Call Center

Giveback for Feedback Pilot Program - First Year’s Success

logo Closing the loop with Sales Reps is one of the biggest challenges facing companies engaged in sales lead generation programs. To assist ETI clients win more new customers and higher initial orders ETI launched (with a limited number of clients) our unique “Giveback for Feedback” test program last June.

With the clients’ cooperation to this end we extended an offer to each salesperson that in return for feedback on the leads assigned to them, ETI would make a contribution to their favorite selected charities.

I’m happy to report that success became evident in the first 6 months. The amount of feedback showing the back-end results was phenomenal and as - a result because of the great participation of the sales forces involved - ETI has already contributed over $2,000 to the nominated charities!

In most cases the feedback confirmed the quality of the leads being handed over, and in others the feedback highlighted some areas of possible improvement (which enabled ETI to immediately take pro-active action). Furthermore, the process has enabled us to build closer relationships with all the stakeholders involved.

Here is what one Sales Director wrote to his sales staff ...

“Hello,

I wanted to share with ALL of you in regards to the charitable contributions made by ETI based on your joint efforts in 2nd half of 2014. The gesture by ETI to offer donations to multiple charities is a testament to the quality of the group we have been working with for the past several months and no doubt has a special impact this time of year.

… Special thanks to those from the ETI Team!!

We are greatly appreciative of all the clients and sales staff that participated.”

Our target for 2015 is to generate a minimum of $10,000 for the charities as we roll and expand the program to all our clients.

If you would like to know how your company can benefit sooner from our “ Giveback for Feedback” program, please call 1-800-466-4384 and select option 1.

Is B2B Outbound Prospecting a Numbers Game?

Quite often, I hear: “Cold calling is a numbers game. When I was a salesperson, it took me X number of calls to get an appointment.” I suppose that’s possible, but I suspect that, most times, these anecdotes are not quite accurate.  For the most part, salespeople don’t keep accurate records and tend to forget quickly what actually happened. They tend to remember the happy accidents in which they called and uncovered what is typically known as “low-hanging fruit.”  It’s also rare (in my experience) to find salespeople who have actually made prospecting calls consistently, day in and day out.  And even if they did, they cherry picked the prospects.

Yes, many choose to think that tele-prospecting/cold calling/telemarketing is a numbers game.  The theory is if you make X number of calls, and speak to Y number of decision makers, you will get Z number of leads/appointments.

Nothing in life is quite that simple. Certainly not in the realm of complex B2B Sales Lead Generation.  If a “numbers game” exists at all in sales, it’s most often when there’s a commodity involved.

Consider some of the following variables:

  • Who are you calling?  (Who’s on your targeted prospect list?)
  • What’s the message?
    • Is there a compelling story?
    • Are you selling a commodity?
    • Are you just dialing for dollars?
    • How is your company/solution positioned in the marketplace?
      • If you’re selling a search solution, for instance, then it’s a lot easier to get someone’s attention if you’re calling from a brand leader (like Google) versus a company no one has ever heard of.
      • Who’s making the calls?
        • Good salespeople, for the most part, make poor telephone salespeople.
        • Are you employing a call center in the Philippines that has no comprehension of American Corporate culture and how to navigate its enterprises…or deploying inexperienced youngsters new to the workforce?
        • Do you know the name of the key contacts/decision makers?  And do you have good contact information – their personal telephone numbers (direct dials), email addresses, etc.?
        • Do you have a prior or existing business relationship (or not)?
        • Is your target list well defined?  If you’re selling ice from Florida to Eskimos in Alaska it doesn’t matter how many calls you make.  Maybe you’re selling a multimillion dollar solution to a smaller organization that may need your solution but definitely cannot afford it.
        •  Is this a blitz or part of a concerted, ongoing relationship and sales lead pipeline development effort?

Some factors that can impact conversion ratios:

  • Prospect lists – by as much as a 400% increase
  • Messaging – by about 100%
  • The quality of the Business Developer can have a marked impact.  I’ve seen results improved by several hundred percent.
  • Branding –  not so easily quantified, but it can have a significant impact.

Consider the following scenarios:

  1. One lead in 20 meaningful contacts (5% conversion), and each prospect is worth $10k;
  2. One lead in 100 meaningful contacts (1% conversion) – but this prospect is worth $10 million.

Which is potentially more lucrative?  You bet – scenario no. 2.  But that one also takes a lot more effort, time and investment.

So just looking at the number of calls, in and of itself, is not that useful a metric.  Ultimately the only key element that matters is $'s in the Pipeline, $'s generated – and at what cost.

Good and bad technologies impacting the B2B Call Center

Technology has had a significant impact on how B2B Teleprospecting and Call center operations are run. Some technologies however are a positive and some negative.Here is a perspective on how ETI considers some of the primary applications:

Predictive Dialing.

