2013 Nominee: Karla Blalock, PointClear
Years In Business: 25
Brief Description of Nominee's Achievements:
Karla Blalock has a proven track record in the sales lead management field. She’s pioneered strategies to increase both effectiveness and efficiency of prospect development; she’s been innovative in applying best-practice analytics to lead generation, qualification and nurturing programs; and she’s known for her focus on coaching, mentoring and developing our industry’s next generation of leaders.
In her role as chief operating officer at PointClear, Karla applies 25 years of experience in marketing, sales and operations to help clients improve margins and grow sales while keeping costs low. She’s responsible for all client operations—from strategy development, to program planning and management, to delivery; from pre-program analytics, to results measurement, to reporting.
Nominee's Achievements In Sales Lead Management:
- More than 25 years experience in business, with an expertise in developing and implementing best-practice processes in sales lead management.
- Serves as chief operating officer at PointClear, the prospect development firm, responsible for client operations including lead generation, qualification and nurturing program development and management, delivery, measurement and reporting for B2B clients.
- Draws on her experience in business strategy, sales, marketing, operations and HR to quickly identify strategic issues and develop sales lead management programs that can be executed and measured against business objectives.
- An expert in the problem, the cause and the best-practice solutions surrounding the misalignment between marketing and sales that prevents companies from realizing their revenue potentials.
- As a leader in the field of sales lead management, Karla is committed to being a role model for the future generation of the industry’s leaders. She does this by demonstrating honesty and directness, passion and enthusiasm; by reinforcing mutual respect; and by instilling that sense of empowerment that drives professional growth and success.
- Karla was named to the inaugural 20 Women to Watch in 2011 by the SLMA, and again in 2012.
- A three-time winner of the Sales Lead Management Association’s 50 Most Influential people in sales lead management (2010, 2011, 2012).
- Named Analytics Marketer of the Year by TAG Marketing, a Technology Association of Georgia society, in November 2011.
- Also in November 2011, Karla was named a Woman of the Year honoree by Women in Technology.
- Karla is active in other professional organizations that give her the opportunity to network, learn, teach and inspire other business women and industry peers, including TAG (Technology Association of Georgia), WIT (Women in Technology), and AAISP (American Association of Inside Sales Professionals).
- In December 2011, Karla was featured on IntrepidTV with host Todd Schnick for a 30-minute show on analytics and sales lead management best practices.
- A frequent contributor to ViewPoint, a thought leadership blog exploring sales lead management best practice, and an active participant in other industry blogs and forums, LinkedIn groups and other social media, Karla is an industry influencer, helping others by sharing information and ideas on effective sales lead management.
- Karla has pioneered many of our industry’s best practices, demonstrating a unique ability to identify areas in the sales lead management process that are broken or could otherwise be improved through a combination of disciplined management, comprehensive planning, enhanced communication, tighter accountability and better analysis, testing, measurement and reporting.
- Recent example: In 2012 Karla and her team developed a hypothesis for more effectively engaging senior business executives as part of PointClear’s multi-touch, multi-cycle, multi-media prospect development strategy. The new tactic, which all PointClear business development associates have been trained to execute, resulted in 605 scheduled calls with key decision-makers—59% (354) of which resulted in qualified leads. PointClear clients received direct bottom-line benefits through this innovative approach.
- Recent example: Karla and her team correlated sales lead management success for a particular PointClear client with the use of direct phone numbers. Data revealed that the lead rate was 4x as high when the PointClear associate used a direct number vs. a general company or departmental line. PointClear applied this best practice to all client programs, modified its CRM system and implemented training and incentives to increase the capture rate of direct numbers. The goal to capture well over 50% of clients’ targets’ direct numbers was achieved within six months.
- Karla believes strongly in the importance of professional development in the success of PointClear’s sales lead management efforts. In 2012 she enhanced the company’s telecommuting program (which she originally initiated in 2011) that allows business development associates to move their eight-hour work days from the office to their homes—and provides the flexibility that many employees need and value. In the past year she introduced new testing, tools and processes to achieve three additional goals: 1) Enhance and enable productivity for workers who are telecommuting; 2) Assure employees stay connected to corporate happenings and culture; and 3) Extend PointClear’s ability to effectively manage the process, for the benefit of the employees, the company and most importantly, the clients. Today 20% of the staff is telecommuting, and both client and employee satisfaction levels are high. In addition, there continues to be a sense of pride in the environmental benefits these arrangements afford.
- A process-oriented professional with a penchant for communications, Karla is known for her and her team’s ability to work with both client marketing and sales teams to help close the gap between their organizations—and significantly impact results. In pre-sales conversations, discovery, program development, training and execution, she educates and models best-practice processes that improve alignment and deliver higher quality leads to client field sales teams. In addition, in the last two years, Karla has documented these best practices to further help both sales and marketing be more successful. The best-practice documents detail actions that aligned client teams should take to get full value from PointClear-generated sales opportunities.
