B2B Telemarketing: What You Need to Consider
If you are considering any Business-to-Business (B2B) telemarketing project, whether in-house or outsourced, this executive overview is a must read. It is based upon the results of over a million B2B telemarketing calls and will tell you what works and what doesn’t when implementing a call campaign, especially for appointment setting and lead generation.
The reality is that less than twenty percent of all telemarketing projects are long-term. This is due to the lack of planning, hurried or poor training and improper measurement of results. On the other hand, a properly planned and executed telemarketing program will yield a great return on your investment.
Outsourced or In-House: The Risks and Rewards
Some companies think that they can execute an inexpensive, yet successful B2B appointment setting program by simply hiring people at a minimal or entry level wage, quickly train the caller(s) how to properly conduct calls, provide little supervision and then watch the appointments or leads come in. This is in almost all cases false.
There are two reasons for this negative outcome. First, the actual cost is much more than just the hourly rate. Other indirect costs, such as the time and resources to interview, hire and train (initial and ongoing) need to be considered. The expense of taxes, office space, management and equipment also need to be calculated. Some studies show these factors can raise the total wage to almost three times the hourly rate.
Second, unless you have substantial telemarketing experience in areas such as training, list creation, script development, caller management, reporting, quality assurance and actual appointment setting and lead generation skills, your in-house telemarketing venture may not be very productive.
An outsourced telemarketing project, when properly implemented, will almost always yield better results than an internal effort and the company’s involvement of time should be less than with an in-house project. In regards to cost, what may seem expensive (typical rates for U.S.based firms range from $25 to $40 per hour) is actually competitive with the total in-house investment.
It is also important to note that in-house telemarketing efforts usually take more time to implement and cannot ramp up as quickly as an outsourced solution. Now that we have compared in-house versus outsourced call campaigns, the remainder of this paper will discuss the best practices of outsourced telemarketing projects.
U.S. Based or Offshore Call Centers: Represent Your Company
The primary reason why companies select off shore call centers is to save money. And in telemarketing, the old adage is very true – you get what you pay for. This is especially relevant if your company offers a product or service that is technical or not very simple to articulate. Think about where your business is located. If it is in the United States, then your call center representatives should be there as well.
Please be aware (and stay away from) telemarketing firms that seem to offer pricing that is too good to be true. No experienced company can charge less that $25 per hour and still pay for professional telemarketing agents and other expenses over the long-term.
Corporate or Virtual Call Centers: Office Productivity
A virtual or remote call center is one that uses callers that are not on-site at a physical location. They are very likely working from a home office. While this might reduce a client’s hourly investment and make it more convenient for the caller, it does not overcome the pitfalls associated remote or virtual call centers.
A telemarketing vendor might tell you that it monitors remote callers, but there is really no way to tell what those people are doing and what distractions they may have in a home-based environment. The management, if any, is unable to work closely with the callers on a daily basis to deliver the best telemarketing solutions for its clients.
A corporate (or physical location) call center has a central location and all callers report to work, interact with each other and work closely with management. The callers are more productive in this environment and there is no question of how they might be spending their time. The initial and ongoing training is usually much greater at a physical location than at a remote call center. Most remote call centers do not have the ability to meet callers in person before they are hired or spend the time and money for an on-site visit to properly evaluate the caller’s work environment. This is not the solution for companies seeking a successful B2B telemarketing firm.
B2B Specialist or One-Stop Shop: A Focused Offering
Most telemarketing companies claim to provide multiple services, such as outbound Business-to-Business (B2B) telemarketing, outbound Business-to-Consumer (B2C) telemarketing, inbound B2C telemarketing, answering services, email campaigns, direct mail programs and so on. Although some of these services require similar skill sets such as communicating well over the phone, it is very difficult to be the best in the telemarketing field acting as a one stop shop that provides both B2B and B2C telemarketing services.
The way a B2B call is conducted differs greatly from a B2C call. Most B2B calls are conversation-based, aiming to qualify a business prospect and generate an appointment or lead. These calls typically require a more knowledgeable caller and are best dialed one at a time during business hours, whereas B2C calls usually involve an auto dialer system and try to contact people at home during evening or weekend hours. The goal of a B2C telemarketing project is a higher volume of calls and a one-time sale or lead versus the more professional approach used in B2B call campaigns.
Simply put, if you are going to execute a B2B telemarketing project, it is always best to choose a company that solely focuses on that task. B2B telemarketing companies consistently deliver the best B2B appointments and leads.
Employees or Independent Contractors: Manage for Success
Independent contractors are most often associated with remote call centers and the employer does not pay taxes on their earnings. This is a common model with call centers looking to save money, but the downside is that independent contractors cannot be managed like employees.
Studies in the telemarketing industry have shown that independent contractors are more transient than employees. This leads to high caller turnover and poor results for client projects. There is really no benefit (other than cost savings to the telemarketing company) to a business using a call center with independent contractors. So be sure to ask the telemarketing firms that you are considering if they hire independent contractors or employees. You will also want a telemarketing company that pays its employees (especially the callers) a very competitive wage so that call agent turnover is minimal and the vendor is able to attract the most qualified talent.
Extensive Training or Quick Start Program: Prepare and Prosper
You should not expect a call center to yield positive results with minimal preparation and training. In order to lay the foundation for a long-term and mutually beneficial telemarketing program, the call center should work closely with you on tasks such as developing a targeted list, creating a value-added and action based call script, setting up reports and implementing an initial and ongoing training schedule (that you have the option of participating in).
This level of preparation takes approximately two weeks to accomplish, so be aware of any telemarketing vendor that will start your project right away (as the company may have poorly trained home-based workers eagerly awaiting a new project) or does not want you to be involved in any part of the training process.
In-Depth Metrics or Minimal Reporting: Understand Your Results
Client communication is a critical part of any project and you should receive daily reports of all calls made and the outcome. Call centers that use superior technology will be able to provide you with metrics such as number of dials to contacts to leads. Information should also be available regarding variables such as outcome by geography or industry.
You will want to confirm the method of report delivery as well, particularly if you plan on importing the data into customer relationship management (CRM) software or other program. One outcome that is just as important as leads is the not interested category. It is important to review these records with the telemarketing company to better understand the reason for the response and to learn from it, making the call campaign more effective over time.
Standard Refund Policy or No Refunds Allowed: Read the Fine Print
Any telemarketing company that believes in its employees enough to deliver a quality service should offer a standard refund policy as part of its service agreement. Simply put, if the telemarketing vendor does not have a refund policy, move on and look for a more qualified telemarketing partner.
The superior telemarketing company should rarely have to provide a refund but be confident enough in their abilities to offer one if you are unhappy with their results. Please review any agreement or contract carefully so you understand the refund policy offered by the call center that you are considering.
The Ideal Telemarketing Pilot Project: Create a Checklist
The ideal telemarketing pilot project is one that will provide the results that you need to determine if a long-term relationship with the telemarketing company is financially beneficial to your organization. In order to increase your chances at success, you should create a checklist like the one below when interviewing prospective telemarketing partners. Subtract point for each check in the left column and add one point for each check in the right column. The company with the most points would be the logical decision for an ideal telemarketing pilot project.
NAME OF TELEMARKETING COMPANY___________________________________
|Corporate Call Center||Virtual Call Center|
|B2B Specialist||One-Stop Shop|
|Extensive Training||Quick Start Program|
|In-Depth Metrics||Minimal Reporting|
|Standard Refund Policy||No Refunds Allowed|
Best Possible Score = 9
Worst Possible Score = -9
Average Score = 0