  1. A technology (primarily used in Business to Consumer environments) which programs a PBX to dial ahead of the “operator” because statistically one can anticipate that X number of calls are required to find someone to talk to.
  2. When someone picks up the call is transferred to an available “operator”.

eti does not and will never entertain using such technology. Some reasons …

  • Our Business Developers (BDs) are required to fully prepare themselves prior to initialing a call.  This includes reviewing prior contact history,  notes, results as well as in circumstances doing research to familiarize themselves with the prospect company prior to engaging a prospect in a consultative dialogue.   Preparation is key in our world.
  • 99% of all businesses will answer their phones. But navigating within an organization and getting to the key stakeholder/decision maker is an entirely different matter.
  • If you’re dialing an extension then in all probability the call will be answered … even if only by the person’s voice mail. So “busys” and wrong numbers are usually not a major factor in a B2B environment.
  • Typically there is a pause – anywhere between 2 and 20 seconds while the dialer finds an operator to take the call. When this occurs the poor prospect says … Hello …. Hello … Helloooooo … until someone comes on the line. It's unlikey the prospect will view this positively?
  • Bottom line is we don't see this technology as a way to drive a high quality communications with high level prospects in complex B2B environments.

Preview Dialers.

  1. The prospect record is brought up via a call queue or search result and the prospects' telephone number can then be dialed dynamically when the BD clicks on the number.

eti has used Preview Dialing technology extensively since its inception. It’s quick and efficient and allows for adequate preparation by the BD prior to initiating a call.

Automatic dialers (aka Robo Dialers).

These systems dial numbers (usually sequentially) and deliver a prerecorded message automatically to the recipient when they pick up or on their personal voice mail. It is not used much in B2B environments for many of the same reasons that Predictive Dialers should be avoided.

Targeting consumers or business people in this manner – whether you’re a politician, a charity, credit card or a bank – is (in at least this writers opinion) unprofessional and ineffective. Indeed, it may even be regarded as a relationship-breaker.

Automatic Call Distribution (ACD).

  • This is primarily used by call centers to handle incoming calls and is effective in managing the flow and volume of calls coming in.
  • When used correctly it is very useful and practical for both the caller and the recipient organization.  The problem is that often unsuspecting callers are many times placed in holding “purgatory” for lengthy periods of time. That can be solved of course by providing sufficient levels of staffing. But, many operations don’t because that increases costs significantly.

There is nothing better (and more effective) than having a prospect call and, immediately, there is immediately someone live to talk to.  And when that person is knowledgeable, speaks their language, and relates to them culturally it is worth its weight in gold. So ACD’s in a B2B environment are useful but should be used for limited purposes.

eti does use ACD’s and endeavors to deliver the following average results.

  • 99.9% of all calls are answered by a Business Developer within 1 minute.
  • 80% within 20 seconds.
  • When a queue is backed up we provide the caller with an estimated hold time (or their position in the queue)
  • We always offer the caller the ability to leave a message. Call backs are usually initiated within 4 hours

On Line Live Chat.

  • Chat comes in two flavors: Passive and Active.
    •   Passive involves the placement of a button on a typical web page and requires the prospect to click on the link/button to engage in an interaction.
    •   Active takes a more pro-active approach. Using powerful algorithms one can program the system to pop up an invitation to chat based on the users history (clicks and pages visited) and time on the site.

While the latter can be perceived as intrusive, it is very easy for the prospect to dismiss the offer to chat. Those who do pro-actively engage can be converted to real marketing qualified leads (MQL's) if handled professionally.

eti has an expanded practice that now offers B2B Business Developers to field chat interactions. Our primary role leverages both smarts BD's, phone and chat in order to convert prospects into highly qualified sales opportunities. Please see my recent blog for more about this capability. (Note: We do not undertake technical support efforts.)

To find our more about ETI's capabilities to meet your company's lead generation needs please call 1.800.466.4384 (914.747.03030).

 

SLMA Radio Interview

I was interviewed last week by Will Crist of the SLMA for their weekly Radio podcast.

During the interview we discussed the impact of Marketing Automation on complex B2B Lead Generation efforts as well as other solutions that ETI provides.

Ultimately the primary point  made is that in the area of Complex B2B sales lead generation and qualification, the requirement to engage in a consultative dialogue in order to understand the pain, needs and challenges of prospects is an essential part of the Demand Generation equation.

I'm 3rd up ... about 20 minutes into the session.

Michael Falkson

The In-house Vs. Outsource Dilemma

Most companies that inquire about our services have already made a decision to outsource those functions and are seeking to find a partner that offers the best fit for their specific challenges.  Every so often, however, we encounter a company that is actively struggling with the in house vs. outsource dilemma. Certainly, the ability to develop “inside sales” resources in house offers a great deal of potential, and some companies elect to go in that direction.  Typically, their thinking is based upon assumptions that taking the process in house will give them greater control and communication, greater levels of expertise, a methodology for training new sales resources and, perhaps most importantly, offer significant cost savings.  On the surface, it seems like a simple cost-effective decision, especially when just comparing hourly rates – the most obvious metric.  Unfortunately, the issues are far more complex than that, and those objectives are rarely, if ever, met successfully.

