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Why Do Outbound Telemarketing Campaigns Fail?
By: Robert Krekstein
Telemarketing services are continuing to grow in popularity, due to the low cost high ROI; however, it
is safe to say that there are too many telemarketing programs that are also failing to meet expectations.
In my 20 years of sales and Telemarketing experience I have attributed the Campaign failures to many
reasons. The following are the most common reasons that telemarketing programs fail.
Utilizing the Price as the only criteria for Tele Vendor selection
Let’s face it, cost can be everything, and every dollar spent is a dollar taken off of the overall profit.
The extra money being spent is only a problem when it does not improve the overall results of the
telemarketing services campaign. Lower priced telemarketing services providers often lower their
internal costs so they can recoup them in other areas. Some are lower because of the region they live in.
Rural call centers or centers located in medium sized cities can afford a lower wage rate and still
retained the same quality telemarketing services agent. Other groups may give the agents a larger
portion of the overall cost but at the same time they may cut other areas such as training, motivation,
supervision and quality assurance. It is important to make sure all areas of your program are diligently
covered, and when selecting a Vendor you are sure to compare companies fairly
Not Visiting the Telemarketing Service Provider
Sometimes a quick look at a telemarketing vendor that you are looking at working with can make all
the difference. Are they really running with a 10:1 agent to supervisor ratio? Do they really have agents
that are older and mature who have made a career out of the telemarketing industry or do they have high
school students that are ready to call your customers. Also, this is a great chance to look at the
environment where the calling is being done. It can allow for a 1 on 1 visit with the agents that are going
to be working on the program. Finally, perhaps the most crucial is a look at the vendor’s infrastructure.
Do they have competent Floor managers? Do they have reporting support? A quality control
department? Ongoing caller training? This understanding is crucial for future working relationships with
your outsourced telemarketing services provider and successful outbound campaigns.
Not establishing a realistic goal
Recently it seems that people are returning to the telemarketing services industry to capitalize on a
direct marketing tool with a proven rate of success. However, many do so without first really looking at
what their ROI needs to be and how many sales or leads they need to generate in order to hit their ROI.
Understanding these numbers are absolutely key to any and all telemarketing campaigns.
One additional problem that may result with the selection of goals is designing the program around
untested goals or goals that may essentially be too high, resulting in poor pilot programs. It is important
to make sure that your goals are realistic and that telemarketing service providers can meet these
expectations. Talking to several different telemarketing service providers should help to ensure that
enough telemarketing providers agree with the program’s concept to assume it can be successful, simply
make sure you are detailed in your ask to each Tele Vendor.
Unclear Lead criteria
All companies want the same thing, a lot of high quality leads that will eventually become a sale. The
Tele Vendors want to provide this for as little cost as they can to increase their own profits. What most
companies fail to realize is that all companies that are looking for Tele Services are different. They are
in different industries with different products and customers. The company needs to discover and define
for the Vendor the criteria by which they will accept a lead from the Tele Vendor. If the company does
not investigate this and create a lead criteria, that ensures this lead will eventually generate revenue, the
program will only create nurtures and door openers and the ROI will not be obtained.
Too many companies think that all leads from Tele Vendors are alike. This is a large misconception
and often leads to failure. Leads can range from simple “Door Openers” to actual closed revenue on the
phone, and everything in between. Tele Vendors are experts in providing what the company requests,
just be sure that you are requesting the type of lead that fulfills your objectives for the Tele program.
Poor Data Quality
Telemarketing services can be one of the most intensive forms of data driven direct marketing
available. Using telemarketing services also means that just by calling potential customers, agents are
going to gather massive amounts of data. Outside of just the leads generated through telemarketing
services, there are numerous amounts of non-sales data that can be extremely valuable when looking at
what can be successful with customers. Consider that in every phone conversation we discover several
pieces of Business Intelligence about the prospect and company. This information can range from
contact validation, current landscape, to the last time the company made a purchase, to the prospects
peers and supervisors, to how the company handles different budgets. The key here is to store and
utilize this information for future use in a database. If this information is properly stored it can laser
focus your future campaigns and generate significantly higher ROI. This transforms your current lead
generation model, to a unique Tele Program that encompasses campaign planning, contact improvement
and outbound calling at NO additional cost.
Choosing to move a program “OffShore”
Today there is general understanding about offshore telemarketing service agencies. They are much
less expensive then on shore, but remember you “get what you pay for”. There is always a language
barrier, and when representing your company you have to be very cautious. The attraction is simply the
dollar bills you will save here, not the “customer experience” or the lead quality. Rule of thumb is, if
you can lose or anger some of the customers, save the money and utilize off shore 100%. If you cannot
afford to lose or upset your customers, make sure to keep your telemarketing service program on shore,
or at minimum use a hybrid approach. If you do not believe me take a close look at what happened to
“Dell computers” when they outsourced.
Relying Completely on Scripting for all calling efforts
The telemarketing services industry has a large number of diversified employees doing the same thing
hundreds of times each day. The repetition should reinforce the quality, but with many companies this is
not the case. We must understand that telemarketing services rely solely on the communication between
two people, and people can be as unpredictable as they are predictable, it can be nearly impossible to
have a proper response for every situation that arises on the phone. Telemarketing can often have two
very different approaches to the idea of scripting. One company may look at scripting every phone call.
Scripts often include 8-20 pages, and then an additional 75-100 rebuttals or statements to say after an
objection, some may even look to have all of the potential statements listed on screen, creating massive
amounts of agent searching while on the phone. Others may look to train agents in the hopes that they
are prepared to give the correct response to certain incidents that may arise on the phone. The best
practice for this process is a combination of both. Having the right materials in front of an agent is one
thing and having the rebuttal process on screen is great as well. However, it is safe to say that all of the
time spent searching for rebuttals and delivering the right response can detract from the conversation.
Having a reference tool and the ability for agents to modify these responses though constant up training
and agent development is the best way to ensure agents give the right answers at the right time to the
right customers. If the caliber of agent is high then the need for scripting diminishes quickly, as
seasoned veterans do not need as much “Tele 101” training.
Improper training enablement
The Telemarketing services provider that is going to be dialing your telemarketing program needs to
have the right materials in order to be successful at the campaign and drive the expected ROI. Too often
companies provide what they feel is correct enablement for the program, and in their own format. Your
company created the campaign, strategized over the messaging, and created the list. It is critical that
you work closely with the Tele Vendor to provide all applicable assets and talk tracks required in the
prescribed Vendor format. Each Tele Vendor has their own “Secret Sauce” and will ask for the
materials in various forms. Trust that the Tele vendor is the expert here and provide the materials
requested on time and to form. Data processes both back and forth as well as the data structure should
be established right away. The last thing we want is to start the program and then realize we have data
miscommunications which will slow calling and aid in the failure of the program.
Not understanding the target audience
One critical success to any Telemarketing campaign is making certain you are calling the correct
company or person. If the company provides the list, they need to discuss it with the Tele Vendor, as
the Vendor has experience calling into that segment. If we are calling a company about their current
communication systems, we clearly would not want to talk to the manufacturing plant manager, but the
communications department. This is a critical component to a successful campaign, as it will limit the
wasted dials and focus the calling to yield the highest lead ratio and subsequent revenue dollars.
Testing the messaging or solution
All companies want their Tele programs to begin quickly and generate a large ROI. What they do not
understand is that each campaign is uniquely different, and requires testing before we will “Put all hands
on deck”. This requires a few weeks of calling where the Tele Vendor utilizes different messaging and
talk tracks, calling into different Lines of Business, positioning different assets. Through this testing
you will learn what message fits with which Line of Business and what asset to utilize. This will
ultimately ensure success and increase conversion rates and revenue dollars.
Not Watching The Backend Results
Many groups who use telemarketing look only at the front end of a program and what the
telemarketing group generated in sales or leads. However, they often ignore the payout rate of these
customers or the dropout rate. Sometimes they even ignore the conversion rates with sales agents when
generating leads. The bottom line here is that companies need to watch the results of what happens to
the generated sales and eventual ROI. If the dropout rate or conversion rate is low than it is most likely a
result of poor quality assurance and agent’s pushing for sales. If the customer provides a credit card and
they sign up for a continuity program but drop out after the first month, it is most likely a result of
agents not explaining enough. High return rates can also be a symptom of this problem. Pulling a
random sample recording file is a great way to make sure that all of the calling is done correctly and that
sales are being properly verified.
Essentially, there are thousands of ways a telemarketing campaign can fail. Much the same as there are
thousands of ways a direct mail piece can fail and let’s face it millions of ways anything can fail. The
reality is that choosing a quality telemarketing services provider should be the most important part of the
telemarketing process. Even choosing a good consultant to help with the telemarketing campaign may
be a more profitable way to ensure success. I hope this has given you some new parameters to think
about when choosing a Vendor and implementing a Campaign.
Posted by: Michael Brenner and the B2B Marketing Insider Blog