Telemarketing is one of the most effective channels for customer acquisition for B2B companies. Telemarketing has been a prominent marketing tactic since the late 1970s and has seen an abundance of change over the years. Due to this change, a wide range of strategies have been formulated and employed to create effective telemarketing campaigns. In this article, I have covered 8 tips that are vital for effective B2B telemarketing.
Tip #1 - Throw Away the Script!
In the past, most telemarketing campaigns relied on scripts that gave the dialler all the information they would need to achieve the objective of the call. Scripts used to be an important tool for a telemarketer and most companies believed that they were vital to the success of a campaign. Telemarketing scripts despite being effective in the past, are now widely viewed as obsolete for multiple reasons. 1. When a telemarketer follows a script, they can sound robotic and unnatural. In these cases, the prospect can often tell when the caller is using a script, and this has a tremendous effect on the call. 2. Any chances of building rapport with the prospect are almost entirely destroyed because the prospect knows that the dialler has had this exact same conversation with the last twenty people that they have spoken to. 3. Becoming too reliant on the script is another issue. Telemarketers that rely on their scripts for the entire call often struggle when a prospect asks a question that cannot be answered using the script. Again, this is something that the prospect can pick up on and negatively affects the call.
If you have a script that you follow religiously for all of your calls, throw it away, shred it, burn it, do whatever you want with it; but stop using it.
Instead, create a campaign guide that you can keep in front of you and glance at if necessary. This guide should include your main objectives of the call, what information you need to provide to the prospect (USPs, offering benefits, prices if necessary), common objections that you receive and the suitable rebuttals that you can use to counter them.
Your guide should be able to effectively support your dialling activities and still allow you to adapt to changes within the conversation.
Tip #2 - Go With the Flow.
I started to touch on this at the end of ‘Tip #1’ – in telemarketing, you need to be able to adapt to changes in the conversation and go with the flow.
If you are delivering the required information to the prospect, and they take the conversation down a different route, don’t immediately bring their attention back to your offering. This will not only seem rude to the prospect but shows that you are not willing to get to know your prospects on a more personal level which can destroy any chances of building rapport.
If the prospect begins to talk about something unrelated to the call, give some input. This part of the conversation may only take up 5% of the overall call time, but it can prove to be valuable in terms of building rapport and will likely be one of the most memorable parts of the call for the prospect.
Taking the conversation slightly off-topic not only helps to build a relationship with your prospects but also helps to keep your motivation high. Even without a script, your calls can become repetitive and it can be hard to retain motivation. These parts of the conversation can be what sets it apart from the rest and can help to boost your motivation and keep you focused on your goals and targets.
Of course, there will come a time where you need to direct focus back to the purpose of the call. There should be an opening where the topic you are speaking about begins to come to an end and you can get back to the core subject of the call in a quick, yet polite way.
Tip #3 - Create a Highly Effective Opener.
The first few sentences of your call are the most important. Your opener should be short and sweet, yet still deliver all the information needed to identify who you are, where you are calling from, why you are calling and who you wish to speak to.
Having a poorly worded opener or an opener that lacks in detail isn’t going to pique the prospect’s interest and they will likely try and find a way to end the call.
Say you are a company that supplies businesses with professional cleaning services. One of your main hooks is that you will beat what your prospects are currently paying.
If your opening line is something similar to:
“Hi there, could I speak to David about his current cleaning solutions?”
This is not going to create any interest. Not only is it far too blunt and direct, but there is not enough information in there. The next question that the gatekeeper is going to ask is “I’m sorry, who are you?”.
A more appropriate opener would be:
“Hi there, my name is Mark and I’m calling from Example Ltd. Could I speak to David, please?”
This is not only a more polite opener but also gives more information to the prospect. In the opener you have identified who you are, where you are calling from, and who you are looking to speak with.
Your openers can vary massively depending on the purpose of the call and who you are trying to reach. Other factors include; whether you have their direct phone number or a reception number, how many times you or your colleagues have spoken to the prospect and more.
Before beginning your campaign, make sure that you have included effective openers for different situations into your campaign guide; and allow your telemarketing teams to adapt these openers to suit their own approach and personality.
Tip #4 - Don't Reveal Too Much to the Gatekeeper.
