Starting and growing a small business today requires using all the resources available to get your company the visibility you need in the market place, to generate repeat business from your current customers/clients, and to build a constant stream of new prospects who become customers/clients. Yet, when I talk to most owners of small businesses, whether in a retail business or a service provider, most don't use telemarketing as one of those resources, or they say they hate doing it. In fact, many people make a nasty face and treat "telemarketing" as a dirty word! It's unfortunate that so many small business people feel that way because one of the least expensive ways to build your business is through telemarketing. Now I said "least expensive", I didn't say easiest: But, with planning and focus, telemarketing can be an effective component of your marketing and sales efforts. If you dislike the word telemarketing, that's OK. We'll change it to TeleProspecting, TeleSelling, TeleServicing... whatever. I don't care what you call it.., just begin to recognize the telephone as an extremely valuable and economical way to build your business... and USE it!
How can you use it? There are countless applications for Tele......
If you send out direct mail, you should be following up with telemarketing, either to get the sale on the phone, or to make an appointment, or to personally invite the addressee to sign-up, or to...... Don't worry if you can't reach everyone while the mail is still fresh. If they don't remember it or threw it away...offer to fax or resend. Just make SOME follow-up calls to that mailing! ! ! Textbook results report 5-15% additional response if you follow direct mail with a call. I've done it...THEY are right!
If you already have customers or clients, you should be calling them to tell them about new products or services you are introducing, or to tell them about one of your existing products or services they haven't used or bought yet (CrossSell/Upsell), or to tell them about a "special" that you are offering (29 widgets for $11.13 or a 1 hour complementary Needs Assessment), or to simply check on their status and thank them for their prior business.
You should know when your customer/client last purchased from you or used your service, and NEVER let more than 60 days go by without calling to ask how they are doing. Anyone who sells a tangible item should keep track of what their customer buys, any particular reasons why they buy it, and any timing issues or seasonality to their purchases. Then, follow up at the appropriate time with a TeleServicing call. "How are you doin' on those widgets you bought in November. I notice you typically buy them every 3 months, so you are probably running low on them now, how many do you want?" My three favorite clothing boutiques call me EVERY time they get stock in styles, sizes and colors they know I like..and I go in to buy after EVERY call! THAT'S effective TeleServicing!!!
And, of course, once a quarter you should be asking a current customer/client for a referral of someone else in their network who would benefit from your service or could use your product.
EVERY marketing and sales book will tell you that it costs less to keep a customer than to acquire a new customer. Believe them! And pick up the phone and use it to keep those customers buying,... and buying,... and buying and... I can't say cold call Teleprospecting is the most enjoyable thing I've ever done, but with a concentrated effort it DOES work. And you can do it without spending anything up front. It's expensive for a small business owner to buy a list, and to pay for printing of mail pieces and postage. Since we all work on low marketing/advertising budgets, we typically can't afford to take advantage of the price breaks for volume. So instead, buy a targeted list and cold call. You'll send your printed marketing information only to those people who request it after you've qualified them...and THEY have expressed some interest in your product or service. It takes longer...and you'll need a thicker skin to handle more objections, but you WILL get appointments or sales!
Plus, earlier I mentioned the issue of market visibility. Not all of us have the financial resources to spend on print advertising in multiple publications. But, if you dial one hundred times (about 3 hours of work) you'll reach an average of 20 decision makers (the other 80 will be in meetings, not available, refuse your call, phone on voice mail, etc.). Those 20 people will hear what you do...even if some only stay on the line with you for 30 seconds. Only one may make an appointment with you or buy your widget. Another 2-4 may request information (2 to possibly get rid of you but 2 who really want to find out what you have to offer and have to "see it/touch it" to be sold). But the other 17 will also now know who you are and what you do or sell. Do TeleProspecting only 9 hours a week and you'll have 3 sales or appointments for that week, 6-12 CallBacks for the following week and 50 people who know the name of your company. Multiply that by 50 weeks (everyone needs some vacation time). That's 2500 people who heard your 30 second "commercial"...not to mention all those hard earned sales you made or consulting assignments you won!!!
Which brings me to the planning aspect of your telemarketing. You MUST have a written script for every call purpose. Your opening 30 seconds must be direct, informative, stimulating. The specifics of your call objective must be clearly defined in a script so you know exactly what you want to say, where you are going in the call, how you will handle an objection, and what you'll do if you get what you set out to get: qualifying the prospect, selling the widget, sending out follow-up information and scheduling the CallBack, getting the appointment...whatever. Script it. Don't ruin a good effort by sounding unprepared, choppy, and uncomfortable with the process!
Finally, measure it. Telemarketing, Teleprospecting, TeleSelling, or TeleServicing works... but you may have to test some concepts, tweak a script, experiment with a list, or try mail plus phone - phone plus mail - mail plus phone plus mail. So document and track who you called, when, the call result, which script you used, and how many calls it took to get the sale or the appointment. You DON'T have to purchase contact management or telemarketing software yet if you don't have it. Throughout the 70's major multiple seat telemarketing centers conducted highly effective telemarketing using only paper tracking systems! I know...l managed one for 4 years!
So, before you go out and spend your money on software...DO the telemarketing calls. Buy a ream of paper and print some lead sheets. Buy an accordion file with slots for 1-31 to file your CallBacks by date. Pick your telemarketing project - TeleProspecting, TeleServicing, TeleSelling, open the right script...take a deep breath...and dial!
Sam Black has her own Telemarketing and Sales Management firm, Sam.