Entries Tagged as 'Telemarketing'
Ask before telling and learn before selling
Michael Brown is our “Business to Business By Phone Expert”. When it comes to using the phone to generate, nurture and qualify leads, there’s nobody better than Michael.
With all the developments lately in B2B marketing, telemarketing still has a prominent position and I want to highlight that. So I sat down with Michael and asked him what’s new in telemarketing.
Mac: Michael – tell me what you’ve been up to. What’s the latest and greatest in the world of B2B telemarketing?
Michael: Well Mac, there’s a debate inside Sales and Marketing circles about cold calling versus “smart” calling. Cold callers call to pitch. Smart callers call to learn what the prospect’s organization is trying to accomplish, and to see if the caller’s product or service would be helpful. The cold caller uses a generic (same script for everybody) approach. The smart caller has a unique approach for each call… one based on significant research and pre-call preparation.
Okay, Michael. I hear where you’re going with this. What other differences are there between cold calls and smart calls?
Make smart calls from behavioral and affinity lists, not demographic or segment lists. Behavioral lists are based on verbs in addition to SIC codes (for example – “grew by 15% or more”, “merged”, “moved”, etc). Affinity lists are based on recent purchases of related products or services. These lists cost more, but end up giving higher ROI because their performance is so much better.
Smart calls begin with a quick visit to the prospect’s website to find out what their business does and how they position themselves. Focused homework beats “tell me a little about your business” every time. Lose the elevator pitches, hype, and feature dumps. Ask before telling and learn before selling.
Smart calls are exploratory calls based on an organization’s relevant news – an event or occurrence that changes them into a better-than-average prospect for your company. Something that you can build a logical, valuable conversation around.
Tell me what you think about integrating telemarketing with some of the more recent tools?
We all need to get really good at multi-media marketing. I define that as: phone + e-mail + social + SEO/SEM + online content. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Getting all the pieces working together creates real synergies and greatly improved results.
Speaking of “working together”… strongly encourage coordination between Sales and Marketing. The more closely the two collaborate; the better off everybody is… including your customers.
I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve said, but especially that last statement regarding Sales and Marketing alliance. Thanks for taking the time for this interview, Michael. Any closing remarks?
Yes. Provide for time. Market and sell with vigor and enthusiasm tempered with humility and patience.
Well put. Thanks again.
If any of you readers have anything to add about Smart Calling, or the integration of marketing tools across media, please weigh in below.
This is one of a series of occasional interviews with top practitioners on topics of interest to business-to-business lead generation, marketing and new business development professionals.
Michael, first off, I know you hate to use the word “telemarketing.” Why?
First, the word carries lots of unpleasant baggage from the business-to-consumer world. Telemarketing is why your home phone is on the national do-not-call list.
Second, businesses that try to recruit good callers for lead generation and nurturing but refer to them as telemarketers are usually unsuccessful. “Telemarketers” are entirely different people from those you really need in business-to-business marketing.
Third, “telemarketing” does not really describe the job function or its importance to your business.
What should we call it instead?
I recommend using more accurate words: sales lead initiation/development and business development are among the most popular terms. The “tele” prefix is unnecessary. That one is doing these things by phone is self-evident.
Given all the “e-“ and social media, does the phone still have a role in B2B lead generation, lead nurturing or lead qualification?
Absolutely, but usually later in the lead process than before.
Indeed, cold-calling has fallen from grace and fallen out of bed. That is because for the most part (70 percent by some accounts), business considerations now begin on the Internet. So the phone becomes integral once a prospect has inquired via a company’s website or has responded to a marketing message in another medium.
The phone is where the human engagement and business dialogue take place and where the lead can be developed into a genuine opportunity. And yes, human beings do need to communicate LIVE! Beware the technology pitchers who allege that all lead nurturing or development can be done via e-mail.
Do you have any success secrets, Michael, that you can share about using the phone to find, cultivate and identify qualified, sales-ready leads for the folks in sales?
Yes! The secrets are silver bullets, crystal balls, magic wands and Ouija boards. But seriously, the real strategies and tactics for success are not secrets at all:
- To find leads, seek out relevant events based on what organizations in your market sectors are doing, are considering or recently have done that make them brighter blips on your business radar. In other words, go beyond mere demographics and look for companies’ actions such as expansion, reorganization, introduction of new product lines … actions that make them more likely than others to need your products or services.
