Should small businesses use telemarketing?

telemarketing, lead generation, sales, marketing, small business When we say "telemarketing", our fingers instinctively begin to dial the National Do Not Call Registry. It is interesting how telemarketing sneaked its way into our vocabulary with a very sexy description of what used to be called telephone sales even though sales isn't marketing and marketing isn't sales.

Is telemarketing a viable option  and if so what are some of drawbacks you ought to consider? Here's one indisputable fact: Unprofessional telemarketing will backfire and could put your brand in jeopardy.

Step 1: You need a marketing and sales plan. “I don't have a plan but companies in my industry have had great results using telemarketing" .  “Great results compared with what"? You can hire a professional telemarketing firm and spend $30-$35 per hour of calling. Or, you can use retirees, students or an overseas source to make those calls for $10 per hour. So, if by saying "I get good results" you mean "I don't have to pay too much", then I suggest that you pass. It may feel good to make 300 calls per day, but if they do not produce highly qualified leads (unlikely in this case) you are wasting your money.

FOLLOW THESE BATTLE-TESTED GUIDELINES:

For the telemarketing firm: 

  1. Ensure that you get a detailed background on the customer and their product or service
  2. Understand "value" and differentiating points vs. competition
  3. Discuss and insist on a measurable "deliverables": how will your customer define success or failure -what types of outcomes are they looking for and are they within your capabilities?
  4. If this is a new industry for your firm, learn as much as you can before you commit. Reach out to competitors
  5. Insist on client-provided script, have it reviewed by your staff and don't be afraid to comment if you spot trouble
  6. Role-play with the client and do a few dry-runs with post-analysis. Tape the calls and let the client and his team listen and comment.
  7. Assign an account representative to the client who will serve as liaison

For the business owner or sales manager:

  1. How long has the telemarketer been in business?
  2. What is the background of the principal(s)? Telemarketers who start their own business are better; they made calls themselves
  3. Who is making the calls? How long have they been with the company?
  4. Is there an on-boarding process and training with new clients? Review it carefully
  5. Where are callers located? If they are overseas, have them call you first and ensure that they speak English without a heavy accent and that they can answer questions.
  6. A simple yet well-crafted script is key! Share it with your telemarketer and accept their advice if they recommend changes
  7. Ask to spend time with operators who will be making calls. Have them call you first, make a connection. You want them to represent you professionally and with as much knowledge as possible.
  8. Ask for weekly taping of calls and review them carefully -- adjust the script if necessary or replace the person making the calls if you're not happy
  9. Get weekly reports of calls, connections and feedback.
  10. Remember, telemarketing is a game of numbers so be patient but monitor your vendor's performance and "seed" your list with people you know as well.
  11. The ideal use of telemarketing is as a follow up to a creative direct-mail campaign.
  12. Use "lumpy-mail" with traditional open-rates as high as 90%+.  Your call is now a “warm-call” to a prospect that appreciates your creativity.

Should you use an in-house customer service or sales reps to make telemarketing calls? If they are well trained and have a solid script, it is a great option.

Need help writing a script or training your in-house sales team? Reach out and let's talk.