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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I've posted often about our approach to lead generation and appointment setting and how it's different the the way most telemarketing companies work.

But a recent conversation with an associate who's probably written the book on cold-calling made me wonder whether telemarketing as a stand-alone marketing tactic has finally had it's day.

Certainly, in the b2c sector it's days are well and truly numbered, evidenced by the growth of TPS and the Do Not Call Registry in the US. As far as business-to-business telemarketing is concerned, I think the time is also running out.

Now, let me be clear, I'm not saying that prospecting for new business by phone is dead, far from it. But, I do believe that telemarketing on its own is no longer effective.

This typically applies to larger telemarketing agencies and outbound call centres than smaller telemarketing companies, as their entire business model is based upon volume and scripts. Their approach is to keep dialling until they finally reach someone and then deliver a killer script designed to "trick" them into saying "yes".

Excuse me, but that simply doesn't work any more.

For many senior decision makers, telephone is no longer the preferred method of communication. Partly due to the telemarketing industry and partly due to the nature of work (mobility, home-working, meetings, time pressures, etc) business people today avoid incoming phone calls as much as possible.

And if you do get them on the phone, will they really sit through a six-minute scripted pitch? I don't think so.

In business-to-business, lead generation today is about one-on-one marketing, opening a dialogue and using a mix of communication methods.

Here's an example of how large call centres have got it so wrong:

I received a call a while back from a utility company (it was already my utility company as it happens) wanting to get me to switch my electricity to them.

Now, as it happens, I was interested in doing this, but I wanted to see something in writing before I made any decision ("decision strategies" are a whole other area to blog about but basically, many people want to see something before they can make a decision). So, I asked them to send me something. "Sorry, can't do that" was the reply.

If you're from the old school of sales you'd probably chalk up my request as a "time waster" or a delaying tactic and simply move on. But, I don't subscribe to all those "buyers are liars" sales cliches.

No, the reason they couldn't send me anything was because they were sitting in an office in Chennai or Glasgow and were not in anyway joined up with the whole sales process.

So they didn't send me anything. Wasted call, wasted opportunity.

When we work on new business campaigns for our clients we operate as part of their team. We hold collateral, send emails from our clients' domain, and nurture leads through the pipeline.

When we initially approach someone (by phone or email) and they ask for info, what does it tell them when we send it to them and then follow-up? It tells them that we're interested in starting a dialogue.

It may (and often does) take several phone calls, emails & voice-mails over a period of weeks or months until they're ready. Over that period we're demonstrating that we're not a pushy salesperson, we value their time and we want to do business.

When the timing is right, we'll book a meeting (or conference call, or whatever the appropriate next step is).

To me this is simple. Why have most telemarketing companies got it so wrong?

I guess, lucky for us, they have :-)

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Posted by: David Regler @ 12:29 pm |   | Links to this post  

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