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Monday, July 17, 2006

With the spread of broadband, low-cost telephony and VoIP, there have been a growing number of experienced telemarketing & sales people striking out on their own as free agents.

Many are disillusioned with the large call-centres, or perhaps their job was outsourced overseas. Some have decided to take a career break, perhaps to raise a family, and want a new, home-based, flexible working arrangement. Whatever the circumstances, there is a growing pool of talented home-workers that you can leverage to expand your business.

Some key advantages of using freelance telesales & telemarketing people are:

Freelancers come pre-loaded with experience - on average most freelance sales & marketing people have at least 5 years experience. Using a freelancer gives you access to highly skilled knowledge workers on an "as needed" basis, which means they can hit the ground running and start delivering results for you.

In contrast, call-centres have large overheads. If you're paying 250 GBP a day per agent, they need to pay their agent less than 80 GBP per day to cover overheads, management, down-time, etc. This means they usually employ young and inexperienced people compared to a freelancer.

Freelancers are flexible - you don't have to use them full-time for large projects. In fact, they probably don't want to work full-time, that's why they're freelancing. Maybe you just want them to work a few days a month? If you're a small consultancy operating in a niche market, maybe you just want someone to target a short list of 50 companies.

A call-centre could never handle this type of work; they want volume. Call-centres, of 20+ seats, have overheads that dictate they need volume. All those people need to be fed regular work. If you're a corporate and need a campaign to hit 10,000 companies in 2 weeks, then you need a call-centre. Even a distributed freelance network like ours could not scale to handle that type of project.

Freelancers can operate as if they're part of your company
- freelancers can send emails from your company domain, work with your marketing collateral, and operate as if they're part of your team. With collaborate online tools, such as Salesforce.com, or Microsoft's new Office Live, it's easy to share customer contact details, diaries, etc. Many freelancers operate like Virtual "Sales" PA's, setting up appointments for you and chasing quotes on your behalf. Because you engage a freelancer direct, you can build a relationship with them over time. They learn more about your business and develop as part of your team.

By comparison, whilst call centres can place outbound calls as if they're from your company, typically that's all they're set up for. They don't send information by email and call back, their model is all about crunching through high volume. Plus, they have terrible churn rates (employee turnover), which means building any long-term relationship with an individual is almost impossible.

Freelancers are doing this work because they want to - if you've ever been called by some 18 year old in a call-centre reading a canned script for the 100th time that day, you'll understand this point immediately. Freelancers do this work because they're good at it and they enjoy it. This point alone makes all the difference.

In summary, for directors of small businesses or companies operating in niche markets, hiring freelance telesales professionals can be an ideal fit. For most small businesses, as little as 30 hours a month can deliver real results. Their costs are comparable with most telemarketing agencies and call-centres, they're experienced, and can work on an appropriate scale for your needs.

If you need to feed a hungry team of 20 sales people with "leads" then, I'm afraid, you'll still have to work with the big boys.

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Posted by: David Regler @ 8:24 am |  0 comments  | Links to this post  

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Recently, I was chatting with a client and he called me the "go-to-guy to get-you-in".

I must admit, being a "Go-to-Guy" is something I've always worked towards. It's about building a reputation for your expertise and delivery.

One of my favourtite films is Pulp Fiction. And one of my favoutire characters in the film (a personal hero, even) is the tuxedo-clad Winston Wolf a.k.a "The Wolf".

He's the "Go-to-Guy".

When Jules and Vincent are in a tight spot, having just accidently blown a colleagues head off, they are releived when their boss, Marsellus says, "Go back in there, chill them ... out and wait for The Wolf, who should be comin' directly."

From there on, what does The Wolf do?

He qualifies what his client wants, gets all the details, etc and then sets expectations that he knows he can deliver: "Expect a call around 10:30. It's about thirty minutes away. I'll be there in ten."

Next thing we see is The Wolf's car pulling up outside Jimmie's house with the caption: "NINE MINUTES AND THIRTY-SEVEN SECONDS LATER"

Now that's how to do it.

When Jimmie opens the door. We see, standing in the doorway, the tuxedo-clad Wolf. He looks down to his notebook, then up at Jimmie.

You're Jimmie, right? This is your house?


I'm Winston Wolf, I solve problems.

Good, 'cause we got one.

To me, this is my goal as a freelance sales & business development consultant. I'm the go-to-guy when a client wants help opening doors. Sometimes I work with clients on ongoing campaigns; sometimes it's just a one-off project.

If I can't get you in, I know someone who can.

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Posted by: David Regler @ 7:14 am |  0 comments  | Links to this post  

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Did you know that everyone has a built-in SPAM filter?

When you get one of those cold-calls, or the door-bell goes and there's this guy with a name-badge and clipboard...you just know that you're about to be SPAM'd.

Senior executives have had so much SPAM that they've installed firewalls and sophisticated human SPAM-filters, otherwise known as PA's. They put policies in place so that anyone who answers the phone must immediately junk-folder any call that is SPAM.

