Inbound Marketing Myth Busted
Unpopular opinion: thinking of inbound marketing as a one-size-fits-all magic pill is pretty narrow minded. I’ve seen numerous self-serving blog posts claiming that direct outreach is a thing of the past. “Push marketing” is old, evil and everything will be permission based inbound in the future, blah, blah, blah. The second oldest profession in the world (sales) is going the way of the dodo bird, right? MEDDPIC and the Sandler method is overrated. We’ll just do a bunch of content marketing and everyone will beat a path to our door.
Yeah, I’m not buying it either. Not 100% anyway.
The truth is, depending upon your business, direct sales might be one of your core customer acquisition channels. In some cases, it might be your most effective customer acquisition channel. If you have a business that can live on inbound marketing automation alone, good for you, but let’s be realistic. That just may not be the case for everybody.
Why Outsource Appointment Setting
If you’re trying to scale and can’t afford a full-time sales rep, an outsourced appointment setting service can be a huge help. Sure, of course, you want to automate everything you can, but sometimes you need a little help getting the flywheel going. Even if you’ve got one sales rep, outsourcing the appointment setting frees them up to spend more time closing deals.
$6,000 ACV Minimum
Hiring intelligent people who speak fluent English that can properly represent your product is not cheap. Neither is hiring a full-time sales rep! Most companies set a minimum average contract value (ACV) of $5K – $6K to say the service is worth it. Some are even higher.
Rough Outline of Process
Month 1: Onboarding
As a rough outline here’s what you can expect: the first month is mostly spent understanding your products / services and the best way to represent them, as well as trying to iron out your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Getting the customer segmentation correct may be the most critical part of the process. More often than not, these companies will tell you to niche down. Then they will build out and request approval for the scripts they will use to represent your company. To my knowledge, all companies record phone calls for quality control purposes. The people making the calls are called Sales Development Reps (SDRs). SDRs obviously must be trained in understanding your company’s products and services. By the time all of this is done, you’re probably only going to get a couple of client meetings out of the first month.
Month 2 and 3: Momentum Building
By month two, maybe 4 – 6 meetings? It’s not until the third month that you begin firing on all cylinders. I’m hearing anywhere from 5 to 15 meetings per month, with 10 being the average. I have been warned over and over, and they’re right to say so, this varies wildly depending upon your product and your market.
Appointment Setting Only
These companies qualify the leads and move the customer through the acquisition funnel all the way to setting an appointment. However, demonstrating and selling your product in the appointment is entirely up to you.
Most (all?) of these companies create a new outreach domain for e-mail and utilize their own servers which improves deliverability. They aren’t going to use your personal email address as the sender. It also means with a new domain they’re not going to be able to blast out 5,000 emails a day right out of the gate. This explains some of the three month ramp-up time. For those of you that don’t know, you have to slowly, iteratively increase your email volume with a new domain or the Internet gods will blacklist you as a spammer.
- They’re going to generate massive lead lists for you
- They will help you niche down, improve your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and your customer segmentation
- They will split test different scripts and different sequences to see which ones are the most effective
- You can pass along the info to your full-time sales rep
- If things go well, these outsourced appointment setters more than pay for themselves.
Who I Interviewed and Why
One of the easiest places to go find “lead generation” companies and outsourced sales is on clutch.co. You can easily find big names with high ratings who of course have higher prices with multi month minimums and no guarantees. They’ve sort of earned that right.
I interviewed several of the top performers according to clutch, but this was not my exclusive source. Here’s why: some smaller companies, without as much of a reputation, have countered with creative pricing strategies and some limited performance guarantees. I hope you’ll feel I provided a nice mix.
My goal was to provide you with information you could only get by booking a meeting. Additional information such as whether they focus more on SMBs or enterprise, their industry focus and other details can be found on clutch.co and on each respective website.