First, most organizations don’t have systems in place that facilitate control and tracking of teleservices activity.  Success in this endeavor is far more complex than simply mandating some number of calls per day and providing a basic database (CRM) into which the results can be reported.  The requirement to actively manage the process is often overlooked.  And that’s not a part-time activity taken on by someone with little or no expertise in the area.  There is a need for ongoing monitoring of calls, to be sure that your brand is being represented with the degree of quality it deserves.  And there is a need for careful review of notes to ensure that potential opportunities are being managed appropriately and are not lost for lack of follow up and tracking.  Analogous to medical records, there is a need to ensure that the notes related to the progress of each opportunity are sufficiently detailed to enable someone else to take over the record should the current business developer be replaced.  As a result, there is far more management time needed than is typically planned.  On top of having to provide systems and dedicated management resources, you’ll need to provide dedicated, isolated space and phone systems that will support phone-intensive activity.  Those costs are typically overlooked and are always present in abundance.

Perhaps the most challenging issues relate to personnel (as is usually the case).  You’ll need a systematic methodology for recruiting, hiring and training qualified people.  The more complex your subject matter and value proposition, the more difficult it will be to find the “right” people.  Complex products and services need to be handled in a consultative dialogue, not with a script.  That means you’ll need people who can think and probe and listen and “peel the onion.” Personnel management is an ongoing process because there will inevitably be turnover.  And, with turnover, comes more efforts at recruiting, hiring and training (with lost opportunity cost during the ramp up period).  And that's true even if a career path is established, because you'll need to replace them when and if a promotion occurs.  These rather substantial indirect costs are also rarely considered when a company considers going down the in house path.

To further complicate matters, because these dedicated people are likely to be doing the same thing day in and day out, all day long, they will be significantly less productive later in the day than earlier.  The smarter and more sophisticated the people are that you hire, the greater the likelihood that boredom will soon set in (repetition is not stimulating to these folks).  This inevitably leads to shorter tenure and higher turnover rates.  And then there's vacation and sick leave with lost opportunity costs associated with those periods as well.  We always project our productivity as double that of a dedicated in house effort, and I've never been wrong about that estimate.  If anything, double is a generous view of in house productivity.

So, while hourly direct cost is significantly lower using in house resources, the total direct + indirect costs are often 50-70% higher than the rates we charge.  In fact, the most common outcome is to scrap the in house resources and go back to the old (extremely costly) plan of the "same old way."

So, if you have success in managing all of that and end up with a winning program, please let me know.  Because, as you can see, it will be unusual.

What is a Call Guide?

The term 'call guide' is often mistakenly considered synonymous with the term 'script.' Perhaps in some circles, that is, indeed the case, but not at eti. Since our inception in 1987, we have never used scripts.

Aberdeen 2009 B2B Teleservices Buyers Guide is out

The Aberdeen group is out with their 2009 buyers guide.  This study focuses on the Best Practices of Best-in-class companies who deploy outsourced B2B Teleservices. Some highlights ...

Best-in-Class companies have sales teams with an average of 90% achievement of the overall sales team quota

Best-in-Class companies increased their average revenue per sales rep by 10% on a year-over-year basis

Best-in-Class companies experienced an average 7% year-over-year improvement of their bid-to-win ratio

Here is the press release:

SOURCE: Aberdeen Group

  

Dec 10, 2009 10:00 ET

B2B TeleServices: The 2009 Buyer's Guide

Going Beyond the Simple Acquisition of Flat Data or Sales Appointments

BOSTON, MA--(Marketwire - December 10, 2009) - Top performing sales organizations are meeting the challenges of increasing the quality of incoming leads, as well as the overall size of their pipeline, by turning to external providers of business-to-business (B2B) teleservices for a wide variety of deliverables, according to a new research study published by Aberdeen Group, a Harte-Hanks Company (NYSE: HHS).

"B2B TeleServices: The 2009 Buyer's Guide," which examined 206 organizations deploying outsourced B2B teleservices, found that the sales teams of Best-in-Class companies achieved an average of 90% of the overall sales team quota.

"When organizations deploy an outsourced B2B teleservices provider to acquire and deliver some form of sales opportunities, they are essentially seeking to fill the selling pipeline with as many qualified leads as possible," says Peter Ostrow, Research Director, Sales Effectiveness, Aberdeen Group, the report's author. "Leading companies are building substantial, multi-faceted relationships with solution providers that go far beyond the simple acquisition of flat data or sales appointments."

