There are many companies that successfully run their telemarketing campaigns in-house, and on the surface this may seem like a very cost-effective option that uses spare capacity. You might think that anyone who can communicate on the phone is capable of working as a telemarketer. And certainly someone from your company should be better able to represent you than someone from an external organisation. However, as with most things, it’s not quite that simple….
- Technical skills
The ability to hold a conversation on the phone does not make a qualified, competent telemarketer or telesales professional. It takes a certain set of skills and a natural aptitude to maintain a high volume of calls to the standard required to achieve good quality results, especially in B2B lead generation. An agency will go to great lengths to recruit the right people and provide the client with a pool of call agents depending on the requirements of each campaign – including multilingual agents for overseas campaigns.
Some skills can be learned, but others are inherent in a person’s personality, including self-confidence and the tenacity to stay focused and maintain performance despite repeated rejection. There is nothing easy or attractive about cold calling, and even hardened salespeople shy away from it, especially those used to warm, qualified leads. The strong persuasion skills required for sales are very different attributes to those needed for a research assignment or survey, and sales agencies recruit and tailor the skills of their staff accordingly.
Here at proceeds, our people go through training to the best quality standards to equip them with basic skills – solution selling, relationship building, listening skills – in line with their areas of expertise. This is then complemented by campaign-specific training on the client’s brand and offering, competitive landscape, product benefits and client pain points.
With this level of training, agency staff have tools at their disposal that are not available to the average person in a typical office environment.
- Proactive client management
Telemarketing, while a catch-all term, encompasses many different activities such as lead generation, appointment setting, telesales, inbound call handling and, in some cases, pre- and post-sales telephone market research. An experienced account manager with a broad and deep knowledge of these areas will apply best practices from previous campaigns while working to understand what needs to be done differently, as no two campaigns are identical.
An agency will:
Assign agents with the right skills and experience for your campaign profile.
Work on a detailed brief that captures your proposition, USPs, key messages and desired outcomes, using a framework such as BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing) to understand the key criteria.
Conduct an early review of the campaign to capture feedback from customers and agents to implement obstacles and issues not included in the brief.
Listen to call recordings to understand which agents and approaches are most effective so that best practices can be shared across the team.
Identify the data and approaches that resonate more than others so that resources can be targeted where they will bring the most benefit.
Establish a continuous feedback loop using reporting tools to optimise campaign performance.
- Structured, systematic approach.
An account manager within an agency also has the advantage of a customised calling platform that gives them detailed insight into campaign performance:
The calling platform increases the fluidity of calls and allows agents to track the pipeline, capture notes and feedback. Productivity levels are naturally higher in this environment (15-20 calls per hour) than in-house, where the agent may struggle with a standard CRM or call from a list in Excel and update it manually.
Reports and metrics
This type of platform also offers a wealth of reports and metrics that give the account manager a better overview and allow them to optimise campaign performance at both the agent and campaign level.
The platform and the reporting it supports facilitate data management – a natural cornerstone of any successful call campaign. It highlights where data quality is poor and the data pots that feed the pipeline and results. Rather than spend data on quick wins, agents can nurture the pipeline, schedule callbacks, send literature for follow-up and develop both short- and long-term opportunities.
Call records provide another layer of visibility and transparency and are the perfect tool for monitoring ongoing performance. They give clients a clear insight into how their offer is being presented and received, and allow them to provide feedback to optimise results.
This structured approach combined with customised platforms and systems provide a much better foundation for success than a typical office infrastructure.
- Resource management
Agency sales agents are in a results-driven, competitive environment where everyone is 100% focused on the same or similar tasks. It’s harder to stay focused when juggling a mix of reactive and proactive tasks, and easier to get distracted in a less controlled environment. People who make calls in an office environment where no one else is calling can also feel unsafe, especially if they are not trained.
If finances allow, it is possible to replicate a call centre environment in-house, taking the same approach to staff recruitment, training and ongoing coaching, and IT infrastructure. However, even with the investment required, it can be difficult to match the capabilities and flexibility of a sales agency.
A larger pool of agents sharing multiple campaigns allows the agency to shift callers to increase or decrease a campaign as needed to maintain a consistent flow of leads or respond to peaks and troughs in managing incoming leads.
If you are looking to expand overseas, an agency can not only provide multilingual agents but also support out-of-hours calls, which may be less acceptable in a normal office environment.
An agency’s resources can also be deployed at very specific times of the day, depending on the profile of the target audience. Calls to schools, for example, are often more successful in the late afternoon, when you have a better chance of reaching decision-makers. An in-house team may not be as flexible with their time or ability to target calls.
A large team of trained, experienced sales agents offers a broader range of skills and experience to deal with different levels of decision makers, different functions, sectors and types of results. If conversion is achieved in a particular area, the agency’s resources can easily be shifted to where they will deliver the best return without the need for significant training.
Aside from the flexibility of resources, an in-house team requires a lot of management time, not only to ensure campaigns are running effectively, but also to deal with staffing issues – holidays, sickness, staff turnover and training and development. With an outsourced solution, the agency takes care of all these aspects without impacting on internal management’s time and resources.
- Brand reputation
A structured framework that supports a consistent approach gives you control over how your brand is presented. A thorough briefing, close supervision and ongoing monitoring through call recordings and detailed reports will ensure that the message conveyed reflects your brand values and guarantees the correct positioning of your offerings.
An in-house agent may already be familiar with your brand and might be seen as better placed to answer technical or probing questions about products or services, but an agency with good onboarding can present a client’s proposition much more effectively. Sales agents receive very specific training on the offerings they are presenting, with a clear process for escalating questions or scheduling follow-up appointments with sales or internal teams if necessary. They typically take a solution-focused approach, asking open-ended questions and seeking feedback and insight, but with a clear understanding of the scope of their remit.
A controlled, measured approach based on solid, thorough onboarding with a consistent message and continuously monitored for quality and consistency will ensure your brand’s reputation. A less structured and monitored environment and approach can be less effective.
- Return on investment
Whether handled in-house or through an agency, telemarketing can be one of the more expensive marketing channels. However, when done well, it can generate a very strong ROI, especially in the B2B sector where results often have a higher value.
In this respect, a controlled, measurable approach is crucial to ensure the quality of output you need.
Once you have a large team, it is important that they are fully utilised and downtime is minimised to ensure a return on investment, but this can be challenging with fluctuating demands. An agency with a large pool of sales agents servicing multiple clients can shift resources and redeploy staff when requirements change at short notice.
Many companies have built very successful in-house telemarketing teams over time that produce a steady stream of high-quality opportunities for their sales team, but this inevitably brings challenges and low points. Furthermore, it is rarely the easiest or most cost-effective option. Beyond the financial investment, there are many important considerations, including management overhead and time, hidden costs such as call charges, IT infrastructure and, of course, higher staff numbers and costs.
Outsourcing may not make sense for every business, but it does have some benefits. At the top of the list are the productivity levels that can be achieved by dedicated agency teams and the proven campaign management on purpose-built technology platforms. And if you are new to telemarketing or telesales – perhaps trying out a new approach or have a short-term need – an outsourcing option allows you to evaluate different models and approaches, especially “build or buy”, to determine what is right for you and your business.