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Friday, December 19, 2008

This is really something that annoys me about telemarketers that use scripts; I'm sure you've had this happen to you too.

The phone rings, I answer "Hello, David Regler" and they start "Can I speak with Mr David Regler please?"

Did they not hear what I just said?

If find this happens in both B2C and B2B telemarketing and it comes down to the simple fact that they're more interested in reading the script than actually opening their ears and listening to what the prospect is saying.

This is one of the reasons why we don't use scripts.

Somewhere there's a book that every telemarketing company has read that says you have to start a call with "May I speak with Mr X, please?". So, guess what, that's what every telemarketing company says when the start the call.

Think about it, you've probably been called a thousand times with that same line. So, when you hear it you just know what's coming, right? Shields up!

The trouble is that they might very well have something of interest but when they start out like this you just stop listening and start thinking "how do I get out of this call?

So you've got this bizarre situation where the telemarketer isn't listening, he's just trying to grind through the script and complete "another call". The prospect on the phone isn't listening because they're sat there trying to figure out what to say to get out of the call (which they'll do once the telemarketer finally takes a breath!).

Two people on the phone, neither wants to be there and neither is listening to the other.

Strange world, isn't it?

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Posted by: David Regler @ 10:07 am |  0 comments  | Links to this post  

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

The other day I was speaking with a prospective client who was considering outsourcing telemarketing after his in-house telemarketer "left and never returned".

I asked how long the telemarketer had been working with him and he told me just 4 days!

Was he any good? "Oh yeah", says this guy, "He made about 20 or so calls a day and got us a meeting before he left"

20 calls a day? One meeting after 4 days work? Oh please...

That pretty much sums up the experience of many businesses who have tried to hire people in-house to "do some telemarketing". I know, when I ran a UK sales team I hired and trained telemarketers. The trouble is, good ones are just hard to find.

What usually happens is this:

During the interview they tell you that they've had some experience telemarketing. Which is true, pretty much anyone who's been in some sales or admin role will have had to do a little cold-calling.

So, you set them on, give them the training and then they go hard at it. If you're lucky, they make plenty of calls, turn up some leads and even book some meetings.

That's week one over.

Then, as sure as the sun comes up every morning, their performance starts to tail off. They start telling you the leads are drying up. And - I guarantee this - they start to "help out" with a few jobs around the office.

It could be some filing, maybe helping with the marketing, or even "researching" online. If someone in the office goes off ill, they're in their seat like a shot. Before you know it, one day soon, you'll wake up and realise that they're no longer making those calls.

Why does this happen?

The reason is simple: very few people like to make cold calls.

Why do you think the average staff churn in most telemarketing call centres is close to 50%? People who can do this job and are any good at it are like hens teeth.

Most people would rather crawl over broken glass on bare knees than pick up the phone and start cold calling (and that includes most salespeople).

If you really want an in-house telemarketing team, expect to invest heavily in recruiting, managing and retaining them. Unless you have a market that can support two or more telemarketers full-time, it simply doesn't make sense to create an in-house team.

Outsourcing telemarketing to a professional telemarketing agency really is a no-brainer for most businesses.

For one thing, it's more flexible. Only need someone for a day a week? Need to halt a campaign, stop during the holidays or avoid specific times within your industry? By outsourcing your telemarketing to an agency that's not a problem.

For example, we work on monthly retainers for many clients, but will take a break whenever it suits ours clients best. That's the kind of flexibility that's not possible with employed in-house staff, even part-time ones!

Also, by outsourcing to a telemarketing agency that works with seasoned telemarketers (like ours, of course), you'll work with experienced people who you simply wouldn't find on the open market.

As I said earlier, very few people like to do this work and are good at it. If you hire someone with little experience then cut to the chase and ask them to start filing.

Quality telemarketing professionals are the ones who do this for a living.

Even the costs of in-house telemarketing vs outsourced seldom stack up.

OK, so you will be able to pay someone to work in-house for less than an agency. Of course, there's a whole bunch of hidden costs you'll incur such as holidays, sickness, management time, IT costs, training, etc, but even with these added, the total "costs" may still be less, pound for pound, for an in-house person compared with an outsourced telemarketer through a professional telemarketing agency.

But, it's not the costs you need to consider - it's your return-on-investment.

Even if an in-house telemarketer costs you half of an agencies daily rate, they will struggle to deliver a quarter of the results of an experienced pro.

