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callMany of our clients tried hiring a telemarketer before they came to work with us at Managed Sales Pros. Often, when I ask them why they let go of their in-house caller, the response is, “Well, they worked with us for six months, and we didn’t get anything.”

If companies have attempted to do this several times unsuccessfully, the issue is easy to identify. They aren’t being patient enough. After all, the managed services sales cycle is longer than you think it is.  

Don’t get scared off by initial numbers

Let’s look at a bucket of potential prospects on a cold list. Say a nice round number: 100.

First of all, 30 percent of the contacts will be bad—wrong company, wrong number, company out of business, or wrong target. So that’s 30 dials gone. (That’s three hours of work just to find out which companies don’t have working phone numbers.) Now add on a few hours of maintenance to update your data.

The remaining 70 contacts should look something like this:

  • 20 go to a generic voicemail system with no live answer option
  • 34 will go to voicemail for the contact you’re attempting to reach
  • 10 will get blocked by a gatekeeper like a receptionist or assistant
  • 2 will reach a decision maker, and they won’t be interested
  • 2 will reach a decision maker, and they’ll ask for more information
  • 2 will reach a decision maker, and you’ll be asked to call another time

This represents about another 10 hours of calling if you’re taking accurate notes, sending emails as asked, and leaving voicemails. So your rep is now almost two full days into their week with zero meetings.

Repeat this another two rotations, and that’s a full week for your telemarketer. Only about one in every 1,000 dials turns into a viable appointment. And short term, if your process is broken or your expectations are unrealistic, this is very discouraging for both the company and the caller.

Follow-up activities pay off

The good news? After about eight weeks of this pattern, a new pattern emerges. If you think of your sales pipeline like an hourglass instead of a funnel, you’ll have a better snapshot of what your caller is doing. Slowly all of your net new dials are replaced by follow-up activities that are triggered by first and subsequent interactions with the prospect. As the follow-up activities replace net new dials, your conversion rates change. Around week eight, the activity level starts to look like this with 100 dials:

  • 20 – Decision maker not available, left message with admin
  • 20 – Decision maker voicemail
  • 5 – Gatekeeper block
  • 5 – Decision maker not interested
  • 2 – Interested, follow-up activity scheduled
  • 2 – Interested, meeting scheduled
  • 20 – Champion – email request
  • 20 – Champion – follow-up activity scheduled
  • 6 – Remove from list, no further action required

You can see that the pipeline changes significantly as you lay your foundation for success.

How to measure cold calling the right way

Of course, we’re eight weeks in here with no real opportunities. This could keep up for months. So how do you measure success before those deals hit?

  1. Is your caller collecting all the important data points? Can you build an accurate pipeline with the data they’re providing? If your caller is identifying contract end dates, competitor names, pricing, and the qualifying points you need to consider a lead qualified, they’re doing a good job. Create KPIs around data collection. Long term this data will win business. Create user-defined fields, and have your system report on them. Build your marketing around the data points.
  2. Are your call counts where they should be? Remember, good days equal fewer calls. If you’ve got your caller collecting data, they need to spend time collecting and entering data. If they’re doing their job, their call counts will naturally be lower. Worry when your call counts go up. Twenty dials an hour isn’t a good day; it’s a frustrating day.
  3. Do you see patterns? Once you have a baseline, start looking for patterns. If call counts change unexpectedly, it’s time to dig in. For example, if you normally see 100 calls a day with a large variety of call dispositions and you’re now seeing 150 dials a day with one or two dispositions out of proportion to your usual metrics, something is up. Drill down into the data to see what’s going on. Likewise, if the counts go down drastically, pay attention to time in between dials. Is your caller doing a disproportionate amount of after-call work or between-call research? (We fixed that with an egg timer.) Know your program. If your call counts are low, your data points are low, and your meeting counts are low, then your caller isn’t working efficiently.
  4. Are your parameters appropriate? If you set your qualifying parameters too tight, you’ll never get a meeting. If you set them too loose, you’ll end up with garbage meetings.

It takes about 18 months for the ROI of outbound sales prospecting to present. At the 18-month mark, provided you’re doing the work, you’ll see your revenue climb aggressively and steadily. The only way to realize that ROI is to be patient and consistent.

Firing a rep every three months won’t ever bring you closer to that telemarketing ROI, so make sure you’re hiring the right rep and keep your expectations in check. If they’re making the calls and doing the work, the deals will come. A superstar rep will make a big difference, but even a “just okay” rep will keep your pipeline full. Consistency is the key to long-term prospecting success.

Photo Credit: Alan Clark via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons 2.0 license. 

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Carrie Simpson

Posted by Carrie Simpson

Carrie Simpson is the founder of Managed Sales Pros, a lead generation firm dedicated to providing new business opportunities for MSPs. Carrie teaches IT firms how to build, manage, and grow their sales pipelines. You can follow Carrie on Twitter @sales_pros and connect with her on LinkedIn. 

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