Big Fat Disclaimer
I have curated the information from 9+ different meetings. The information provided is what the company representative claims to be true about their services, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true (or false). I would take the stats and the numbers they claim with a certain grain of salt. That said, they all do seem to be averaging a similar number of appointments per month with a three month ramp up time.
Just to reiterate: the number of appointments you will get per month varies wildly depending upon your product and your market!
Prices and terms on this stuff change constantly! This should give you a good idea of who you might want to call, but don’t be surprised if the numbers you receive are a little different than what you see here.
COMPARISONS ARE IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER.
This is one of the biggest most established names in the lead generation industry. 4.9 stars with 16 reviews on clutch.co. I met with Kevin Warner, Co-Founder from Ukraine.
They integrate with Salesforce. They do all data sourcing and claim they channel test prospects prior to engagement. Sales development reps are Orlando based. Weekly quota meetings.
They are an Apollo shop, not Zoom Info.
Email and phone
$4,500 mo. 1
$4,500 mo. 2
$4,500 mo. 3
$5,500 mo. 4
10 to 15 appointments per month by month three.
This is currently the number one rated appointment setting service on clutch.co, with 4.9 stars and 137 reviews. I spoke to Brian Hicks. They are a Ukraine based company.
SDRs personalize each message. They have a forecastable ROI model.
They use Zoom Info, Apollo, LinkedIn and any other software they can get their hands on.
Proprietary in-house ESP software is called Folderly, which has a nearly 100% email deliverability rate. FYI, you can subscribe to Folderly yourself separately, but I think it starts at $200 a month. Ouch!
Emails and a little LinkedIn outreach (30%?). NO CALLS!!!
There’s a three month minimum, but they boast an 85% retention rate after the third month.
$4,100 – 5,500 mo.
2-3 appointments mo. 1
4-6 appointments mo. 2
6-9 appointments mo. 3+
Another one of the super big names you’ll see you out there is Martal. 4.8 stars with 59 reviews on clutch.co. I spoke to Noam Cohen.
SDRs have a minimum of six years of experience. Account based marketing. One operations person, and two reps assigned to your account. Weekly status calls.
Appointment setting agencies are geared toward finding potential customers with high intent, who are ready to convert. Bottom of funnel.
However, what happens to all the other leads that are still in the “interest” or “consideration” part of the funnel? Martal is one of the only companies with which I spoke that has additional pricing tiers to address a nurturing process as well as a post-sale relationship. See below.
They are an Apollo shop and do not use Zoom Info.
LinkedIn, Twitter, phone and email.
They have a three month minimum contract, but boast a 70% retention rate after the three month pilot. Require two weeks of notice to terminate.
Tier 1 is where they schedule appointments for Client Demos.
I focused on Tier 1 to keep the comparisons apple to apples.
Tier 2 also provides a nurturing campaign that shepherds the lead all the way through to a signed contract. Here they ask additionally for some commission on the sale.
Tier 3 is completely custom with ongoing account management.
5-10 leads mo. Maybe 5-15 mo.
Another interesting company I met with is Sales Hive. I spoke to Todd Whitcomb.
According to Todd, 70% of their client base is B2B SaaS. The first 3 to 4 weeks is dedicated onboarding. I cannot seem to find much for customer reviews on these guys, however….they claim to have set over 48,000 appointments and have a 30-day money be back guarantee. SDRs are from Jamaica.
They use phone, LinkedIn and email.
Two month minimum. 30 day notice before canceling (which will likely bump you into the next month).
$4,000 mo. – Email Only
$5,000 mo. – Email + LinkedIn (Starter Package On Website)
$6,000 mo. – Cold Calling Only
$7,000 mo. – Cold Calling + email
$8,000 mo. – All 3 Channels (email / LinkedIn / Cold Calling) (Growth Package On Website)
$12,000 mo. – All 3 Channels (Crush Package on Website adds a 2nd US Based SDR)
The number of appointments varies by the price. For example:
$5,000 mo. – 6-10 meetings mo.
