I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how we can improve results for our clients. Customers need our services to help grow their business and employ our b2b telemarketing and appointment setting services in the hope of generating new business opportunities.
But, it’s fair to say that some telemarketing activity works right from the get-go and other campaigns take more time to bear fruit. So, what’s the difference and what’s the secret to telemarketing success?
In previous blog articles, I have talked about the two key components of success being (1) having a clearly defined target audience and identification of the decision maker role and (2) tailoring a proposition that is compelling and that solves the problems that the decision makers face.
But there’s more to it. Most companies plan to be in business for the long term. They hopefully don’t lurch from week to week. So, it stands to reason that they should have a target audience that’s big enough to support their business growth. With that in mind, it’s also reasonable to assume that not every prospect will simply jump at the chance to do business with you at first point of contact. It’s likely they either do it in house, already have a supplier, feel there is no need or find another solution that adequately ‘does the job’ – all manner of reasons why they won’t need your service or product NOW.
However, circumstances change and, in sales, we’re taught that ‘NO’ doesn’t mean ‘no never’. It generally means just ‘not right now’. That’s especially true if the prospect is using a competitor and / or has a contract that is due for renewal at some point in the future. The reality is that unless you have something genuinely new and compelling that is a ‘market game changer’ (and even then there’s no guarantee), there will only be a certain number of prospects that are ‘hot’ at the point that they receive your sales call.
So, assuming that you have a decent sized pool to fish in to start with, the reality is that it’s likely that more prospects will say no than say yes.
That principle set me thinking. Given that at any moment in time, the proportion of prospects / new clients that will come on board will be much lower than the ones that don’t, isn’t the long-term challenge in business development about how you manage the ones that say no and handle the ones that say yes? It’s about your pipeline. It’s about understanding the buying cycle. It’s about identifying when the ones that aren’t ready right now are likely to next be in buying mode. It’s about finding out when contract renewals take place and when renewal discussions begin. It’s about the long term and not the short term.
If you define your target market properly in the first place, those that say no now shouldn’t be discarded forever. They should be nurtured in a good CRM system until the buying cycle comes round again. The objective is to be visible at that time. The opportunity is to set up contact for that moment. The ideal is for your business to be front of mind so they come to you.
Telemarketing isn’t the only game in town. Clearly, you can and should keep in touch beyond the initial contact. You might send prospects’ regular email newsletters if you’ve encouraged them to sign up and you have something of genuine value to send. You should connect on LinkedIn so they see your regular updates. This works best of course for higher value sales. You could send an impactful piece of DM. Try to engage on social media through provision of interesting content.
There are lots of ways to keep at the forefront of buyers’ minds that we would endorse.
But possibly the best way to ensure that your long term new business goals are achieved is to build and manage your pipeline. That means the following:
1. Identification of a robust and complete target list of companies with whom you’d like to do business now or in the future
2. Ensuring that the data is good i.e. gathering and validating correct decision maker names and contact details
3. Contacting those targets on the telephone (and ideally through other means)
4. Identification of the low hanging fruit where these particular prospects want to meet / do business now
5. Devising a strategy for managing and nurturing the pipeline for those that do not have a current need or that have an incumbent supplier. This is your future lead generation. And it’s important.
Number 5 above means thinking long term not short term. When prospects say no now (and the bulk will do so, no matter which marketing method you select), what do you do? Do you just abandon all hope? Do you fall at the first fence? Clearly, that would be foolish. But that’s often what most small businesses do. They take a short term view and often leave things for a potentially long period of time and then have another go. They then have to kick start new lead generation activity with all the set up and ramp up time and costs and without the benefit of the ongoing leads and call-backs generated from past activity that are now stone cold.
That approach is like running a marathon without any regular training or preparation and trying to beat the best competitors in the race. It’s likely that you won’t even make it past the first few miles and that you will give up until the next attempt. You may even decide that marathons aren’t for you based on your poor experience.
I’ve said before in my blogs that lead generation is very much a marathon not a sprint. Businesses that want to continue to trade profitably for the long term, take a controlled, managed and consistent approach to lead generation. They recognise that results take time to arrive. They understand that pipeline is what brings profitability and ROI.
That’s why most organisations need to focus attention on those that say no and nurture those prospects over time. If they do that, there will be less pressure to find and convert business in the short term. That’s because, guess what, the business that converts in the short term will be the consequence of nurturing the right prospects over time until they’re ready to convert. And you just happen to have called them back at the right time!