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Telemarketing can put sales back into your business with these 6 steps

Telemarketing is the unsung hero for many manufacturers in today’s recession-prone world. Long dismissed because of those annoying dinner-time calls to sell overrated vacuums or long distance phone packages, telemarketing can come to the rescue of business-to-business suppliers whose sales have fallen into the doldrums. Perhaps the word telemarketing has been given bad rap by high pressure consumer salespeople, but manufacturers do well to take note of this largely unused resource.

It should be understood that telemarketing is not the same as telesales.  The primary purpose of telemarketing is to open doors for your salespeople, whether inside or outside sales, and it serves primarily as a prospecting and qualifying tool, at relatively low cost.

While it’s true that there has been concern in recent years about telemarketers, these are primarily related to those late evening calls that disrupt your meal for something you have absolutely no need for.  No state bans business to business telemarketing, although there are some rules and restrictions, so check with your attorney before launching your telemarketing program.

What can telemarketing do for your company?

Telemarketing can solve a number of problems that may be holding your company back.  Some of these problems can be overlooked in good times, but in the current economic climate they could be an existential threat to your company if not addressed.

  1. Sales costs

On-the-road selling is expensive. This doesn’t mean that telemarketing should replace the face-to-face representative, but should rather be used to ensure that his time is used in the best way possible.  According to Sales and Marketing Management , the cost of the average business-to-business sales visit is over $250 per call while the cost of a sales visit for industrial machinery can reach $4300.  In addition, the cost of the investment a company puts into training a salesperson averages $14,400.

The industrial salesperson depends on leads. These leads can come from many sources, including inquiries from advertising, direct mail shots, publicity, trade shows and more. A typical sales representative can have a large area to cover, maybe hundreds of miles, which limits the number of calls made.

Nonetheless, one job that many sales reps dislike is telephone qualifying of prospects. Skilled in face-to-face work, they would rather make cold calls in person. However, in today’s competitive and cost-conscious environment, this is an activity that is best left to the inside prospector, the telemarketer.

A properly established telemarketing program can keep the sales representative supplied with warm leads, prospects who already have an interest in what the representative is selling and who are expecting his visit. This can help restrain the cost of selling while boosting its effectiveness.  It takes seven contacts with a prospect on average before they become a customer. When the cost of a sales visit is considered, it becomes clear that companies have everything to gain when the sales visit is closer to being the seventh contact.

  1. Qualified leads

While it’s true that selling is a “numbers game”, having a larger number of leads doesn’t necessarily translate into more sales. Those leads, wherever they come from, need to be qualified, to determine how likely they are to turn into a customer and when that is likely to happen. Information about them needs to be collected and organized, so that when the sales representative actually makes each visit, he knows with certainty how likely that prospect is to buy in the short term.

This takes a considerable time and is not an activity the face-to-face salesman is trained or even prepared to do, but is better done by phone, email or other indirect method.  Raw leads can be collected from inquiries or even simply lists of companies within the target market. These raw leads should be contacted and the decision makers identified. This takes skill and training, with telemarketers learning how to get past the gatekeeper and find out how the target company really works. The company’s characteristics can be determined, and initial contact with decision makers started.

Teleprospectors can also find out a fair amount of information that will be useful to the sales representative, such as the size of the firm and number of locations, the industry it serves, the difficulties it is facing and its hot-button issues. Buying details such as the existence or otherwise of a budget for the purchase can be uncovered, along with the time frame. If a major purchase is only planned for next year, the teleprospector will put this into their CRM (Customer Relations Management) calendar and it will come back for review at the appropriate time. It is surprising how many companies fail to make such long term follow-up calls, throwing potential business out the window simply by not having an organized long-term follow-up system.

Sales representatives will be delighted to receive relatively few but warm, qualified leads of prospects who are on the brink of buying. That’s what they do best and telemarketing, or teleprospecting as this activity might be better called, is what makes it happen.

  1. Keeping customers warm

It costs 6 to 7 times more to gain a new customer than to keep an old one. Here is another way telemarketing can win big dividends.  Simply updating the customer database once a year can open the door to business that would have been lost otherwise.