- To cultivate leads, conduct conversations and give (information, guidance, etc.) before trying to get. Also do what good physicians do: diagnose and then prescribe. Doing so differentiates your communication favorably from that of telemarketers and your competitors and allows you to “make the case” for the prospect to take the next forward step in the consideration process. Do not attempt to leapfrog the due-diligence of lead development by rushing to a quick transition to sales.
- To identify qualified, sales-ready leads, start by meeting with your sales team and executives to hammer out a mutually acceptable set of criteria for what actually constitutes a “qualified” lead. Select the most important criteria and assign point counts to each. Establish a point count “release threshold” for passing viable and right-timed leads from marketing to sales.
Michael, I agree that is a critical first step in improving B2B lead generation programs. In fact, I am often asked by clients to facilitate the process of working with sales to come up with an agreed-to lead qualification definition and lead scoring criteria. That foundational work can have a huge impact on lead generation program results.
It was not easy to do this for a big software company that was a client of mine, but it sure did work! The pilot division’s sales rose 31 percent over the next quarter.
There is a lot of buzz about appointment setting as an approach to B2B lead generation. What are your thoughts on the subject?
Yes, marketers are making lots of calls to lots of prospect companies, trying to convince them to agree to an in-person meeting. Unfortunately, some marketers are going about it in the wrong order! They pitch the appointment right off the bat rather than first seeking the two prerequisites:
- A likely business matchup, ascertained via good questioning and qualification
- Agreement by the prospect that there will be genuine value in a meeting … that it will not merely be a “grip ‘n’ grin” session or a “dog and pony show”
Absent the prerequisites, bad things almost always happen:
- The prospect refuses an in-person meeting, viewing it not as a valuable event, but rather as a vendor-centric pitch or a geographically motivated (“our rep will be in your area”) drop-in.
- The prospect agrees to meet but cancels before the meeting.
- The sales person shows up but the prospect is not available or not even there! S/he “forgot.”
- The meeting happens, but the participants are not authorized to act, so no sale results.
- Marketing’s credibility with sales drops sharply.
Resist the urge to meet prematurely. Refocus campaigns on establishing credibility, then viability, then desirability. Leverage your combined marketing … phone, e-mail, webinars, etc. … to the hilt. Then, when you do secure a meeting, it will have substance and a much greater likelihood of success. Because sales’ time and prospects’ attention are so precious, meet only with viable prospects who are excited about meeting.
In your expert opinion, Michael, when does it make sense for a company to do its phone-based B2B sales lead work in-house versus outsourcing it?
These are the key factors in favor of in-house:
- Full account management. Even if someone else could “manage” your accounts, you would not want them to.
- Combined marketing – sales contact teams. Team members have to wear the same uniform.
- Customers expect in-depth content knowledge and business process skills. The effort, energy and investment you make in educating your marketers should return value to your customers and to you, not to rented callers.
- Reps must have the business prerogatives and authority to plan and execute the next step in marketing or selling.
- You need multi-call and/or inbound-outbound continuity with the same rep. It is harder to get dedicated reps when they do not work for you.
- Frequent discussions among marketing, sales, prospects and customers.
- Complex and rapid changes in your marketplace and your product/service offerings.
The factors that favor outsourcing include the following:
- General or universal messages and campaigns
- Consistent, easily learned communications over time and among accounts
- List validation
- Leads’ prequalification with limited criteria
- Sudden volume of inbound response or outbound notifications, as for product recalls
- Events promotion and registration
- Order acceptance
Also consider this: almost anyone can accumulate data, but only callers who actually interact live with prospects can accumulate wisdom. Therefore, if the callers wear an outsourcer’s badge, you will get the data, but the wisdom will go to the outsourcer. If they wear your badge, your company will get the wisdom along with the data.
If outsourcing, how do you choose the right company to do the phone-based sales lead work?
- There are b-to-c calling agencies pretending to be good at b-to-b. Most are not. Consider only the “real-deal” experienced b-to-b players.
- The company does not staff-to-forecast; rather, they forecast-to-staff. If the former is the case, their “stable” of callers and the callers’ quality will fluctuate widely. Also, the company’s management will spend more time recruiting and interviewing than attending to your project. Conversely, forecast-to-staff generally yields a more dependable group of permanent callers, meaning a greater likelihood of continuity and success for you and your campaigns.
