your offering. Additionally, reps at these firms are often offshore workers who may experience communication barriers due to lack of fluency in your prospects’ language.
Remember that choosing a lead generation firm is choosing who will represent your brand, so decide carefully. At EBQ, we think of ourselves as an extension of your company (as our CEO likes to say, “Our people are your people”).
Lead generation companies with a flat time-based fee are much more likely to provide experienced and professional salaried reps who have meaningful conversations instead of just reading a script. These firms are more likely to understand your objectives, train their reps well, and have established proven processes for building relationships with potential clients.
Agents at pay-per-lead or -appointment firms are typically trained to call as many leads as possible and read their call scripts verbatim, which doesn’t provide quite the right conditions for establishing a connection with prospects.
And most, if not all of these firms, use auto dialing software to accelerate the process of calling on large volumes of leads. This practice ultimately leads to data burnout and can impede on your ability to connect with these leads in the future.
The use of auto dialers comes with its own issues, including sound delays that automatically reduce any credibility the agent has with contacts who answer their call. Auto dialers can encourage reps to become distracted by other web pages while the software dials through their list, catching them off guard and unprepared to pitch when a call is finally answered.
These reps have also been known to work under a collective “John Doe”-type pseudonym in order to give the illusion that all leads are coming from one person instead of being collected in bulk for multiple clients. You can learn more about the dangers of these automated practices in our post about The 3 Biggest Risks of Inside Sales Automation.
If you’re hiring underpaid and undertrained SDRs to kickoff new client relationships, expect to see low answer rates and high reschedule rates during your follow-up process since many of these leads have no interest in your particular product or in speaking with you.
Even with pay-for-performance firms who set sales meetings for you, the leads may not actually fit your target persona, often don’t dial in for their scheduled meetings, and might have only agreed to the meeting in the first place to get the SDR off their back.
You can choose to withhold payment for meetings that don’t go through. But since these firms are incentivized to deliver as many leads as possible, they will begin sending even more unqualified leads just to see what sticks.
Most pay-for-performance agencies deliver a scheduled meeting then leave you to figure it out if the lead is a no-show.
You’re better off choosing an agency that owns up to the rescheduling process, so your salespeople don’t waste their time researching and calling no-shows. Since agencies with a flat fee for lead generation prioritize the value their clients receive, these firms are more likely to help you reach those leads you might otherwise lose.
With pay-as-you-go agencies, you often get no visibility into what they did to get the lead or meeting—you only see the resulting lead or sales appointment. This means there can be a number of things you’re missing from the big picture:
Pay-per-lead firms typically maintain sole ownership of their leads and hide them behind their firewall, providing zero access to the data they’ve collected for you. Having no knowledge of what’s happening behind the scenes can be dangerous for your brand and for your overall sales strategy.
To provide further value for their clients, some flat rate contract firms, like EBQ, go as far as working inside your CRM or Salesforce instance to give you full visibility into their processes.
When reps are working inside your own database, you own all the lead data and can effectively track leads’ progress and follow up.
What happens to all the leads your pay-per-lead firm has been in contact with once your relationship with the firm is over?
If a lead is expecting a follow-up but never hears from your company again, you’ve lost credibility with a potential client and whoever they decide to mention you to. This is an unfortunate possibility that comes up after you end things with your lead generation firm.
On the other hand, you won’t know which leads have already been contacted several times and you risk overwhelming them with calls if you decide to reach out after you stop working with the pay-per-lead or pay-per-appointment firm.
If you care about the long-term impacts on your brand, you should look for options that provide some level of transparency.
At EBQ, we use a sophisticated cadence system and update any record that we touch, meaning that, at the end of our relationship with a client, they have full transparency as to where we left off with their database.
Because of pay-per firms’ surface-level understanding of your ideal buyer and their decision-making process, disagreements often arise as to who is considered a lead to your company.
These firms usually ask for strict lead criteria during your onboarding process, but the specific industry category or contact job title that is right for your offering can vary from prospect to prospect. What happens if your criteria require contacts in a VP role but your outsourced SDR is transferred to a Director as the correct point of contact?
If you accept the lead because they seem qualified, there might be confusion created around what exactly you’re looking for. If the lead falls through and you don’t pay for it, this can result in a hassle over whether you’re paying them fairly and what they should send you in the future.
In the future, their agents might come across a lead who is actually qualified but not send it to your team because they don’t meet your exact criteria, presuming you wouldn’t pay for the lead.
This is an easy way to miss out on opportunities.
Firms operating on an annual or monthly contract recognize the importance of understanding your buyers and how to find the most qualified leads and decision-makers.
Since pay-as-you-go firms are continuously focused on volume, they won’t work with you to better understand the responses they’re getting or how you should adjust your strategy.
You might miss out on the opportunity to observe and track trends in your lead generation (SDR outreach can be an excellent resource for validating your strategy).
Pay-per-lead firms operate more like a vendor than a business partner. Because of their pricing model, they will always prioritize volume and payment over delivering actual value for your company. This is just one of the biggest challenges of outsourcing to vendors like these.
If you choose a lead generation firm truly set on delivering value instead of just an excess of leads, they will keep you in the loop on your campaign progress and how to improve. For example, we hold continuous improvement meetings with our clients regularly to touch base on what’s working and ensure our strategies are aligned.
Outsourcing to a reputable lead generation agency can provide you with experienced reps who recognize how their efforts can be improved.
With a deep understanding of the client’s strategy and buyer persona, firms with month-to-month contracts like EBQ are much more able and willing to work with their clients to identify trends in data and determine if the outreach strategy should be adjusted.
With the vast number of lead generation companies existing today, it can be difficult to find one that gives you the most value for your dollar. If you’re looking for inexpensive leads fast, then pay-per-lead or pay-for-performance might be an acceptable option for you.
Pay-as-you-go lead generation services can be effective for companies looking for a large volume of cheap leads, but it’s hard to say there’s zero risk involved for your company.
If you want sustainable value for your sales pipeline, go with a firm that delivers qualified leads who actually demonstrate a need and readiness for your offering. Avoid value loss down the line by investing in lead generation experts who are driven by value instead of just volume.