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Making Prospecting Calls Count.

Telemarketing to businesses is a valuable tool for customer relationship management for an independent agent with the right list in today's hard market conditions Larry Neilson, chief executive officer of Program, said during a presentation at the annual conference of the Insurance Marketing Communications Association this summer.

Despite public relations and regulatory issues, the telemarketing industry is growing by 7% per year, returns $7.15 on every dollar invested by users, provides more than 8 million jobs in the United States and results in 33% of Americans purchasing products over the phone.

Before starting telemarketing, list quality is key, Neilson said. "On a scale of one to 10, the list weighs in at a nine. Taking the time to pre-screen and research will come back to you 10-fold. When purchasing a list, it is important to buy your list from someone who specializes in lists. Don't always look for the cheapest list."

In addition to obtaining a good list, there are several rules of telemarketing that agents need to know. These include knowing the state telemarketing laws, knowing that you have to make a firm offer of insurance and letting potential clients know that they are preselected. Neilson strongly recommends buying a book of state telemarketing laws. Creditscored lists are required to make a firm offer of insurance, and there is specific language required for offers. Your list information also should contain "do not call" information as well. Neilson noted that some states levy a $2,000 fine per occurrence for calling someone on a "do not call" list.

Since lists become outdated quickly, it is important to use it as quickly as possible after you buy it. If a list is more than 90 days old, agents need to buy an updated list. Furthermore, "If you are going to build a database, you have to have the means to maintain it," Neilson said. "For example, e-mail addresses quickly get outdated as business upgrades from dial up to more robust connections."

There are many common misconceptions in the telemarketing industry. Tele marketing is much more than a call center; computer-assisted dialing, or telephony, is widely available to agents, said Neilson. But since independent agents prefer to build relationships with customers, he frowns on "predictive dialing," where the system calls several prospects at once to improve workflow but often results in a delay after the customer picks up the phone.

Many commercial-lines prospects may not be interested in an offer at any given time, but they should be called back later, Neilson said. That's because telemarketing to business results in a consistent set of four response groups: With the exception of large cities, out of 1,000 names called, 30% provide policy expiration dates; 30% won't be interested at that point; 25% are unreachable; and 15% say no. Calling the "not interested now" or "unreachables" 30 days later would result in similar hit ratios as if you were starting with a new group of names.

Neilson also noted that contrary to popular belief, "preapproach mail" prior to an outbound telemarketing phone call to a business prospect does not affect the hit ratios.

"Consumers continuously are bombarded with advertisements, and it is extremely important for any business to keep its name out in front of prospects," he said. "Agents need to be there when the consumer is ready to buy. I hear agents say, "We deal with people one-on-one with customer relationship management.' That's fine, but there are people either buying by relationship or by price. It's good to have strategies to appeal to both."
COPYRIGHT 2001 A.M. Best Company, Inc.
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:telemarketing
Publication:Best's Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2001
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