Contrary to critical opinion, telemarketing continues to find significant use in the business and marketing. So long as telephone communication sees primary usage in many business environments, the industry is here to stay. On the other hand, telemarketing is not alone as it is but one of the many tools used by today’s B2B lead generators.
When closing IT sales, no strategy is perfect. The same goes for the marketing phase that precedes it. From marketing content to lead generation and appointment setting, sticking to one strategy too long will not always result in the same, high amount of IT sales.
Do not deride the saying “You get what you pay” for by labeling it as an excuse to avoid bargains. For all you know, your cheap sales leads could really be just as worth the amount you invested in them. On the other hand, everyone loves a bargain. Such deals seem to be a light during dark economic times. The concept can either attract buyers for you or give you less painful prices for much-needed business processes.
From the perspective of marketing, a reclusive customer can be quite frustrating to handle. This can be true even if your lead generation campaign focuses on bigger B2B clients. Some organizations and professionals can be quite protective of their information, information that both you and your salespeople need.
How often have you really looked at things from the customer’s perspective though?
You see while you think that all that lead generation does is help qualify customer data, your customers sees it more as an intrusive probe that’s jabbing itself at their privacy. And yes, even entire organizations can emulate that behavior (perhaps even more so, given the sensitivity that some forms of business data tend to have). For example, look at the supply chain process. Some vendors of SCM applications use a software lead generation process that requests information on a company’s suppliers or the type of order processing used by their retailers.
From the customer’s perspective on the other hand, they think you’re just sticking your nose in how they run things. Unfortunately, if your marketing tool doesn’t give you enough control of the conversation, there’s nothing you can do to really convince them. That’s what you need to fix. You need to be honest with why you’re qualifying them for SCM leads again, and more importantly, have your actions reflect your words.
Fortunately, you have one simple fact that your customers can’t deny when they refuse you information: You’re not a mind reader. And in the following two scenarios, you need to assert that fact so that your customers and prospects will realize that cooperation and staying in touch is the key to solving whatever software problems they might have. They need to realize that they’re like someone who asks your help to carry something that’s too heavy for them but doesn’t allow you to touch whatever it is they’re carrying.
- Security breach – Going back to the example of SCM, suppose your customer feels that the software you sold has been exploited. On the other hand, how do you know they’re even a customer? You try and look up this person but you can’t barely have any information to go on besides their name, company, and the basics of what you sold. They’ve never kept in touch and now you both have to spend a considerable amount time getting them to give more information and resolving issues (issues that may have already been resolved because you sent out a message to all your customers but this particular customer apparently ignored).
- Software use – Perhaps the professional you targeted before is still new to using improved technology but constantly refuses to give feedback. As a result, they struggle on their own, tinkering with things they in fact have no idea on how to manipulate. They refused to listen to your previous message about how the tool is only as good as the user. They were just in a hurry to get the software from sales and then send you on your merry way. While you might think customers have ways of knowing better, the same veteran buyers aren’t always that deaf to the advice of people they buy from.
Don’t forget that one purpose of targeting past customers is because B2B transactions go beyond the sale. Everyone knows that it’s only the start of a business relationship. Getting SCM leads from them is your way of making sure that they keep in touch!
Security is major concern for businesses when discussing IT and software. Nowhere in the sales process should you ever downplay their fears but rather address them immediately. Still, be careful about talking security when it’s still too early for them to be qualified as ERP leads.
In a span of just roughly six months, there have been over 30 severe breaches in software security (according to PCWorld) and several of these mention big-name companies such as Nissan, Verizon, Google, and Apple. No doubt such reports could be putting many businesses big and small on high alert regarding anything related to the safety of their software data.
Normally, with any marketing approach, a popular way to spark interest and generate ERP leads is to ask questions that would help your business determine a possible need. Many professionals are even asserting that such insight needs to be found before the prospect is actually aware of it. Using this approach when talking security on the other hand could instantly raise a lot of red flags.
