When it's OK to cold call....
In these days of slashed marketing budgets and bottom line accountability, cold calling is a good media choice when you want to generate quality leads cost effectively. Done correctly, cold-call telemarketing carries its weight in accomplishing all the objectives of "traditional" promotional activities. Yes, cold calling can create awareness for your company and its products, build a corporate image and be an effective customer service vehicle.
You'll improve your overall success when you add cold calling among the ads, direct mail, wade shows and editorial tours in your promotional plan. Here's how to incorporate it into your media mix - either as a stand-alone or an integrated activity.
COLD CALLING AS A STAND-ALONE ACTIVITY
There are three basic phases in creating an effective, stand-alone cold-call telemarketing campaign.
STEP ONE: Obtain a well-targeted list.
Turn to one of your key industry trade magazines or look to a reliable list provider for ideas. Use sort criteria based upon key customer profiles - title, company size, SIC code (4- or 8-digit), annual revenue, etc.
STEP TWO: It's time to get the database ready and begin teleprospecting.
Merge this list with your prospect/customer database to remove those whom you've already contacted. Develop an offer, a call approach and a qualification script to introduce your products. During the call, you not only will market your company but qualify the prospect by capturing key requirements, application and budget information. Be sure your sales force defines the attributes which signify a "qualified" prospect.
STEP THREE: involves lead fulfillment and cultivation.
Identify a good introductory literature kit to send to "hot" prospects (ready to buy in the next three months and have the money to purchase) and "warm" prospects (those who are willing to learn more). Send only enough information to satisfy their respective interest levels. Immediately send all hot prospects to the sales force for follow-up.
Keep warm prospects for systematic "call back" activity after they have had a chance to review your product information. When you call back, find out if these prospects are interested in learning more or if they are ready for a sales call.
COLD CALLING AS AN INTEGRATED ACTIVITY
An integrated approach means ming cold-call telemarketing in conjunction with other media. Here are three possible scenarios:
1. Mail, then call. Use cold-call lead generation with more traditional promotions to increase your returns and leverage your budget. For example, follow up a direct mail effort with a telemarketing call to increase your return at a low incremental cost (an additional $4 to $6 per contact, including information fulfillment).
2. Test your lists. Call a sample from your potential direct mail lists to determine list quality and correct sort criteria. This may help you to refine or change your select criteria, or choose one list over another.
3. Trade show appointments. Prior to a trade show, cold call the attendee list to find ant more about the participating companies and to set up appointments during the show with contacts from your lochs accounts.
ON THE PHONE: USE A BEST-ODDS APPROACH
Give your cold-call lead generation campaign the best chance of success by following a "best-odds approach." Here's an outline of what steps or elements a successful lead generation cold call should include:
* Introduce yourself.
* Introduce the product (or service) - give a 30-second infomercial on key benefits.
* Offer to send product information.
* Understand the prospect's interest level.
* Ask qualifying questions (see "Qualifying Questions to Ask Your Prospects," at right).
When you piece these elements together into a call guide or script, here's an example of how a best-odds approach might sound:
"Hello, this is Mary, and I am calling on behalf of (company).
I would like to send you information on our (product) which can (product's application and key benefit). Would you like to receive some information on our (product)?
It can solve your (product's application) needs and help you solve (key benefit)?
Would you mind answering a few questions about your company? It will help me understand the best information to send you."
SOME HELPFUL HINTS TO HELP ENSURE SUCCESS
* Obtaining a good quality list is never easy. Matching titles to universal job functions is even more difficult. You will face some trial and error in targeting your list and in finding the right contacts within the organization.
Test the list before you begin cold-call activity: Call a random sample to verify accuracy and list targets. Be persistent. If your work has done nothing else, it will identify key corporate contacts and job titles for future promotions.
* With well-targeted lists, cold calling can fill your sales force pipeline with quality leads in a very short time (three full-time telemarketers can generate 1,250 qualified sales leads in one month).
* Even though it's a cold call, leave a message if you do not speak to the prospect. You'll be surprised at how many return your call. It's worth the extra 10 seconds to leave a short but compelling message.