Gatekeepers are at the front of the company. Their job is to deal with any inbound contact such as enquiries, complaints, internal contact, and of course, telemarketers. Part of their role is to prevent unnecessary distractions or disruptions from reaching the decision-maker. Gatekeepers have to deal with dozens of telemarketers each day, most of which will be unsuccessful in reaching the decision-maker if they are not using the correct strategy.
The first thing to remember is to treat the gatekeeper with respect. For some, this can be difficult especially if a gatekeeper is abrupt and just won’t budge. You need to remember that when contacting other companies, you are representing your business and any unprofessional act over the phone, can have repercussions on your business’ image and reputation.
The next aspect of dealing with gatekeepers is ensuring that you are only giving them the necessary information. If you contact a company and reach a gatekeeper, you shouldn’t deliver your entire pitch to them, because a common response will be a fob off such as asking you to send the details in an email.
Instead of delivering your opener and diving straight into the pitch, wait and see what their response is. If they tell you “David is rather snowed under at the moment, and won’t have the time to discuss this in full with you.”, you could respond in one of a few ways.
You could continue your attempt to get through by saying “Well, all I am looking to do at this time is have a very quick conversation with David, and establish a date and time to come out and give him a quick demonstration of our product.”.
Or you could desist and say “That’s not a problem, I completely understand. When would be the best time to call back?”, with this approach, you may have a gatekeeper that gives you a legitimate time to call back or a gatekeeper that is trying to get you off of the phone and will not give you a specific time or any other helpful answer.
Another point to mention is that the gatekeeper does not have buying authority for the company and may not be aware of the company’s product or service’s needs. They could turn you away in the belief that the offering would not be of interest to the decision maker, when in fact it may well be, and a potential sale could be lost.
Only give the information necessary for your call to be put through, which should include; your name, where you are calling from and who you wish to speak with. If you meet with objections, you can give a brief reason for your call, and how long the call is likely to take, which should be sufficient enough to get through to the decision maker.
Obviously, you will not see 100% effectiveness with this approach as it all depends on the gatekeeper, whether the decision-maker is in the office and whether they are free to take your call.
Tip #5 – Always Qualify Your Leads & Appointments.
In B2B telemarketing, qualifying your leads and appointments is vital for creating an effective and time-efficient approach to customer acquisition. When carrying out a telemarketing campaign, it’s important to keep your prospect’s needs and goals in mind; but it’s just as important to keep your own company’s needs and goals in mind. When going about acquiring new clients, you need to be sure that working with them will be a good fit for your company. This means that you will be able to provide them with an effective product/service and that working with them will benefit your company as well.
There are four main areas to cover when qualifying leads and appointments, and these four areas make up BANT, which stands for:
Budget – Will their budget cover the costs of your offering?
Authority – Is your contact at the prospective company the appropriate person to speak to?
Need – Do they have a need for your offering? Will they ever need your offering?
Timescale – When will they likely need your offering? Is it in the near future?
Ensuring that your prospect’s budget can cover the cost of your offerings is an important part of the qualification process. Without the necessary funds, the company will not be able to do business with you.
At this stage of BANT, there are additional questions that need to be asked to confirm their qualification status. You will need to establish if they will be able to alter their budget to support this purchasing decision, are they interested enough to dedicate more of their budget? When will their budget enable them to go ahead with a purchase?
Although you may have been speaking to a decision-maker at the prospective company, is it the right decision-maker who deals with the specific area of the business associated with your offering? If not, who do you need to get in contact with? Are you able to speak with them at the time of the call? Will they view your offering in a different light? Do they have the final say over purchasing in that area of the business?
This is one of the most crucial parts of the qualification process. Although this aspect may seem straightforward, either they have a need for your offering or they don’t, it can be much more complex than that.
Your prospect may say that they do not need your offering, but it’s your job to prove them otherwise. Some of your prospects may be fully aware or have a deep understanding of their needs. They may require an offering like yours, but is your offering going to be able to fully fulfil their needs or will they need something different?
Timescale is also one of the most important aspects of qualification criteria. This is heavily influenced by other aspects of BANT such as budget and needs. When will they be able to adjust their budget and complete the purchase? Is it within the next month? Six months? A Year? Will their needs change in that time? Will they choose to purchase a different product or service to fulfil their needs?
If your prospects do not meet all four of the qualification criteria, you should not push the lead through as ‘qualified’. This could result in your sales team spending valuable time attempting to close a deal with a prospect that may not have a suitable budget, do not need your offerings, or are not ready to buy.
