- Telesales is using the telephone to close deals. This generally means reps call into lists created either composed of existing accounts / relationships or qualified leads from a campaign.
- Telecoverage or Team-Based Selling matches a tele rep with one or more field reps. The telecoverage person manages "easy" transactions, does periodic account checkups, assists with CRM, and enters leads. These arrangements are common, for example, in the mutual fund wholesaling business.
- Telemarketing is outbound lead generation. This typically uses the cheapest resources, and is a close cousin to the familiar B2C dialing for dollars counterpart.
- Lead Qualification is a little bit more "advanced" than Telemarketing--following up on leads generated by campaigns to make sure that they are "real". Companies such as Harte Hanks commonly perform these tasks on an outsourced, cost-per-connect basis.
The use of the tele channel in B2B is facing some challenges these days. I have seen a lot of these surface over the past few years with various tele implementations.
- Language / Culture Difficulties in Asia / Europe. B2B tele reps speak with much higher level people on a daily basis than their B2C counterparts. Because of this, accents and unfamiliarity with language can have a real negative impact. This isn't a big problem in the U.S. where you can deploy a 200-person call center to support the whole country, but it's a big problem in Europe and Asia. How do you cover Europe with tele? It's a tough nut to crack.
- Systems Mayhem. Vendors can get up and running faster if they use their own in-house CRM. The problem is that this only works for simple dialing for dollars or list-based lead qualification projects. For more integrated selling efforts, a unified CRM system is essential. This means longer build times, but will result in a better product over the long run.
- The Turnover Problem. Turnover in inside sales organizations is notoriously high. Once again, this isn't a big deal for dialing-for-dollars implementations, but is an absolute productivity destroyer for true telesales or telecoverage. Keys to cutting turnover? Locate the center in a high quality of life area; ensure high bonuses for top performers; and make sure team managers are cream of the crop.
- Defending Against the Incrementality Argument. Telesales installs usually mean taking heads out of the field sales organization. The question that is immediately asked is thus "is telesales / telecoverage providing incremental value to my company?" Some see using "closed revenue" as an answer, but this doesn't work. Why? "Field sales would have gotten that revenue anyway." Thus, it's critical to set up control groups of accounts where the field has sole ownership to compare using pre-post / test-control methodologies. Once you've silenced all critics, tele can be rolled out across the board.
- Tragedy of Soft Objectives. Sometimes, tele is put in place to "accelerate leads" or "optimize the pipeline." Once again, this can be really hard to prove. Before investing, build a rock-solid business case that shows how accelerating leads actually creates value and have key stakeholders buy into the in-process metrics or key indicators that you will use to measure performance.
Tele is a low-cost, high-reach option for ensuring adequate account and pipeline coverage. However, it must be deployed carefully for maximum effectiveness.