So far this week, we’ve discussed the merits of the oft misunderstood phone for B2B Sales and Marketing campaigns, specifically as it relates to the ultimate goal of lead generation. In our Monday post we discussed the big picture perspective, whereas Tuesday and Wednesday we dove deep on the tactical roles of promoting marketing campaigns, and subsequently following up and qualifying the resulting activity. Today we’ll discuss the third key role and application of the phone. It’s definitely the most sales-oriented of the three and probably what most people think about as a traditional telemarketing approach to lead generation. In some companies they call it Telemarketing. In other companies it’s referred to as Inside Sales. Finally, in other organizations, it’s simply another term for Lead Generation. None of these terms are entirely accurate. It’s really Proactive Tele-Prospecting. And, as I alluded to in the title of this post, there is a right way and a wrong way to approach it.
Proactive Tele-prospecting is about finding the opportunities that already exist, but you don’t know about yet. It is not about using trickery, pushy sales tactics or charm to convince people that they need to buy something. Period. The latter doesn’t work. It results in meetings, leads, scheduled demos, etc... that are a disappointment to the sales person and the prospect alike. You need to be “prospecting”... you know, like during the gold rush. You are looking for the gold in the cold, not using alchemy to turn whatever you happen to find into gold.
So how do we do this? How do we find the gold? It’s all about asking good questions, having some idea what answers to expect, and what to do with them when you get them. It’s about building credibility and being relevant. You need to have an understanding of what makes a good sales opportunity for your company. In the most basic sense you are looking for someone who has a problem that your company’s product or service can solve. You need to know who (as in the department and level of hierarchy) buys your products or services, who participates in the buying cycle and who to avoid talking to. Sure salesman-ship (or person-ship) comes into this - you have to be good at all of the things I’ve already described in this paragraph - but pure selling skill is not enough to turn something into an opportunity which isn’t already. This works in a flea market, but not for B2B products or services costing thousands or even millions of dollars.
There’s far to much involved in this to describe in one blog post... or two, or ten, probably. I have found that the right approach combines skills and techniques from sales, marketing and market research. If you are thinking of bringing someone in-house to do this for your company, consider looking at a candidate’s experience in all three of those areas, not just sales. In terms of selling tools, “Solution Selling” has a lot that can help you build credibility, and SPIN can help craft the questions. But relying on one selling strategy to help with this is misguided. Instead, an approach that blends the best of a variety of selling strategies (those that aren’t about the hard sell, but about finding out what your prospect needs are and trying to match it to your unique value proposition) will help to ensure that the leads, appointments and demos that your tele-prospecting team is generating are real opportunities and not just a waste of time and money.
Tomorrow, in part 5 of this series, I will be discussing the million dollar question - Should you build your telemarketing capabilities in-house, or outsource them to a trusted vendor?