Over the past 15 years I have introduced telemarketing as an activity to support sales development in two of the corporate organisations I’ve worked for. In both cases it increased sales meetings with buyers of our services by 100 percent. Telemarketing is a vital tool for entrepreneurs, solo operators and SMEs in the early stages of growing a business. However, it is often overlooked and sometimes frowned upon as an activity that only ambulance chasers would pursue. I agree that there are some very bad telesales people around, you know the one that calls you five times a day to ask if you want to claim a PPI rebate… grrrrr. However, done the right way telemarketing will help you create a healthy stream of sales opportunities and if you don’t have a funnel of prospective clients you don’t have a business.

Example 1
I worked for a coaching organisation that pioneered executive coaching in the UK and worked with 23 percent of the FTSE 100 at main board level plus a host of subsidiary boards as well as Fortune 500 companies. Like most services, coaching is all about creating great relationships you your potential clients. When I first suggested this approach at our weekly sales meeting it went down like a lead balloon, ‘you’re not getting anywhere near my clients’, ‘my clients are far too senior to be contacted in this way’ some of my colleagues would grumble. But there were three coaches who were open to the possibility that this might work. The following week I was able to announce that I had secured 27 sales meetings with buyers of our services in key companies. Hmmmm….well that sort of changed the mind of everyone around the table. So guess what happened next? The coaches opened up their black books and allowed me and my team to help them get those desired sales meetings. Within six months we secured an additional 100 sales meetings. Happy coaches with a full pipeline of potential business.

Example 2
On joining a leading global actuarial consultancy I explained about my previous telemarketing success. As with the coaches the quality of the relationships played an important role in securing business for the actuaries. Although they were impressed with the statistics it took three years to get this into action. It was only when the sales support manager moved on to pastures new and I offered to oversee things until they found a replacement that I was able to implement the system. Within six months we had secured just under 100 sales meetings with Chief Actuaries.

So how does it work? The process is really simple but first you have to decide if you are going to do the telemarketing yourself or pay a freelancer to do it. Since starting up my own business I have worked with a number of solopreneurs who prefer to employ someone to carry out the telephoning on their behalf, others enlist the help of their virtual assistant.  If you decide to go this route the key is to spend time with the person and train them up so that they are knowledgeable about your service/product. In addition to the features of your offering remember to explain to them your brand promise and your key messages. If you decided to do the telemarketing yourself don’t get offended or upset if someone is not interested, just move onto the next call.

  1. Identify the people you want to meet with and send either a letter or an email.
  2. Make sure the content of your communication has a hook, just introducing yourself as a great supplier will not get you the meeting. You need to grab their attention and the best way to do this is to hook onto their pain. For example, is something happening in their industry? Is a piece of regulation coming in? What statistics can you share that might make them sit up and take notice?
  3. Your communication should ideally be on one sheet of A4 or one screen – this is just a guide but it helps you stick to the point.
  4. After two or three days of sending your communication follow up with a call
  5. The key here is that once you have introduced yourself and made reference to your communication you need to ask the client if they would like to take a meeting.  You need to do this in a polite and respectful way.
  6. Don’t be put off if you are told they are not interested, they are not the right person or they haven’t received the communication – just check the details and resend it or ask them who the right person is to send your note to.
  7. Persistency is key – statistics show that it takes 14 calls to get a meeting. On one occasion it took me 14 calls over a period of 6 months to get a meeting but it was with a large oil company and was worth it.  In my experience, whether or not you get a yes or no immediately you will probably have to call about 7 times but eventually you will get a meeting. Those who give up don’t get the meeting and don’t get the business.

Telemarketing is a skill and it’s not hard to learn but some people shy away from it. Of course the more you practice the better you become but ultimately it’s about having a conversation – now how easy is that?!

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