B2B Appointment Setting Tips

By Angela Morris

July 2011

There are 5 key components to a successful business to business appointment setting program.

List

Business to business appointment setting is a tenuous balance between a numbers game and creating a work of art. A successful appointment setting program begins with developing the criteria for what types of businesses you want to target, what size of businesses you want to target and what level of decision-maker you want to target. A wrong list selection can doom the program from the start. An on-target list selection gives your program a running head start.

Offer

Why would a business owner or manager want to accept the offer of an appointment? It’s the classic question of, “What’s in it for me?” WIIFM. Spend some time developing talking points that clearly answer this question and you’ll be on the right track. Again, the art of creating the program is in the answer to this question. It may also be beneficial to offer an incentive in exchange for the appointment. Try to make the incentive relevant to your business if possible (discount offer, free trail, etc.)

Professional and Memorable

Every good B to B representative knows how to engage the gatekeeper and their prospect in a professional, yet memorable phone conversation. It is important to make a positive impression, while at the same time engaging the prospect in such a way that they remember you and subsequently honor the set appointment when the time comes.

Record Keeping

It is important to track every appointment and to document the results of each appointment. Feed these results back to the appointment setting team so that they can make adjustments to their approach that minimize no-shows (Yes, there will be no-shows!) and increase back end sales rates.

Persistence

Most businesses do not have unlimited prospects within their target market. once you’ve identified your top prospects, engage in a perpetual B to B appointment setting and lead nurturing program. By perpetual, we recommend calling your prospects and sending a postcard or other direct mail piece every 2-3 months. A “no” today could be a “yes” in a couple of months when their situation changes. Studies show that it takes an average of seven impressions with a prospect before they start to actively recognize who you are. The more competitive the market, the number may be significantly higher than seven.

QCS Expands At-Home Call Center Operations

Aurora, Nebraska – Angela Morris, President of Quality Contact Solutions (“QCS”) is pleased to announce the expansion of QCS At Home, the work-from-home call center solution. “Answering the local communities’ call regarding the closing of two call centers in Nebraska, we had the unique opportunity to hire some very experienced business to business telephone sales professionals expanding our At Home team. These professionals will continue to conduct business for some of the same clients they have worked with for years,” stated Nathan Teahon, Director of Operations for Quality Contact Solutions.  “It has been a win-win-win solution for the employees, the local community and the clients” added Teahon.

QCS At Home was formed in the spring of 2010 to expand QCS Telemanagement’s capabilities for program development and testing by creating an At Home environment staffed with true veteran professions.  “We found many new client programs required a high degree of hands-on program development and incubation before being migrated to one of QCS partners via our Telemanagement model.  “QCS At Home has exceeded all of our internal expectations as the ultimate “test-bed” for program creation, testing and refinement. Creating the perfect program is like painting a masterpiece. These at home professionals are true artisans’ and together with our operations and client managers we are able to outperform our competitors by re-defining campaign creation,” stated Morris. 

QCS’s proprietary technology solutions have been key to the success of the at-home model.  The at-home management team has all the same capabilities that any brick and mortar call center manager would have, including the capability of real-time call monitoring, real-time computer/screen viewing, real-time reporting as well as historical archiving of events and call recordings.  All training is conducted using web enabled learning sessions. 

Pitfalls of Political Calling

By Angela Morris and Sara Komen

May 2008

This year, 2008, is a major political year. Hundreds of call centers are making millions of phone calls for “get out the vote,” voter IDs, persuasion calls, recorded messages (robo calls), and polls and surveys of all kinds. As political calls and campaign budgets influx into the market, small and large call centers are grappling with what many consider to be formidable demands from campaigns – demands which savvy call centers know will be unsuccessful, or worse, may violate laws. On the plus side, political calls are simple, and call center agents can move quickly from one type of call to the next.

As one of the most cost-effective and efficient means of reaching a vast audience, political contact from sophisticated call centers means that campaigns can reach massive databases of people. Call centers finesse political messages that inform and inspire.

On the other hand, Americans are getting increasingly frustrated with the quantity, timing, and potentially harassing nature of political calls. Some voters report that they get four, five, or more calls per day, sometimes wasting precious time with messages left on voicemail, and others tying up phone lines with “robocalls” that the voter can’t disconnect. Then there are pushy political surveyors that won’t take “no” for an answer. At a time when voters are all but rebelling against the flood of political calls and with requests for laws banning or severely restricting political calling, the call center industry needs to use common sense in balancing consumers’ privacy needs with political candidates’ need to be heard.