- They have no more than 30 percent temporary callers. You need to know who is calling on your behalf at all times and that they are trained and competent to do so.
- Their focus matches your need: that is, they can conduct stand-alone campaigns or carry on sustained lead development.
- Their labor market, education and turnover rates will support the right types and levels of calls to the kind of people you need to reach. For example, do not accept recent high school grads to contact your C-level prospects.
- They can demonstrate their experience calling prospects and customers whose profiles match those in your market sector. They have audio recordings of real calls and will let you listen to them. You can monitor calls from anywhere on the planet.
- They apply valid business-to-business practices and metrics, not business-to-consumer. There is a HUGE difference.
- Their technology is compatible with yours.
- Their customers’ customers say good things about the calls they received.
One other thing … do not even consider a pay-for-performance outsourcer. Any outsourcer must execute successfully and consistently to your lead criteria with a blend of production and artistry. Allowing variable performance would put your lead efforts and sales quotas at great risk. Some of my clients who outsource lead services reject the notion of pay for performance … they consider it a gimmick.
Are there benchmarks for what a company should expect to invest in its phone-based sales lead programs? For example, a benchmark for the cost per qualified lead generated by phone?
I wish there were in b-to-b, but there probably never will be. Most b-to-b outfits guard that sort of information very closely. My clients won’t let me reveal theirs.
I can report that the numbers are all over the map … from $35 to more than $3,000 … and depend chiefly on these factors:
- The definition of a “qualified” lead or the absence of an agreed definition.
- Complexity and price point(s) of the company’s product or service. Enterprise IT leads cost more than office supply leads.
- Compensation or outsource fees matched (or not) to the reality of the job in the company’s marketplace. For example, do not expect million-dollar deals to flow from a $15/hour caller.
- Reach-rate: how many attempts it typically takes to speak with a prospect live and engage in a business conversation.
- The CFO’s astuteness or gullibility.
Michael, you mentioned that I should ask you about something useful you wanted to offer our readers?
Yes, I’d like to offer them a free copy of my 10-Point Phone Marketing Checkup for Lead Generation and Qualification. Here’s the link they can use to get it: http://michaelabrown.net/checkup.html
Wrapping things up, Michael, are there any final thoughts you want to share with our readers?
Mac, thank you for inviting me. I’ll close with some good news … despite all the online marketing and social media and e-hype, people have not thrown away their phones! Prospects and customers still will speak with us if … and only if … we can make a compelling case for a conversation, and if that conversation is about them, not us. We also have to pursue leads by phone in context with our other marketing and sales media so that our communication strategy is cohesive and valuable.
Now I must excuse myself so that I can call a prospect. Cheers!
Readers, please join the conversation.
Do you agree with Michael’s advice about B2B lead generation by phone? Do you have additional thoughts to add on this subject?
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This is the first in a series of occasional interviews with top practitioners in the field of B-to-B demand generation.
Today’s guest is Michael Damphousse, CEO/CMO of Green Leads, LLC, a firm that specializes in using the phone to get qualified appointments for its clients’ salespeople on a pay-per-performance basis. Mike is an experienced marketer, having served as CMO of two software companies before starting Green Leads. His blog, Smashmouth Marketing, has developed a wide following among B-to-B marketing professionals.
Mike, I’m hearing a lot of buzz about appointment setting as an approach to B-to-B lead generation. Please tell me more about it.
B-to-B appointment setting has been around forever, Mac. But it has evolved from a task that sales reps used to do for themselves into a program that inside sales teams and outsourced marketing vendors now predominantly provide.
The real appeal in having an executive-level meeting already set for sales as opposed to getting 20 raw leads sent over. Let’s face it, Mac, the real selling starts when a buyer and a seller get face to face.
Appointment setting can also be cost-effective. See for yourself by using my Appointment Setting ROI Calculator
I believe I’ve heard you say that to get the best results, B-to-B telemarketing should be part of an integrated marketing and sales program. Is that true?