* Follow key telemarketing rules as you implement this project:
1. Do not remain on hold for more than 60 seconds;
2. Use confident and friendly sales techniques to get past the gatekeepers;
3. Do not make more than three or four attempts to contact a potential prospect; anticipate the objections you will face and develop compelling responses to those objections;
4. Verify all contact and demographic information while you have the prospect on the phone - remember, your lists will not be perfect.
* Capture as much sales and marketing information on the prospect as you can. The data you collect will provide intelligence and insight about your best customer profiles and your markets.
* Position this project as a consultative, interactive communication with your prospects. Try to learn as much from your prospects - their needs, requirements, preferences - as they learn from you. When you follow-up on literature fulfillment, approach the follow-up as a customer service call. Listen to your prospects and be prepared to respond. Remember, relationship marketing is the key differentiator in today's marketplace!
Done right, cold-call lead generation can enhance product exposure and complement traditional promotional methods for a fraction of your budget. You'll prove your value and effectiveness as a marketer who contributes to the bottom line. You'll give the sales force what they need to reach corporate sales objectives. You'll collect marketing intelligence to help determine key business decisions.
Cold-call lead generation deserves a careful look and a rightful position in your integrated marketing communications line-up.
RELATED ARTICLE: TELEMARKETING 5 DO'S
* DO identify yourself and establish an offer (the product literature) right away. If they know that they will receive something form you and that this is not a "sales" call, prospects are more willing to talk.
* DO structure your product introduction around benefits (not your company or products). It is imperative to gain the prospect's interest.
* If you are speaking to the wrong individual, DO state your purpose and politely ask for the appropriate contact. Most people will be helpful.
* If you don't succeed or are stopped by a gate keeper, DO try, try again. Re-calling a company's direct line and asking for a different party/job title/department will pay off.
* If you are unable to contact the prospect, DO leave a message, preferably with a toll-free number. The percentage of responses you will receive from your message will surprise you.
A good practice in telemarketing is to be prepared to handle "objections" with key benefits of your product (or service). Anticipate the negative responses you will receive before you get on the phone and develop key "rebuttals" or benefits of your product with which to respond to the prospect and gain their interest. It is impossible to anticipate every objection, so keep an eye out for new objections and continue to develop benefits or responses with which to counter them.
RELATED ARTICLE: QUALIFYING QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR PROSPECTS
Key qualifying questions in the cold-call lead generation process are:
application(1) (can you match their application needs with the product you are selling);
time frame(2) for purchase (when will they look to purchase the product you are offering);
budget(3)(can they afford the product you are selling); and
decision making authority(4) (identify the key individual you will need to speak with to make the sale).
In addition to capturing information around key sales criteria, the teleprospector also may capture information around the competition(5), may introduce other products for cross-sell and upsell opportunities(6) and may gather marketing data in order to understand a company's key markets(7). Opportunities are great. Most prospects are ready and willing to supply you with this information. The data you capture will be a unique and important company source of marketing and sales intelligence.
Specific examples are annotated below. There is a logical flow to the prospect data capture process. We find that the flow offered in this example works well.
1. How would you classify your company's industry?(7)
2. What product or service does your facility produce?(7)
3. Are you looking for a (product offered) to help you with (product's application)?(1)
4. What are you currently using to handle your (product's application) needs?(1)
5. When will you make a decision on purchasing (product's application) solution?(2)
6. In addition to yourself, is there anyone else who will be instrumental in making this decision?(4)
7. Who else would you consider to help solve (product application) needs?(5)
8. How much have you budgeted for the purchase of (product offered)?(3) or
9. If we can demonstrate a reasonable return on investment, would budget be made available for the purchase of a (product offered)?(3) How much?(3)
10. When would you like a (company) representative to contact you?(2)
11. Are you interested in other (company) products?(6)
12. Who in your organization is responsible for purchases of (list of other products' applications)?(6)
BECKY MEDVED is vice president of operations at Saligent Inc., which provides specialized sales prospect development, lead generation, in formation fulfillment and direct marketing services to business-to-business marketers of complex products and services. based in Colorado Springs, CO, Saligent can be reached at (800) 325-7818; E-mail saligent@saligent. com or on the Web at www.saligent.cam.
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|Title Annotation:||includes related articles on telemarketing tips and questions to ask to prospective customers; telemarketing|
|Date:||Mar 1, 1998|
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