10 "Musts" for Outbound Calls (1,103 words)
What differentiates a good outbound telemarketing call from a bad one? We've all been on the receiving end of poor quality sales calls ("On Target," TM, Jan. '98, p. 39). So how can we ensure that the telemarketing programs we put into place are well-targeted, professionally executed and, ultimately, successful?
"There are so many different ingredients or facets of a successful telemarketing program that it's tough to single out a few," asserts Wayne Harper, vice president of West Telemarketing's Dedicated Services Division in San Antonio, TX. But in his eyes, three "musts" that stand out are list, offer and call quality.
Other experts share some of these views but add their own. So here's a compilation of 10 ingredients no outbound telemarketing effort should be without.
1. A well-targeted list. Before even one call is placed, review the list on its own and against the offer. This will affect the way the call is scripted.
Renewals are the easiest to deal with from a list perspective because these people have purchased before, says Mitch Korb, vice president and divisional manager/software & video, for DialAmerica in Mahwah, NJ.
Next in terms of list difficulty, you have current customers you've identified who may have an affinity for another product you sell. "Let's say someone bought educational software for reading; now you can call with an offer of a similar product for math," Korb explains.
New business is the most challenging from a list standpoint, Korb says, noting this is due to the fact that prospects may be totally unfamiliar with your company and its products. Still, you want to select lists of people who will likely have an affinity for or a need for what you sell. For instance, Korb says a list of recent computer buyers might work if you are selling software.
2. The right offer. In outbound telemarketing, the offer has to be compelling. Ask yourself: Why should somebody buy from you over the phone, right now?
It's smart to take away as many barriers to ordering as possible. "Make the offer easy to say 'yes' to," Korb says. He recommends a "satisfaction guaranteed" or "cancel at any time" policy. Also, be sure that price is not an issue. "For products under $69.95, there's not usually a big price barrier." An installment payment option is a possibility for higher-priced products.
3. Constantly talk benefits. What can this product or service do for the customer? How can it help their business or make their lives easier? Weave this benefit information into the script or the discussion.
You can also have the reps ask questions to bring out the customer's needs. For instance, if you're selling a temporary service, the caller could ask whether the person thought their temp agency was doing a good job. If not, the rep can ask them why, and then explain the benefits of the service you're selling.
4. The right service bureau (or in-house team). High-quality telemarketing programs are usually the result of either a well-managed in-house call center or a dedicated team at a service bureau, says consultant Liz Kislik, based in Valley Stream, NY. If you choose to outsource, she says it's imperative to maintain close contact with the service bureau.
Before you hire a telemarketing firm, find out if it has experience handling the type of marketing you do, Harper adds, explaining that an appointment-setting call is similar regardless of the industry it's in.
5. Human excellence, part I: hiring and training reps. "The better job you do training on the front end, the better results you'll have on the phone," Harper asserts.
Training should involve two basic components, says Andy Wetzler, a telemarketing consultant based in Boca Raton, FL. First, provide reps with product knowledge; then give them lots of opportunity to practice through role playing. Regarding the use of scripts, he says there's a tendency in b-to-b to give reps a script, describe a bit about the company and then say "go get 'em." "That's not enough. If possible, get them out on the road with the outside rep, demonstrate the product or service that's being sold," he suggests.
6. Human excellence, part II: ongoing motivation and supervisory support. "If you picture a big phone room with many reps and a few supervisors, you'd realize this is not the atmosphere conducive to success," DialAmerica's Korb says. "There's going to be high turnover."
A better situation, he says, is to use smaller, more intimate phone rooms and to have a rep-to-supervisor ratio so there's constant interaction. "You don't want 32 or 36 people at workstations in a room with one supervisor," he says, noting that at his firm, "we have a 4:1 ratio for new reps and 10:1 after that."
This allows relationships to form, Korb notes, explaining that the supervisor can motivate the reps by understanding why they are there. "This is especially important for part-timers, which there are so many of. Ask them: How much do you need to make? Getting that one extra sale per 100 calls can make a difference for that rep. That personal motivation comes through on the phone if the reps are focused."
7. Constant call monitoring. Listening to what's being said on the phone can tell a supervisor a lot, says Andy Wetzler. After monitoring a call, give feedback immediately—not two days later. And make sure 50 percent of what you say is positive. "If there are several problems, pick the top one or two to deal with this time," says Wetzler.
8. Quality control. We're talking not about how professional the call sounds, but rather are the orders really orders? Did that person understand what it was she said "yes" to? Did the rep review the order information with the buyer? Was the call recorded for quality control purposes? Harper uggests, "If there's any question as to the validity of an order, call back to reconfirm."
9. Technology. In today's world, Harper says it's very important to have the necessary technological abilities in order to be competitive. Among the key technologies he cites:
• b-to-b dedicated call backs.
• real-time interface between the service bureau and marketer's system.
• an ability to handle files of million of contacts/month.
• timely, accurate reporting.
10. Excellent fulfillment. Once you have the sale, you cannot forget the back end. Korb says this means being mindful of things such as: Is the product going out on time? Does the product deliver what was promised on the phone? Is the billing accurate and timely? These will affect pay up, as well as future resales or renewals.