Seven Tips for Finding the Right Calling Partner
March 6, 2013 | The Whetstone Group

Telephone lead generation — calling those prospects with which you would most like to do business to schedule an introductory meeting — can be just the tactic to rev up your firm’s ROI on marketing activities. But getting partners to make the follow up calls, whether following up to a mailing or following up with e-marketing activities or recruiting to an event for your firm, can be difficult at best. Even if your firm has a full time business development professional, savvy marketers understand that those professionals’ time is often better spent face-to-face meeting with interested prospects than dialing from inside their offices.

Partnering with a firm with the right experience in telephone lead generation calls can be the perfect solution for those firms who are looking for a jump start to their growth efforts. Once you’re sold on the concept, the next step is to find the right outsourcing partner from among the hundreds of possibilities. Here are seven points to consider as you evaluate candidates:

  1. Make sure the firm has experience with business-to-business calling for professional service firms. Making phone calls to C-level executives and business owners requires a different approach than calling consumers — and a different skill level of caller. Companies that try to convince you that calling is calling may not make the best representatives of your firm.
  2. Ask how the callers are supervised and measured. Professional call centers will have systems and staff in place to make sure that certain performance levels are being met. If the firm can’t give you a specific answer for performance expectations (number of dials per hour/day, number of decision makers reached, appointment goals, etc) it could be an indication that calling is not a core service and that you should look elsewhere for a calling partner.
  3. Be leery of pay-per-lead programs. While the pay-per-lead model may sound like a good idea on its surface, when the focus of your call partner is to deliver a bounty of leads you (and your partners) could wind up wasting your time with a lot of unqualified prospects. Incentive programs and bonuses for performance are ok, and can be great motivators — but basing compensation purely on the quantity of leads is asking for trouble.
  4. Likewise, suspect any sort of guarantee of results. Like most marketing, telephone lead generation is part science, part art. The science is the process, benchmarks and measurability of the program. The art is the timing of the calls, the nuances of the prospects’ prior understanding of the topic and your firm’s brand awareness among the target market. There are so many combinations of factors affecting your results that a calling firm who guarantees your results is either not knowledgeable enough about the process or has a way to manipulate results which may not be in your best interest. Either way, if you hear a company guarantee results, you may want to direct your attention to other options.
  5. Expect deliverables beyond leads. The best telephone lead generation firms deliver more than just appointments (all though that is usually the highest priority). In addition, ask how you will receive list updates, if the callers identify longer term opportunities to be nurtured and what kind of documentation you receive for each call. Often, documented conversations with those prospects who were not interested in a meeting with your firm offer some of the best market intelligence about competitors, forces affecting the industry, buying cycles, etc. that money can buy. That information can be a goldmine for your marketing efforts.
  6. Work with a partner who has a broader understanding of marketing practices. First and foremost you must be confident that the calling firm understands telephone practices and how to generate interest in your firm. But beyond that, an understanding of how telephone lead generation fits into your firm’s overall marketing efforts can help you make good decisions about incorporating the tactic into your plan and leverage your overall investment in the calling.
  7. Demand open and honest communication. Like any good partnership, open and honest communication is imperative to the success of the relationship. The best calling firms have a plan for constant communication — before, during and after the active dialing. You should know exactly what kind of results you’re getting, understand any challenges early in the process, and have the opportunity to work with the callers to make changes if needed to improve results. If things aren’t going the way you’d planned, the calling firm should be straightforward about why and proactively offer ideas for how to deal with the results — up to and including stopping calls if needed.

Keep these seven tips in mind as you seek partners for your calling endeavor, and you’ll likely find the right fit for your firm and build a relationship to deliver positive ROI for years to come. Remember that not every effort will be a home run — or will deliver the same kind of benefit for your firm. The more you work together with a calling partner, the more you’ll learn, the smoother the process will become and the better your overall results will be over time.