When I first commissioned a telemarketing company, I was seduced by the glamour of their offices, even though they were based in Swindon (if you’re not UK based, imagine Scranton but with more roundabouts). I was seduced by the sales patter, and I was seduced by the pool table that the telemarketers were able to use in their “down time”.
Six weeks later, I was less seduced. We hadn’t had a single appointment for several thousand pounds’ worth of investment, and the pipeline was weak. Despite all of my best efforts, and seemingly, all of their best efforts, nothing was happening and I was convinced nothing was going to happen.
I ended that relationship and continued my search for a B2B telemarketing company who wouldn’t waste my money. But I also learned this: you get out what you put in. For all those who have been frustrated with B2B telemarketing, here’s where you’re going wrong:
Data in, data out
If you’re in telemarketing for appointment setting (and most B2Bs are), then you don’t want your telemarketers to spend their time ticking boxes, correcting fields and apologising for having tried to contact a man who left the company three years ago or, worse, died (it has happened a few times). Bad data gets you off on the wrong foot, and wastes time. Consider the following metrics from a financial point of view:
- Dials per day: 100
- Conversations per day: 10
- Appointments per day: 1
These metrics are actually pretty good in B2B telemarketing. Imagine, then, that your data is so poor that of those 100 dials, a telemarketer can only have 5 conversations with decision-makers. That 1 appointment to 10 conversations ratio means you’re only getting 1 appointment every two days.
The investment, therefore, in cleaner, more accurate, more recent data is an obvious one. But equally, it’s up to you to capitalise on your data when you get it back from the telemarketer. If you have done a 2-week campaign with 350 contacts, then expect to receive an updated file back from your telemarketing company, and expect much of it to be corrected and augmented. New contacts, new job roles, enhanced data and call-back information all need to go back into your CRM, which implies that your CRM needs to be ready. Are you building a telemarketing pipeline? You can categorise contacts and organisations into different levels of priority, ensuring that you can call them again when they’re ready to meet.
Who are you talking to, and how?
Let’s say, for example, that your sales team want appointments with Human Resources Directors within a certain area. You will no doubt have extracted a prospect list of HR Directors you really, really want to talk to – but who’s doing the calling, and what are they saying?
You may opt for a scripted approach, or you may simply want a business conversation. In this instance, you really want a business conversation – and the company in Swindon weren’t able to do this for me. There was a level of complexity already built into the campaign that I personally should have realised, which should have resulted in me seeking more experienced telemarketers – preferably those who have some experience of the industry.
The best approach, therefore, is a scripted approach from someone who has a solid background in your field. Finding that telemarketer isn’t easy, but it’s worth the search because you’ll see that conversion rate increase. If they understand the pain points your target market are experiencing at that moment in time, then you have given yourself a head start.
Prepare to wait
Unfortunately, patience isn’t a virtue in many organisations, and instant results are expected for what can be significant sums of investment. However, the long game can pay serious dividends if you measure the right metrics, and have the patience not to expect immediate results.
In Business to Business, we expect long buying cycles, but we should also expect long readiness-to-buy cycles, too. The process from aware to interested to appointment can take several calls, and a good deal of networking around an organisation. If your product or service is of high value, with a long lead time, expect a lengthy period of schmoozing and pipeline nurturing.
So patience is required, but must not be blind. You need to measure two kinds of metric here – on a per-telemarketer basis:
1) The immediate metrics, as mentioned above
- How many dials per day
- How many conversations with decision-makers per day
- How many appointments per day
- Ratio of dials to conversations (measuring data quality)
- Ratio of conversations to appointments (measuring message quality)
2) The long-term pipeline metrics
- How many conversations per day
- How many high-level callbacks are created
- How many medium and low-level callbacks are created
- How many conversations “go dead”
If you keep an eye on 2), then you’ll improve the performance of 1) over the long term. The key is to look at what’s going into your pipeline, and what’s falling out of it. Far too often, I’ve seen marketing teams lose track of what’s in their pipeline and not chase people up at the right time, effectively wasting the investment they have made in telemarketing. When somebody says “I’m not interested now but come back in 6 months, it might be on the cards then”, you make every note you can in your CRM to ensure that this person is contacted at the right time, with the right message.
Equally, when someone says “never darken my doorstep again” (and they have many worse ways of saying it), make sure that you don’t darken their doorstep again. Not only is it going to unnerve your poor telemarketer, it’s extremely bad for your brand.
And finally, seek a partner, not a supplier
Far too many marketers dump a data list on a telemarketing company and expect them to run with it. This is a long-term partnership that implies a two-way relationship. Teach your telemarketer about your services, about what makes you different from everyone else. Give them case studies to pull out as and when required. Teach them about verticals in which you excel, and customers you work with, as well as some great anecdotes. Make that person on the telephone an extension of your team.
You’re looking for a telemarketing partner, not a supplier. And that, as I learned early on, is where I went wrong. I wanted someone to supply appointments. I wanted someone to give me a non-stop feed of meetings to keep sales happy, but I neglected everything in between.
For more information on B2B telemarketing, this excellent resource has helped me over the years, courtesy of B2B telemarketer Integrity Business Connections. And this slideshow, while advocating not using a script, is really useful and full of good advice: