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Telemarketing team rings up sales for Avaya

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More than a year ago, Avaya was relying on field sales and indirect sales through business partners to connect with customers. All customers. That meant salespeople in the field were tasked with handling complex and lucrative sales opportunities as well as smaller and more routine accounts.

Because the sales staff was stretched so thin, inevitably there was business being left on the table.

The business telecommunications company wanted to find a way to better support outside salespeople by freeing them up to focus on their highest-value customers and prospects. The company also wanted a solution that would benefit customers by giving them more convenient purchasing choices, and it needed to support its business partners.

"The focus was to enhance our reach and sales to our customers and business partners," said Sophia Williams, VP-global teleweb channel at Avaya. "We want to accelerate revenue growth, do so at lower cost and increase convenience for clients."

More buyers at less cost

"It's about reaching more buyers and reaching them more cost-effectively, and doing a better job cross-selling as well," said John Shomaker, group VP at MarketBridge Inc., a sales and marketing consultancy that Avaya brought in.

In July 2004, with C-level executive buy-in, Avaya decided to launch an ambitious pilot program to test in-house telemarketing, a move it hoped would help it integrate its sales coverage. Even more important, launching the program would enable Avaya to accelerate revenue growth while decreasing the cost of sales.

"We wanted to create a one plus one equals three scenario. Otherwise, why go ahead and deploy?" Williams said.

The integrated account coverage project kicked off in October 2004, the beginning of Avaya's fiscal year. The company worked with MarketBridge to create the structure and "define what success looks like," Williams said.

"We helped them build out very specific capabilities and helped them rethink their marketing function," Shomaker said. He said he views telesales as "the linkage point between marketing and sales, especially in a b-to-b environment. There's a different marketing model needed to feed it," he said. "We see [telesales] as a critical link in the sales cycle."

That's because active leads need to be nurtured during what is often a longer selling cycle in the b-to-b environment than in the consumer world, where shorter sales cycles and spontaneous purchases prevail. "They will nurture the business for several months and pass them along to the sales force when they are ready to close. You [now] have a lower cost intermediary [in telesales] doing some of that," he said.

Six work streams help flow

Avaya created six "work streams" and engaged several key people across the business to drive them. The work streams included module planning and design, human resources, and field integration and training. The human resources work stream, for example, was responsible for creating job descriptions, establishing salary levels, recruiting and hiring candidates, and establishing compensation plans for the telesales unit. The work stream teams, along with MarketBridge, worked together to get the internal contact center up and running in a little more than three months.

"We got pretty operational: recruiting, field training, building measurement and reporting systems, doing targeting and analytics, and building a marketing program," Shomaker said. "That whole engine, the marketing engine, the call scripts really had to be created from scratch," he said.

Telesales became part of a central group, working closely together with field sales. "They are extended members of an account team," Williams explained. "They sit in on the account planning calls, and they are introduced to the customer as an extension of the team."

Shifting customers inside

Field sales has the primary relationship with customers, but with the new structure they are able to shift more routine, less complex customers to inside sales. "The field executive can lift their overall sales productivity," Williams said. "They can deepen their relationship with existing and new clients."

As inside sales executives become more familiar with those customers, there is an additional opportunity to increase revenue by selling to secondary and tertiary buyers within client companies.

"We're in the midway part of our first deployment," Williams said of the telesales operation. Avaya expects to continue working with MarketBridge to roll out the balance.

Avaya has seen a notable and marked improvement in results with its integrated coverage model.

"Overall `lift' in sales productivity is apparent where we have the integrated coverage model deployed," Williams said. "We have experienced a 40% higher average sales value compared to where the integrated coverage model is yet to be deployed." 

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