The report reveals what leading companies have been able to achieve through deployment of outsourced B2B teleservices, such as:

 

--  7% yearly increase on average in bid-to-win ratio
--  Average annual revenue per sales rep has increased 11% year-over-year
Click here to obtain your copy.
 

How A Client’s Insistence That We Uphold His Company’s Brand Image Changed the Nature of Our Business

You may wonder what the process of acquiring new customers has to do with upholding a client’s brand image. We first learned to understand the importance of BRAND in the early 90’s when working on assignment for a Fortune listed 500 company.

Their executives made a serious point of informing us their company was much concerned that we should not do anything which might hurt their company’s carefully cultivated image.

On the contrary they went on to explain . . .

  • that in speaking with their prospective clients we should speak with esteem for the way their company does business
  • that we should convey their company is one which appreciates the customer as king
  • that they value the opportunity to pay attention to the needs and values of their customers
  • that they can be relied on to carry out their promises and offers
  • that they should be admired for their products and respected for their services. 

We immediately realized the essential truth of this client's definition of their brand, their company image, and the real value of their advice. Before long we decided to make changes in our business that would result in setting us apart from the average telemarketing service vendor of the time.

This decision required us to internalize that client’s priceless advice and to review eti’s company persona. It also affected our hiring objectives. The education and business experience of our phone agents would become one of the most important factors in our hiring decisions.

We would need to look for persons with an executive manner who easily and naturally spoke the language of their prospects. We would need people capable of understanding the need to uphold the client’s brand image whenever they spoke in their name. And scripts were thrown out in favor of Call Guides enabling us to engage in consultative and meaningful conversations with client prospects.

In due course our staff would be defined as Business Developers (no longer telemarketers or phone agents) in keeping with our clients’ objectives. These were, by and large, to acquire new customers via sales lead generation and lead qualification efforts. 

When we work for you, you’ll know that we are conscious of the fact that you too want respect for your company image and admiration for your products or services. You’ll get both.

Here is what clients have said about our approach:

  • “You don't describe yourselves as being in the business of generating leads. You defined your mission as New Customer Acquisition and Retention and maximizing sales/force productivity.”
  • “You sold us on the lifetime significance of new customers rather than the value of their first orders.”
  • “You have a basic brand image mindset which is very important to us.”
  • “Your Business Developers are graduates and have business experience. They adapt and converse freely because they are not bound by scripts.”
  • “You’re not the most competitive price wise. But if we wanted low costs we could have gone to any of the commodity type agencies that abound.”
  • “What we can’t get from your competitors are people who will be concerned to uphold our brand image.”
  • “You appreciated the concern we have for our brand image. You spoke our language.”

eti is concerned to convey the respect we have for our client’s brand image. This concept does not lend itself to a set of rules which can be prioritized and numbered. Brand image is not upheld or maintained or enhanced in this way.

Is the PHONE a marketing medium?

The origin of telemarketing (TM) may be lost in the mists of time. Lots of folk credit Murray Roman for being the father of telemarketing but I don’t believe he ever confirmed parenthood. As an executive for the Ford company however, he was involved in the first mass telephone campaign in 1964. Vance Packard in his “The Naked Society” wrote about the 20 million phone calls which Ford then made. Packard was not altogether complimentary even though the campaign produced a magnificent result for Ford. Ford’s success quite likely sparked the entry of business into this direct marketing medium. 

The basic concept of TM was much like that of direct mail … deliver a consistent message to a generally uniform audience and the response will be measurable.  If you sent out 10, 000 advertising packages and received 200 responses you could extrapolate that 2% by mailing a million to the same quality list and geography.

This applied equally to outbound telemarketing.  If one called 1000 similar prospects with a similarly consistent message (script) then this too became a measurable marketing medium.  And it worked, sometimes better, sometimes worse depending on the ability of your callers to conduct proficient conversations with decision makers.

The medium was embraced early on by consumer direct marketers who built large phone banks to organize their calls. And it did not take long for the medium to start irritating consumers. Calls were being made during the evenings and weekends.  They were rigorously scripted and for the most part high pressured. There were also many scams. Sure enough everyone who operated a TM service was soon tainted with the bad reputation of the medium. 

Newspapers whipped up a frenzy of fury – partly due to a loss of revenue no doubt. Ironically, many of them were later to become the biggest users in an attempt to build subscriptions, to regain lost subscribers, and even to solicit advertising. In 1996 my company, Effective Telemarketing Inc. changed its name to ETI Sales Support simply because it just became pain-in-the-neck embarrassing to be tainted by the consumer side of the medium. Especially as we never operated in the consumer sphere.  Our focus was and has always been in the domain of B2B.

With the advent of the ‘Do Not Call’ lists initiated early on by the Direct Marketing Association and later endorsed by the Federal Government, this negativity has markedly decreased.

So is the phone a marketing medium?  Especially as it pertains in the B2B marketing space?

