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Is Telemarketing a Lead Generation Magic Wand?

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Is there a silver bullet when it comes to B2B lead generation? Is any marketing guaranteed to deliver a flood of leads to your sales team? Does your sales team convert every lead?

Of course, we all know that’s the stuff of fantasy. If it were that easy, we’d all be doing the right things right every time!

Delivering effective growth through a programme of lead generation is not easy. There are so many choices, so many channels. There are plenty of ways to invest hard-earned marketing funds.

Is Telemarketing a Magic Wand?

Having experienced or run lots of marketing campaigns over the years, sometimes, I feel that B2B outbound calling is perceived and judged differently from other lead generation solutions. It’s the almost unspoken assumption that it automatically ‘should’ perform, and work better, since it’s a human to human marketing channel. Given the ability to proactively target the right individuals with the right message and thus profile and qualify prospects, there’s almost an expectation of success from the outset.

And, the pressure is often on from the outset since other channels have failed to deliver the necessary results in a world of digital and social marketing where prospecting has become more remote.

Should Leads Flow Immediately?

When it comes to potential lead-flow, there seems to be an expectation, with outbound calling, that you make 10 calls and you get 5 leads. Simple. The problem is that there’s a whole lot of work, and time, that goes into identifying and securing each valid lead. That’s perhaps less the case for other channels that may bring leads to your door but where more effort subsequently needs to go into qualification before that lead becomes a valid opportunity to do business.

With telemarketing, work needs to be done to:

  • Identify a target sector that has a better than average chance of needing your products and services
  • Build a target list which has valid phone numbers and, of course, the right decision-maker names
  • Make 15-20 calls each hour to reach perhaps 1-3 decision-makers due to voicemail, out of office, wrong numbers, switchboard bocks etc
  • Engage the right decision-makers in conversation since the call is an interruption to their day and to other priorities
  • Find prospects that are in the market for your products and services at the right time

Realism and Patience are Essential

Depending on the size and type of organisation being targeted, and the nature and strength of the proposition, results may or may not not flow almost immediately. Yet, there remains an expectation that it ‘should’ work quickly despite the hurdles and despite the fact that the proposition may not resonate or be at the right time. Hence, if the lead flow is weaker than desired and anticipated, the exercise may be viewed as an abject failure. This is unlike campaigns on other channels.

What’s more, inevitably, budget allocation plays a role in terms of being able to devote sufficient time and activity to build up a sales pipeline from which most leads will come. The shorter the campaign, the fewer the number of leads will be produced since stopping too soon removes the opportunity to call back at a time, perhaps 1-6 months hence, when the prospect is in the market.

Are other channels viewed in the same way? I’m talking about pretty much every other channel such as PR, traditional or banner advertising, sponsored ads and many others.

Chasing the 5% Not the 95%

Research by Ehrenberg Bass, showcased in Marketing week in July 2021 explains that B2B marketers have perhaps got their focus wrong. They target sales that will never happen since most of their ‘prospects’ are not in the market for their services at any given time. The article suggests that organisations need to look towards more long-term sales goals and nurturing.

Despite the points made in the article, requirements usually remain high, amongst B2B marketers, for immediate conversion. Sadly, the demands don’t take into account the grunt work needed to establish intent and prospect needs, and to find those prospects that are actually in the market now.

Like other channels, despite good research in advance of calling to establish those best prospects, there will inevitably be wastage. You need to kiss a few frogs. You need to cast your line to see which fish bite so to speak. And, the more limited the time and budget applied, the less likely you are to find ‘hot to trot’ prospects that are in the market right now.

Investing for Long-Term Gain

Multi-channel outreach and prospect-nurturing are essential, especially where the value of sale is significant. Challenges with short-term thinking include:

  • Decisions are rarely  quick in large organisations and for big-ticket decisions
  • Committee decisions may mean multiple conversations, different points of entry and an elongated sales cycle
  • Incumbent suppliers may be entrenched
  • Priorities may be elsewhere
  • Change cycles may not be imminent
  • Budget may be restricted

In reality, B2B marketing isn’t getting any easier. Commoditisation is the norm and differentiation is difficult to prove. Buyers find it difficult to decipher truth from fiction from your website and those of your competitors. Buyers are also increasingly time poor and under pressure. They have demands from their shareholders, their parent company, their boss, clients, staff and so on. Therefore, at the point of impact, marketing has a tough job to do.

Can Success be Guaranteed?

Ultimately, it is hard to ‘guarantee’ success whatever the channel. You need solid benchmarks. You need to test and measure. And, you need a level playing field.

This is especially so when talking about products and/or services that are undifferentiated. It’s harder still in competitive markets and more so when there are negative economic or other influences in the marketplace. The stronger the commercial, or other, imperative, the more likely those conversations your caller has will turn into leads.

Companies continue to either ‘happily’ or ‘resignedly’ pay for advertisements that are reactive (i.e. you have to wait for response), for email marketing (much of which ends up in the bin or in spam) with terrible response rates, for websites (that often don’t drive traffic) and PR (that doesn’t either reach the target audience or doesn’t drive response)? Yet when it comes to a proactive route to market where a qualified telemarketer actually picks up the phone to a defined prospect and has a conversation, suddenly some clients want to only pay by results and expect the earth. Why is that the case?

Build Breathing Space into Your Campaigns

Ultimately, results are what counts. However, if telephone marketing is a channel you’re considering using, you should recognise that your investment into telemarketing is in a number of areas including:

  • Data-building – you wont hit a target you can’t see
  • Message development – so your pitch won’t fall on daf ears
  • Systems – to facilitate swift and accurate calling
  • Telemarketer skills and experience to get past gatekeepers and to engage decision makers
  • Persistence – to overcome regular rejection and t handle objections

It takes time to reach a decision-maker. Perhaps only 5-10% of all calls actually reach your decision-maker. That’s not least because data may be inaccurate to start with. Once you get through to the company, the people you want to talk to are usually shielded by gatekeeper PA’s, voicemail and so on. Therefore, once you finally reach them, you’d better have something compelling to say.

Why Should Prospects Listen?

Unfortunately, most b2b propositions aren’t compelling. It isn’t enough to be great at what you do, to have fantastic clients or credentials. Your prospect probably already has an incumbent supplier that does exactly what you do. So you really need to give prospects a reason to believe you, to see you and to engage with you.

To generate telemarketing results, you need to have a clear message, something compelling, and a strong call to action. If this isn’t the case, why would a potential prospect engage?

Your proposition must be differentiated. PA’s shield decision-makers from undifferentiated commoditised callers and propositions. And, your decision-maker will cut the call short if you sound like every other sales-person.

Senior decision-makers are time poor, They have busy schedules and are under pressure to deliver on their tasks. It isn’t easy, therefore, to convince the prospect to take some positive action as a result of the call.

What’s the Punchline?

Telemarketing is the most proactive method of lead generation in the b2b sector. It is especially effective where the value of sale is high since the ROI can be significant.

Its use should, ideally, form part of an integrated lead generation strategy. It can amplify the results from other routes to market through calling LinkedIn connections, past customers, current customers for upsell and cross-sell, lapsed customers, inbound lead qualification from landing forms, and through calls to opens and click-throughs from email campaigns.

However, it is not the stuff of miracles. A good caller will use lead generation to produce good results. Yet, they cannot work in isolation and it remains hard to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear no matter how much effort you put in.


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