- Recent example: Karla published a document that deals with effective follow-up. A particular client reported that prior to using the follow-up best practices described, 80% of his field sales team were not connecting well with qualified leads. The document helped formalize the rep follow-up process and roll it out across his organization. He reported significant increases in rep success connecting with leads and moving them to close deals.
- Karla is an out-of-the-box thinker, deriving innovative solutions to the challenges that prevent optimum sales lead management, including those that leverage the people, process and technology that drive higher margin, more sales and increased revenue. From a strategy and guidance standpoint, Karla and her team have demonstrated an ability to align programs with business goals:
- Recent example: Using data to help refine a company’s target market, and the corresponding offer, is a valued ability Karla brings to the table in her client relationships. Recently a client in the data center services industry decided to target a broad and ambitious market: the Fortune 1000. Initial analysis indicated that smaller companies in the healthcare vertical would be a more appropriate target for the company. The smaller-company market valued the client’s offering, and the client had numerous successful business relationships in this arena. Karla and her team recommended the client focus on one vertical. It was agreed to test the recommendation by implementing parallel programs. The result after four weeks of testing? The Fortune 1000 test revealed disappointing results, even with up to 25 touchpoints. The lead rate within the more targeted audience performed well above the benchmark, with an average of only 7 touchpoints. A comprehensive, targeted list was subsequently developed by PointClear on behalf of the client and the work continues successfully.
- Recent example: Testing segmentation hypothesis to identify the top-performing segments is an expertise that Karla has developed over the years and one that sets her apart. A client in the security penetration-testing solutions space began working with PointClear to create meaningful segmentation to assure marketing and sales efforts were directed towards the highest performing targets. The client company had been scoring prospects based on company size, industry type and level of seniority. Under Karla’s guidance, PointClear began testing these variables, plus others, and measuring the performance of each. After just four weeks the team learned quantitatively that there was one variable that was more important than any other: title. Specifically it was proven that if a prospect’s title included the word “security,” then it was a high-value target. While the test results surprised the client, they were pleased with the ultimate program results: 22% of more than 20,000 raw leads converted to qualified leads; 10% of qualified leads converted to sales opportunities; $23.4 million in new business currently in pipeline; $2.2 million closed as a result of lead development efforts.
- Karla was key to defining and implementing the comprehensive, collaborative planning process that PointClear is known for. Client program plans incorporate on-target knowledge transfer, sophisticated market segmentation, up-front and ongoing training and message articulation, and closed-loop communication. The custom and continually evolving plans significantly accelerate time-to-benefit, helping PointClear clients receive revenue-generating results faster and more efficiently.
- Recent example: A company that designs and manufactures rugged wireless computers and data collection solutions engaged PointClear in 2008. The client had made the strategic decision to outsource its inside sales function. Six internal representatives were redeployed, and PointClear was engaged, dedicating three associates to the account. The client anticipated a six-month ramp up before PointClear would be able to match the productivity of its previous team. Within less than one month, under Karla’s direction, PointClear had exceeded the previous production (with half as many FTEs) and the quality of engagement and leads were measurably higher. The client attributes the success to this best-practice planning process.
- Recent example: A critical part of the planning process is database development. She and her team demonstrated their resourcefulness in the last year by accessing publically available data. Program results show that leveraging readily available lists, combing news stories and other sources for potential contacts, and creating databases based on grassroots efforts not only save clients significant dollars, but provide exponentially more value, and better results.
- Karla has also played a vital role in the development and continual refinement of PointClear’s multi-touch, multi-media, multi-cycle processes. Karla has worked closely with other PointClear team members to develop this process, customized for each client depending on the audience and industry, which determines the most effective ways to reach prospects. It combines the right frequency, appropriate messages, and a smart mix of phone, email and traditional direct marketing that keeps prospects top-of-mind through multiple sales cycles.
- Recent example: In a large part through Karla’s careful analysis of data generated from prospect development campaigns for PointClear clients, metrics have been developed that set the bar in our industry. Through tracking the number, frequency and type of touches necessary to adequately cover our clients, Karla has developed the following best-practice expectations surrounding multi-touch, multi-media, multi-cycle marketing:
- Unless you’re touching contacts within your target market with at least 9 individual touches including a minimum of two email messages you are not generating the results you could.
- Within the initial contact cycle, those 9 individual touches will yield only 40% to 50% of total opportunities. The other opportunities existing within the market can only be identified by continuing to touch the same prospects using multiple media across additional cycles.
- Lead rates from the second and subsequent touch cycles generate anywhere from 120% to 210% of the initial lead rate.
- It takes about 1.6 times the number of touches to generate a lead in a large company as compared to a mid-market or smaller company.