The answer is definitely a huge yes.  And an enormously successful one too.

When looking to generate B2B Sales Leads here are some pointers to bear in mind.

  • Messaging: – Although in our world (B2B Lead Generation and Lead Qualification) the communication is consultative (i.e. not scripted) in nature it is still consistent from prospect to prospect and market to market.  This allows one to measure results and data accurately.  Furthermore, these results are fully projectable.
  • Interactive medium:  No other form of direct communication allows for instantaneous two way communication with a prospect.  All other media facilitate an entirely one sided communication.  Take a moment to consider the power of such personal  interaction:
    • Best way to identify and talk to the decision making authority
      • Only dynamic medium that allows you to navigate within an organization to identify the true decision maker/s.
    • Best way to motivate purchasing interest of the decision maker
    •  Best way to respond to questions or objections
    • Immediate ability to probe for need and pain
    • Immediate ability to confirm
      • Real interest
      • Appointments
      • Orders
      • Webinar/Seminar registrations
      • Etc Etc.
  • Brand: You never get a better chance to make a first impression.  (While many may think that brand might be compromised by a phone call, it’s my firm opinion that when handled correctly, brand image can be enhanced by such a communication.)
  • Actionable Business Intelligence:  Because the telephone is interactive in gathering business intelligence and data in real time, one can measure the data quickly and effectively. This effectively allows clients to manage follow up processes (by sales or sales lead nurturing systems).
  • Flexibility:  With a smart nimble business developement team one realign and modify call guides.  One can also customize the message as it pertains to different market segments and audience types.
  • TM will produce about 4-10 times the result of direct mail alone. And as much as 1,000% more than permission based email blasts.
  • Testing is possible and desirable.
    • Test various messaging approaches.
    • Testing different market segments can be quick and effective.
      • By vertical (SIC classifications)
      • Company size (employee and or revenue)
      • By product usage.
      • By geography
      • Etc.

So yes … B2B Telemarketing is a marketing highly effective medium and one that should be preferred when the objective is New Customer Acquisition.

Qualities Clients Look for in Teleservices Providers

Edited transcript of a telephone conversation initiated by Michael Falkson, Pres. ETI Sales Support Inc, with Mr. Ostrow 08/02/08. The Aberdeen group recently undertook a study of the B2B Teleservices Industry - the first of its kind to my knowledge.  I recently had an opportunity to talk with Peter Ostrow, the author, about some of his findings.

Mike:  In your view Peter, what are the critical elements a best in class company should look for when seeking an outsourced business development partner?

Peter: They should look for a partner who offers flexibility around deliverables.

The overall deliverables should be carefully quantified and reevaluated on a regular basis.  They should look for flexibility in compensation methodology, which we've ratified through our research, and that too should be reevaluated on a regular basis.  They should look for a company which allows them to micromanage the process. 

Now that may sound counter productive to efficient program execution, but on a personal note when I look at my career, I have been least successful when I did not have the customer fairly closely involved in my day-to-day activity.  Going away with a script and a list and then simply coming back with the results is in my opinion least likely to satisfy the client.

There are some vendors in your space who don’t worry what their clients think of how they work, whose customers don’t get involved or want to know how you produce their results. They're just concerned with the final outcome. And that there may even be an implication that “we use a special ingredient or a secret sauce.”

To be honest Mike, I think there are some proprietary best practices unique to various providers, though not patent worthy.  I think it’s interesting that some companies try to figure out how you get the job done and I’m ok with that. I also believe it’s wrong to keep the customer from accessing the callers, the messaging, and some of the processes. These are bad signals to clients.

Finally, I think clients should certainly look for domain expertise. That’s very important.

However, it's not always feasible that the provider of teleservices can say, " Yes! We have exactly the experience your company needs. We’ve worked for companies with the same demographics and which faced the same challenges. In fact we’ve scored a wonderful success story."  That would be too tall an order.

But for a small versus large company, for a less or more costly solution, for a situation where the brand was not well known -  or some less specific criteria, I would imagine it’s permissible and acceptable to tell a particular story which provides a little insider domain expertise to indicate we have been there before.

Mike:  How important is longevity, breadth and depth of an outsource partner's experience in establishing desirability of the vendor?

Peter:  I would say moderately important.  People want to get in bed with someone that they know or heard good things about, but being in the business for 20 years or five years doesn’t really matter that much.

Mike:  What are the vital personnel qualities of a top notch outsource partner?

Peter:  I would say staff who are strong enough to do without the script and speak from the heart about the value proposition, will be preferred,   Callers with advanced degrees,  maybe multilingual, they’re usually very good. Still these qualities are not uniformly essential as you know. 

Probably the most important quality one needs are folks who are comfortable getting on a phone on a regular basis and interacting with the sales force.  That’s probably the #1 criterion that end-users look for. Turnaround is not that big an issue.  If people trust the outsourcing company and trust the process management then it does not matter that the folks who actually make the calls come and go. Clients won’t really fret about that . . . it’s pretty far down the list.

