We’ve all experienced it… you sit down to dinner and the phone rings. Begrudgingly, you answer, only to be greeted by a pushy sales person droning on about how much you need that new subscription to Underwater Basket Weaving magazine.
At the office, the mere mention of the word telemarketing can trigger a series of dirty looks and muffled four-letter words. We’ve developed a true disdain for telemarketers. So why are they still calling?
And is telemarketing an effective IT company sales strategy? It may surprise you to learn that despite its bad rep, when done thoughtfully and respectfully, telemarketing is still an effective marketing and sales strategy for IT companies.
The key is to approach telemarketing the right way. Cold calling without a proper strategy is both time consuming and costly, and it yields little to no results. When executed strategically, however, an IT company can successfully include telemarketing as part of a larger marketing strategy.
10 Components of an Effective IT Telemarketing Strategy
- Quality Over Quantity: Begin with a clean prospect list. Without this, the rest of your campaign will fall flat. A handful of quality prospects are always better than hundreds of unqualified leads, so be sure that the list you’re using is up-to-date, and above all else, make sure it’s targeted to your audience.
- Processes and Goals: Before picking up the phone, be sure to have a comprehensive plan in place so you understand precisely what you want to accomplish during each interaction with a prospect. Define your step-by-step sales process with a customized lead generation strategy.
- Choose Your Words: Successful telemarketing campaigns must have a strong call guide. Now, that doesn’t mean reading line by line in a monotone voice. Rather, a call guide is designed to keep you on point, to deliver your message clearly and succinctly. Call guides will vary depending on the prospect. Above all else, you want to show your prospect how your product or service solves a very real problem they face.
- Establish a Connection: Prior to making the call, warm them up with an initial executive door opener, a direct mailer, or a digital marketing content campaign. This helps to qualify a lead and generate interest so you will have something to discuss when you call.
- Pre-Qualify Leads: This is perhaps the single most important step in the process. Unfortunately, it’s where many IT companies trip up by attempting to contact a prospect out of the blue without first qualifying them as a lead. Telemarketing should begin after initial interest is captured from a prospect. Publishing your content on appropriate IT industry websites, such as IT World Canada, Spiceworks, or Tech Target, is a good way to generate a pool of candidates that might be open to receive a phone call.
- Nurture Leads: Picture this scenario - your telemarketing vendor has done their job by effectively convincing a prospect there is value in receiving an exploratory call or informational email from your sales rep. Sadly, quite often, this is where the process breaks down. The failure to connect the dots between the initial conversation that took place and expectations for next steps is a common occurrence. Before you pick up the phone to make that first call, it’s important to clearly review call notes and define a follow-up plan. Strategize how you’ll build trust and nurture leads over time. Telemarketing is as much about listening as it is about talking, so use the information prospects give you to adjust your strategy. After all, no two prospects are alike.
- Set Realistic Expectations: You’re not going to close a deal on the first call, especially in the IT world. It’s a fact. Embrace it, and don’t be discouraged. It’s part of the process, so stick with it. Telemarketing takes persistence and endurance – you’re selling large-ticket items after all, which means you will need to contact the prospect numerous times in order to build a rapport and gently guide them through each step of the sales funnel. Signing off on a six-figure deal requires time to perform due diligence, talk with key stakeholders and ultimately gain approval from decision makers.
- Be Persistent, Not Pushy: No one wants to be harassed on a daily basis by a telemarketer—or anyone else for that matter. So how many calls are too many? If only there was a magic one size fits all answer. The truth of the matter is that it depends on the company and the individual. For example:
- Low call volume: 4 or less
- Medium call volume: 5 to 8 calls
- High call volume: 8 or more calls
Try to keep in mind that IT decision makers are brutally overtaxed and inundated with calls and emails, so it can be challenging to get their attention. Be persistent, but don’t be pushy. Above all else, don’t get discouraged and don’t misinterpret their lack of enthusiasm as, well, lack of enthusiasm.
When you reconnect, quickly remind them of your previous discussion. It might take you a few minutes to help them recall it from their busy schedule, but it will give you a baseline to move your conversation forward.
- Be Prepared to Change Direction on the Fly: Things change. Plans change. IT plans tend to be fluid, and a lot can change in the time between this call and the last, but a good sales person will be prepared to switch gears on the fly. Remember that every call is an opportunity to gather new information, address pain points and sell your solutions.
- Get Specific: Sure, generic statements like “be more efficient” or “spend less” or “increase conversions” are OK, but they’re not going to sell your IT solutions. These are busy people who are answering to even busier people. That means you must show clear value in order to win them over. Demonstrate relative examples and detailed specifics about how your solution will solve their problem (beyond the simple fact that it does).
Think Relationships, Not Sales
You know better than anyone that IT sales do not happen in a single transaction, and deals most certainly don’t close during a one-off telemarketing cold call. But that doesn’t mean telemarketing is off the table for your IT company.
Closing IT deals take time—time to build and nurture a relationship with your prospect. When you approach each interaction with your lead as an opportunity to move the relationship forward, rather than a chance to close the deal, you discover the power of telemarketing as part of an effective sales strategy.