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"Even with business-to-business calls, we've all become conditioned to think of telemarketing as harassment," says sales consultant and author Herb Fox. But Fox argues that selling by phone can still be profitable, if the campaign is carefully crafted to reach the right prospects with the right message. Fox recently outlined a few useful techniques for fine-tuning a telesales effort:

* Pitch old customers first: "I see a lot of people ignoring their installed base," Fox says, "but up to 90% of products in the first phase of a campaign are sold to existing customers--people who had experience with the earlier version and may be looking for exactly the features you've added." Calling these people with an "introductory offer" actually builds good will, he adds. "They might even feel neglected if they have to read about your new product in a magazine story."

* Screen leads carefully: "In direct mail, the quality of the mailing list accounts for 60% to 70% of the response rate, and the same is true in a telephone campaign," Fox says. "I've seen campaigns fail because the people on the phones were buried in low-quality leads."

One especially good telesales screening question, says Fox, is whether the prospect actually has the authority to buy or evaluate the product.

* Avoid cold calls: "Outbound telemarketing as a demand creation device is pretty ineffective these days," Fox concedes. But response rates go up dramatically once the prospect has been exposed to earlier sales messages through ads, mailers, trade shows, and Web site visits. "Once they know something about you, most people are willing to talk."

* Identify the buyer's hot buttons: Unlike other sales techniques, a phone conversation is--potentially--an interactive experience. So the telesales script (or ideally the lead generation process) should start with questions that help pinpoint the customer's specific needs. You're talking to someone who's asking, 'What's in this for me and why should I talk to you?' and you better come up with a quick answer."

* Create a compelling offer: Don't just offer to send information, says Fox--offer something that "builds commitment and makes them want to talk to you." Free consulting, white papers, and seminar invitations are especially good inducements for reaching high-level decision makers, he notes.

* Build a lead tracking system: Leads vary tremendously in value and urgency, so it's important to classify each prospect and follow up appropriately, says Fox. "One client built a matrix based on two factors--the value of the lead itself, ranging from 'ready to buy' to 'tire kickers,' and where each prospect was in the sales process.

An A-1 lead got an immediate call to close the sale, while a D-3 just got put on the mailing list."

Herb Fox, president, MultiTrack Sales and Marketing, 125 Park St., Brookline, Mass. 02446; 617/232-7780. E-mail:
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Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Industry Trend or Event
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 31, 1998

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