Mike:  How important is it that the outsource partner has access to powerful flexible technology to manage real time reporting and communication?

Peter:  There are two answers to that.  I see no difference between the best in class and other companies, so I can't say that smarter companies will integrate with the customer's CRM and other tools.

But I can also tell you that the majority of best in class companies either currently or in the near future definitely plan to deploy exactly that. 

Mike:  Would you say that most teleservices providers rated in that survey were essentially meeting the expectations of their client base?

Peter:  Actually, most were.  Respondents choose whether they are either very dissatisfied, somewhat dissatisfied, neutral, somewhat satisfied or very satisfied. Everyone came out somewhere between somewhat and very. The respondents were satisfied with the lead quality. They are generally less satisfied with lead quantity.

Quality . . . lead quality . . . lead quantity . . . all count. Clients are most satisfied with messaging accuracy; they are least satisfied with reporting metrics, business intelligence gathering and cost per lead.

Thanks a span, Peter, much appreciate your valuable input.

Telephone fairs well in media comparisons

There’s an interesting article in the July edition of B2B Magazine titled ‘Use of Digital Media Rising’ by Carol Krol. The writer focuses on the findings in “The Integrated Marketing Media Mix” report published June 2008, by the Direct Marketing Association’s. It’s the first report of its kind undertaken by the trade association .

.

dma media analysis

Two items are noteworthy:

  •  DMA’s research shows telephone usage ranking 6th out of the 18 media listed, with 31.9% of companies employing this medium in their integrated marketing campaigns.
  • Based on the aspect of media efficiency, email ROI returned 100% more than the revenue share (1.93) relative to its share of budget.  Only telephone did better than average in the offline media, at a 1.20 share.

Although these numbers are great I suspect the email media effeciency ratings do not take into account the cost of lead qualification from email generated inquiries so it may be that telephone (which would already include these costs)  comes out even higher than email.  In fact I’m pretty sure that would be the case.

Mike

Aberdeen Research - B2B Teleservices Study Released

Aberdeen consulting has released a ground breaking study into the B2B Teleservices Industry. Readers of this blog can obtain a free copy by clicking here.

The following press release provides some background.

B2B TELESERVICES: THE 2008 BUYER’S GUIDE

BOSTON, MA – May 28, 2008 – In a first-time, comprehensive research study of the B2B TeleServices industry, Aberdeen, a Harte-Hanks Company (NYSE: HHS) examines the lead discovery and qualification pressures faced by marketing and sales practitioners, the actions they consider to drive peak performance in their marketing investments, and how Best-in-Class performers utilize outsourced teleservices methodologies to drive maximum pipeline content and bid-to-win performance ratios. As an end-user's "buyer's guide" to a sector rarely covered by objective research methodologies, this April 2008 study reveals leading practices in lead lifecycle management deployed by teleservices customers, as well as exploring blended human / technology solutions they have managed to ROMI success.

Data acquired from over 200 enterprises reveals a number of impactful data points, according to Peter Ostrow, VP/Group Director, Customer Management at Aberdeen, the study’s author.  “Best-in-Class companies place a premium on lead quality, whereas Laggards reveal an interest in utilizing services to help address an out-of-control lead generation process -- too many leads to handle -- at a pace more than five times as high as that of top-performing organizations,” he explains.  “This reflects a lack of organizational and vendor management capabilities among Laggards, who benefit the least from their efforts to drive actionable intelligence to the sales team.” 

In addition to the quality/quantity balance necessary to achieve Marketing/Sales harmony, the Best-in-Class companies in Aberdeen’s research demonstrate a preference for the well-defined deliverables provided by appointment-setting methodologies.  “Top performers clearly wish to tee-up ready-booked appointments or conference calls for their sales team,” Ostrow says, “ but only if the meetings are highly substantiated by relevant account intelligence, identification of appropriate business pressures and the involvement of powerful influencers or decision-makers in the conversation.”  He also cautions against an over-reliance on appointment-setting as a sole methodology, pointing out that survey respondents who do so actually experience losses in year-over-year metrics such as sales performance against quota, and average deal size.  “Best-in-Class companies who remain flexible about their execution, compensation and delivery model from B2B teleservices providers,” concludes Ostrow, “realize 15 to 20% increases in these crucial performance metrics.”

The required actions for companies seeking to gain the most benefit from external tele-provider services, according to Ostrow, include adopting a high degree of collaboration between outsourced calling staff and the customer’s marketing and even sales personnel, preferably building 1-1 relationships that maximize their potential to improve on account penetration strategies, messaging quality and overall program ROI.

To obtain a complimentary copy, visit:

http://www.aberdeen.com/link/sponsor.asp?spid=30411182&cid=4883

 

Michael Falkson

ETI's i*collaborator vs. Siebel

Sometimes it's nice to get a compliment ...

