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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I recently sat in on a training session with a cold-calling guru that advocated scheduling just a "15 minute" meeting to get in front of senior executives.

15 minutes? Is it really worth it?

This isn't anything new; I blogged about this back in 2006 having witnessed this same thing in a classic "boiler-room" appointment setting company (see "The Meetings Game": Some truths about B2B Appointment Setting).

So, is it worth just going for 15 minutes?

Without doubt, the less you ask for the higher the conversion you'll get.

Going for a telephone call will pull more results than going for an more traditional 1 hour meeting.

Years ago when I ran a sales team with reps "in the area" we would always push for a "15 minute drop in" just to put a "face to a name".

Our pitch would go something like "Look, we'll both know in the first 10 minutes if this is something for you; let's put aside just 15 minutes and, if you think it's worthwhile then I'll stay longer".

That always worked a charm.

But, that was because we were "in the area", so it was actually a productive use of our time. Plus, the number of meetings attended was a metric.

For most of our clients, however, this isn't the case.

When we're booking appointments with senior decision makers we're usually committing our clients to a long journey which usually results in breaking up their whole day. We need to make absolutely sure that it's worth their time attending.

So, on balance, I prefer to play everything with a straight bat and only book appointments where there is a clearly qualify interest in meeting.

That means a lower conversion than if you shoot for "just 15 minutes".

I only advocate softening my stance on this if I had a very tight wish-list and found going for a longer meeting wasn't getting traction.

But then you need to think beyond those first 15 minutes.

Our clients would need a rock solid process to turn that 15 minutes into a second, longer and more productive meeting.

Otherwise, they really will be wasting their time.

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Posted by: David Regler @ 11:35 am |  0 comments  | Links to this post  

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Monday, January 18, 2010

I had an interesting discussion the other day about the merits of so-called "black book" organisations who (claim to) use their networks to introduce prospects.

On one level my thoughts were "whatever works"... but then again, I wondered whether these models really are effective?

Certainly the concept is nothing new and it's used in a number of different ways by many businesses. But, I've yet to see the "gun for hire" model of referrals really work in any sustained way.

Let me explain.

Actively getting referrals into businesses is used by companies all the time.

Whether it's through partnering with another business or even assembling an advisory board, there are many different ways you can leverage existing relationships.

To me, a fundamental part of all these models is the building of trust and the alignment of both parties.

If you hire a key industry influencer to back your business (such as bringing them into a non-executive position or perhaps as an investor) then they have publicly aligned themselves with your business. They wouldn't do this unless they shared your vision and had build trust in your business.

Once they've got to that position, it's natural that they'll follow through by using their personal contacts.

But, I'm not convinced that people will use (or should I say abuse) their contacts on a "paid for" or "gun for hire" basis.

For a start, all contacts have a finite appetite for referrals. Call them too often and they'll just stop taking your calls. It's a balancing act.

Also, how persistent will someone be if there's no initial traction? Not very I bet.

I've seen these models come and go.

There were some great sounding online versions a few years ago which I thought would really take off. The proposition was simple: you post up who you want to meet and the 1000's of registered "introducers" put you in contact with people. The pitch to the introducers was "make money out of your contacts".

You know what... all those sites are now dead.

Equally, there are some businesses out there that aim to be intermediaries. Often this model falls down when you ask "who pays".

If the person being introduced pays (which is quite common) then the question is, who are they really acting in the best interests of?

In some industries, such as recruitment, it's clear who pays and who is the "client". In others, such as talent agents, there's an established business model and everyone knows who does what and who pays who.

The trouble is that, in more generic markets, these models don't really stack up.

If you want to get infront of prospects then someone has to "go out to bat" on your behalf. Sure, they're going to take some rejection along the way, plus they're going to have to be politely persistent to get through.

But that's all part of the process.

Of course, if you are trying to influence C-level executives for extremely large, high-risk pieces of work then you're in a different league. This is where having influence on the inside is critical and relationships such as advisory boards are essential.

And, in that case, you need a solid relationship, not someone who will simply "pimp" their trust to the highest bidder.

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Posted by: David Regler @ 9:42 am |  0 comments  | Links to this post  

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

According to a recent survey in January's B2B Marketing Magazine "telemarketing remains a key part of the marketing mix for most B2B brands".

Unfortunately, the report doesn't specify the size of businesses surveyed, although I suspect most are medium and large sized companies since only 15% of the respondents relied entirely on external telemarketing agencies and "the largest portion of respondents had an internal telemarketing team"

It was interesting that the most popular reason why telemarketing was retained internally was because "the complexity of products and services makes outsourcing difficult".

The best way of thinking about this is to consider why these companies see keeping telemarketing in-house for complex sales proposition easier than outsourcing.

In my view, the primary reason why it would be seen as difficult to outsource telemarketing is the quality of the telemarketers.

Let's be honest, even the best call centres struggle retaining their people. They have one of the highest rates of employee churn than any other industry. If you have a complex sales proposition then you need to invest in training your telemarketers plus they have to be a pretty high-calibre to start with.

Therefore, when you outsource your telemarketing you run the risk of having to train and re-train telemarketers. Retention is always the biggest issue.

If you're a large company you can avoid this simply by hiring your own telemarketers and paying them above the industry average. Most good telemarketers in call centres would jump at the chance to get out.

Why do you have to be a large company to do this?

As I've blogged about previously, Outsourcing Telemarketing vs In-house, the case for in-house telemarketing just doesn't stack up for small businesses.

Simply put, it is too difficult for most small businesses to manage and retain top-class telemarketers.

So if you have a complex product or service, what are your options?

The answer is to find a telemarketing agency that retains the caliber of telemarketers you need. Almost always, this will be a small agency rather than a large call centre.

If a telemarketing agency starts talking about having 100's of employees with account managers, systems, processes, etc then you can guarantee that they're a volume body shop.

However, if they're a small outfit who can provide you with personal direct access to the telemarketers making the calls, and will invest time in training their people to understand your proposition then you're on the right track.

But then again, if you're reading this blog post then you've already found us :-)

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Posted by: David Regler @ 11:59 am |  1 comments  | Links to this post  

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