Call Center Challenges: Many political campaigns compensate call centers on a “per complete” basis. The typical definition of a “complete” is that a message is delivered or a contact is made. In this scenario, the call center’s compensation is driven by the highest productivity possible, and many call centers are caught in a situation where they must run their dialers very aggressively and at times cut corners (causing quality concerns) to ensure that the work is profitable. Call centers face the common request to run through calling lists many times in one day. It is very common for the political campaigns to distribute the lists in a hand-to-mouth manner, and this makes it very difficult for the call centers to hit their expected completed calls and at the same time treat the list with respect.

Planning and adequate scheduling are often compromised, as some political campaigns, facing sharp ebbs and flows in donor contributions, make eleventh hour decisions to cut programs, only to want them to ramp up later on a moment’s notice after unexpected donor funding arrives. If a call center has planned and built a schedule, staffed, and committed resources to thousands of hours for a campaign which is suddenly cancelled, it is unlikely that an eleventh hour call to restart that program later will result in the call center’s ability to achieve the hours that the campaign needed. In such cases, the political campaign may be unknowingly forcing the call center to simply bring in “warm bodies” to perform the political work, and the quality of the message the voter hears cannot be as persuasive as if it had been delivered by the call center’s experienced workforce. Even more likely, the call center has accepted other programs, and the campaign will be forced to switch vendors, placing its message in the hands of an unskilled, novice, or unscrupulous call center that may not understand the regulations that apply to political calls, nor the art of message delivery.

Moreover, some political campaigns waste and discard invaluable call center management advice. Call centers shape and effectively deliver millions of diverse messages every day for assorted industries and interests of every type and form. This is what they do for a living – not just during an election cycle – and their sales and people persuasion skills are amazing. Too often political campaigns fail to appreciate and tap into these resources.

Another issue that must be resolved is that far too many political campaigns misunderstand applicable laws, or they often urge call centers to abridge them. Professional, experienced call centers, who ordinarily have in-house compliance attorneys, are there to assist operations and the campaign; they can translate complicated laws. Campaign staff understand election laws, but rarely understand outbound calling compliance issues. Also, they seldom recognize that call centers have a stake in every campaign running in their call center, well beyond being paid. Call centers themselves can be held liable when laws pertinent to the calls streaming from their facilities are broken, as recent rulings by the FCC and FTC have proven. If a call center burns through a database handed to it at the last minute, forced to abandon 5 percent, 10 percent, or even 20 percent or more of its calls, it’s only a matter of time before a consumer is going to feel harassed and abused. Then they will pick up their phone, calling and complaining to regulators and law enforcement. If a 3 percent abandonment rate may not strictly apply to a political program, aggressive calling patterns deemed by regulators as having “intent to harass or abuse” may.

Coast-to-Coast Myths: Aside from common concerns that experienced and legitimate call centers routinely encounter, here are some common myths:

1) Political calls are exempt from all telemarketing regulations. False. Take calling cell phones, for instance. The FCC’s Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) bars any automated calls to cell phones and contains monetary and other penalties for violation of this law. Would you want your candidate and campaign tagged by the FCC as a law violator?

2) Automated calls (robocalls), prerecorded voice, or artificial voice messages for political campaigning purposes are legal in all states. False. Some states have banned them outright or require that such calls be introduced to the called party by a live operator, who must gain the called party’s permission to take the call. Similarly, some state laws may not ban the prerecorded messages themselves, but may require that the autodialer they originate from be registered with the state – not an easy or quick procedure – constituting a record that would likely be subject to public disclosure.

3) State monitoring and call recording laws do not apply to political calling. False. These laws come from state wiretapping and privacy laws, some of which, if violated, carry criminal penalties. Every call, including political calling, is subject to these laws, which must be researched and applied to calling into each state. State wiretapping laws vary by state.

4) A DNC Registry for political calling is not on the horizon. False. Bills abound in a number of states for their own political DNC registries.

5) If you follow the federal rules, then you comply with the state rules as well. False. State laws can apply. For instance, Alabama’s autodialer laws expressly apply to political calls. AL § 5-63-204 (a) says that it is unlawful for any person “to use a telephone. . .soliciting information, gathering data, or for any other purpose in connection with a political campaign when such use involves an automated system for the selection and dialing of telephone numbers and the playing of recorded messages when a message is completed to the called number.”

These are the facts and some of the myths. Many laws do apply to political calls. Call centers and political campaigns that don’t follow them risk fines, criminal prosecution, and the inevitable loss of the client’s election or cause. Campaigns that press call centers to skirt applicable laws also risk being turned down by the very call center that can make the campaign a success. Professional call centers want to help political clients rock the vote, not sock the voter.