Be it through email or telemarketing, be careful about asking questions that could lead them to suspect you of looking for flaws. Make no mistake, you need to know these flaws to determine if a prospect needs a security upgrade. Despite that, it’s best to do it when you’ve gained just a bit more of their trust. As an example, you can try the following steps:
- Step 1: Ask about an important non-security issue – First, stick to identifying needs that have more to do with the business and not just security. Is their CRM working well enough for their sales team? Is their SCM software having trouble with inventory management? Both have answers that can give insight to needs that need to be identified but are not directly tied to security.
- Step 2: Establish legitimacy – Should ERP leads respond positively and even say that they’ve been looking around for a solution, quickly say who you are and how you can help. Show them that you’re a real software company. There’s also a chance that they’re already searching the net for you so your business website needs to be well-optimized, informative, and most importantly, legitimate. Show that you’re a real business, with a real location, and real people they can contact.
- Step 3: Start discussing security: At this point, start mentioning security. If an ERP lead is starting to bring it up, then that’s even better. Ask them about their concerns and show that you take them seriously. You’re aware of online threats and your sales representatives are willing to discuss security features in an appointment. Although, asking for a few more details wouldn’t hurt either. For instance, your software sales team would want to know if the security issues have really to do with the software itself or perhaps a human element could still be involved (like poor security policies).
Securing software from outside threats should always be a high priority among businesses whether you’re a vendor or buyer of B2B technology. It can be such a high priority though that just bringing it up all of a sudden is enough to arouse suspicion. Suspicion is never good when you’re still trying to establish a business relationship and early in the process of generating software leads. Balance the act of gaining their trust while keeping in mind important issues that shouldn’t be ignored.
There have been at two reports these past weeks regarding a literally stormy season up in the cloud.
“As of 11:21 PM EST Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud in North Virginia went down, due to severe thunder storms in the area. The Washington Post reports torrential rains, ‘scary winds,’ lightning and massive power outages in the D.C. Area.”
Among the affected websites include Instagram and Netflix. According the report, this was the result of major power outages caused by the area’s volatile weather at the time.
The cloud-based CRM (customer relationship management) vendor’s systems are divided into many instances around the world, each serving customers in different geographic regions.
Seven instances went down at some time or another on Tuesday, starting with NA1, NA5 and NA6 in North America, according to a notice posted at 12:49 a.m. PDT on Salesforce.com’s system status page. Shortly thereafter, the CS0, CS1, CS3 and CS12 regions, which are part of a set of “sandbox” instances Salesforce.com customers can use for development, testing and new feature previewing, were also affected, according to the site.”
In either case, it seems that security isn’t also the only vulnerability (and challenge) currently facing cloud-based software vendors. Others who wish to gain the same competitive edge as the two companies must be prepared in case of sudden disasters. Perhaps what makes this all the more serious is because, in an age where technology is constantly taken for granted, you seldom hear a literal storm inflicting enough damage to knock out internet services. However, the two reports have illustrated that it still remains a possible threat and companies must be prepared to take action.
One of the worst mistakes you can make is to keep your current subscribers in the dark. Obviously you don’t need to review the results of neglecting the flood of inquiries and demands for explanation. A severe lack of response can worsen your relations, which lead to bad referrals, and which in turn lead to fewer cloud computing leads.
To handle such a flood and quickly answer inquiries, you’ll need more than the conventional channels of email and online ticket systems.
Don’t forget that customers still have access to a phone. And given the tendency of decision makers to demand straight answers, it’s likely they’ll call you right away when your cloud-based service is suddenly unavailable. Use professional telemarketers to receive their calls and give quick responses. In fact, why not call them first and warn them beforehand that something is wrong and that a storm is coming? If you know one or two clients who are so heavily dependent on your software, then that only makes it more urgent. You can even outsource a telemarketing firm if you currently can’t afford your own call center. What’s important is that you don’t let storms in your cloud ruin your relationships with clients both in the present and in the future.
