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When it comes to inside sales and lead generation, the question of outsourcing often arises. There are many reasons outsourcing can be a viable option for service providers of all sizes. Outsourcing allows you to get temporary help without the commitments of new hires. Outsourcing is also ideal in small sales organizations where management resources are scarce.
Yet I can’t tell you how many sales and marketing professionals have shared their disappointing experiences with me. What I can tell you is that whatever your reason for outsourcing, below are four common reasons these programs can fail.
1) $12/hr To Do What?!?!
Can you imagine a kid fresh out of school, in person, sitting down to have a discussion with a Fortune 500 VP about Revenue Management Software using a script? I can’t either, yet this is exactly what companies do when sourcing their lead generation efforts to the lowest bidder. While low cost labor is effective in traditional telemarketing programs, it is almost guaranteed to fail in companies that use a complex sale.
A solution sale requires the ability to discern pain and mold your pitch to best fit the prospect’s situation. More than just training, years of experience are required to do this on the fly (as in a cold call).
In traditional telemarketing firms, the turnover for call reps is high, and usually experienced callers will move on to other areas of sales or management. If you want your program to succeed, ask about the experience of the telephone-based business developers. Will there be one or many? Will you have direct access to them during the program?
A good way to understand the type of callers used by a prospective provider is to visit the "Careers" section of their site and read over the minimum requirements. This will help you determine whether or not they are glorified telemarketers or real solution sales reps.
2) Tier Your Prospects – The Right List
With all of the marketing channels available today, telephone-based business development (cold calling) is still incredibly effective when used properly and/or combined with other channels. When spending precious marketing dollars on telesales, it is important to make every call count as much as possible. This is why I am often amazed at how little thought companies put into their lists. Separating your universe of prospects into tiered categories will help you manage your budget more effectively and help your outsourcer succeed.
Getting your outsourcer to be effective from the start requires good contact information for targeted executives. If lists for your targets are hard to come by, make sure your outsource provider is comfortable "calling around" targeted accounts to find decision makers. Often times this requires a more experienced business developer. Keep in mind that "calling around" accounts to locate decision makers dramatically reduces the rate at which a telesales rep can burn through your prospect list and may slow progress below expectations.
3) Equal Accountability With Sales And Marketing
At many companies where marketing and sales are independent, there can be a disconnect when managing leads. Make sure that if marketing is managing the telesales program that someone in sales management has access to lead data for accountability purposes.
I have seen companies spend thousands on programs where sales people drop the ball on quality leads and a mid-level marketing manager is unable to keep them accountable. This can occur in internal lead generation teams as well, although it is usually easier to catch.
In one of our early program engagements a couple of years ago, we were brought in by a company’s Sales VP to generate leads. The program, however, fell under marketing, and we were assigned a marketing manager for day-to-day needs.
At first, the Sales VP was at every weekly meeting and the program was an instant success. After a few weeks, said sales VP began to miss the meeting and no one from sales was sent in his absence.
Within a few months the program dwindled. Upon review, several opportunities at key prospects were lost as a result. The moral of the story is to keep the program transparent and make sure all stakeholders have access to the information they need.
4) Partner Or Vendor?
When selecting a telesales provider, it is easy to assume a vendor management approach. After all, you want the best service for the price, and you want quick results. Remember, you are not buying an off-the-shelf product. No telesales provider can come in with a completely "fixed" or out-of-the-box approach and succeed. Your company’s solution is unique, as is your sales team and sales methodologies. You will need to work closely with your selected provider to align all factors creating a "fitted" solution to your needs.
Communication is key, as is management of expectations. Goals must be mutually set and agreed upon in order to ensure satisfactory results.
Here are a few questions to determine if your provider is partner friendly:
- Who defines what constitutes a lead?
- How are expectations set?
- What is the process to change scripting or approach?
- Do we have direct access to involved telephone-based business developers?
- If progress is slow, what processes are in place to improve?
- Can leads be graded or scored?
Granted, there are many factors that can minimize a program’s effectiveness, or outright cause it to fail. These are just some of the most common areas that I have seen clients experience trouble with previous vendors as well as internal telesales teams. Before starting a new program, try and evaluate every planned aspect of it as if it were an outside sales rep with a focus on cold call prospecting. After all, the close of a complex sale can sometimes be easier than opening the door.