Telemarketing

Would you like to grow your business with sales and lead-generating calls but don’t have the resources to do it effectively?

Maybe you have put off cleaning and updating your customer database because you don’t know where to start. Perhaps you need to conduct a survey but don’t know how to obtain objective results.

An outbound telemarketing service can handle all these issues and more. They bring their line of expertise to your business helping it grow in the right way, for the right price.

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What are your telemarketing needs?

  • Generate sales leads?
  • Appointment setting?
  • Market research/survey?
  • Sell a product or service?

The Basics

What is an outbound call center?

An outbound call center, also known as a telemarketing call center, is a company that specializes in making multiple sales, survey, or service calls on your behalf.

Typically, telemarketing companies make calls pertaining to direct sales, lead generation, appointment scheduling, information verification, and research and surveys. Depending upon the contract between the telemarketing call center and your business, telemarketers can follow scripts or ad-lib when dealing with customers—in short, their response to your potential customers is completely customizable to your business campaign.

Types of Telemarketing Services

B2B vs. B2C

B2B telemarketing is simply using telephone marketing to initiate sales with other businesses. The key is to market to the decision makers that represent their companies. B2C telemarketing targets individual consumers who need a product or service.

Business and consumer telemarketing have similar goals:
  • Build brand awareness
  • Identify customers that need your product or service
  • Make the sale
  • Retain customers

But, there are some distinct differences between B2B and B2C telemarketing:

Traits of B2C telemarketing:
  • Product driven
  • Vast/large target market
  • Short sales cycle—transaction based, single step buying process
  • Emotional purchasing–status/brand of product, desire, price
Traits of B2B telemarketing:
  • Relationship driven
  • Small, focused target market
  • Longer sales cycle: nurturing leads
  • Rational buying decision based on business value

Telemarketing to businesses requires extensive knowledge of the market and product represented. If you plan to outsource business telemarketing, find a call center that has experience marketing to your industry. The call center’s first step in your campaign will be to generate leads which then turn into customers.

Telemarketing Specialties

Some providers specialize in specific types of marketing, while others are more broad-based. Below is a list of the ten most common types of telemarketing. Review this list to help you determine which type of telemarketing service your business needs.

  • Charity and Fund Raising–Calls attempting to raise money and awareness for charitable funds.  If calls are made in-house, charity telemarketing calls are exempt from the Do Not Call Registry guidelines.
  • Customer Appreciation–Calls made solely to thank a customer for loyalty to your business. These calls are NOT sales calls.
  • Database Clean-Up-A process used to ensure a company’s customer information database is accurate. These calls may verify information such as address, phone number, current account holder, account type and desired level of service.
  • Direct Sales–When a telephone sales representative (TSR) calls a number on a list and attempts to sell a product or service.
  • Get Out and Vote–Calls aimed at motivating citizens to vote for a particular candidate. If done in-house, “get out and vote” calls may be exempt from the Do Not Call Registry guidelines.
  • Lead Setting–Calls geared towards amassing sales leads.
  • Market Research–Calls done purely for research in an attempt to gather accurate information about consumers in a certain market.
  • New Customer Acquisition–Also known as “cold-calling.”  A TSR calls a number on a list and solicits business with no prior business relationship in place.
  • Renewal Telemarketing-Agent calls to check for renewal of a subscription, service or membership.
  • Retention Telemarketing-If a customer cancels a membership, subscription or service, a Telephone Sales Representative will call and attempt to win back customer loyalty.

In-house vs. Outsourcing

Once you have determined what type of telemarketing services you need, you have to decide whether you want to handle your telemarketing needs in-house or hire a telemarketing agency to perform this service on your behalf (outsourcing). In most cases, outsourcing is a more effective business solution. If you choose to open an in-house call center, you are not guaranteed protection from Do Not Call legislation. Plus, the time it takes to install the right equipment and hire and train the right people is a big investment. In many cases, the benefits of outsourcing your telemarketing needs outweigh the benefits of keeping everything in-house.

Some of the main benefits of outsourcing include:

Timeliness

Outbound call centers are able to start working for your business overnight—without the time and hassle it would take for you to equip your own telemarketing center. Once a service agreement is reached, you can get out of the way and let the telemarketers do their thing!

Expertise

Because of their experience in the field, telemarketers can anticipate and cope with business developments that an inexperienced, in-house call center might find challenging. Plus, they know how to handle inconveniences in a cost-effective way. Telemarketing agents have been trained both in the “classroom” and in the field on how to diffuse a number of problematic situations (irate customers, unanticipated call volume spikes, linguistic and time differences, etc.).

Flexibility

Whether you need a multilingual call center, a consolidated staff for a few months of surveying, or anything in between, outbound call centers are a great solution.  Because they have a large, well-trained staff at their disposal, telemarketing call centers are equipped to serve a wide variety of needs that will not only fit your time frame, but also your budget.

