Telemarketing can be an effective form of lead generation and it is often an activity that is outsourced to a specialist company. All too often it ends up being a costly exercise with no extra business to show from it. Here are 5 things to do before outsourcing your telemarketing to a third-party supplier.

Clarify your sales and marketing strategy
So many small businesses do not have a sales and marketing strategy. At the very least you should have an understanding of your target audience and why your ideal clients are going to want to talk to you about your products and services.

This is a specific piece of work that telemarketing companies often claim they do but take care. Unless they do it as a specific piece of work before the project starts then effectively they will be going on trial and error. Either way you will end up paying for it.

It’s much better to have that understanding of your target market before you think about outsourcing the telemarketing. How do you know that telemarketing is actually an appropriate strategy in the first place?

Unless the telemarketing company employs professional marketing experts then I suggest separating out the task and using a specialist.

Allocate sufficient budget
Telemarketing takes time and the results improve over time as the prospects begin to get used to hearing your business name. It could be that they do not respond to one campaign but they do to another. This would be no different if you had your own internal telemarketing resource. Doing a quick 2 week campaign might produce some opportunities but you begin to reap the benefits through consistent activity over time with a smaller, targeted list.

Many telemarketing companies suggest a 2 week trial. I would suggest spending much more effort in selecting the right supplier and then allocating enough budget for a 3 month trial. The only reason to do telemarketing is if it generates more money than it costs and 2 weeks is not long enough to evaluate that.

Take care in choosing your supplier
Let’s be clear what you are buying when appointing a telemarketing supplier. You may think that you are buying sales leads and I can understand that view point. What you are really buying is time and skill. It’s no different from outsourcing your IT department.

There are costs of employment to consider. It is actually quite hard to find a good telemarketer and typically there is often high staff turnover. That comes with a direct cost and also a cost of management time and office related costs.

It puzzles me how little time business owners often take in checking out a telemarketing supplier and in considering alternatives. All it takes is a desk and a phone to set yourself up as a telemarketer. Being able to pick up the phone and read a script does not make someone effective at telemarketing. They need to have relatively good selling skills and the ability to create rapport and start a sales conversation.

Make sure you speak to longer term clients of the telemarketing company and make sure you know who is going to be making your calls on your behalf. Get someone specific assigned rather than it being a pool.

Have realistic expectations
I have spoken to a lot of telemarketing companies and one of their biggest frustrations is unrealistic expectations. Their clients are often used to generating sales leads from networking and will say things like “If you get me in front of the right person I will close the deal”. They do not realise that with networking referrals the closure rates are normally very high because the person has been pre-sold by a trusted source.

New contacts generated from telemarketing have to be nurtured and developed over time. Closure rates from networking referrals could be around 80-90%, even for someone who is not very good at selling at all. It’s more likely to be something like 20-30% from telemarketing, and that’s for someone with good selling skills.

Another area of unrealistic expectations is for fast results. There is a finite number of people that can be spoken to in a day and the chances of getting to speak to them can be as low as 20%. This can improve over time as relationships develop between the telemarketer and the list. If the telemarketer is just reading from a script then this relationship will rarely develop.

Invest in Selling Skills
Top sales teams get regular training. Not just formal classroom training but informal training and coaching with managers. The important thing is practice and feedback. It’s about making small refinements and continually working on their craft. Business owners who do the sales for their own business or even employ sales people typically fail to invest time and money in skills development. I used to run trainings for Business Link and for many it was their only source of sales training because it was free.

Sales leads generated from telemarketing are more likely to put you in a position of competing for the sale. If your competitors are more skilled at selling then you could be at a significant disadvantage. For reasons already explained above, businesses often blame the lack of winning sales on the quality of the telemarketing leads rather than the quality of heir salesmanship.

Telemarketing can be a very effective method of sales lead generation if you go in with your eyes wide open. If you would like more information please feel free to contact me at rwhite@theaccidentalsalesman.com

Best wishes

Richard White
TheAccidentalSalesman.com