If you close deals with unqualified prospects, you may not be able to deliver the level of service that you normally deliver and that they would expect. This, in turn, can have an adverse effect on recommendations and customer feedback, which can then affect your professional reputation.
Tip #6 - Sufficient Research.
Although it is important not to procrastinate when it comes to B2B telemarketing, you must do the necessary research into your prospects before you contact them. This can only take a few minutes but will provide you with a valuable insight into their business and how they operate. With this information, you can tailor your pitch to suit their business. You may even be able to establish that the company does not have a need for your offering just from your research. I cannot begin to tell you how many times we have been approached by companies offering business development services. It will be a sad day when a business that specialises in B2B lead generation and appointment setting must hire an outsourced company to generate leads and set appointments. If these telemarketers had done even the slightest amount of research into Inspired before they picked up the phone, they would have seen that we do not have a need for their services, and they would have saved themselves both time and embarrassment.
Typical research that you should conduct prior to contacting a prospect includes:
What industry is their business in?
What products/services do they offer?
Who are their typical clients/who have they worked with?
Where are they based?
This research can often be carried out on their website and can take only a minute or two, but will give you more information to work with when attempting to generate leads or set up appointments.
Tip #7 - Creating an Adaptable Campaign Guide.
We have already covered the restrictions and issues that scripts can cause, as well as the importance of going with the flow of the conversation, but this tip is mainly for those who manage telemarketing teams.
When creating a campaign guide for your teams to use, you need to make sure that it is flexible and can be adapted to suit each individual member of your team. Every telemarketer is different, their personality, vocabulary and accent are just a few factors that make them unique.
When it comes to creating campaign guides you need to ensure that you allow some flexibility. One example of this is the opener and closer. Some telemarketers may have no problem using the provided openers and closers; however, some may find that they would substitute a few words here and there to improve their own flow when on the phone.
If you deny your teams the opportunity to customise aspects of their dialogue to suit their own style and personality, they could end up tripping over their own words and could sound robotic, especially if the guide uses words or phrases that they would not normally use.
Obviously, there are aspects of the call that should remain untouched, such as pricing, product information and event dates, however, small, self-made changes to their dialogue will help the conversation sound more natural. This in turn will boost success and give telemarketers confidence and motivation.
Tip #8 - Listen to Your Prospects.
Without trying to state the obvious, actively listening to your prospects is an important aspect of any telemarketing campaign. As the saying goes “We have two ears, but only one mouth” – so we should listen more and talk less. This is especially true when it comes to telemarketing. As well as delivering your pitch and raving about how brilliant your product or service is, you need to listen to your prospect’s opinions, concerns and questions. Even if the prospect does not convert to a customer, valuable market research can be gleaned from listening and making notes.
If after delivering your pitch your prospect is still on the fence, you need to understand what is keeping them there. If they tell you “I’m just not sure if this would be effective for our company.”, you shouldn’t just gloss over the general benefits from your pitch again, you should tell them exactly how their business could benefit from your offering.
This is where you would use your marketing collateral to provide evidence that could change their view of your offering. Send them case studies that detail how your product or service helped businesses in their industry, send them testimonials from happy customers and any other evidence you have that can help put their mind at ease and convince them that your product will be of great value to their business.
To Wrap Up...
B2B Telemarketing is a complex marketing strategy that can be packed with landmines that could blow your chances of campaign success to smithereens if you take the wrong approach. Despite this, telemarketing still remains one of the most effective means of customer acquisition in the B2B world, with over 90% of customer interactions occurring over the phone. The eight tips given above are just a few steps that you can take to improve your campaign results and make the most of your marketing investment. To recap: Using outdated methods such as strict telemarketing scripts can negatively impact your chances of successful campaign results. To avoid falling at the first hurdle, hold fire on delivering any vital information such as costs until you are speaking directly to the prospect, not a gatekeeper. Really listening to your prospects is a vital part of telemarketing and allows you to understand and address your prospect's concerns. If a prospect goes off topic, run with it for a little while. This short, yet friendly part of the conversation could be what the prospect remembers most from the call. As a campaign manager, you need to give your team the freedom to alter aspects of the campaign guide such as openers and closers to suit their personality and telephone manner. Before getting in contact with your prospects, do a little bit of research into their company. This research could provide you with useful information that can be worked into your pitch or could give you an early insight into whether the prospect will be qualifiable.