Channel your MDF investment into Virtual Teams 

VARs and Distributors that want to beef up lead generation activity and accelerate pipeline growth, are increasingly looking to adopt virtual selling teams to add instant BDR resources to ramp up pipeline for vendor partners. 

Direct vendors and suppliers that utilise internal teams of business development resources (BDRs) are not the only ones looking to reorganise remotely or recruit virtually, the Channel is too. 

Traditionally used as a robust and complementary part of an IT vendor’s go-to-market strategy, value added resellers, (VARs) and managed service providers (MSPs) have been an invaluable extension to a vendor’s sales team, being a reliable source of both pipeline and sales. 

For this service, channel partners receive vendor training to get sales accreditation and marketing development funds (MDF) to support sales activities. 

Typically, especially pre-pandemic, this MDF funding has largely been invested into face-to-face events to generate leads, with one large enterprise software company spending over 80% of its annual MDF budget on events alone. 

Face to face meetings between reseller reps and prospects were also commonplace before the pandemic, but more recently, the number of B2B sellers operating virtually reached 90% in January 2021, up from only 24% in 2020, according to research firm Gartner. It noted: 

"For decades, direct field sales was the dominant go-to-market channel. This dominance is being challenged with 67% of CSOs planning to transition some field sellers to virtual roles, and 80% have already considered or are considering creating hybrid field/virtual sales roles."

Marketing trends in a post-covid world

However, following Covid and the cancellation of events during the lockdown the channel has been a little slow to embrace complementary ways to attract, validate and nurture potential prospects to the products and services they sell on behalf of vendor partners. 

Anecdotally, some channel veterans have commented that channel marketing is behind the rest of the marketing world by about five years and that most VARs are five years behind that. 

Although many channel companies have invested in digital marketing tactics such as pay-per-click (PPC) and search engine optimisation (SEO) to generate interest and leads, the results in terms of the quality of inbound leads is mostly disappointing in terms of return on investment (ROI). 

This is largely because, the content they are providing on their sites is often more important to them than their users or potential customers. Often VARs and Distributors are just recycling a vendor’s corporate marketing collateral which looks at speeds and feeds rather than producing content that would address the needs and benefits to their potential customers. 

Without a full events calendar to drum up prospects, many channel companies are now scrambling to find new ways to help with pipeline acceleration and lead generation support. One of these tactics has been to set up virtual teams to retain pre-Covid sales forces that now favour remote working practices and benefits rather than returning to the office, even if it means reductions in salary, according to Gartner. 

It also noted that chief strategy officers (CSOs) are also hesitant to fully commit to virtual teams as they are undecided if remote working is just a temporary hiatus until the world emerges from the Covid pandemic or if it is indeed the ‘new norm.’ 

There is an understanding that the ‘digital native’ Millennials and Gen Z, who have emerged into the work force in recent years, are already accustomed to digital communication and platforms. They favour the benefits of remote working and communication rather than working and commuting to office-bound cites.

But what is clear to many channel companies, is that by reallocating field sales to virtual sales teams there are many savings to be had such as less travel expenses, company vehicles and entertainment budgets.

Remote working – a virtual insanity or virtually impossible to ignore? 

While it was a necessity to work remotely during the pandemic, now as the world emerges from the pandemic, channel companies can reap the benefits of Virtual Teams without the worry that they are over committing to a strategy that will change as Covid restrictions lessen.  

As today’s MDF funding is less discretionary and requires more business planning that is tightly linked to sales performance, to secure funding being able to demonstrate a credible source of pipeline and sales ready leads is a better bet.  

Virtual teams not only increase pipeline, but it can also be measured in uplift of closed won opportunities, so it is very transparent for the vendor allocating MDF to its reseller partner. The opportunity is validated, has given GDPR consent so even if the opportunity is not sales ready, it can be put back into nurturing for the future. 

Increase conversion rates from digital content syndication

For those in the channel that have tried digital content syndication for lead generation, many are finding the returns are not as they once were, especially in a GDPR monitored market that has reduced the number of daily marketing emails by 1bn.  As we can see from the below infographic, compiled using internal BNZSA data, there is a very low conversion rate between the number of digitally content syndicated leads that are recognised as sales accepted. This is because in many cases the interest is triggered by open rates, not true indication of the prospect’s interest that you can get through tele-based means. There is often little nurturing, personalisation or validation of the prospect before it is handed over.  

So, it’s a small wonder that when these digitally generated ‘leads’ are passed on to a vendor’s sales team, there is the usual outcome of “I don’t remember downloading the whitepaper” or “Where did you get my details? I don’t remember giving consent for you to email me.” 

