IT Telesales for Short Term Revenue Growth

Nicole Smith

Telesales Versus Strategic Field Sales

Comparing the sales process for telesales and “enterprise” type field sales reveals significant differences. With telesales opportunities the sales cycle is usually far shorter, the process itself is often less consultative (mainly due to margins restricting the amount of time that can be spent per sale), and fewer people being involved in the buying centre.

The initial sales approach is also considerably different. While enterprise / field selling places great emphasis on wide opportunity discovery for a complete solution, telesales is usually focused on identifying a smaller, more product focused opportunity.

Characteristics of Complex, Enterprise Focused Field Sales

Enterprise focused field sales can be identified by certain characteristics. In non-complex sales, one or a few of these elements may exist; but in complex sales, they are all present.

The characteristics of complex field sales are:

• A long sales cycle (usually at least nine months)

• A significant decision to be made in terms of spend or strategic direction

• Significant resources are invested prior to making a decision on the part of both seller and buyer.

• Multi-level contact within the buying organization.

• A range of competitive strategies from which the vendor may choose to engage competitors.

• Buying decisions that have significant impact on the customer’s business.

• Complex issues and solutions.

• Political dimensions which often supersede product and business issues.

In complex sales, vendors must acquire deeper levels of understanding about the customer’s business and organization in order to be successful. This is one of the reasons for the longer sales cycle.

The first challenge of a complex sale is to know enough about the customer’s business to determine whether the selling organization’s services, products, and culture are compatible with those of the customer. The solution that the seller provides will only be as good as their ability to implement.

Beyond just understanding the customer’s business, there must be a demonstration of understanding of the inner workings, or politics, of the customer organization. Most complex sales are won or lost on the political playing field. The vendor with a viable solution, who is able to analyze the political structure and align with those who have the greatest influence on the decision, is usually the winner.

Thirdly, there is a competitive dimension in complex sales. The seller must understand who their competitors are, both internally (within their own and the customer’s organization) and externally (the competitors). The vendor must learn to identify the strategies that are being employed to thwart the success of their efforts. Once they have identified what these competitive strategies are, the seller must then choose the most effective strategy to overcome the competitor, while simultaneously demonstrating the most attractive solution for the customer.

In complex sales, the vendor must prove their case at the operational, financial and executive level, but there is a fourth dimension affecting the decision that is not so obvious: the dimension of influence. Influence may come in the form of a person, but it may assume other forms as well. Political issues, both internal and external to the customer may influence the decision. The business environment will affect the sale, such as regulatory changes or even pending changes.

Characteristics of Less Complex, Telesales focused Opportunities

While successful IT telesales requires many of the same questions to be answered as those asked in field selling, because the margins from telesales focused products are usually much lower, the same depth of evaluation cannot be reached and the same amount of time cannot be spent on each opportunity.

The characteristics of less complex, telesales are:

• A shorter sales cycle (usually up to three months)

• A relatively insignificant decision to be made in terms of dollars or strategic direction (less than $10,000 per sale)

• A relatively short and simple decision making process.

• Only one to five people involved in the decision.

• Buying decisions that have a limited impact on the customer’s business.

• Relatively simple issues and solutions.

In a telesales situation there is less need to understand the customers entire business and the political dimension of decision-making. The focus is usually more on the short term ROI of purchasing the solution, and it’s impact at a functional rather than strategic level.

Preparing For Successful Telesales of IT Solutions

As with all areas of sales, preparation is the key to success. Without the right systems and procedures in place the impact of telesales on revenue will be negligible. In particular, the following must be in place:

A recruitment system focused on hiring telesales, not enterprise sales people. In particular, new hires must be business development focused and be prepared to spend long periods on the telephone. A key mistake is often to hire field sales people that are overly consultative.

A CRM system that has good workflow embedded and that enables cross selling, upselling, lead scoring and lead management.

Accurate customer and prospect lists that are regularly updated.

An ongoing training system that is focused on IT telesales, not strategic solution selling for enterprise solutions.

An ecommerce system that allows payments to be taken both online and over the phone.

3. Key Areas for IT Telesales Success

Although there are many areas of an IT company’s products and solutions that can be sold through telesales, the following are ones that are usually most successful.

Maintenance / Support Contract Sales

Maintenance contracts and support contract sales or renewals are among the quickest ways to generate additional revenue from an existing customer base. In the authors experience, few technology companies have this area of sales fully covered, and there is usually a large opportunity in this area to quickly make sales via telesales to the existing customer base.

The key to success in this area is preparation. The telesales team must have clean data and a well-structured CRM system from which they can work.

License Renewals

While the field sales team is usually focused on selling a single large volume of licenses to new or existing customers, there can often be an enormous amount of potential sales in renewals of existing licenses. Again, this is a perfect area to be attacked by the lower cost of telesales.

Again, the key to success is customer data presented in the right format to the telesales team. It is assumed that the original licensing data was entered correctly into a CRM system and that a “view” on this data and past or upcoming renewal dates can be created.

License renewals also provide a great opportunity for the telesales team to uncover potential enterprise deals, new products and cross selling as they receive information on how the customer is currently using your software, and any changes in direction they are taking with it.

New Release Upselling

Business to business telesales (integrated with email marketing) can be the fastest way to announce to customers that new releases are available for purchase. Not only can this bring additional incremental revenue, it can also produce opportunities for selling other newly released products in the portfolio, know as “cross-selling”.

Product Cross Selling

The key to customer profitability is maximising revenue per customer. One of the most effective ways of achieving this is by selling each customer as many products within the company’s product portfolio as possible. While this is often the goal of the field sales person when making an enterprise software sale, it can also be achieved by stealth over time using telesales.

The added advantage is that once the full portfolio is sold to a customer, there is much greater potential revenue for larger maintenance and support contracts, as well as license renewals.

Although the value of these sales can be small, the associated costs of telesales is also significantly lower. When these sales are achieved in high volumes the impact on company revenue can be significant.

Account Penetration Loss Leaders

According to recent research by the Aberdeen Group on B2B Telesales (and co-sponsored by TSL), more than 80% of companies buy from companies they have already had some business dealings with. Aberdeen raise the point that it may be worth having a loss leader product to gain entry to companies that are of strategic value to your company, in order to make large enterprise sales at a later date.

Telesales can be a quick and comparatively inexpensive way of winning minor sales of loss leader products to penetrate a strategic account initially. Once a relationship is built up over time the telesales team can identify larger opportunities and introduce field sales staff at the most opportune moment. By this time trust will have been built up between the two companies and your company will no longer be an “unknown” but will already be on the road to “trusted partner” status.

Partnership Opportunities

There is no better way to solidify a partnership than to introduce a partner into revenue generating opportunities. Your telesales team can identify opportunities for your partner companies while prospecting for your own solutions. Once there is a “partner” section to your CRM system or you have a dedicated Partner Resource Management (PRM) system, the telesales staff can register these opportunities.

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