Many marketing organizations are placing a stronger emphasis on the role of teleprospecting as a component of their business-to-business lead generation strategies. Perhaps one of the driving reasons behind this increase is the strong endorsement that teleprospecting received earlier this year from SiriusDecisions , a leading sales and marketing research and advisory firm, when it added teleprospecting to their new Demand Waterfall model.
With this increased focus, many organizations are turning to third-party teleservice vendors for the first time. Navigating the dense market of outsource providers can be overwhelming even for the most experienced marketer. To aid in this process, the following are seven steps that can help you locate, evaluate and select the right teleprospecting partner for your organization.
#1. Define the services that you need.
Before you set out on your evaluation, it is critical to assess your needs.
Marketing and sales management should jointly discuss your organization’s requirements relating to teleprospecting. For example, organizations may need account profiling expertise, assistance qualifying leads and setting appointments or help with nurturing long-term leads. All of these services can fall under the umbrella term of “teleprospecting,” so if you do not properly define your team’s needs; you may waste time with vendors who are ill-suited for the task.
#2. Prioritize and categorize your “must have” vs. your “nice to have” items.
Make a list of all the services you require in a teleprospecting partner. While nearly everyone is seeking quality output (whether in the form of leads, appointments and/or data), there are some requirements that are individual to each company, including:
- Integration with your CRM and/or marketing automation
- Data augmentation
- Scalability to handle large-scale growth
- Specific industry or solution expertise
- Integration of multi-media
- Creative, social media and/or web services
Making a list of what’s most important to you, as well as categorizing your “must have” and “nice to have” items will help you interview vendors and develop a meaningful request for proposal (RFP).
#3. Ask for referrals and conduct research.
Teleservice agencies are popping up everywhere. While many are quality-focused organizations, others are “smile and dial” firms with questionable quality. Ask your professional network for referrals – marketing colleagues, sales managers, business partners and your marketing agencies are excellent resources.
In addition, take some time to look online. Look specifically at B2B marketing directories and publications. Look for tele-vendors that have spoken at marketing events, published best practices, were sourced in marketing publications or have written bylined pieces – these are indicators that the vendor is an industry leader.
#4. Request a phone call via the vendor’s website.
Once you have compiled your list of potential vendors, go to their websites and request a sales call. This approach will give you insight into how promptly and professionally they respond to a web inquiry.
During your initial conversations, be sure to look for the following positive indicators:
- Can they clearly articulate their area of specialization, and how do they differentiate?
- Are they asking you pinpointed questions to better understand your needs?
- Do their core services align with your needs?
- Have they clearly defined a next step with you?
The sales rep’s ability to conduct a meaningful dialogue with you in the first conversation is crucial, as it’s an indicator of the vendor’s culture and overall communication abilities.
#5. Create and distribute a meaningful RFP.
Once you have narrowed your list to four to six potential vendors, it’s advisable to create and distribute an RFP. A well-written RFP will help you settle upon the right vendor for you.
To ensure vendors can provide valuable insight and relevant answers, describe your current situation, needs and expectations thoroughly within the RFP. Include as much detail as possible on your solution, target market, volume, regional focus, etc.
Here are some categories and questions that you may include in your RFP:
- Describe your company’s:
- Background and relevant experience
- Long-term growth strategy
- Competitive advantage and its sustainability
- Organizational and client support structure
- Provide three relevant references.
- Describe your development process and major milestones.
- Explain how much involvement is required from the client.
- Describe your approach to risk mitigation for new engagements.
Agents & Staffing:
- Explain your agents’ skill sets and background, as well as experience targeting our market.
- What is your average agent tenure?
- How do you hold agents accountable? What processes are in place to track and manage performance?
- How do you handle large activity spikes, such as a product launch?
- In detail, describe your employee development and skills-based training programs.
- Explain how agents are trained for a new client.
Data & Technology:
- Describe how you collect, store and share data with your clients.
- Explain how your company integrates with a client’s CRM and/or marketing automation.
- Provide an example where implementation or development of a new technology has resulted in cost reduction or improved customer satisfaction.
- Do you have proprietary tools that differentiate you in the market? Explain.
- Describe your technology and processes to accommodate call monitoring by your clients.
- What metrics are commonly used to measure program performance?
- What steps do you take to ensure program goals are obtained?
- How does your company troubleshoot issues if results are not aligned with expectations?
- Provide examples of client reporting.
- Explain how your company manages the overall quality of services provided.
- Describe your company’s quality audit processes.
- What is your process to adjust your product (i.e. leads) based on client feedback?
- Based on our needs, provide recommendations for an adequate pilot program.
- What are your top five critical success factors for programs similar to ours?
- Explain how you price your services. Provide rates.
- Provide pricing for your recommended pilot program.
Note: Your procurement department will likely have a list of mandatory financial and legal questions to also include.
#6. Evaluate RFP responses based on a predetermined scoring model.
In most cases vendors will spend significant time and effort responding to an RFP. It’s equally important that the evaluator spend significant time and effort reviewing and evaluating each response.
One way to help the evaluation process is to first detail your expectations and criteria for each question asked in the RFP. Then, you can compare vendor answers against your expectations/criteria and score answers as follows:
- Unresponsive to Question = 0
- Does Not Meet Criteria/Expectations = 1
- Meets Criteria/Expectations = 3
- Exceeds Criteria/Expectations = 5
If “nice-to-have” questions are included in your RFP, then you may want to weigh those questions slightly lower, using a lower point scale.
This process will help you to more clearly pinpoint the vendors that most closely align with your needs.
#7. Perform a Site Visit.
Based on your RFP evaluation and reference checks, you should be able to narrow your selection to two agencies or even have a clear winner. Either way, it’s advisable to perform a site visit before making a final decision.
During the site visit, you want to ensure that the company – and specifically the management team with which you will work — illustrates the same level of professionalism, knowledge and expertise that was displayed in the written RFP response.
A site visit should include:
- Face time with an executive to hear the company’s long-term vision
- Meeting with your future account management team
- Tour of the facility
- Interview potential agents
- View systems and/or reporting
Once you’ve made your selection, it is easy to communicate your decision to your new partner. But be sure to take some time to personally call each participating vendor and provide some insight into your selection process, as well as feedback on their organization.