By AJ Windle, Senior Operations Manager
Outbound Marketing Vendor Selection for B2B telemarketing can be difficult. Where do I start? Which center is the best? How will I ensure I am getting the best results? While there is no perfect formula, let’s take a look at some of these best practices to help point you in the right direction:
Understand “Your” Needs
First, you must understand “your” needs. It seems simple doesn’t it? Well it’s one of the most common mistakes people make. During the outbound marketing vendor selection process you will talk to a number of B2B telemarketing call centers who give you great reasons why you should select their company. My advice is to not get caught up in the glitz and glamour of promises but to really take a moment to look at the objective of what you are trying to accomplish. Take time to write down the purpose of the program. What experience do you need? What end results are you trying to accomplish? Create a wish list of what your needs are. These are your core needs. I advise that you should never sacrifice on any of your core needs during the outbound marketing vendor selection process. Truly understanding your needs and the needs of the program will help make the process easier when looking for a new B2B telemarketing vendor.
Create a Request for Information (RFI)
Creating a Request for Information (RFI) is a great way to circumvent the tedious process of spending hours on the phone with a large group of call centers that don’t fit the mold. Think of it like an application process for any company. You will send out an RFI to a group of B2B telemarketing call centers explaining what you are looking for and asking the questions that you deem necessary to make an informed decision. Once you receive the RFIs back you can evaluate the responses and streamline your outbound marketing vendor selection to the top call centers that you would like to further contact. When creating an RFI it is important to ask the questions that are truly necessary and not create an overbearing document that nobody wants to respond to. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. This will ensure maximum responses and give you a great group of call centers you can start to have further conversations with.
Invest in a Visit
Alright, you have streamlined your outbound marketing vendor selection to the top outsourced B to B telemarketing vendors; now we are getting somewhere. As a next step I always recommend a site visit. This step is crucial and one that should not be overlooked. While you can talk on the phone until your blue in the face with someone, it doesn’t hold a candle to actually visiting a potential vendor and seeing the call center live. I believe this process to be the most important step in the final selection process. While you are there, meet with the team. This includes Senior Management, Supervisors, Quality Assurance, agents and anyone else that could potentially be involved in the program. While meetings are important to help get to know your potential team, I would recommend spending at least half of your time observing how the floor is managed. Ask yourself if the center creates the environment that is conducive to your needs. Does the culture of the team closely mimic yours? Is it a culture that truly aligns with the purpose of your program? Are the employees genuinely happy? Are the supervisors and managers actively engaged on the floor with live listening and coaching or are they sitting at a desk waiting for results to happen?
I would also take a look at the ratios and get to know the bandwidth of the management team. This is extremely important when placing a program. New programs will take extra help and if the team’s bandwidth is already low then you know your program won’t get the attention it requires during the initial startup of the new program. Think about the technology in the center. Is it up to par? This is important because strong technology creates flexibility, efficiency and the ability to make changes quickly which will more than likely happen during the initial few days or weeks of the program launch.
Walk away with Take Aways
Before you head back to your office to evaluate the on-site visit, I recommend gathering the following.
- Sample Reports
- Sample Data Returns and Procedure documents for return data
- Key Contact Information
- Corporate Flow Charts
- Points of Contact
- Technology/Dialer capabilities
In addition, make a note of your observations during the site visit, including the strengths and weaknesses that you observed. Here are some key points to consider and note:
- Agents to supervisor ratios
- Employee engagement
- Management team
- Overall feeling about the call center
These pieces of information are invaluable and will help remind you of your initial gut reaction and thoughts of what you have seen. I promise you this will be well worth the time of taking some detailed notes during your visit.
Make the Calls
Call References! References are a great way to get additional information from someone who has worked very closely with a call center that you are currently interviewing. What I would say is to make sure you take time to prepare for this conversation by writing down the questions that you want to know and that maybe a little out of the norm. You should formulate questions that are a mix of general reference questions (just collecting facts) and potential situational/behavioral questions. Get the Referenced party to think of situations that were complicated and find out how those situations played out (good or bad). You should also make sure you ask questions that are situational to your business and see if the Referenced Individual can give you examples of similar situations. Lastly this is where your notes come in. Ask questions that will provide you answers to promises that have been provided to you. If they are not able to get what you have been promised you might want to think about those things and follow up appropriately before making a final decision. You can assume that if you have been given a reference it is due to a program that has been very successful within that call center. Because of this truth, I would anticipate a very high level of positive comments from the reference and would take them at face value. References are a great tool but only part of the decision making process.
Outbound marketing vendor selection can be tough and extremely time consuming. At the end of the day there is a lot to evaluate and take into consideration. Quality Contact Solutions has evaluated hundreds of call centers across the U.S. and we pride ourselves in the ability to strategically match each client program with a vendor who is the best fit. If you are in the outbound marketing vendor selection process and would like some help give us a call at 1-866-963-2889. Or email me at [email protected] We would love to help!!
A.J. Windle is Sr. Operations Manager for Quality Contact Solutions, a leading outsourced telemarketing organization. With responsibility for overseeing the daily operations of client programs, A.J. is relentless in his pursuit for ensuring every client program is reaching the desired goals – every day. With over 14 years of experience in Telemarketing, A.J. has built his career on creating win-win relationships between his team, his clients and his telemarketing vendors that drives unparalleled success. A.J can be reached at [email protected] or 516-656-5106.