What did that guy tell me at the start of this post? His in-house telemarketer had worked with him for 4 days, made 20 calls a day and got him one meeting. No professional telemarketer would survive on those ratios - they'd have no clients.

Outsourcing telemarketing to experienced, seasoned professionals will give you a superior return-on-investment compared with in-house people. Sure, hour-for-hour, day-for-day it might cost more to outsource telemarketing, but if your in-house people deliver a fraction of the results (and they will) then it's an irrelevant comparison.

Any experienced telemarketer worth their salt will produce at least 4x the results of the type of person you're likely to attract for an in-house role.

Plus they'll do it day after day, consistently, without you having to manage them.

And, they won't ask to do the filing :-)

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Posted by: David Regler @ 4:24 pm |  1 comments  | Links to this post  

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Telemarketing, like all direct marketing disciplines, has a strong tradition of measurement.

The number of dials you make, number of DMC's (Decision Maker Contacts), number of appointments you book, it's all about the numbers.

But sometimes you need to look a little deeper at the numbers to see what's happening.

For example, many telemarketers will say something like, "I make 120 calls a day"; as if that's the only metric that matters. Because if you focus just on the number of dials, you're missing something really important - the actual conversations.

If you think about it, when you're getting through to the right people and having a quality dialogue with them, then that takes time. If you pitch, say, 15 prospects in a day, that's pretty good going. Add to that the fact that you'll probably need to do some fulfilment with each one (prepare and send an email, for example) then you can see that it's not all about the dials.

In the film Boiler Room, (which is for telemarketing what Glengarry Glenross is for sales) when the new recruit is being trained he's told "this entire business revolves around the phone. A good broker makes over three hundred calls a day."

Now, when you watch the film, you see these guys pitching prospects, wrangling with them and using every rebuttal available to reel 'em in - and they're still supposed to be making three hundred calls a day? I don't think so!

It's like the sales manager who told his new recruit to make ten appointments per day. When they meet up in the field after his first day the new recruit proudly tells his boss that he did it, he completed ten sales appointments in the day. "Great", the sales manager says, "How many did you close".

"Close?", says the new recruit, "I didn't have time to actually sell them anything!"

It's like all management tools, the activity itself shouldn't be the goal. In telemarketing it's about sales leads and appointments.

Measuring activity gives you an understanding of what's happening, but the focus should always be on results.

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Posted by: David Regler @ 8:19 am |  1 comments  | Links to this post  

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

If you're considering hiring a telemarketing agency for a campaign, what are the questions you should ask?

I've been asked this before on a number of occasions, particularly by people who have "tried telemarketing before" and had their fingers burned.

The reality is that telemarketing is one of those businesses which you can literally set up with a phone and a spare room. If you include freelancers, there are probably thousands of telemarketing agencies out there, and quality does vary.

So, here's a list of areas which you can focus your questions to determine whether a telemarketing agency is right for you:

1) Client experience - has the telemarketing agency worked on similar campaigns for other clients in your sector? Most sectors have their own terminology and ways of doing business. If your telemarketing agency has worked for similar clients previously they are more likely to quickly grasp your proposition. Typically, when you speak to the telemarketing agency, you'll get an understanding of whether they "speak your language".

2) Market & Sectors - what type of companies has the telemarketing agency experience of calling into. Whilst the first question looks at client experience, this is focused on the companies that you are targeting. For example, a telemarketing agency may have worked with other web design agencies previously, but if they were calling one-man-bands and you want to target FTSE 100 prospects that doesn't really work.

3) Function & seniority - similar to the above question, is the telemarketing agency experienced at calling into the function and/or level of decision maker that you are targeting. For example, if you are targeting HR, has the telemarketing agency successfully completed similar campaigns into that business function. Again, language varies between functions. Calling CEO's is very different to calling middle management.

[It's worth mentioning before I continue that often you need to take a view of the breadth of experience the telemarketing agency has, rather than expecting to find an agency that has done exactly the same campaign as yours. An example could be a telemarketing agency that has called into HR previously for a training company, and has also worked for software companies before, but not run a campaign for a software company calling into HR. Like most things in life, it's about finding the right balance]

4) Reporting - how will the telemarketing agency keep you up-to-date on the progress of your campaign? Do they provide summary reports? Can they work on CRM systems? Depending on the scope and scale of your campaign, a regular update by Excel could be all you need. The important thing is to be kept informed on how the telemarketing campaign is progressing.

