Top 10 Mistakes To Avoid To Improve Your ROI On Telemarketing Campaigns

Published: April 13, 2009

1. Using the telephone as a spray and pray device.
Yes, the telephone can be a great tool to reach many people, but it only adds value when used effectively. Often times, companies use telemarketing as a mass marketing medium and make “one size fits all” calls to large lists of people. Instead, the ideal approach is to differentiate your call from the masses and ensure every call has a purpose and is part of a systematic sales process when being made. 

2. Working with bad lists.
Too many wrong numbers, outdated contact info or poor quality leads are just some of the indicators your list is bad. This is especially common when list purchase decisions are made based on price per name, very simple demographics info, the speed in which it’s needed, etc.  Instead, it is much more effective to approach list selection as a critical component of your lead development effort. Invest the time to find higher quality lists, such as those that are targeted around event or organization affiliations. After all, the better the quality of the list you start with, the more likely it is you can uncover qualified opportunities for your company.  The ideal sanity check: do your existing customers show up on lists you acquire?

3. Not assuming lists will be bad.
In an ideal world we would always strive to tee-up lists for reps that are inclusive only of contacts that are not only still employed, but also the right contact – but it’s simply not reality.  Expect and plan for the worst.  We are seeing invalid rates (‘no longer with company’ being the primary contributor) steadily increase as the workforce turnover and consolidation of roles increases.  In addition, we’ve always found that lists, to be good, need simply to be directionally accurate in that we are within a degree of separation from the ‘ideal contact’.  Referral and replacement contacts are entering our queues at a rate of 12-14%, roughly double 6 months ago.  From those, we are seeing results 3-4 times what is seen from contacts supplied on lists. 

4. Measuring the wrong metrics.
Common telemarketing metrics, such as “number of dials per day” or “talk time minutes” were derived from B2C boiler room practices. For companies that focus on those type numbers, the results speak for themselves: conversations that go nowhere, low ROI, and high call rep turnover. Instead, companies should focus on quality oriented metrics like measuring average conversation length and depth, how many phone calls resulted in speaking with real decision makers, how many conversations resulted in moving a prospect to the next step in the sales pipeline, like scheduling a demo or a meeting, and advancing measurements.

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5. Measuring the effectiveness of the postal service.
Often times, a telemarketing script will include, “I’m just following up to make sure you got our mailing?” Now why would that be compelling to the already busy person on the other end of the line and how is that going to help you?  Most likely, they aren’t going to remember your mailing, and all you’re really doing is measuring the effectiveness of the postal service. Instead, when you call, your purpose shouldn’t be “to confirm receipt,” it should be a more succinct and compelling message geared to the recipient.

6. Not doing homework before making calls.
I can’t stress this enough, but if you’re calling B2B decision makers, you have to be prepared. Instead of a telemarketer doing a zombie like recital of a canned call script, you must research the industry and the company to know your target’s pain points and speak their language.  Additionally, tailoring the messaging to the pains of a specific goal will help ensure early traction in the dialog. If you want to increase marketing ROI, you simply cannot begin a call by mispronouncing the person’s name and then barge right into a sales pitch. Instead, you need to have a strategy in place to compel the prospect to have a dialog with you and quickly establish a rapport with them.

7. Trying to sell on the first call.
If you’re selling complex, high-end products with long sales cycles, it is a complete waste of time to try and sell someone on the first call. So don’t even try to say “Hey I have this great widget, it is only X Million and how many do you want?” This type of polling approach will net dismal results – especially in this economy.  If it wouldn’t work with you, don’t do it.  Instead, it would be much more effective to have the objective be around starting a longer term relationship with the individual. An example: “Good morning Mr. CTO. I just read an article about your (initiative) in the and believe we may have a good fit between your initiative and our (product or service). Did I catch you at a bad time?”

8. Focusing on appointment setting with unqualified prospects.
Given the current economy, I’ve seen a big emphasis on “setting as many appointments as possible” for sales professionals. The challenge becomes wasting the salesperson’s time as often the person they meet with wasn’t truly qualified, or when the salesperson shows up the individual has no idea of the purpose of the visit. Instead, it is much wiser to focus telemarketing efforts on uncovering qualified and sales-ready opportunities.

9. Sending materials that weren’t requested or not sending them at all.
Sometimes people send materials that weren’t requested in the initial dialogue in order to “push” a sale. Don’t do it. People won’t respect that behavior and most likely won’t read it.  Also, don’t assume prospects are asking for information just to get you off the phone, and hence you don’t send anything. Instead, send promised fulfillment within 24 hours with a note on the outside envelope or email subject line: “The material we discussed is inside [or attached].” People often ask for information to be sent because they want to look it over at their convenience, and giving them this information promptly is a good first step towards building a relationship with them.  Treat it as homework by agreeing to a time in advance to hear their reaction of what they will review.

10. Not having a systematic sales approach that moves prospects through the buying cycle.
In B2B lead development, each conversation has to build on prior conversations in order to move a prospect along the sales cycle. Moving telemarketing call reps from one account to another or failing to keep track of conversations in a CRM system all lead to poor conversations. Instead, you should ensure all communications are documented so a sales rep can review the history of an account before reaching out to them again.


Mike Wallen is CEO of The Lead Dogs, a lead development and sales outsourcing company working with today’s top business to business sales and marketing professionals to drive revenue by finding, developing and closing complex B2B sales deals.  He can be reached at 512.990.2000.

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