Teleprospecting: The bridge between marketing & sales
In just about every executive meeting of any business-to-business-focused organization, nothing raises tension more consistently than the question: Where are the sales? CEOs pound tables demanding answers. Sales vice presidents squirm, then point to Marketing VPs, saying that Sales needs more and better leads. Marketing VPs become defensive and point at Sales VPs, arguing that the pipeline is always full, but Sales can't seem to close a deal. Everyone reaches for the aspirin.
So which comes first: marketing requirements or sales outcome? Perhaps business executives need step back to look at the two areas and more clearly define and resolve the gap between Sales and Marketing.
FOCUS OF MARKETING
Marketing is in the numbers game. Professionals in this area are constantly seeking ways to generate a general interest in the business, create awareness of products and services, and brand both company and products or services in a positive light. Marketing purchases list after list of prospective customers based on geographic and demographic data profiles. Thousands, if not millions, of people and companies are on those lists. They cast a wide net in search of any opportunity that may be looking for what the Marketing executive's company may have to offer.
To the Marketing executive, the telephone is used as an extension of list buying, and calls made are more to focus on generating a message than building a business-to-business relationship. One-at-a-time calls seem to be inefficient for the focus of the marketing professional, so telephone outreach is done with carefully crafted scripts that keep the number of dials per hour up, and information gathering to a minimum.
FOCUS OF SALES
Sales is in the numbers game, too. But for Sales, those numbers come in terms of closes made, and dollars earned off the closes.
When the telephone is used as a major tool for this team, no one cares how many dials are made – only how many deals have been brought to the table as a result. Each dial takes longer, is more problem-solving focused, but has the underlying goal of closing a deal.
Between Marketing and Sales rests a gap of opportunity. Marketing's "leads" are often not strong enough for Sales to be able to expect success from every connection. And Sales people do not have the time to waste on what everyone agrees are "tire-kickers" – interested people who are not in the buying cycle today, or in some other way don't fit the needs of the sales organization. Lead sorting becomes a "yes" or a "no," and no one is satisfied with the results.
FILLING THE GAP WITH TELEPROSPECTING
One way companies can fill that gap, strengthen the value of the leads generated out of marketing, and yet not lose the valuable "dirt" that has been seeded but is not ready for sales, is with a strong pre-sales program of teleprospecting. This area of business is often sheltered under the umbrella of either Marketing or Sales but does not truly belong in either department. To see this more clearly, it is important to define teleprospecting and what it can do.
WHAT TELEPROSPECTING IS NOT
To begin, it is important to determine what teleprospecting is not:
- Teleprospecting is NOT a lead generation machine of multiple, unqualified names. Teleprospectors do not follow formal scripts, because each conversation with an individual is geared toward the receiver's information as much as toward inundating the market with the teleprospector's company message.
- Teleprospecting is NOT Telemarketing. Telemarketing is a tightly scripted call job that is more about messaging out than gathering in of information. Telemarketing generates numerous calls per day or hour and is best pictured as a call-bank of the same thing happening over and over again. It's like a direct-mail piece done verbally, with the same one to three percent return on investment.
- Teleprospecting is NOT time wasteful. The illusion is that teleprospectors waste a lot of time getting as excited over definite "no's" as definite "yeses." What people don't see is the database clean-up that happens with every call and the numerous call-backs that lead to stronger relationships as a prospective client is handed off to sales.
WHAT TELEPROSPECTING IS
And that leads us to what teleprospecting is all about. The bottom line here is that the professional teleprospector makes every dial valuable to the company. He or she has usually had several years of experience both in telemarketing and in sales, so that experience can be brought to the telephone prospecting effort with a higher level of professionalism. Characteristics of good teleprospecting skills include:
- Hunter Mentality – Like most sales professionals, the teleprospector is hungry for new business. He or she will be listening as carefully for the clues that say a prospect isn't worth pursuing as they are for the qualified lead.
- Qualifying leads – Unlike the leads generated out of a telemarketing campaign, the teleprospector wants to see deals close in the end. Therefore the teleprospector will work hard to make sure each call results in gathering as much information about the name on his or her list as possible. They will qualify down to the specific demographic information needed to increase the probability of sales with every encounter.
- And the teleprospector is initiating the business relationship right from the start. It does the company no good to qualify a lead in terms of budget, need, and fit, if the person(s) on the other end of the line don't like your company because of their initial engagement.
- Bonus! Along with qualifying good leads, the professional teleprospector will let marketing know which names to remove from its database. This disqualifying process will help future mailings and contacts be more effective because the marketing database is continually cleaned. Unfortunately, many companies do not see the value of a constantly cleaned database because of the short-term focus on the need for sales today. The teleprospector keeps a longer-term vision in mind.
WHY TELEPROSPECTING STANDS ALONE
By now, you can see the value of a professional teleprospector, but who should that prospector report to in the company organization chart? A good teleprospector performs some sales functions but also some marketing functions. He or she deals with generating interest from total strangers to loyal customers. Perhaps pre-sales functions need their own path to the executive suite.
Teleprospectors fill the gap that exists between Sales and Marketing, but more importantly, create a bridge between the two organizations by performing functions for either side of the same coin. Teleprospectors help the promotion of products and services (as marketing does) all the while making sure business relationships emerge for Sales representatives to build upon. Isn't it time you consider building a bridge between your Sales and Marketing teams with a strong teleprospecting effort?