To do Tele or not to do Tele – That is the question…

Over the last couple of months, I have been asked by a number of partners if I think Telesales is a worthwhile marketing activity. Straight forward question, which requires a complex answer. I have some strong opinions and some proof points, but I would love to hear your experiences and best practices.

First, let me say, the opinions and examples in this blog is from my personal perspective and should not be seen as gospel. Every organization should determine their strategy and mix of tactics based on their customer’s requirements.

In The Microsoft Marketing Transformation – A video, we talk about controlled tests that were performed to inform our new marketing strategy. One of those tests, was to determine the viability of an outbound call centre in the Small Business segment.

We tested three different tele approaches: (1) An offshore call centre (Average efficiency, low cost); (2) Onshore (High efficiency, high cost); (3) Partner owned and operated call centre. The aim of the test was to understand if the level of the call centre had any impact on the result and to create some kind of benchmark. The database was similar for each of the call centres: Companies indicated with a high propensity to buy.

The net result was the same across all call centres. We converted approximately 5% of all successful calls to qualified opportunities. The challenges across the call centres were identified to be unique to each of them, but that did not change the outcome.

My conclusion was that tele, in Small Business at least, is really just an exercise of uncovering the 5% of the population who have that specific need at that point in time.

This left us with the decision of ROI justification in Small Business and I quickly realised that the numbers did not add up. We discontinued outbound call centres in FY15 in favour of an inbound approach. Making qualified support and sales staff available during office and extended hours to engage customers when they are ready to have the conversation with us.

Does this mean that there is no place for outbound tele?

Again – not a simple answer. It really depends on the segment, the supporting marketing activities and the intelligence applied.

Currently we are exploring outbound tele sales for customers in the 50 – 500 seat segment. We still experience relatively low success rate, but at least the deal size is significantly higher and can justify the expense. I would still have been hesitant to follow this as a tactic though, if it had not been for the great advances seen in the intelligence that we are able to provide tele agents prior to the call.

Microsoft is currently piloting a social selling tool that provides agents with deep knowledge to an organisations behavior, current technology footprint and social signals. There are number of data analytics tools in the market that can assist with “Smart selling” information. In a limited pilot we are currently seeing results as high as a 12% conversion.

This approach is also supported by Dimension Data’s latest report on Global Contact Centre benchmarking where 71.5% of respondents said that analytics improve agent performance. In fact, data analytics was considered to be the top trend to change contact centres in the next five years.

Organisations appreciate this and have voted analytics as the top trend that will change the industry in the coming five years

Fact is that tele is not a cheap and nasty way to generate leads. Tele has some fundamental requirements to make it successful:

  • It has to be part of an end to end sales and marketing strategy
  • The use of data analysis to provide priority and context to the agents
  • A strong tele sales team appropriate to the segment
  • A strong database with the appropriate individuals profiled and contactable
  • A good script, tested for usability
  • A strong call to action, with a weaker secondary call to action as a back-up
  • Day to day management and involvement from the business
  • Measure, measure and measure. The only way to run a call centre is by the numbers.

This was not a straight forward answer, but maybe some thought starters. What do you think? Contact us on Yammer to share your experiences.