- Nearly 2.5 times more leads are generated from a multi media, multi touch, multi-cycle approach against senior level decision makers in large companies as compared to lower level line of business decision makers in larger companies or all levels of decision making at mid-market companies.
- Lead rates decline after the fifth contact cycle. At that point, a prospect has received an average of 41 different touches over a period of 15 months.
- The most effective way to cover prospects after the fifth touch cycle is via periodic email and/or direct mail—leaving the door open for the prospect to make contact when ready.
- PointClear has focused on assuring that its prospect development associates have more business know-how than at other outsourced firms. Applying her sales and HR experience, Karla has been vital to the success of this endeavor, playing a key role in defining and refining the hiring criteria, based on data collected over 15 years of PointClear’s existence. Her analysis shows that clients maximize success with experienced (10 years minimum) and educated (four-year degree minimum) associates. Further financial analysis proves that these associates are worth the added compensation required: their ability to engage senior-level prospects in meaningful dialogue drives more revenue for clients.
- Through Karla’s efforts in analysis and her expertise in best-practice process development, PointClear reduced associate turnover and increased the average employee tenure. Karla led the initiative to improve and streamline recruiting processes, determining criteria to identify the ideal candidate, implementing testing and accelerating assessments. In 2011, Karla was able to further minimize employee turnover and improve the firm’s ability to consistently provide exceptional services to clients by implementing a carefully designed 45-day on-boarding program, including orientation, training and frequent check-ins with new employees that virtually eliminated employee turnover in the first 90 days. In 2012, under her direction, the company incorporated a voluntary 10-week mentoring program. Mentors are assigned to mentees. The teams meet for 30 minutes each week and discuss suggested topics. Feedback from clients, new employees and seasoned team members has been overwhelmingly positive.
- Karla’s mentoring activities extend to members of her management team as well, as she is passionate about her responsibility to help develop the sales lead management leaders of tomorrow.
- Karla works with her team of program managers to develop their ability to create the content that supports outbound calling and other market contact efforts such as call flows, emails and voice mail messages. This guidance is grounded in Karla’s mastery of three core sales and marketing program elements: The market, the media and the message. She also regularly instructs and coaches her team in evolving their skill sets in areas like target market definition; list enhancement; market segmentation; lead qualifying and lead nurturing; opportunity distribution; and ROI measurement.
- Karla works with these program managers, who are responsible for day-to-day client account management, to help them build strong and professional relationships with each client and develop analytical skills to identify areas for improvement. She helps them focus on identifying and communicating issues and opportunities both internally and to the client to ensure ongoing progress. Karla keeps them focused as well on project management skills so that her team prioritizes efforts in ways that keep all programs moving forward toward objectives.
- While serving in various executive and management capacities, including those in sales lead management, at Southern Company Energy Solutions (a subsidiary of Southern Company, a $17 billion company public company and one of America’s largest generators of electricity) Karla made significant contributions benefiting the organization and propelling her career. Her positions included: director of marketing and strategic planning; sales and operations manager; and project manager, implementation and finance. Accomplishments included:
- Implemented project-tracking system resulting in ability to forecast sales, revenue, market success and gross margin accuracy.
- Created and implemented new market strategy involving identification of the highest performing segments in the energy services sector resulting in sales of over $50 million in 3 years.
- Tapped and served as adjunct professor for Southern Company College.
- On Nov. 17, 2011, Karla was named Analytics Marketer of the Year by TAG Marketing, a society of the 14,000-member Technology Association of Georgia. Karla was one of just seven marketing professionals honored at this second annual event.
- The Sales Lead Management Association named Karla one of the 50 most influential people in sales lead management in 2010, 2011 and again in 2012.
- Karla was named to the inaugural 20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management in 2011, and again in 2012.
- Karla is active professional organizations that give her the opportunity to network, learn, teach and inspire other business women and industry peers, including TAG (Technology Association of Georgia), WIT (Women in Technology), AAISP (American Association of Inside Sales Professionals).
- Karla is active with PointClear’s corporate philanthropic efforts, playing a key role in organizing and managing community service events and programs that have benefited Norcross Cooperative Ministries, the Partnership Against Domestic Violence, the American Red Cross, the Foster Children’s Foundation, MUST Ministries and numerous other groups.
- Karla is involved in a hands-on way: for example, she and one of her young sons participated in the TAG Techie 10K Run/Walk in the fall of 2011, a race hosted by the Technology Association of Georgia, sponsored by PointClear and benefitting middle and high-school students pursuing STEM education throughout the state.
- Karla and her family are members of Birmingham United Methodist Church in Milton, Georgia, and participate in the children’s activities there, including charity drive walks, and making lunches for MUST Ministries, an Atlanta-based organization helping families in need.
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