Angela Morris is president and founder of Quality Contact Solutions, a telemanagement services company with experience in inbound, outbound, and e-contact service strategies. To contact Angela, please call 402-210-2962 or [email protected]

Sara Komen is corporate counsel and compliance officer for Timberline Total Solutions, an Omaha, Nebraska-based contact center providing inbound and outbound support for a broad spectrum of clients in a variety of industries, and an array of other contact center services. To contact Timberline, please call 877-575-2255, or email [email protected].

Making Lead Generation Work

By: Nathan Teahon

A good lead qualification program can be a great thing for an organization. More specifically, a good lead qualification program can be a sales person’s best friend. If done right, it can provide a lot of good leads for them to pursue, and almost as importantly, save them a lot of time in sifting through all of the cold leads to find the warm ones. For a sales person, this can be like separating needles out of haystacks. Continue reading

The Importance of Quality Data

By: Melissa Hinrichs

Data can be a tricky thing. There are so many different ways to create, capture, and return data that it can become a little complex at times. Regardless of how the data is to be returned, the important thing is to always be sure to give the client the best quality data possible. Take pride in the data that you’re transmitting. This is the one aspect of the program that you have control over and can prove to the client that you’re a valuable member of the team. The data person is the ‘behind the scenes’ piece of any program. And although we’re not the ‘face’ of the

company that many see, all it takes is some bad data that can make you very visible.

My philosophy behind giving the highest quality data possible has always been ‘if you can’t show the client the importance of returning quality data, what does that show the client about the company as a whole’. Now we can write numerous pages on all the different fields that could or should be captured, the format of each field, and the countless ways of doing data, but I wanted to touch on three pieces that will aid you in delivering quality useful data.

The Layout: This is where it all begins. Needing to know how the client wants the data back and in the format is very vital. It’s very important to know this before working with any data. And the first rule of thumb is to NEVER assume anything. If you are unsure, always confirm first. Not only does this help you escape a lot of stress later, it also shows the client that you truly care about how they need the data. It’s very important to understand the program and what the goal is so that you understand the pieces of the data being returned and then you can dissect each field to make sure the program and the data are aligned.

Authenticate the Data: Now that you have the data to return to the client you need to run a series of checks and balances to double check the data before you return it. Even though you may have set up the program and limited how they enter data, it’s crucial to verify that such data is truly in the format needed. Here are few helpful guidelines to get you started.

Verify that all required fields have a valueVerify that ‘constant’ fields have not beencompromisedVerify that the data is following the flow of theprogram and there isn’t data where it shouldn’t beVerify that the answers for each field are in theformat expected by the clientVerify that the layout is in the correct format

Transmission: The send off. Some clients may be very specific in how they want to receive their data but for those that don’t it’s up to you to make sure it’s sent in it’s finest form. Afterall, this is your last stop on the data train. First find out what the deadline is for the data and allow enough time so that you are not late sending it off. Now for the most important rule of thumb: ‘Quality over Quickness’. This is very, very important to remember. What’s worse than late data is inaccurate data so again do not let the quality be compromised by the speed. If you foresee that you are not going to hit a deadline let communication be your friend. Send a quick email letting your client know you’re going to be late and give them an ETA of the data. And be truthful in your ETA – do not say in 30 minutes if you know it’s going to take you an hour. Give yourself enough time to assess the data thoroughly. Next you’ll need to know how to transmit data. Some clients prefer email and this is acceptable for most data, however if the data contains sensitive information it’s very important to post it to a secure FTP site or transmit it in another secure form. Once the data has been sent, it’s a good idea to send some type of notification of the data you’re sending, whether it be in a transmittal document or just embedded in the email. The 3 pieces of information that are essential in the notification is stating the type of data (sales, finalized records, do not calls, etc); the date(s) of the records in the data; and the number of records being transmitted. This will give the end-user a way to verify they have received all the data.

As I’ve mentioned before there are many ways to format, manipulate, and send data but the basic concept is all the same: Giving the client what they want in the way they want it. If you follow the three steps I outlined above you will be on the right track. Do take pride in what you’re doing. Sending good, quality data is not only a reflection on the company but it’s a reflection of yourself.

Melissa Hinrichs is the Client Services Director for Quality Contact Solutions. Melissa is an invaluable member of the team and ensures that the client always receives flawless data. Prior to working at Quality Contact Solutions, Melissa spent over 10 years working for a Top 50 inbound/outbound contact center in a variety of positions, including Reporting Specialist and Programmer/Analyst.

To contact Melissa Hinrichs: [email protected] or by calling 1-866-963-2889 ext. 205