Without a doubt. Especially today with the shift of the “selling process” to more of a “buying process.” With every executive’s ability to type a search phrase into Google, buyers are informed. Being there when they raise their hands for you to meet with them is one thing, but timing your outbound marketing efforts to ask for a meeting when they are ready and educated through lead nurturing—now that is the true benefit of “integrated.” In fact, we’ve studied the impact of lead nurturing combined with outbound efforts, and we’ve found that when B-to-B appointment setting and lead nurturing programs are implemented together, higher-quality appointments are set and better conversion rates occur.
Mike, I understand that one of the keys to success in telemarketing lead generation is the list. Who should supply the list, the client or the telemarketing company?
Lists are a double-edged sword that some marketers underestimate. A bad list can consume so much time and energy to work through that it can bring an outbound marketing program to a grinding halt. I have four tips on lists that should help:
- Build your own list—Your own list is an asset that most companies don’t invest enough in. Think of the millions you’ve spent over years of marketing to gather those names. Use that investment.
- Purchase lists—There are great resources out there today. We use three major online data providers, and they each have their sweet spot. Remember—downloading the name of the chairman of the board is not going to get you to the CTO.
- Research lists—Invest in cleaning and maintaining your lists. There are services out there that will do list validation work. They take existing lists and, through manual research, return only data that is accurate. You can also have a list scrubbed by research and get back the names of prospects that are a better fit for your offering.
- Capture lists—Inbound marketing is all the rage today, and the ultimate goal of all that Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, blogging and landing pages is to capture names. Once you have them, though, don’t just “follow up and forget.” Put them into active, nurturing campaigns, and as their lead score rises, hand them over to an outbound team for targeting.
How do you determine when it makes sense for a company to do its B-to-B telemarketing in-house, versus outsourcing it?
There really isn’t a black-and-white answer to this question. There are lots of variables to consider.
When I talk with demand generation experts, there is almost universal agreement that budget is a key contributor. Investing in building out the human assets of an inside team takes budget. With salaries, bonuses, benefits, training and overhead, an inside team can be a costly investment. That’s not to say that [in the] long term it can’t be the better investment.
Outsourcing, on the other hand, is usually easier to start and stop, and [outsourced staff] are typically already trained and specialized in lead gen or appointment setting techniques.
One other aspect of outsourcing that keeps vendors in line is that if they don’t perform, their client-vendor relationships will terminate.
I would also recommend that if a company is making this decision, it hire an expert to assist in the decision. There are many industry experts that specialize in evaluating outbound marketing and lead gen needs. (Editor’s note: I’m one of them!)
Mike, do you have any suggestions on what potential customers should look for in a B-to-B telemarketing company?
Other than the basics of client references, number of reps, measurement criteria, etc., these are some [pointers] from an insider’s perspective that should help vet the true quality vendors:
- Look on LinkedIn and see how many “current” and “past” employees there are. Look at the background of [the company’s] reps on LinkedIn and see if they match your expectations.
- Ask for copies of [the company’s] compensation plan. As it pertains to quality versus quantity lead gen, make sure the plan matches your goals, not theirs.
- Listen when [the rep] mentions client names off the cuff during conversations. Then check them out with your network. It’s a small world—find out whom you or your colleagues know at those companies (use LinkedIn), then make your own inquiries.
Lots of companies seem to be looking to engage their lead generation and marketing service suppliers on a pay-per-performance basis. What are your thoughts on the subject?
I obviously lean toward performance-based demand gen. When we deliver a meeting, that meeting is not billable until it occurs and is not rejected by the client. In fact, nothing we offer is priced by the hour or includes monthly fees or retainers. It’s all by the deliverable. There is significant money being invested in these programs, and if you don’t know exactly what you are going to receive for the dollar, you can’t have a predictable ROI.
That said, make sure the “performance” you are paying for is tangible and has no gray area where the vendor can bill for deliverables that didn’t meet your needs. Is the lead with the right title? Is it with a company that is a good fit for your offering? Is the buyer ready to talk to you? Be up front about your needs before signing the contract, and measure to those specs.
Have you ever read something that was completely contrary to your own experience with the subject, causing you to doubt its accuracy?
That’s what happened to me when I read Aberdeen Group’s recent report, B2B TeleServices: The 2008 Buyer’s Guide.
As a consultant who specializes in B2B sales leads, I’m frequently asked by clients to help them select outsourced telemarketing companies, and to implement or improve their outsourced telemarketing lead generation, follow-up and qualification programs. So I was looking forward to reading Aberdeen’s report, thinking it would be a useful resource.
