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Conquering telephobia - A new era in sales

Does the thought of making a telephone call to a prospective new client give your sales people the shakes? Are they paralysed by a possible rejection at the end of the line? Is your sales team failing to make their targets because they do not spend enough time meeting potential clients face-to-face?
Often diagnosed as telephobic, salespeople who avoid using the telephone could have any one of six other call reluctances1: Doomsayer, Hyperpro, Overpreparer, Yielder, Social Self-Consciousness, or Stage Fright. Each one paralyses your sale person's ability to perform and engage in productive conversations with prospects that require one-to-one personal interaction. Ultimately, if they do not get on the phone, they do not get the business. And, as any sales person worth their salt knows, to uncover opportunities that will end in a closed deal takes time, expertise, experience, and consistent effort on the phone.

"This reluctance to speak to strangers means that vital sales leads are wasted every day. In fact, around 69% of sales leads generated in-house by the average organisation receive no follow-up at all. Spending considerable time, energy and money on marketing programmes that generate leads and then ignoring them, is the single most destructive mistake a company can make," said Hamish Haddow2, founder of the Cape Town-based Solus Telemarketing.

UK's Aberdeen Group Senior Analyst, Harry Watkins3 agrees, claiming "as much as 80% of marketing expenditures are wasted on lead generation and sales collateral." He is also concerned "that 40 to 60 hours of a typical salesperson's month is taken up by re-creating, often badly, the sales-ready, customer-relevant collateral" that is generated by their marketing divisions.

A monumental waste of manpower? Certainly. The lost opportunities are especially poignant when up to 70% of the final customer brand image and preference are determined through direct contact with a sales person.

Driving demand and building a solid, predictable sales pipeline should be at the very core of any solution. Driving demand in South Africa's complex selling environment takes more than traditional marketing tactics can offer. Ernie Cronje, from EPAQ Care Solutions was concerned about the loss of potential sales. He looked for, and found, an immediate and efficient solution:

"Not all salespeople have the appropriate skills to cold call effectively," said Cronje. "As a result, we decided to outsource this function – with immediate cost effective results. Our sales force is now conducting meetings at an appropriate, successful level. Each of our sales executives attends two qualified meetings, with new prospects, per day – something rarely achieved in our high-end solutions market. Now, they manage their own time and concentrate on doing the job they were employed to do."

Because of the positive effect it has on the bottom line, more than 28% of larger corporations in the United States and Great Britain, as well as a growing number of SME's, now outsource their appointment setting and business development. By adopting this practise they have proved that a company's ROI will perform well beyond expectations and dramatically increase company turnover.

The number one benefit to outsourcing the first stage of the sales cycle is that the sales force do not have to make those tedious cold calls. Your sales representatives can spend more time meeting qualified prospects, building relationships, imparting vital information and closing deals.

At first, these business development services may seem pricey, but in the States, one appointment setting company generated more than 1,000 qualified leads over two years of work. And it is certainly cheaper than field sales. According to the US company Gartner Group Inc., their outsourced business development person was only 35% of the cost incurred by the average field sales representative. By outsourcing this side of business development and leaving it up to trained professionals, a sales team is capable of increasing its revenues by as much as 150%. In fact, statistics have shown that this leads to sales people having up to three more hours a day in front of clients.

Better lead generation directly enhances sales efficiency by getting a company's sales people in front of the right people. It has been proved that trained marketers are more effective at generating qualified leads when they work in conjunction with the sales force. By doing so they arrive at a consensus about what differentiates qualified prospects from unqualified ones. Once this is established they can adopt the best practices and campaign management technologies for generating, sorting and managing the leads.

"Most people are used to the telemarketers who interrupt your dinner. These guys give the industry a bad name, and are certainly not the same people you'd want to call the CEO responsible for your next multi-million Rand contract," says Hamish Haddow, who exclusively offers this service in South Africa through Solus Telemarketing, which was established after extensive research in the United Kingdom.

As a new concept to South Africa, business executives were initially concerned about being able to check the dynamics of a sales force's day-to-day movements with an outsourced third party. Every logistical problem requires a revolutionary solution. The Solus solution lies in specially engineered software that manages each client's specific requirements from customer relationship management (CRM) solutions to database management applications, call cycle management to sales action reports, and effective time management that grows the sales team into a dynamic company asset.

Individually tailored to the company's specific requirements, all appointment setting criteria are developed by both the company and their outsource provider, allowing the perfect opportunity to develop an existing, or establish a new, company database. Other benefits include operating a customer feedback or helpline that streamlines the company's service offerings and provides fast, accurate and detailed links between the company and their clients.

"With its professional and considered approach, Solus has revolutionised the idea of just what a determined appointment campaign can achieve. As a result, we have seen increasing acceptance to the idea of outsourcing business development in the form of lead generation and appointment setting. In today's business world more than ever we need to implement street-smart business skills. It used to be that the big ate the small, but now the fast eat the slow."

1The Telephone Bug, February 2001, by Frank Lee (
2Hamish Haddow, Solus Telemarketing. (
3Harry Watkins, Ph.D., is research director, Aberdeen Group, Boston Mass. (14 April 2003,

About the author

Sandra Saka is a freelance marketing and entertainment journalist.

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