Leading the way
M any ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) have a recurring dream about being allowed to concentrate only on what they do best, which is selling their products and services. But the dream is often interrupted by nightmarish demons. Leads.
Leads can cause consternation and anxiety in MLSs in several ways. Many are cold; others provide incomplete information; some have already been contacted by multiple competitors. The pursuit of leads can become an agent's Achilles' heel, relentlessly eating away at time better spent closing sales. But there is a viable alternative.
ProposalPortal.com, a rapidly growing business-to-business (B2B) lead generation company, has a philosophy that reflects its number one goal: to match qualified business owners who are actively seeking specific products and services with lead partners who can accomm-odate them.
ProposalPortal was developed to distinguish itself from other lead generation companies. It focuses on more involvement in client growth, so much so that it refers to clients as lead partners. Tom Knauss, the company's co-founder and President, has been in the merchant services industry the majority of his life. He empathizes with the struggle to obtain consistently reliable leads.
Given Knauss' experience, he appreciates the Herculean challenges faced by ISOs and MLSs. "It's a niche market, and if you've never been in it and never dealt with an angry merchant, you will never know what these guys go through on a daily basis," he said.
To that end, Knauss set out to build a lead generation company that is flexible, knowledgeable and client driven.
Active involvement and follow-up
ProposalPortal wants its clients to thrive. It values itself as a partner – an extension of an ISO's sales and marketing teams. The company knows its success is critically and directly connected to its clients' triumphs. It fosters a corporate culture dedicated to its clients' return on investment, which is proportionate to the value of the lead supplied to the client.
ProposalPortal generates leads primarily through Web-based marketing campaigns across a network of industry specific Web sites. Through its requests for proposal quote process, the company generates hundreds of qualified B2B leads that forward detailed information regarding the products for which merchants are currently shopping.
It also participates in industry seminars, conferences and tradeshows. ProposalPortal is committed to staying abreast of industry trends and requirements in order to offer its customers the greatest advantage in securing the most profitable leads.
ProposalPortal's dedication to be actively involved is critical to the lead buyers' success. The company collects data from business owners through a qualification process that is tailored to each lead partner. It wants to know exactly what products or services potential buyers need.
"Our primary method of generating leads is via Web-based marketing," Knauss said. "Through a comprehensive online campaign that includes pay-per-click advertising, natural SEO [search engine optimization] and a network of industry specific affiliated sites, ProposalPortal.com redefines the standard for traditional merchant service lead generation."
CRM worth every penny
Like bees in a honeycomb, ProposalPortal staff members gather comprehensive profiles of potential merchants and forward the leads to clients in real-time; the targeted business owners are often still online and in a buying frame of mind. "We deliver quality information and bring ancillary lead sources [to clients] that they did not have before," Knauss said.
ProposalPortal launched the Partner Portal CRM (customer relationship management) in September 2007 to enable clients to view and manage leads, as well as track sales activity and leads status. The CRM also gives clients the tools to implement fundamental customer relations for each lead, tailored specifically for that business.
"Our long-term goal is to become an extension of our clients' sales and marketing teams by providing a comprehensive online CRM tool that will provide clients with visibility into their business development pipeline," said Scott Hettmen, ProposalPortal's Director of Operations.
By offering comprehensive CRM to clients at no additional charge, the company believes it will build a reputation as a key element in the overall growth of its clients business. With the CRM, clients can track each lead, log calls and update a lead's status. This eliminates the old school method of paper, pencil and pounding pavement to follow up on leads.
"This method accelerates the sales process of ISOs by eliminating the cold calling element and allowing them to engage with warm leads that generate meaningful conversation," Hettman said.
Easy setup and implementation
ProposalPortal noted that approximately 50% of its leads result in closed sales. Getting started on those sales is as easy as clicking on the Vendor Leads icon on the company's home page.
ProposalPortal developed a subscription-based model with a unique fee structure that allows clients to purchase a monthly allotment of leads. With the program, clients are able to control and monitor their influx of leads. ProposalPortal offers 29 lead categories. Clients in the payments industry can find leads for such market segments as automated teller machines, credit card processing, e-commerce, gift cards, kiosks, Internet services, payroll and POS systems, collection agencies, and telemarketing.
Working only with what ProposalPortal deems quality leads, distribution is also kept to a minimum.
A whopping 10% of leads that the company examines are never distributed because ProposalPortal has determined they lack potential.
Specific leads are sent to a maximum of only four other clients. However, the company reports that, on average, each referral is sent to only three partners because all geographic areas are not completely
Partner Portal, an online management system included free with each ProposalPortal lead account, can save lead partners hours of time searching through files, faxes and e-mails. Looking for leads and contacts can be managed all from one online source. Further information can be found under FAQs on the company's Web site, www.proposalportal.com.
Easy billing, easy refunds
Leads can be delivered in real-time via e-mail in a variety of formats. When completed paperwork is received from a lead partner, an account can be set up within 24 hours. When a consumer requests a quote in a particular client's subscription area, the information is sent in the requested format to the client's e-mail address within seconds.
Billing is also simple. During setup, a client selects a preferred billing method and will be charged a deposit based on the client's specified lead volume and pricing. Subsequently, clients are charged for the previous month's lead by the fifth of the following month. Statements are always sent out before any charges are processed.
Time spent searching for hot prospects is valuable and should not be wasted on unsound leads. Knowing that bogus leads should not be an issue, the company has implemented an aggressive refund policy guaranteed to eliminate a lead partner's concerns about paying for a spurious lead.
Invalid leads are those that have a fake name, disconnected phone number, or an incorrect or incomplete request form. Refunds for invalid referrals are also approved and credited to client accounts within five days. Calls requesting refunds are reviewed weekly and, once approved, are immediately reflected as a refund on the account.
Empowerment in a competitive marketplace
While the quality and quantity of leads are in direct correlation to professional sales success, they are not the lone factors. Follow through is the glue that ultimately seals the deals. Competitors vying for the same leads, time and resource constraints, and even dead cell phone batteries can adversely hinder an ISO's or MLS's closing rates. ProposalPortal, as one solution, endeavors to empower clients in a fiercely competitive marketplace by introducing them to quality providers at competitive rates.
The company is to the electronic payments industry what a dating Web site is to single people who no longer want to go it alone. And according to company records, six of the top 10 processors currently use ProposalPortal for their leads generation. If ISOs and MLSs are inundated with lame leads, they are unable to provide the quality service and dedicate the resources necessary to close deals. Those who are able to choose the number of leads they receive and modify them on a continual basis are not inundated by prospects.
ProposalPortal didn't want to take a cookie-cutter approach to its sales and follow up service. The legions of tire kickers who are not actively shopping are weeded out of the lead pool early in the generation process. Also, tailoring both merchants' and clients' needs on a level of specificity that connects both in a timely manner is paramount.
John Knauss, ProposalPortal's co-founder, Executive Vice President and Director of Business Development said, "What we try to do is look at each industry partner and [not] try to push the same program to each individual." Clients can even select filters in their lead generation programs for a specific region, state, city or area code. The more specific the filter, the more refined the lead.
Tom Knauss believes his company is on the right path because its value lies in being an asset to the client, rather than simply a provider of contact information. He expects this philosophy to propel ProposalPortal into becoming one of the nation's premier lead generation sources.
John Knauss agreed. A satisfied customer will remain as such and spread the word to others dissatisfied with lead service companies whose core beliefs do not prize client satisfaction over all else. "If we can custom tailor the lead flow to match their core competencies, it seems that we can get partners [who] are happy with the program and are around for a long time," he said.
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