Even when customers are followed up with BANT style questions, many outcomes are considered closed because the prospect either a) might have the need but not the budget or b) need buy in from a group rather than overall sign off or c) may have need but not in the next 12 months as they might be working on another project. Combined with often unrealistic internal KPIs to move leads from MQL to SRL in a couple of weeks, it is often easier for sales to close the leads rather than do the required nurturing to move the prospect down the funnel. In this scenario many BDRs think it better to bin prospects that don’t instantly convert, than manage too many prospects that are stuck in the funnel because they have not had the required nurturing to be approached. This often means that vendors are paying several times for the same MQL which is wasteful and potentially brand damaging. 

BNZSA WarmHandoverTM vs BANT methodology

However, with a virtual BDR approach from BNZSA, highly trained agents call on behalf of the channel partner or vendor, strike up a conversation with the prospect, validate the person’s details are correct, gain consent to email over collateral, and capture any buying intent signals that might be useful to prioritise who to follow up, first. 

By deploying virtual teams, BNZSA agents are not only identifying those prospects that might be ready to have a call with sales, BNZSA’s agents also sets up the call with the channel partner’s vendor in what is termed a Warm HandoverTM which boasts a 70% conversion rate.

Conversion rate comparison between traditional digital content syndication and implementing a BDR approach showing how IT channel providers can better use their MDF.

Conversion rates using the WHOTM process, rather than BANT methodology, can improve closed SRL opportunities by 300%. 

Instead of competing with the functions of an in-house BDR team, adding BNZSA Virtual Teams offers companies an extension to its current set up. Not only are the resources dedicated to the campaign, BNZSA can in advance or concurrently surround target companies with programmatic advertising to raise awareness of the vendor’s product or service. 

All BNZSA’s agents go through a rigorous and industrialised training and onboarding process and are experienced in selling enterprise IT B2B products and services. 

BNZSA agents are also available to receive specialist training from a company’s product/subject matter specialist. BNZSA also employs highly experienced technical coaches that have spent years in the IT industry. They can add instant quality and experience to a company’s set up in a fraction of the time it takes to build this infrastructure in-house.  

With support for over 26 languages, companies looking to land and expand in EMEA have instant access to native speakers that can communicate with a company’s prospects and understand the various cultural nuances of that region and importantly get clear consent for follow up with email and other communications preferences. 

As BNZSA has the ability to rotate and scale resources depending on the client’s requirements, companies that use Virtual Teams will never have staff shortages through sickness, holidays etc. They will also have access to BNZSA’s data scientists, first party intent data, third party intent data and other multiple sources of technographic, firmographic and trigger data as part of the Opportunity Finder stack.

Prospects that are sent over from BNZSA are qualified, validated and ranked in accordance of where we see them in the purchasing process. This means that opportunities are much more transparent to the end client and not passed through as something that they are not. For example, if we pass prospects over as marketing qualified leads (MQLs), we have identified that they are towards the top of the sales cycle or funnel and require more nurturing before they become credible sales ready leads (SRLs). 

What are the benefits of Virtual Teams in channel marketing?

Virtual Teams are a hugely beneficial addition to both sales and marketing teams' resources, especially within the IT sales channel. Channel partners can face certain challenges such as lack of resources, inadequate data analytics, and inefficient training. Virtual Teams can help sales and marketing teams navigate these issues.

Benefits for marketing:

  1. Quality data sources: Clients who work with multiple resellers, often have difficulty accessing adequate and consistent data. BNZSA Virtual Teams are supported by in-house Data Science and Decision Science teams and our data services are built on first party intent data and second and third party data. Marketing teams will gain valuable market insights to drive strategic decisions.
  2. Better insights: Not only can Virtual Teams deliver more SRLs, through pipeline nurture they can identify key decision makers, organizational structures, purchasing cycles and buying committees, as well as consented opt-ins, MQIs and MQls with timeline and budget. All of which are key insights for marketing teams to leverage.
  3. Larger Audiences: Smaller channel partners can instantly expand their international reach instantly as BNZSA provides multi-lingual support with native speakers of 26 languages. This means that not only can marketing teams expand their lead generation efforts internationally quickly, but they can also localise their messaging in markets across EMEA, APAC and US.

Benefits for sales teams:

  1. Professional BDR resources: Resellers and distributors can often lack the resources need to recruit, train and retain qualified BDRs. By using Virtual Teams, channel partners can quickly professionalize and standardize their approach. This allows them to quickly ramp pipeline generation with highly trained BDRs with product specific knowledge.
  2. Enhanced lead generation: BNZSA's Virtual Teams are driven by highly qualified BDRs who have gone through rigorous training. Channel partner sales teams will benefit from a stronger pipeline as Virtual Teams can concentrate on prospecting and identify high quality opportunities.
  3. Increased revenue: Channel partners using Virtual Teams will receive higher quality SRLs with up to a 300% improvement in closed opportunities. This generates a healthy pipeline and substantially more revenue.