Cost

There is much less overhead cost for an outbound call center. No telemarketing equipment to purchase. No hiring and training representatives. In-house only makes sense if you have the financial resources to pay for it.

Should I Offshore?

Say you’ve chosen to outsource your telemarketing needs. Now you have to decide: offshore it or keep these services in country? Scan the list of pros and cons to help you make the best decision for your company.

Pros

  • Caters to International Customers – Offshore call centers can offer a better understanding of clients from different locales. TSRs will be more culturally diverse and can increase the possibility of increasing your market globally.
  • Multilingual Sales Support – If you are catering to a global market, then having agents that can communicate with your customers in multiple languages is key to your marketing success. Offshore call centers offer multilingual support at the >most competitive pricing.
  • Cost-effective Marketing – There is significantly less cost to hire an offshore call center due to lower labor costs and lower taxation.

Cons

  • Communication and Cultural Barriers – Your customers’ level of satisfaction could dramatically decrease if the overseas agents lack the cultural knowledge, fluency and communication skills needed for superior support.
  •  Less Control Over Business Operations – Because of the call center’s distance from your business, quality assurance, and proper procedures are difficult to manage from afar. Offshore call center agents may be unfamiliar with company policy, culture, and practices. Offshore TSRs may not be invested in your marketing campaign. Consequently, the level of service they provide may not meet your company standards.
  • Hidden Costs – When offshoring your telemarketing campaign, you may need a lawyer who is well versed in international law in case any legal issues arise. If you are losing customers due to poor customer service, there will be an additional cost to regain their trust and business.
  • Security/Privacy Concerns – Overseas call center agents are usually not subject to the same background checks as US-based agents. Confidential information could be compromised. This is a risk you must consider.

In short, weigh your options. If your telemarketing campaign requires high security and oversight, hiring an offshore telemarketing provider is probably not the best route for you. But, if you are looking to grow your market globally with a sales force that can handle international marketing, then take a closer look at offshore call centers.


Options

Sales/Service Script Development

Many telemarketing firms can help you develop sales and service scripts for the telephone sales representatives (TSRs) to use when making calls for your business. 

It is imperative that you and your outbound call center agree on the level of involvement you will have with the sales and service process. Script development is a great way to stay involved with the sales process while allowing the outbound telemarketing center to utilize their expertise.

Results Reporting

In order to gauge the efficacy of your telemarketing, you will need to have quantifiable reports delivered to your office at regular intervals. Before deciding on a provider, discuss the kind of statistics they provide and how often they will provide them.

Some common statistics to look for in a report include:

  • total sales and revenue over time
  • sales and revenue per list
  • sales and revenue per representative
  • call duration
  • handling time
  • calls per time
  • revenue

Monitoring Solutions

To get a true sense of how your potential customers are being handled on the phone, many telemarketing service providers offer you the ability to listen in on actual calls.

Depending on the company, and depending on your contract, you can do this several ways:

  • You may have the power to listen in at any time without informing the telephone sales representative.
  • You may have to get approval from the outbound call center manager to listen to calls.
  • You may only be allowed to listen to recordings.

If the ability to directly monitor your telephone sales representatives is important to you, discuss it with your service provider before making any decisions.

Technology

The quality of a telemarketing firm’s technology plays a direct role in the success of their business. Find out if and how the following are utilized:

Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) 

A strong CRM application can establish a healthy relationship between the sales team and the client. On the sales side, the application should make it easy to gather relevant information on their clients. On the client side, the application should allow active tracking of a campaign by listening to calls, learning updates, tracking reports, and communicating with the people who handle the program.

Campaign Management System (CMS)

A good CMS application should provide telemarketers with a clear and comprehensive list of telephone numbers or email contacts. An advance CMS can record further details, such as how a sales prospect has replied to a specific campaign in the past.

Call Recording System

All call centers are required to have call recording systems. This allows the telemarketing management and/or client to assess an agent’s performance. Complex monitoring systems not only capture calls but also display the screen activity of the agent during the call.

Workforce Management System

A workforce management application forecasts the volume of calls and other important data in a given day. This information helps the telemarketing management make key decisions such as the number of agents to hire in order to meet projected output. This data can also help managers plan for training classes, agent breaks, vacations, etc.

Computer Telephony Integration

This system allows for the integration of any or all of the following channels: telephone, email, text, chat, fax, web and voice. Depending on the needs of your business, you may only use a select few of these channels.


Tips

How Do I Choose a Provider?

Once you have a clear outline of your telemarketing requirements, it is time to begin your search for the right call center.

Visit Websites

Check out several different websites of outbound call centers. You can get a lot of great information on rules, policies, specialties, and areas of expertise. Use the website as a first step in getting to know the company. Once you’ve done some research on the outbound call center and think that their services might be a good fit for the needs of your business, then you can establish direct contact.