-----Original Message----- From: Name withheld Sent: 20, 2008 1:19 PM To: Name withheld

Subject: ETI vs/ Siebel

Hi Michael,

"Your ETI sales system is very impressive. Having been the top sales rep at Siebel Systems for five years, I have seen numerous implementations of SFA. Never have I seen anything as seamless and easy to use as your application. I look forward to closing business for "Hi Tech client offering mobile video solution" in partnership with your company."

Thank you, Name Withheld

 More information on ETI's technology solutions can be found at here.

Michael Falkson

Why bother with RFP’s

Seth Goldin just posted a very insightful blog concerning resumes.

“A resume,” he says, “is an excuse to reject you. Once you send me your resume, I can say, "oh, they're missing this or they're missing that," and boom, you're out.”

I believe Godin’s insight applies equally when a client notifies you that he intends calling for RFPs and asks you also to participate.

I can understand this when the sale of commodities is involved. But it has to be different where services are being bought. Because services involve standards and these do not lend themselves to straightforward comparisons.

Take a very simple situation of the business we’re in. The essence of our service is to investigate the target market for clients and to qualify and define the ‘ready to buy’ new customers. This involves much research, phone discussions, questions, answers and evaluation. All of which take up scads of time and one can simply not enter the cumulative set of activities into columns on a spreadsheet.

Godin’s point holds just as true for RFP’s.   It’s just an excuse to pigeonhole you as another commodity.

He goes on to say ….

“Great jobs, world class jobs, jobs people kill for... those jobs don't get filled by people emailing in resumes. Ever.”

The same goes for selecting a new service provider.  Rarely are great solutions delivered by those who present well written responses to RFP’s. Offer and execution are not the same.

Michael Falkson

(See also Purchasing Business Development Services by RFP).

Purchasing Business Development Services by RFP

Recently we’ve been involved in a flurry of RFP’s.  And this got me thinking about whether it’s a good idea to buy business development services via an RFP. Here are some broad principles:

  • If you’re buying a commodity then an RFP is a good idea.
  • If you’re buying expertise then an RFP is not a good idea.
  •  If you’re buying knowhow and knowledge then an RFP is a bad idea.
  • If you’re buying systems and integration capabilities then an RFP may be a good idea.  It may also be a bad idea.  Depends.
  • If you’re buying all of the above then an RFP is a real bad way to make a good decision.

Let’s examine the process.  Usually an RFP is designed to get prospective “vendors” to provide in writing comprehensive information about the company.  While this is an opportunity to shine, that really depends on their ability to write responses to an RFP.  It does not demonstrate an ability to deliver a great solution.  (Too wit there is now a whole industry of so called experts who make a living helping companies write RFP responses.)

Can an RFP provide insight into the vendor’s ability to deliver a solution?  Yes it can – but side by side comparisons of all the participants – when you’re buying complex solutions – is not going to give you this insight.  The only way to garner a comprehensive understanding of the company’s solutions and expertise is to get under the hood.  You need to understand the players … the environment … the systems etc.  You need to understand how these systems flow … and how they integrate.    And how the synergistic effect of the combined set of solutions comes together for your benefit.  You simply cannot get this from an RFP.  And you will not get this from the well prepared follow up presentations that usually follow.

In truth many companies simply issue RFP’s to protect their backsides.  The protagonists have usually already decided who they want … and are going through this process in order to be able to say they were fair.  In fact one can usually see who is going to win simply by looking at the questions and layout of the RFP.  Why?  Because the RFP is many times written and developed by the “probable” vendor.  Not the issuer of the RFP.

Is this fair game?  I suppose so.  It just depends on whose side of the equation you are on.  If you’re the friend of the decision maker who is issuing the RFP then you’re in the pound seats.  If say you’re the incumbent who is shortly to be unseated, then this is a patently unfair process.  And generally speaking a waste of time for all.  You might as well save everyone the trouble and make a decision.

So what is the best strategy? 

If you really think that other vendors can provide better solutions then you need to test.  Testing is the only way to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.  Give the prospect companies a piece of the action and see who can beat the incumbent.  If they do – then you’re basing your decision on actual results.  Not fancy copy in an RFP.  Or pretty pictures in a well made presentation.  If the incumbent still beats them, then no harm no foul.  And you’ve saved your backside (and your company) from making a poor decision.

Testing however, needs to be done realistically.  You cannot compare apples with oranges.  You can only do side by side comparisons if the criteria for measurement are the same for all participants.  You must look at all elements that ultimately are important to the success of the effort.  This could cover issues such as developing a rating system for every opportunity identified (as rated by the sales force).  Or the conversion rates from “leads” to “opportunities”.  Or cost per new customer acquired which is the ultimate meaningful metric.  (I have written an article entitled What costs less costs more that deals with this topic in more detai.

eti Sales Support has never shied away from a contest.  We’ll be more than happy to be compared side by side with any competitor.  Any time! 