BNZSA's Lead Verifyr - make your pipeline work harder

The challenge faced by sales and marketing teams

Marketing teams work hard to produce a healthy pipeline of leads for sales teams to nurture. They commission lead gen services from a range of agencies who are able to generate simple opt-ins through to MQLs, with a typical cost of €50-60. However, with thousands of leads coming through monthly and very short timeframes to push these through the pipeline, sales teams can only touch a very small percentage of the pool.

We’ve heard from clients that just 1.5% of this pipeline eventually closes. This means that a marketing spend worth potentially millions of euro is going to waste, simply because the sales teams don’t have the resources to follow up on everything that is delivered.

For a marketing team requesting 20,000 MQLs globally, this would be a total marketing spend of more than €1 million. If we take the 1.5% figure from above, this would equal just 300 converted leads. On that basis, the cost per conversion would be more than €3000, without taking the additional nurture cost of the work done by the sales team into account.  

But why is this happening? Due to time pressure, sales reps likely reach for the best qualified leads with reliable contact information, leaving the rest of the pipeline to one side.

This is completely understandable – our lead qualification team have found that just 15-30% of contacts could be reached on the first attempt and in fact 40-50% took 5+ attempts. Even worse, around 10% of the pipeline turns out to have incorrect phone numbers so cannot be reached at all. Busy sales teams under pressure to meet targets simply don’t have the time or resources to work these contacts.

However, this doesn’t mean that 98.5% of the pipeline is invalid. Lead gen partners have identified a universe that can be activated – the challenge is how to do this.

Our Lead Qualification Process

BNZSA’s lead qualification program picks up all leads that were rejected by sales in the first screening – our clients tell us that this can be up to 98.5% of the pipeline.

Image with percent about lead verifyr

Our Virtual Teams of highly trained BDRs have one single objective: to drive the leads to the next stage of the funnel up until they are ready for sales.

They will work to engage every single contact and organise them into categories based on their contactability and level of engagement. Where contact information is unreliable or out of date, our data team will work to enrich the database and then the agents will follow up and validate the information. Where they are missing information, they will conduct their own desk research to understand how to navigate the target companies and which contacts should be engaged.

Then the BDRs will explore the topics with the prospects in further detail in order to push them along the funnel. If appropriate, we will introduce them into our email nurture tracks to keep them activated with custom content until they are ready for further engagement. Our lead scoring mechanism means we can accelerate leads for follow up if the intent signals are strong.

If the lead is not ready, our BDRs will at least capture market insights like number of users, buying cycles, key decision makers etc.

This means that we’re able to provide more detailed insights into the pipeline that enable your team to prioritise and focus on closing the warmest leads whilst ensuring that they’ll have more coming through for the following quarters. 

The results

Typically, we are able to move around 15% of those reached on the phone along the funnel, warming them up for the next phase of engagement by the client’s sales team. This is a huge improvement on the 1.5% that are sifted through by sales, and already increases the pipeline dramatically.

Furthermore, we can add additional insight to around 60% of the contacts which means that digital teams can appropriately stream them into marketing automation tracks to receive the required nurture.

We’re also able to enrich the 5-10% of the database that sales teams flagged as uncontactable with email addresses, phone numbers or updated employment information so they can be used for future activity.

BNZSA's Lead Qualification Engine - A Case Study

We recently conducted an EMEA wide lead qualification for a client in 7 languages. Our client was receiving up to 10,000 leads per month through content syndication. We were invited to conduct some initial qualification and found the following:

We were able to help the client secure better value for money from their content syndication programme in the following ways:


In conclusion, BNZSA’s lead qualification engine results in better quality MQLs and SQLs which are more likely to engage and enter the sales funnel.

By discounting leads that are not immediately identifiable as a tangible opportunity, sales teams are losing a large part of their potential pipeline. Not every lead generated is immediately going to be a Sales Qualified Lead, but that doesn’t mean that they should be discounted as a revenue-generating opportunity for the future.

Not only is this a waste of potential in itself, but it also compounds since marketing often ends up paying multiple times for the same leads to be generated at a later date since they still sit within the relevant campaign targeting.

Our approach keeps leads in the system to activate them when they do have a concrete project and budget in place. Gradually warming and engaging leads to push them through the sales funnel will help you keep the pipeline active and help you close more deals.