Telemarketing is notorious for being high cost (and potentially damaging to your brand), and low yield. But, when telemarketing is executed in the right way, and used as part of a larger marketing plan, it can produce quality results - either in combination with other tactics (eg. to follow up invites to an event) or as a standalone tactic (eg. a VBR campaign).
Three Ways to Use Telemarketing
B2B telemarketing can be approached in three separate ways;
- 'Follow Up' Telemarketing: Telemarketing can be particularly useful in 'following up' after a direct mail campaign or event; an important part of event hosting. Using telemarketing to follow up on these kinds of direct marketing activities gives you a second bite at the cherry.
- Appointment Setting: Telemarketing can also be used very effectively as a method of appointment setting. Appointment setting not only helps set up appointments for your sales team to follow up on but it also helps separate likely prospects from unlikely ones and can be used to gather additional information to be used in the sales process.
- VBR Telemarketing: VBR stands for 'Valid Business Reason' and is a term coined by global sales performance leader, Miller Heiman. A VBR telemarketing call involves establishing a reason for why the prospect should answer and take your call. The aim is to highlight the challenges that the business prospect is experiencing, their subsequent needs, and then to outline how your business may be able to assist (perhaps leading to the offer of a face-to-face meeting). VBR calls are unlikely to be points of sale, but should be aimed at progressing the buyer to the next stage of the Buyer's Journey.
Using a script provides a formula that allows you to really listen to your customer instead of focusing on what you should say next. A good script will give you total clarity on how your call will progress before you even begin. In writing your script, it is important to keep the following in mind:
- Write a script that is relevant to the particular stage of your Buyer's Journey.
- Make sure you know what you want the call to achieve when writing the script. For instance; are you trying to make initial contact with a potential buyer? Is it to book an appointment? Are you following up on an event invite?
- A good script alone will not work, you need to be able to deliver the words of the script in a natural, authentic and enthusiastic way. This means you need to have changes in tone, volume, voice modulation and talk with a real vibrancy that will engage your prospect.
- Have a script for each type of call that is to be made and for any common objections you get from customers (eg. you should be ready to deal with gatekeepers and for people who simply don’t want to talk to you)
- Have a copy of all scripts in front of you at all times when making the calls.
- Make sure you have telemarketers who can be taken off the script and continue the conversation. Well-trained telemarketers think on their feet and use talking points to overcome objections and qualify the lead.
- A particular rule that you may want to consider following is the 80/20: Listen for 80% and talk for 20% of the conversation. The universal lead definition configures the notes, but attentive listening provides the information. Avoid interrogating the lead; instead, engage in a conversation.
Measuring the success of any telemarketing campaign is crucial to refining future efforts and evaluating its productivity. David Green of MarketingSherpa highlights two potential ways of measuring the financial benefit of telemarketing:
- As a tool for qualifying and nurturing leads. The issue is whether the added cost is worth it. The simple equation would be this:
ROI = (cost of generating inquiries + cost of telemarketing + sales costs)/revenue from the qualified leads. That will give you an expense-to-revenue ratio. The reason to include sales costs is because the quality of leads can either increase or decrease sales productivity.
- As a demand-generation channel. In this case, you are looking at telemarketing as one of many ways to generate demand and so you’re trying to see where it works best so that you can allocate sufficient budget to it relative to other choices. The simple equation would be this:
ROI = (cost of telemarketing + sales cost)/revenue from the qualified leads If you were integrating outbound telemarketing into other forms of outbound contact (e.g., following up a direct mail package with a phone call), then you would need to include the costs of all of the integrated demand generation channels. You may need to estimate sales costs. One way to do that is to set up a control group that gets leads and one that does not. You can then get sales budget numbers for each group.
Make sure the lead volume uses as much of the sales capacity of the test group as possible. Then you can simply measure the revenue difference between the two groups.
Separately, you should track the following basic metrics:
- Number of calls made
- Outcome of each call (eg. no answer, messagebank, failed to get past gatekeeper, prospect reached)
- Time spent on each call
To measure the basic metrics, you may choose to use call recording services that will enable you to build a log of all calls, should you need refer back to them.
You may be want to outsource your telemarketing. If so, be wary that outsourcing is often expensive, without guarantee that you’ll get quality leads. This requires you to set clear guidelines, expectations and key performance indicators as set out in the section above. Following these points below will ensure the success of any outsourced telemarketing campaign:
- Insist that the outsourced telemarketers are adequately trained and have a level of professionalism to ensure that your brand is safe.
- Focus on the collaboration and communication between your sales force and the outsourced telemarketers.
- Find a specialist agency that is suited to what you're trying to do. Agencies with 30+ telemarketing people are better-equipped to handle large, 'shotgun' campaigns. When your database is highly targeted and realistically sized, chasing through the contacts as quickly as possible is not the objective. Getting in contact with decision-makers and getting them interested is what matters. For highly-targeted campaigns, working with smaller agencies will be a better solution. Also, smaller agencies tend to specialise within particular industries, and with fewer clients, they can be more responsive and offer a customised solution.
- Ensure that the outsourced telemarketers know your product or service. They should be able to clearly define the unique benefit to the customer that your product offers in comparison to any competition.
- When you provide your list to the company, ensure that they keep it in the same format. There can be a lot of difficulty updating a CRM at the end of the campaign if they have heavily edited your list or removed required fields.
