By Ian Heslop – Account Director, The Verdi Group, Inc.
B2B telemarketing is almost always an effective way to generate leads. In more than two decades of involvement in telemarketing programs—as an agent, as a team manager, as a program manager, on the agency side as a production manager, and currently as an account director at The Verdi Group—I have rarely seen a telemarketing program that did not produce qualified B2B leads.
But the programs that really pay off in terms of ROI (for very different businesses)—programs that are continually funded and refunded because of their success—have a number of things in common that contribute to their results.
Successful programs always start with a program brief.
The brief states the goals, the quantitative objectives, and the conditions for success; includes a specific definition of a lead; and articulates how the program will be measured. The brief sets expectations and identifies potential obstacles.
The brief may be quite extensive or take up only a few paragraphs on a single page, but it will identify:
- Target audience: Whom to contact and their pain points (that the client’s product or service can address)
- Offer: What will make them agree to engage further
- Qualification: Which conditions make them a lead
- Training: What the agent needs to know that will help him/her extend the offer
Once the brief is approved, a successful program runs on a project plan.
The project plan has all the milestones for the program identified with dates due and people responsible clearly spelled out. It is updated whenever there is a change.
Successful programs always start with effective agent training.
We often ask our clients to participate directly in training the agents. Agents then have a chance to express their opinions, clarify misconceptions, ask questions, and set the stage for productive calling.
Each agent will complete a series of role-plays prior to servicing “live” customers. Program status meetings will be scheduled as needed to advise and review campaign changes and updates, as well as to reward performance.
Program goals and objectives will be reviewed and achievement measures will be provided.
Successful programs start with a script or talk track of key points to make. But once agents have been able to make a few calls using that script, program managers should reflect on what they have learned from these first calls and should be prepared to adjust the script/track accordingly.
Successful list selection.
All telemarketing programs depend on a good list. The list is the single most important factor—the make-or-break factor—in a successful effort. Lists are hard work. There are often many lists available meeting the description that sounds perfect for a program. Yet, as similar-sounding as they can be, the results from calling them can be profoundly different. Sometimes we can tell from eyeballing a sample of the names; at other times, the only way to tell is to make a few calls. Careful list preparation saves countless agent time and makes the program efficient.
Successful offer testing.
The best offer is often a discount; but equally often, the prospect will engage with information that makes him/her a better buyer—and that information can come from an article, a video, a podcast, or a webinar with varying results. This is one area that should continue throughout the life of the program—testing and establishing a winning offer; then attempting to do better and better over time.
Successful programs employ clear lead reporting and a way to transmit hot leads immediately.
Successful programs find a way to get leads from the TM agent to the appropriate salesperson with no time gap in between. Leads, like fish (and unlike many cheeses), are best when fresh.
Successful programs depend on relentless follow-up.
Salespeople should be willing—no, eager—to follow up, not once or twice, but up to nine times in order to connect with high-potential prospects. If you are investing in a program to support your sales team, you have the right to insist on dogged follow-up. Consider adding a lead success component to sales compensation, providing rewards, making it a competition to achieve the highest results with these program leads. Give out the leads to salespeople who succeed with them; don’t furnish leads to salespeople who do not deserve them. The best leads are to be regarded as precious and scarce—respected and coveted by the sales team.
Integrate your program.
Support your telemarketing program with high-impact communications to double the effectiveness of your efforts. When you precondition your list with high-impact communications that are powerful enough to make a prospect more likely to accept a call from your agents—you can easily double the effectiveness of your calling. If your list is a good one, your offer exciting, and your communications focused on the prospect’s pain points, the results will reward you with a sales engine you can depend on now and for a long time into the future.