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Teleprospecting gains acceptance

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With today's emphasis on revenue production and sales enablement, marketers are asking themselves to consider the best use of salespeople's time. Increasingly, the answer is not in warming up leads on the telephone. That's the conclusion drawn by Lisa Dreher, VP-marketing and business development at information technology company Logicalis Inc. Integral to the company's marketing and sales is an outsourced telephone team whose job is to move prospects further down the funnel and ultimately arrange face-to-face meetings with sales reps. “It's part of an integrated approach,” Dreher said. “The people we're targeting may already have seen a number of things from us, like a mailer, or seen us on LinkedIn or [in] some other social medium, article or blog. Or they may simply have been a website visitor.” The goal, she said, is twofold: Leverage the intelligence gained by teleprospecting to further qualify contacts and focus the sales effort on areas where it counts. “We want the sales teams to be out face-to-face with clients rather than spending time to get people on the phone,” Dreher said. Teleprospecting is becoming a an important direct marketing component because it's outbound and can include subtle offers—like an invitation to a webinar or a white paper—to exploit awareness initiated by branding, direct mail or email. “The trend is away from highly scripted calls,” said Jason Hekl, research director-demand creation strategies at sales and marketing consultancy SiriusDecisions. “Although they have their place, those are telemarketing activities involving lower-value activities, such as driving prospects to an event.” Teleprospecting, by contrast, is “to sell the value of the next step,” he said, and is most useful when a company's products or services are complex. “These companies are selling to a small universe,” Hekl said. “This is small-net fishing with account intelligence, using teleprospecting combined with field marketing and direct sales. It is highly personalized.” Telecommunications company Polycom Inc., a SiriusDecisions client, uses teleprospecting to improve sales productivity and pipeline development. According to Elaine Chan, Polycom director-market development, the overall goal is to “accelerate the right pipeline at the right time.” “The team is trained to expand calls into consultative conversations that allow customers to self-discover needs they may not have been aware of,” Chan said. “The data that drives pipeline and marketing intelligence originates from the teleprospecting function.” This spring, SiriusDecisions revamped its Demand Waterfall, a benchmarking model for gauging companies' prospecting, nurturing and conversion processes. The original SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall, developed six years ago, provided a statistical analysis of lead qualification as prospects move through the sales funnel, from initial inquiries, to marketing qualified leads, sales-accepted and qualified leads, and eventually closed business. The new model adds recognition of other influences on demand, and puts teleprospecting squarely in the center of enabling this process. Sudden Impact Marketing is a Columbus, Ohio, agency specializing in technology marketing. Among its key services is teleprospecting, serving Logicalis along with such other major tech companies as Cisco Systems and Emerson Electric Co. “Phone calling has kind of a bad rap out there, but it's an extension of marketing and sales when used correctly,” said Craig Conard, president of Sudden Impact. Conard said he assigns his teleprospecting team members to particular campaigns, supported by in-depth training and materials to make sure they understand program goals and are able to respond with appropriate next-step offers or—ideally—arrange a face-to-face meeting with sales. For Logicalis, the Sudden Impact teleprospecting team may reach out to current customers about up- and cross-selling opportunities. Web analytics information also provides some insight about people doing basic research. A subtle follow-up phone call may include the offer of additional information to help gauge interest. “Salespeople are under such pressure to make their numbers that they'll only put in effort against things they think they have a chance to close,” Conard said. “Very few sales people will keep checking back. If there is any gray in a prospect possibility, sales won't give it much time and attention. “Our charter, [however], develops opportunities,” he said. “If a prospect isn't at a stage in the cycle where it's worth the time of the sales rep to have a conversation, then he goes into a nurturing queue.”
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