Visit In Person

Although an in-person visit is not always feasible, this is a great way to get an accurate feel for the culture of the company. In person, you can see how the call center management treats their telephone sales representatives (TSRs) – the people on the phone who will be speaking with your potential clients. You can also get a feel for the general attitude of the outbound call center. A positive and energetic workplace fosters enthusiastic and pleasant TSRs. And we all know that happy TSRs best serve your company’s interests. While you are there, see if you can sit down and review scripts and meet a few agents. An in-person visit is often beneficial for both parties. It helps to establish trust, gain awareness of company policies and procedures and increases accountability.

Listen To Calls   

One of the best ways to gauge the performance of the TSRs at any outbound call center is to listen in on live calls. Pay close attention to 1) the general image that the TSRs project, 2) their familiarity with the scripts, and 3) how well they cope under pressure. Take this time to check in on any feedback the call center supervisor gives the TSRs—a positive work place starts at the top of the chain of command.

Though it is easy to get excited about a company after listening to just one call, you will gain a more accurate picture of the general service level of the company by listening to several different types of calls.  The more data you can get about a specific call center, the better your chances are of making the right decision.

Make Calls

If you are curious about the ability of the TSRs, request that the supervisor has the TSRs call you and run through the script.  Ask them a line of questions ranging from easy to difficult, and see if you like the way they handle the situation.  Listen to their pitch, and make sure that you feel comfortable with the TSRs methodology and abilities. This test technique, in combination with listening to calls, is probably the easiest and best way to gauge the performance of any given call center.

Request (and investigate) References

As with any big purchase, you will want to gather as much information about the company as you can before you buy. References of former and current outbound call center clients should be able to describe the level of professionalism, rapport and capabilities of the telemarketing agents based on what their clients say. Try to get references for companies that have had similar goals and a similar time frame, so you can get an accurate idea of the services that the outbound call center provided. If you have any questions that you want to ask but don’t feel comfortable asking the outbound call center representative point-blank (or don’t know if you’ll get the truth), you can often get the answers by talking to their references.

Questions to Ask References:
  • Did you accomplish your goals while working with this outbound call center?
  • Were you given all the information you needed and requested surrounding your services?
  • What was the best and worst part of working with this outbound call center?
  • What were the outbound call center’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • How, if at all, has the employment of this outbound call center impacted your business?

How Do I Get the Best Price?

How much should you expect to pay for telemarketing?

Pricing will depend on the telemarketing company and the services they provide. The best way to get the best price on telemarketing services is to shop around and let telemarketers compete for your business. And, while price shouldn’t be the deciding factor, it does play an important role. For example, an offshore telemarketing firm can be significantly cheaper, but you may run into communication or cultural issues if you choose to go that route.

There are four standard pricing structures that most telemarketers offer. A good telemarketing company will evaluate your campaign and help you decide which pricing method is most cost effective.

  1. Hourly Pay–Most telemarketers charge an hourly rate based on the actual amount of time spent on calls. Some firms require a minimum project size (say, a minimum of 1,000 man hours). As the number of hours in the service level agreement increases, the cost per hour decreases.
  2. Dedicated Payment–A dedicated payment can come in two forms: 1)  A client wants a certain number of leads followed up and pays a flat fee per contact, or 2) a flat fee is agreed upon in return for sales representatives that are solely dedicated to your account.
  3. Pay for Performance–Also known as commission or incentive based pay. Agents are compensated based on sales performance. Expect to pay more per hour, but results may increase.
  4. Contact List–If you can provide the telemarketing firm with a ready list of contacts, you will drastically cut your costs. In return, some telemarketing firms provide contact lists only, meaning, you can choose to price shop not only for telemarketing services but also contact list service providers.

What Questions Should I Ask?

Before signing a contract with any telemarketing company, be sure to ask detailed and specific questions to ensure there are no surprises. Important questions to ask include:

  • Do you understand the primary objectives of my campaign? How familiar are you with my industry?
  • What sort of results should I expect at the end of the campaign? For example, how many positive results should I expect per volume of calls?
  • When would be the best time to conduct our telemarketing campaign? Is there a specific time of day, month or season that is most favorable to launch marketing?
  • Tell me a little about your company. How long have you been in business? What is your employee and client turnover rate?  How many clients do you have?
  • Will I be counted as a large or small client, and will my size have any impact on the telemarketing campaign carried out on my behalf?
  • Do you have the appropriate technology in place to handle my campaign?  Do you have IT experts on hand should anything go wrong?
  • How do you train your agents specifically for my campaign?
  • What are your pricing options? Can you help me determine which payment option will maximize my budget and results?
  • Who will be my point of contact during this campaign? How fast can I expect a response or change to be made?
  •  Is the call center secure? Will my company’s marketing strategy and documents be confidential?

Using 360Connect’s FREE service, you can get quotes from up to five qualified providers.  Once you have these bids in hand, then you can determine which telemarketer will be the best fit for your business.


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