Business address and contact details tend to change over time and within one year the customer list will have a considerable number of changes to be made. A simple call to update these details can be expanded to find out if contacts have changed and if so who has replaced them.  This can be a very simple way to open a new dialogue with the company.

This is also a great time to get updated about upcoming projects and purchases. Many contacts will more readily give you an update on the company’s plans than reveal them in the first place.

In addition to keeping the database up to date, a considerable amount of business may be obtained simply from that annual follow-up call. Even though a customer has already bought from you, don’t count on the buyer remembering who they bought from. Similarly, a prospect who has been contacted a number of times may think of themselves as already being a customer – even if they haven’t actually made a purchase yet! This is easy business that you definitely don’t want to lose out on.

  1. Developing new markets

A great result from telemarketing is the relatively low cost feedback from the market, which can lead in unexpected directions. Your initial marketing will be based on what you think is the market for your product, but when telemarketers are actually contacting the market and speaking to the decision makers, the truth about the market will come out.

An initial inquiry generation program will bring in inquiries from a variety of markets. These may be from advertisements, press releases, trade shows, websites, email shots or other means.
Every inquiry needs to be followed up and qualified, with each inquiry leading to several contacts. The purpose of these contacts, in addition to seeking out warm prospects for the sales representatives, is also to classify and categorize the market segments for your business, the size of potential markets and the priority to pursue them.

With these direct contacts with the market, it’s not difficult to find whole new applications or needs to be filled that may not have been thought of. In addition, particular specifics of certain markets may be uncovered. For example, in a market to which we had sent out a printed catalog, telemarketing found that one category of buyers were field mechanics and supervisors that would love to be able to buy online directly from their mobile phone. They didn’t have the printed catalog in the field.

With a telemarketing program that’s geared to gathering this kind of information, the business can find new markets and new customers that were out there waiting to be found, just by asking the right people the right questions.

  1. Inside Sales Reps

For many customers who have already made a purchase, having a point of contact within your company, an Account Manager if you will, can be a good motivator to keep them coming back. For customers to know that an individual within your company knows their needs and is available to discuss them is a great competitive advantage. In many business-to-business scenarios, inside sales reps may be able to manage the whole sales cycle, including closing the sale and after sales follow-up.

An advantage of having inside sales reps is the simplicity of tracking metrics and key performance indicators related to their work. Also, the approach for each product or service your company offers can be systemized to present a uniform approach company-wide. When the inside sales rep is speaking to a customer, the CRM (Customer Relations Management) system will be on their screen in front of them, guiding them through the process, while keeping track of their activity and the contact.

  1. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems

A CRM system, as its name suggests, keeps track of all the information needed to maintain good customer relations. Modern CRM software has come a long way from the days of the salesman’s “tickler file”.  Now everyone in the company can have immediate access to the customer’s information, as needed to provide the customer with a seamless, satisfying business experience.

With a CRM system, every contact with the customer by anyone in the company is recorded, which means that the next contact will be a smooth continuation from the last contact. The customer or prospect’s place in the sales pipeline and sales cycle can be readily visualized, so everyone can contribute to moving them toward the goal of a satisfied customer. Even where there is a dissatisfied customer, the CRM system can reveal the whole contact history and help find a way to retain the customer.

CRM systems do not need to be expensive these days. There is no longer any valid reason for any company not to take advantage of them – they are no longer just for large companies. CRM systems provide for sales force automation, sales pipeline tracking, managing customer support and service, automating the prospecting and marketing functions and keeping control of procurement and fulfillment functions. The CRM software is hosted either on your own servers or on a webhost, and is available from anywhere in the world.  Information on calls and contacts made by your in-house staff is instantly available on, for example, your on-the-road representative’s mobile smartphone.

As was mentioned before, it’s a well known fact that it takes an average of 7 contacts to turn a prospect into a customer.  A CRM system can help keep those contacts on the record and can really help increase sales. When your representative or anyone else in the company knows what previous contacts there have been with the customer, these contacts can build on one another, making the whole process significantly more efficient.


In these troubling economic times, when many companies are in the doldrums, our businesses need that fresh wind in the corporate sails that an efficient and effective telemarketing and telephone contact strategy can provide. It can make the difference that will prepare your business for whatever lies ahead.

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