As you’re well aware, security remains a top concern even among companies who have begun to put faith in cloud-based software providers. Unfortunately, many of these providers are still emphasizing on cost-efficiency as the primary reason to shift to the cloud.
If you still aren’t convinced that data security should remain a high priority, take note that the Federal Trade Commission charges heavily against companies who they feel aren’t doing enough to protect customer data. In this article from CNNMoney, a representative explains further details, followed by disturbing statistics emphasizing the gravity of the dishonesty.
“’We have always said that it is not a violation to be hacked,’ said Kristin Cohen, an attorney in the F.T.C.’s division of privacy and identity protection. ‘We can only go after companies that have misleading privacy policies — either they did something that was deceptive or unfair.’
Over the past decade, the F.T.C. has reached settlements or sued around 35 companies for misrepresenting their data security. For example, RockYou, a social game site, settled with the agency earlier this year while Twitter did so in 2010.
The number of cases pales next to the proliferation of successful hacker attacks in the United States. Last year alone, there were 419 breaches reported affecting 22.9 million people, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, a group that tracks the problem. The number of successful attacks is almost certainly higher, however, because many companies fail to disclose when their defenses are defeated, said Rex Davis, director of operations for the center.”
If you’re considering to offer cloud based software for CRM, be ready to have security brought up as an objection. As such, you should be ready to take responsibility and report breaches to all the parties that should be concerned. This not only means disclosing to the FTC, but also acting immediately to inform your clients. Another reason why this is so important is that it also makes for an effective lead generator on the side. Clients who can see that you’re doing what you can to protect their information are more likely to maintain trust in your software. This means more retention of subscribers and therefore, you can keep drawing in sales without necessarily having to search for all-new software leads.
But as always, a challenge lies in effectively reaching out to these clients and clearly communicating to them the urgency of any breach. Use emails that demand a response showing that they’ve read your notification, are aware of the threat, and are taking your prescribed course of action. If there’s no response, don’t be afraid to follow-up with something more direct like a phone call. Don’t worry about investing in an expensive call center and just outsource telemarketing companies for the actual callers.
Honesty will always be the best policy so be honest when there are security issues with your product. Sure, some people might people might get upset when they know that your security failed to uphold their expectations but at the very least, you told them the truth. On the other hand, the FTC has made it clear that worse consequences await those who betray their customer’s trust and don’t admit to any breach in security.
As of last week, it has been found that more and more companies are shifting to the cloud for their enterprise software solution. According to this Forbes article, about only 23 of the 700 companies surveyed have considered it too risky. As you will read in the article, that is a significant drop from last year’s 11% to 3%.
On the other hand, security concerns are as strong as ever:
“Security remains the primary inhibitor to adoption in the burgeoning cloud marketplace with 55% of respondents identifying it as a concern. The implications of regulatory compliance (38%) also loom large, as do concerns about vendor lock-in (32%). Interestingly, pricing and expenses are way at bottom of the deal-breaker list.”
So if you’ve just started offering business applications in the cloud, it’s best to know this beforehand. You won’t attract a lot of potential clients if you’re going to bank-in on cost-efficiency. Your biggest concerns should be more or less centered around how secure you are and how well they can trust you.
A common complaint against cloud computing is of course, the poor customer service when something goes wrong. Ticket systems are usually used to accept inquiries or concerns. However, that alone barely bridges the gap between your business and your clients. This should tell how much discussing security and stability means to them.
What’s really bad is that cost-efficiency tends to be first on the list when your marketing attempts are citing the features and advantages of enterprise software in the cloud. Naturally, you can’t generate sales leads when you and your prospects don’t see eye to eye. That’s one of the common mistakes in marketing: assuming you think you know what the prospects want. Articles like the one above just go to show how you need to consider things from the client’s perspective and what they consider a top concern. In this case, you should be talking to them about security, not costs.
