To Insource or Outsource Telemarketing
Telemarketing can be a cost-effective method for identifying and qualifying leads and then moving these prospects along the sales cycle. When companies are considering implementing telemarketing for leads, frequently the first two questions that come up are: “Should we set up a telemarketing team in-house or outsource it?” and “If we outsource telemarketing, how do we find the right company?”
Can we do it ourselves?
“Doing it yourself,” that is, insourcing telemarketing versus outsourcing telemarketing, offers a number of benefits. Your call team is 100% dedicated to your project. Call reps are down the hall, rather than across town or across the country, and are behind the “firewall,” making it easy to access business systems like order history and inventory programs. In-house telemarketing teams also make it easier to leverage your existing training programs and personnel.
However, before implementing a call center, you must also take into account all the marketing and sales responsibilities you already have. Effectively managing telemarketing in-house includes such factors as:
- Hiring experienced personnel – You can’t put just anyone on the phone to represent your company.
- Training – Experienced call reps may have the requisite phone skills, but they still need to be trained about your company, its products, your industry, the lingo, etc.
- Motivation – Call reps take a lot of rejection. Are you prepared to constantly motivate them verbally and with other incentives?
- Supervision – In addition to the call reps themselves, you’ll also need to hire call team managers and supervisors who will not only supervise and coach the reps but also monitor daily and weekly call goals.
- Facilities and equipment – Telemarketers require more than a phone at a desk crammed in the corner of a company’s basement. Savvy companies equip call reps with up-to-date PCs and large monitors; software specially designed for call centers including call queuing, efficient data entry and links to online information; ergonomic chairs, quality headsets, and a clean, quiet and professional working environment.
- Technology – Today companies must integrate the phone, email and the Web in order to lower costs and improve lead quality.
- Continuity – All businesses experience peaks and valleys — those times when sales leads are coming in fast and furious versus other times when nothing is happening. As a result, you often wind up staffing for the mid-point, being overstaffed for the valleys and understaffed for the peaks.
Should we outsource telemarketing?
When should you outsource your telemarketing function? The scenarios can vary from company to company but in general, it makes sense to outsource telemarketing for the following reasons:
- Adding head count is not an option.
- You’re already stretched too thin and cannot manage another team.
- You have peaks and valleys in terms of when leads come in (i.e.: during trade show season).
- You need to get up and running quickly.
- You want to test new programs without negatively impacting your existing operations.
In-house telemarketing programs often fail because companies don’t plan appropriately, or fail to keep the telemarketing efforts focused on clear objectives. Others can’t get senior management onboard or don’t know how or don’t have the resources to measure the results. And many times, companies are surprised by the costs involved.
Depending on your specific telemarketing needs and resources, you may decide it’s better to outsource telemarketing to a third-party provider instead.
Finding the right telemarketing company
Telemarketing companies come in all shapes and sizes. Some companies fall under the category of “direct marketing” and offer a range of services, from lead generation to fulfillment. Others are more like “boiler room” operations where inexperienced, low-paid call reps are required to make hundreds of calls every day.
When researching vendors, due diligence upfront will pay off in the long run. When interviewing possible vendors, keep the following tips in mind:
- Ask about experience – This encompasses a wide area, from how long the company has been in business to whether the company specializes in B-to-B sales lead generation. You don’t want a company that’s been selling to consumers by cold-calling at dinner time to take on representing your company and its high-tech products or services to senior business executives. To have the best chance of success, be sure the prospective call center has direct experience in your specific industry.
- Get real numbers – If you’re looking for more qualified sales leads, ask how many leads a program should be expected to generate and the leads to sales ratio you can expect as well. Also ask how the vendor measures ROI.
- Tour the facilities – Venture beyond the conference room and onto the production floor. Listen in on phone calls and look over the shoulders of people who enter data and fulfill information requests. Ask to meet account managers and call teams.
- Get a written proposal – The proposal is an easy way to check the company’s understanding of your needs. It should include background on the company, its qualifications, a detailed program recommendation and the related fees. Keep in mind that the quality of the proposal and its attention to detail will often serve as a reflection of the vendor’s quality and attention to detail.
- Review their technology – Ask prospective companies what they do to make telemarketing calls more efficient. Also ask to see reports on activity and results. Are they provided on-demand? And, does the company have experience and the know-how to integrate their systems with yours?
- Check references – Ask to see a current customer list as well as the names of some customers the company lost in the past year or two, then call both. Ask references about the quality of the company’s telemarketing services and the quality of the company’s people who handle their account. Find out program results and ask if the company would hire the vendor again.
The bottom line: Whether done in-house or outsourced, business-to-business telemarketing can be an effective tactic for generating, nurturing and qualifying sales leads.
For more information about telemarketing, read industry publications such as Call Center, Customer Inter@ction Solutions, Target Marketing, B2B, Direct, DM News, and Sales and Marketing Management.
M. H. “Mac” McIntosh is considered by many to be one of America’s leading business-to-business sales and marketing consultants and an expert on the subject of outsourced marketing services. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.