By Henry Braithwaite, Operations Director, MarketMakers

Telemarketing, when done well, can be a remarkably effective tool for B2B companies. To give just some examples, when Deloitte needed more entrants to its 2013 UK Fast 50 awards it was telemarketing that found them. When ProtoCall One needed to increase its sales pipeline it was telemarketing that added leads worth more than £1,000,000 into that pipeline. And when BBC Studios wanted to take its post-production facilities to a commercial market it was telemarketing that did the job.

Yet,B2B telemarketing has always been difficult and in recent years has become even more so. The rise of new digital techniques that marketers can target almost to an individual level, combined with an increased reluctance on the part of business buyers to engage on the telephone, means that B2B telemarketing can no longer get away with being mediocre.

Here are seven steps to being more than just “good enough” and to replicating the telemarketing success of organisations like ProtoCall One, Deloitte, and BBC Studios.

1) Understand your market
BBC Studios provides post-production services including film and video restoration and remastering and digitisation of content. As a division of the BBC that receives no funding from the license fee, it needed a marketing campaign that would not only raising awareness of the benefits of film restoration and digitisation to potential commercial customers, but also position BBC Studios as the go-to provider of those services.

Before picking up the phone to any potential clients it invested significant resource into profiling those prospects. Through extensive industry investigation and research into each target company it identified firstly the specific decision-makers and influencers and secondly the actual film or footage held by that company, how it stored it and what it planned to use it for. This ensured that when calls were made they were to the right people and were fully informed.

2) Gain insight to hit the spot
Equally, Banking Automation looked very closely at which messages would resonate with its prospects. Its products offer a range of benefits, but research indicated that buyers in local authorities responded most enthusiastically to two messages: the products save money compared to traditional transaction facilities such as cashiers in council offices, and they give citizens more convenient ways to pay their council tax and rent. Those were the messages MoneyCorp focused on to such good effect in its telemarketing campaign.

3) Prioritise
Even with carefully targeted B2B telemarketing campaigns there can be a large prospect universe. Thought should be given to how you prioritise those leads. Beginning at ‘A’ is rarely the smartest strategy. Often a better approach is to send an initial email to prospects, and then prioritise those who respond to it. The email also provides a reason for the call, and a starting-point for a conversation.

4) Invest in your agents
Those conversations are difficult. They are the crux of any telemarketing campaign, and it is the point at which most telemarketing campaigns fail, particularly in B2B marketing where decision-makers are too busy to talk on the phone let alone commit to meet a potential supplier, and where the subject matter is often complex and technical.

It is very difficult to find individuals with the right mix of subject expertise, interpersonal skills, and sales acumen to engage the prospect in conversation and arrange a high quality appointment. But it must be done.

It can only be achieved through a significant investment of time and money in recruitment, training and retention policies, and so it is perhaps understandable that many companies choose to outsource it to telemarketing specialists.

5) Record calls
It sounds very ‘Big Brother’ but recording calls offers several important benefits. The most obvious is that you can listen to an individual agent’s recordings and so provide training and coaching that is tailored precisely to what they are saying on the phone, not what they think, in a classroom setting, they are saying.

The second is less obvious. When a meeting is set up, if the salesperson attending the meeting has an MP3 file of the entire telephone history up to that point it allows them to prepare properly for the meeting. They have a feel for the prospect’s areas and levels of interest, their conversational style, and so on.

6) Nurture carefully
B2B purchases tend to involve a complicated sales process, involving multiple decision-makers and typically taking as long as a year to convert from initial meeting to confirmed sale. So ensure your team carefully nurtures leads, tracking contract negotiation periods or tendering processes, and then renewing contact at those vital moments.

7) Adapt and improve
Ensure a constant flow of feedback both from the agents making the calls and the salespeople attending the meetings. This allows for continual refinements and enhancements, so that your team not only sets more sales meetings, but also so that those meetings are of higher quality, lead to more significant wins, and contribute to the sustained success of your business.