$8,000 mo. – 13-18 meetings mo. (1 dedicated SDR)
$12,000 mo. – 20-30 meetings mo. (2 dedicated SDRs)
These guys had an interesting and different business model that may work better for some people. I met with the founder Christian Nipper.
They publicize their flow chart of sequences and feel they have a proven system for building out a pipeline.
They use phone and email.
$2,000 one-time fee, where they send you the blueprints of how they do it.
$9,000 one-time set up fee.
$5-10/hr. x 30-40 hours/ week for sales calls thereafter approximately $1,000+ mo.
$9,000 set up fee???
$3,000-18,000 mo., but with a guarantee they will double your investment.
They didn’t quote a number of appointments per month.
They boast 40% conversion rates.
Atlantic Growth Solutions
Atlantic Growth Solutions has 4.9 stars on clutch.co with 8 reviews. I met with Kyle Holder.
An example ICP for them would be a startup who is late series A and heading for series B. They do not use any form of email automation. They see themselves as more of an outbound sales agency than a lead gen firm. They will work with you through a series of four workshops with a 20 to 30 page playbook that will help niche down your customer segments. Kyle wanted to make a big point about the fact that they provide SQLs not MQLs. Telecom, Fintech and SaaS are a few of their specialty industries.
Kyle feels they specialize at higher value, difficult to reach targets with the Average Contract Value (ACV) of $25,000 and a customer lasting typically three years (LTV $75K).
They use primarily LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Zoom Info. Not an Apollo shop.
Phone and manual email.
Tier 1 is a fixed + variable rate. A bit complicated and I didn’t take great notes, so I won’t quote it here.
Ends up costing about $70,000 over the course of 12 months and averaging roughly $1,000 lead.
Tier 3 is $8,500 per month with a five month minimum.
They claim a 70% conversion rate:
0 appointments mo. 1
2 appointments mo. 2
2-4 appointments mo. 3
6-8 appointments mo. 4+
I met with Chris Marin, the CEO of Convert.ai. I’ll admit this is one of the first interviews I did, and I probably should’ve taken better notes.
They provide a great free video, called the “Guide to Sequences.” You will see from your experience on their website these guys really understand funnels. Their follow up emails walk you through “great messaging” and the sequence methodology they use.
Chris feels your customers should have lifetime value of $15,000-$20,000 for their pricing structure to make sense. Most of their customers are SaaS companies.
Convertist is unique in that it uses AI to “keep lead costs low” and build lookalike audiences. I know I’m not doing Convertist justice, so I’ll probably circle back and flesh this one out or later.
Phone and email
Contract is month-to-month
They didn’t quote a number of appointments per month.
I met with Victor J. Fox, Senior VP at Mojo.
Their SDRs are based in the Philippines. They have over 7,000 clients including luminaries such as Cvent, Mark Cuban and Grant Cardone.
Outreach is via phone, e-mail and LinkedIn.
Pricing ranges from $10,000-$30,000 a month.
They say you will average about 10 appointments a month.
They claim that 30 to 40% of the appointments they set end up closing deals.
Social Bloom has 4.9 stars on clutch.co with 8 reviews. I spoke to the founder Caleb Sinn.
They specialize at B2B software and I.T. They provide weekly reports. SDRs are U.S. based.
They are a Zoom Info and Apollo shop.
Email, phone and LinkedIn depending upon your contract
They charge $1,500 for onboarding. Then here are the monthly fees:
$3,000 mo. 1,000 emails only
$8,000 mo. 1,000 emails + some phone calls
$8,500 mo. 1,000 emails + some phone calls + some LinkedIn outreach
Typically, he feels you’ll get about 10 appointments a month.
He feels their clients see about a 20% to 30% close rate on the meetings they set up.
This is the only one on the list I have not interviewed, but one of the better startup founders I know in the Atlanta area, Samuel Crane of https://app.tryfps.com/ is pretty fired up about them. So, they made the list due to a personal referral. See the pricing section!
$250 per appointment. No appointments = no cost!