Why Particular Telemarketing Campaigns Have Failed
In an extensive research project, Robert Krekstein from SAP has outlined the most common reasons as to why B2B telemarketing campaigns have failed. Below is a summary of the main findings:
- Not establishing a realistic goal: Make sure you get bids from multiple vendors to ensure your expectations are realistic.
- Improper training enablement: Provide training in the vendor’s format so they really get it.
- Not understanding the target audience: Title selection and list quality are extremely important to reaching the right target for your solution.
- Not testing the messaging or solution: Test messages, offers, titles and talk tracks to identify the most effective combination.
- Utilising the price as the only criteria for tele vendor selection: Be sure to balance cost and quality aspects of your objectives.
- Not visiting the telemarketing service provider: Nothing beats an onsite inspection to verify you get what you pay for.
- Unclear lead criteria: Speak with sales to uncover the specific lead criteria and scoring that will define a quality lead.
- Poor data quality: Capture the 'lead intelligence' from each call in a database.
- Choosing to move a program offshore: Test the cost-benefit before fully making the move overseas.
- Relying completely on scripting for all calling efforts: Use both scripts and prepared responses to ensure a successful call.
- Not watching the backend results: Look at conversion rates with sales and ultimate ROI.
The following data was captured via a study conducted by Lead Response Management:
- Calling on Thursdays is 50% better than calling on Tuesdays for first phone contact. Note this is contradicted by InsightSquared who found Tuesdays between 10 and 4 to be best for cold calling
- Wednesdays are 25% better than Fridays for qualification (contact means having a conversation at all, qualification means agreeing to enter into a more comprehensive dialogue).
- Start and end of day are great times for calling (8-9 and 4-6) - again, contradicted by InsightSquared
- Attempts to contact are 10 times less successful if you wait for an hour.
- Even within this first hour, they drop by a factor of 10 from the first 5 minutes to the last.
- Calling to qualify is only slightly less dramatic: a 6-fold decline after an hour.
- If you let the lapse reach 20 hours, the chance of ever successfully qualifying that lead decrease with every call attempt. So if you've stuffed up and let the lead lapse more than 20 hours, call once, then stop calling and move on.
Best Practices for Telemarketing
The following metrics help align how to best measure the success of telemarketing. Keep in mind that the benchmarks for telemarketing can differ from business to business, as the call may be for different things, such as trying to make a sale on the phone, or to get an RSVP to an event, etc.
Return On Investment (ROI) is important to ensure that your costs do not outweigh your sales/income. The aim is to have a high ROI; therefore you want to create as many sales as possible with the least amount of telemarketers’ possible. This will require a balance in order to work well. Each call a telemarketer makes, should aim to bring in a form of income; if not, you will have a low ROI.
Telemarketing Appointment Setting: Not all calls may be made with the intention of setting up an appointment, it may be to gain attendance to a webinar, or offer a free trial/demo of a software product. Whatever the outcome, it is imperative that you measure those booked and attended. If your appointments schedule are not clearly organised, it may cause a dilemma with those attending the appointment, and they may choose not to do business with you, as you have not shown them you can be diligent.
It’s important to measure how much time is dedicated to telemarketing. Furthermore, the time measured should be whilst on the phone making the actual call. It would be beneficial to also measure the admin time you spent before or after each call too. This is to ensure that we can show how much time is spent actually communicating to others. If there is a large amount of admin work required per phone call, it will be recorded and your boss will know that you are not unsatisfactorily completing your task by not making a substantial amount of calls, you are just following the correct procedure to ensure you can produce your findings in an organised manner.
It is crucial that you record how many calls are being made. This tells you about the level of activity and momentum of the telemarketer. If a low level of calls and activity are being displayed, this could indicate that they are not motivated. An unmotivated telemarketer is a useless one. If they aren’t trying to make you, an authority figure, happy, imagine how bleak they would be to the person on the other end of the call. Call rates are important, however they should not compromise the quality of a call. Depending what the call is regarding can affect your call rate. For quality calls, you may see anywhere between 60 – 90 calls per day in a call centre. However, each business differs and has different expectations.
Measuring how many times you interact with gatekeepers (receptionists, assistants, etc.) when making a call. It is essential to have great communication skills when dealing with a gatekeeper, because ultimately they decide whether you get to speak to your desired person or not. Objectively, we want to get through to decision makers, not gatekeepers. Measuring how many times you interact with a gatekeeper is for the purpose of weighing up if additional training is required for the telemarketer. If they have a low rate of getting through to decision makers, they may require additional training on how to essentially smooth-talk the gatekeepers.
It is wise to track how many calls end with you leaving a voicemail. It shows us if we should acquire an alternate approach, perhaps trying to contact a different decision maker or calling at different times of the day.
Poor data means we have wasted our time and costs. It is essential to purchase a good quality list, however still monitoring wrong numbers, wrong contact names, etc. This reflects the performance of the telemarketer. It is important to record any new data that presents itself to you whilst conducting your telemarketing. For instance, if you have a name and number on your data list, and when you call, the contact is no longer working for the company, you must record that in your notes. This is to ensure that if the same contact is to be sought after later, the same error does not occur.
If you are new to a marketplace, conducting a telemarketing campaign will increase your brand awareness and get your name out there. Affiliating your brand with its respected market is crucial (i.e. Fast-food industry = McDonalds). However it is important to ensure that those who conduct the calls represent your brand properly; this includes what they say, approach, attitude and tone. If those conducting the calls fail to represent your brand properly, it can cause damage to your brand’s reputation, which is sometimes irreversible. A way to measure your brand’s over-the-phone reputation is conducting surveys.