It's even got so bad that some companies register with the Human SPAM police, otherwise known as the CTPS in the UK, to publicly say "no Human SPAM here".

In the electronic world, SPAM filters work on the basis that if it looks like SPAM then it is SPAM. Some people use overly-zealous settings on their SPAM filters, and so they only get emails from people that they already know and are on their white-list (this is a bit like CTPS or no-name policies in companies).

So, here's the thing. The way to avoid the Human SPAM filter is simple: Don't SPAM.

I contact senior executives daily on behalf of my clients. Sometimes I just phone them up. Sometimes it's by email and sometimes I reach them via a networking site, such as LinkedIn.

However, when I contact them I make sure that I do not look or sound like SPAM.

For a start, I'm usually contacting them because I've invested time researching their company to make sure my approach is well targeted. I take time to check that they will be interested in my proposition before I initiate contact.

If I'm unable to check this before-hand (a real cold-call, yes I do these too), I don't just launch into a script that doesn't respect their time, I ask simple questions to quickly establish if there's an interest. In short, I think about the person I am calling before, during and after my call. I work from the stand-point that I want to potentially develop a relationship and so I treat the person politely and with respect.

Sure, the reality is that not everyone is going to be interested in my proposition. If I've done my research and I have a well-targeted approach, maybe I'll be successful with 30-40%. But, I've still dealt with the people who are not interested in an honest, straight-forward & respectful way.

At this point you could be forgiven for thinking, "So What?". My approach may not seem very special. In fact, you could say that all I'm doing is thinking about who I approach and being professional when I contact them.

And here's the thing...this is the exact opposite to how 95% of tele-marketers work.

My approach takes time; it's about creativity & flexibility.

Most call-centres work a "numbers game". What's it like to do a job where you're grinding away at the numbers with very limited success. You start to get a negative process mind-set..."just another call, say my pitch. Not interested? OK, onto the next call. Every No is nearer a Yes, right?".

So the call-centre says, "we're only getting a 3% success rate, how can we get more people to make more calls faster? Let's automate dialing, let's chain everyone to their desk and give them huge "target boards" to motivate them."

No wonder some of them have 140% employee churn-rates.

Is it any wonder that companies put policies in place to avoid these poor people? Speaking to 100's of depressed and demotivated drones every day must have health & safety implications ;-)

I've coached entrepreneurs on "cold-calling". One woman I coached was concerned that she would make mistakes when she made the calls. I said "that's great, making mistakes is just human. And the more human and unpolished you are the less you sound like you're calling from a call-centre"

That's it...it's just about one human connecting with another. Be polite, think about the other person and ask for what you want. You may be surprised how simple it really is.

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Posted by: David Regler @ 6:07 am |  0 comments  | Links to this post  

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Can you remember that Kevin Costner movie from 1989, "Field of Dreams"? It's about the Iowa corn farmer who, hearing voices, interprets them as a command to build a baseball diamond in his fields.

I'm not sure whether every dot-com startup watched that film, but the phrase "Build it and they will come" seems to have passed into the collective entrepreneurial unconscious.

So when Jackie Bassett told me about her new book "So You Built It and They Didn't Come. Now What?", I just had to read it.

If there was ever a book that should be compulsory for entrepreneurs to read, this is it (and Guy Kawasaki's "The Art of the Start").

Jackie shares her own experiences, as well as stories from CEO's and Investors on what to do when the wheels have fallen off. Does this sound familiar?

So you've burned thru several million dollars of Venture Capital funds,replaced the VP of Sales three times, added 17 more features that each round of salespeople you hired (and fired) insisted their prospects must have before they would buy-then didn't, now what?

You're certain there is a market for your product. You even have a handful of customers who've paid for it. But those "Wow's" aren't converting into sales.

How did this ever happen? Where did things go so wrong? More importantly, how can this be fixed and f-a-s-t!

Jackie shows you how to identify when you are in trouble, and how to stop and restart your business from a customer-centric perspective.

There is a lot in this book that I recognise from my own client experiences. One of the things about working with startups and new product launches is that you're going to see a lot of misfires.

Every now and then I have to write what I call a "Dear John" report at the end of a pilot campaign. Usually it goes something like "I'm sorry, but we don't think you've got a proposition that's really compelling for your market. Let's stop now before it costs you too much" In essence, we tell our client that they've got it wrong.

It's probably one of the hardest parts of the job, but it's something that's core to my values. If it's not working, I'll pull the plug rather than simply burn my time and my client's cash.

Of course, they can try another method of sales, or even another sales outsourcing company, but usually they go back to the drawing board and come back to us to help them test and refine their new proposition.

Our business is no different.

We tried promoting our services to startups as "market due diligence". Essentially, we'd pilot test a proposition with potential clients. However, we found that there really was little appetite for it. Entrepreneurs are pretty free-wheeling and their due diligence is usually to just launch and see what happens.

It's what we call the ultimate "Live R&D").

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Posted by: David Regler @ 2:46 pm |  0 comments  | Links to this post  

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