Michael Falkson

Good Customer Relations 101.

Many businesses have multiple product lines or divisions. Many of these operate as separate entities within the corporation. What then happens when inquiries come in to a centralized call center? To which department should you route the inquiry? These are vital questions because experience shows that inquiries which wind up in the wrong department or with the incorrect channel partner, can drop into a black hole never again to see the light of day.

Business Developers (BDs) at eti Sales Support for example, encounter these scenarios daily as part of our role in fielding inquiries from print, TV, WEB and Direct Marketing promotions for a variety of clients.

Let’s take a typical example of an inquiry that comes to us on behalf of a large multinational hi tech client.

The call might go like this.

“Hello … just saw your advertisement about XYZ product.  Could you tell me how much it costs?”We would typically respond by saying “sorry, we cannot provide a price because sales of this product are handled by our channel partners.”

The caller may then ask a technical question about the product.  Again we are not technical specialists (our task is to identify the total opportunity and qualify potential) so again we cannot answer with any specificity.

The prospect may then get testy and ask “Then what good are you? Why does your advertising tell prospective buyers like me to call your number?”

We train our staff to handle these difficult situations by explaining our role:

“Mr. _____, we’re here to prevent you from getting the run-around when you call us direct. We actually want to prevent you from becoming frustrated as you get bounced from one department to another searching for the right person to help you.”

Most prospects react positively when we explain that our role is to find out what his needs are and that we’ll get the appropriate person in the company to call him with the information he needs, and to answer additional questions. In short, to resolve his problems.

What’s more we can do this in real-time if the prospect indicates urgency.

A good Business Development Center such as eti’s  requires the Corporation to cross train our Business Developers so that we can correctly identify (qualify and quantify) all incoming inquiries. And connect the qualified ones to the right person in the right department within the Corporation.

This also allows the Corporation to use a centralized team (such as provided by eti) to probe callers and correctly route opportunities to the right department for follow up. It’s like triage in a MASH unit. Someone comes in with a problem and the first medic’s job is to assess the “pain”, decide the urgency, and call the right doctor to treat the problem – or route the patient to ward (department) where that that specialist consults. Getting the patient to the right treatment in a timely manner can make all the difference between life and death.

Determining what product set would satisfy the need, urgency and scope of the project in a positively friendly manner is key. Getting the right salesman/specialist /Channel partner to contact the prospect ASAP can make the difference between making a sale to a new customer, or losing the customer to a competitor. (Perish the thought.)

Lane Farber

How many times should you call a prospect before giving up?

Attempting to quantify how much effort should be invested in a prospect can often be a contentious issue when budgets are limited or strained.  However, as the following example details, the consequences of your decision could have a substantial impact on the bottom line.

The scenario: 

1.       Client spends $XXXX developing an inquiry via a variety of demand generation activities.

2.       Once the prospect raises their hand and indicates some interest, how many times should we attempt to contact him before calling it a day?

Over the years we’ve developed some statistical models that essentially tell us the following:

1.       About 20% of the inquiries will in the short term represent a “ready to buy” opportunity.

2.       In terms of the lead qualification effort about 3 completed contacts are generated per hour and within this period we will identify just less than one opportunity.

3.       We further know that once distributed to a channel partner and or field sales person, about 25% of these opportunities will close with an initial average sale of about $25k.

4.       We also know that ..

a.       25% of the opportunities will be developed within the first 3 call attempts.

b.      Another 50% will be identified between attempts 3 and 8.

c.       And another 8% between attempts 9 and 10.

So therefore some 83% of the opportunities are identified within 10 attempts.

Now for the kicker.  The client reduces the budget and decides only to invest 3 attempts in every inquiry.

What are the probable consequences?

Quite simple.  75% of the opportunities will not be identified as only 25% are qualified and quantified within 3 attempts. 

Let’s dive into the numbers more closely (and conservatively).

·         Let’s say that only 10% (not 75%) of the leads are lost.  This means that for every 1000 inquiries, 100 opportunities will not be identified and 25 sales will be lost.  At $25k initial revenue this means the client will have lost $625,000 in revenues – for a saving of a few percent in cost.

Does it therefore make any sense for the client to make this decision?  Of course not!  On the contrary if he increased his budget, the incremental revenue to the company could be substantial.

Ten lost sales also probably means the loss of 10 lifetime customers.  Over a period of years, each and every one of these companies could represent potentially millions of dollars to this company.  And the competition more than likely would be the beneficiary of their short sightedness. 

Lastly if the actual result of lost opportunities is 75% as projected, then the actual loss in revenue (never mind lost opportunities) is between $4mil and $10mil. 

But who’s counting?

Michael Falkson

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