B-to-B companies are seeking new ways to address their demand- and lead-generation strategies. Especially at a time of economic disruption, teleservices programs can boost the productivity and effectiveness of a company's sales force, ultimately enabling it to close more deals.
In contrast to consumer teleservices campaigns, B-to-B programs typically focus on prospecting vs. selling. Effective prospecting (i.e., identifying and prequalifying leads) requires skills, techniques and time that many salespeople lack. Furthermore, most successful sales reps simply dislike cold calling and don't approach it in a disciplined, consistent way. In an ideal B-to-B scenario, teleservices agents contact prospects, prequalify leads, set appointments, and then hand off well-vetted opportunities to salespeople to manage the selling cycle and close the deal.
It's a process we call "ThinSourcing," in which outside teleservices agents interoperate with in-house salespeople. The model addresses a need all businesses face: how to maximize the value and impact of their organizations' internal talent to achieve vital goals, while assigning related business activities to partners.
Six steps that can lead to highly successful B-to-B teleservices campaigns are:
1. Start With a Smart Strategy. Each B-to-B teleservices campaign must be driven by the revenue requirements of a well-thought-out sales strategy that clearly identifies the goals, messages, implementation protocol, qualified lead criteria and expected outcomes. As part of this strategy, product positioning, core customer benefits, definition and attributes of "qualified leads" should be clearly defined and agreed upon.
2. Scrub the Data. Most B-to-B campaigns kick off with existing lists of customers and prospects to be contacted. However, these names invariably need to be checked and updated to verify titles, phone numbers, e-mail addresses and decision-making responsibilities. Importantly, they also need to be evaluated against a strategic profile of the type of company that represents the best prospecting target.
3. Don't Be Rote. In B-to-B teleservices programs, agents typically do not use scripted pitches. Instead, drawing on their seasoned experience and product training, they work from message tracks and call guides, engaging prospects in conscious conversations with the goal of discovering issues, challenges and opportunities, and setting up prequalified appointments for the sales force. At the end of each call, teleservices professionals carefully record notes and details that help sales professionals prepare and deliver a targeted, prospect-specific and effective engagement with a new lead.
4. Share the Platform. Ideally, teleservices agents should operate on the same technology platform as the salespeople and other executives involved in a B-to-B campaign. Using a shared CRM system facilitates communication, standardization of data capture, timely reporting and ongoing evaluation of campaign success.
5. Report, Report, Report. Analyze, Analyze, Analyze. One of the great strengths of teleservices programs is the continuous flow of data and insights from phone conversations between agents, prospects and salespeople. What are the hot button issues? Which approach is working best? And of course, how many qualified leads and appointments are being generated; how many sales presentations are being made; and how many deals are being closed? This information (promptly captured, reported and discussed) is invaluable in continuously improving a B-to-B teleservices program.
6. Be a "Problem Detective." Occasionally while prospecting, a teleservices agent will interact with an existing customer who has a prior complaint with a company's product or service. Detecting, documenting and communicating it fully and promptly should be standard operating procedure within all B-to-B campaigns. Experience confirms that many concerns can be alleviated as the result of timely input from alert teleservices agents.
Mary Conway is the chief marketing officer for Mahwah, N.J.-based DialAmerica, which specializes in teleservices programs. She can be reached at (800) 913-3331 or via the company's Web site at www.dialamerica.com.