5) Data - two questions here. What data will the telemarketing agency be using and, once the campaign has finished, what happens to the data? Cutting costs by re-using stale data is a false economy. And the quality of data has a direct impact on the output of any telemarketing campaign. Personally, I would always make sure that the telemarketing agency buys (or builds) the data-set on your behalf because then it's their responsibility to make sure it's good data (they can't blame you that the data was poor), plus you "own" the data at the end of the campaign (subject to the terms of the data provider, of course).

6) Track record - how long have they worked with their clients? As I said earlier, there are lots of telemarketing agencies out there. What you're looking to avoid is an agency that can't provide references for long-term clients. Good telemarketing agencies (and good freelance telemarketers) keep clients over the long term. Even if they don't work continuously on campaigns, their clients will come back to them. Why, because good telemarketing agencies (and telemarketers) are hard to find! For example, we're still working with our first client we started with back in 2005. That speaks volumes!

7) ROI - telemarketing should always deliver a strong ROI (return-on-investment) and agencies that understand this should be willing to advise you on what they can deliver for their fees. Good agencies will agree deliverables up-front, and work closely with you during any pilot or proof-of-concept period to review performance. If an agency can't give you any clear indication of what ROI they expect to deliver on a campaign - walk away.

8) Staff retention - what's their staff turnover, or churn rate? How long have their people been working with them? This applies equally to telemarketing agencies with employees or ones that work with associates (such as ours). Why is this important? Well, assuming you want to develop a long-term relationship with a telemarketing agency, you want to know if the time you invest getting their people up to speed with your business and proposition is going to be wasted or not. For example, one of our team (who we've worked with for several years) used to be a manager of a telemarketing agency. She told me one of the reasons she stopped and went freelance was because she got tired of coming back after the weekend and finding a whole new team to train. Large call-centres have the highest rate of churn than any other business.

9) Client portfolio - how many clients do they work with? And are any of them direct competitors? This gives you a good indication of whether you're going to be "just another client" or whether you're going to get a more personal service. Also, the question around competitors tells you whether there's likely to be any conflict of interest (and whether the telemarketing agency has any integrity). Working with a telemarketing agency that handles your competitors brings up so many issues around data security, intelligence leaks, etc; it's best to simply avoid it altogether.

10) Who's calling - finally, who's actually going to be picking up the phone and calling on your account? Any telemarketing agency, once you've agreed commercials, should introduce you to the team member(s) who will be working on your account. This is your opportunity to speak with them (ask some of the above questions, like "how long have you worked here?") and get a feel for whether you are comfortable with them representing your company on the phone. If the telemarketing agency can't do this, it means that you'll just get the "next one available", which pretty much means you're just another number to them.

So there you are, 10 areas to probe and prod a potential telemarketing agency.

And if you find more than one agency that ticks all the boxes it'll probably come down to the best question of all - do you like them?

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Posted by: David Regler @ 1:21 pm |  0 comments  | Links to this post  

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Here's a question: if you read about a RFP in the trade press, is it a hot lead or simply old news?

I know there are many agencies who spend most of their time reading the trade press and sifting for intelligence on RFP's, tenders, etc. In many cases it's simply because they're afraid to pick up the phone and do some real work :-)

Once they see that XYZ plc is going to be tendering, guess what, they're straight on the phone.

Now, whilst the trade press can be useful for some intelligence, in my experience chasing RFP announcements is simply a waste of time.

Why? Because if you didn't know it was happening before it hit the press then you're just too late.

A senior executive of an FTSE 100 company put it to me like this: "once the word gets out, there's blood in the water and suddenly your boat's being circled by hundreds of sharks."

He was referring to management consultants, but it's applicable to any professional services.

I was recently asked to call a company after an article was published saying they were looking for new agencies. My client presented this as a hot lead. OK, I thought, let's give it a go.

So, I called the contact and he tells me, very politely actually, that he'd already been called by hundreds of agencies off the back of that article and, in fact, the article was incorrect - they had no requirements. So many agencies called them that they published a news release on their website saying that the article was inaccurate and called for the publication to retract it.

The thing that amazed me was that so many agencies had followed up this lead.

To me, one of the ways we add value is by prospecting for business before it becomes public. If we can put you in-front of an opportunity before it gets to a RFP or tender, then you are able to influence the brief.

Frankly, if you come in late to the party then you're really just there to make up the numbers.

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Posted by: David Regler @ 2:07 pm |  0 comments  | Links to this post  

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