However, I quickly turned from an eager reader to true skeptic as I read some of the findings and conclusions of the report.
For example, the report stated that the companies included in Aberdeen’s study were spending an average of 33 percent of their total lead generation budget on B2B teleservices. And those companies which Aberdeen determined were “best in class” were spending an average of 44 percent.
Based on my own, first-hand experience working on B2B sales lead programs for dozens of leading companies–large, mid-sized and small–these percentages seemed way too high.
So, to check my sanity, I informally polled a number of other industry experts. This included a few CEOs of B2B call centers, a handful B2B marketers who outsource their telemarketing for lead generation, follow up and qualification, and a few other consultants who work in and around B2B telemarketing. I asked them to read the report and let me know if they thought about those particular numbers.
What were the results of my small, informal poll?
While some of the numbers in the report appeared to be more realistic, 100 percent of those I polled agreed that Aberdeen’s percentage of lead generation budget numbers were way too high.
The B2B telemarketing company CEOs wished that their clients actually were actually spending 33 percent to 44 percent of their lead generation budgets on outsourced teleservices. Instead, they reported that their clients are spending far less.
In the opinion of fellow consultant and friend, Michael A. Brown, the Business to Business By Phone® expert, “The Aberdeen numbers (about the percentage of lead generation budgets spent on outsourced teleservices) can’t be correct. They just don’t ring true.”
The sampling of B2B marketers I polled, all users of outsourced telemarketing services as part of their lead generation, follow-up and qualification programs, said that the budget percentage numbers reported by Aberdeen were significantly higher than their own spending.
Michael Brown polled a few of his own clients too. They told him that they believe that the average B2B lead generation budget percentages for outsourced teleservices should be less than half those reported by Aberdeen.
Although my own small, informal poll isn’t statistically valid, perhaps the sampling of companies that Aberdeen studied wasn’t truly representative either. Or perhaps those surveyed by Aberdeen exaggerated their spending. Who knows?
Regardless, I’m sad to say that my skepticism of the high lead generation budget percentage numbers reported by Aberdeen causes me to question all the other numbers in their buyer’s guide as well.
How about you?
What percentage of your B2B lead generation budget is allocated for outsourced teleservices?
Are you dialing for dollars or wasting your money with telemarketing?
Why? Because this is what happens when somebody realizes that there are not enough sales leads in the pipeline to meet this quarter’s sales revenue goals:
Scenario A: Forced Labor
They grab a couple of unlucky administrative assistants, salespeople or interns, put them on they phone with old leads and pray. The unmotivated crew manages to fill their time “getting organized.”
Scenario B: Garbage In, Garbage Out
The marketer Googles for an outsourced business-to-business telemarketing company, and eager to start, sends and old call list or worse, a list of all area businesses. The telemarketing company hires some temps, changes an ex-client’s script, and tells the newly hired business-to-business telemarketing reps, “Start calling.”
Not surprisingly, both scenarios are recipes for disaster.
Of course, you’re experienced and have the skill and knowledge necessary to recognize when a prospect’s needs are a good fit for your services. But you’ve got more important things to do.
So if you’re serious about using B-to-B telemarketing to quickly generate qualified leads:
Hire your own top-notch telemarketers.
Look for people who like being on the phone, understand that rejection is part of the process, have lots of experience calling your types of customers and can knowledgeably discuss the situations and applications your services fit best. (Hint: Consider ex-salespeople who now have kids and want to work part-time and without traveling. Or go after retirees who have realized they’d like to work part-time.) Then give them well-targeted and up-to-date lists of prospects to call.
Hire a top-notch B2B telemarketing company.
Look for a company with a proven track record of calling into the same industries and the same titles as you will want them to be calling on your behalf. Thoroughly check references and insist that the BtoB telemarketing company assign experienced callers to your project. Then both you and the firm must invest time and effort in creating call guidelines (rather than a verbatim script) and training callers on the unique aspects of your business and your prospects. Finally, give the callers a well-targeted list of prospects to call, and have them start dialing.
The acid test for success in either case: How would you feel if you received that telemarketing call?
For the full version of this article, please visit:
Business-to-business telemarketing: Dialing for dollars or wasting your money?
Also: Make your telemarketing efforts take off. Find out more about my telemarketing lead generation consulting services.