And speaking of talking, it’s also better if you actually converse with them about these concerns. It’s never a good idea to generalize these same concerns and think all businesses have a common list of objections. And even if you did compile them and put them in one big FAQ or Q&A page on your website, do you think they have the time to read it all until they run into the parts they find most relevant? You should know by now that taking up a decision maker’s tame with any kind of marketing piece is always a very bad idea. There is a need to be quick and at the same time engaging.
Telemarketing is still employed by software lead generation services for that very same reason. Like email and direct mail, they value the accuracy of contact lists. Furthermore though, they also value objective conversation that can quickly determine the security concerns of your prospects. It’s not that complicated. Instead of bombarding them with all the details, an agent can simply ask some questions and quickly identify the relevant issues to address. Don’t be concerned about investing in training either (or any other additional cost). This process can also be outsourced. What you need to focus on is discovering and addressing the top cloud-computing concerns of your prospects. A brief and objective telemarketing call can easily accomplish that.
Despite trends in Big Data, a Wharton school professor is going against the tide and highlighting an overenthusiastic behavior among entrepreneurs and business owners. From MIT’s technology review, Peter Fader explains just how widespread this is and how it could spell bad news if they don’t tone down the hype.
No doubt that with the new technologies of internet and social media, businesses have wider and richer access to information that can tell them about their target markets. Be it B2C or B2B, businesses can use these new mediums of communication to observe buyer behavior and engage customers a lot better than what has been done during past decades. Much of today’s CRM software is now currently being developed to take advantage of these new information sources and come up with new ways to inform and help the relationship between business and client.
However, Fader’s words of warning echo much older words of wisdom about the whole world’s dependence on the Internet. The rise of the World Wide Web may have allowed us access to more information. But is more information necessarily a good thing? Here are his own words on describing this apparently flawed business mentality:
“’More is better.’ If you can give me more data about a customer—if you can capture more aspects of their behavior, their connections with others, their interests, and so on—then I can pin down exactly what this person is all about. I can anticipate what they will buy, and when, and for how much, and through what channel.”
As he himself demonstrates, the problem is that an excess of information is being used to make up for lack of competence. If you’re a CRM firm, you must avoid this habit if you’re going to generate sales leads. This does not mean that data’s not all that. In fact, going beyond one source is what Big Data is all about. The problem is depending on the acquisition of too much information instead of using the skills to fully utilize it.
For B2B, it’s like you spend so much time gathering online information on your prospects but don’t really invest in anything else. Observing the behaviors and drawing conclusions might work in B2C but individual businesses are an entirely different story. Your lead generator needs to know how to act on the information acquired in accordance to each specific organization. This could range from further asking about their own problems with their CRM to adding an appointment setting feature so that you can set aside a certain portion of each other’s time to really talk things out. To summarize, here’s an additional input from Fader about what differentiates those too dependent on Big Data and those competent enough to see its real value:
“There’s no question that new technologies will provide all kinds of genuinely useful measures that were previously unattainable. The key question is: Just how much of that data do we really need? For instance, do we need a second-by-second log of the shopper’s location? Would it be truly helpful to integrate this series of observations with other behavioral data (e.g., which products the shopper examined)? Or would this just be nice to know? And how much of this data should we save after the trip is completed?
A true data scientist would have a decent sense of how to answer these questions, with an eye toward practical decision-making. But a Big Data zealot might say, ‘Save it all—you never know when it might come in handy for a future data-mining expedition.’ That’s the distinction that separates ‘old school’ and ‘new school’ analysts.”
With the prospect of the presidential elections, the state of the U.S. economy will once again be the subject of much heated debate. Some people say it’s in a dangerous state of decline, particularly in unemployment. Others say there’s still hope yet. But for those in manufacturing, it’s further inclined to the latter as more news of foreign companies are opening plants and offering jobs to struggling Americans. Recently, one such company is Hyundai:
“When Hyundai announced in April it was planning to bring hundreds of new jobs to Montgomery, Ala., the news was met with excitement by local officials eager to boost the flagging economy.
But the reaction from job seekers has been nothing less than overwhelming.”
The CNNMoney article goes on and says that the plant received about 22,000 applicants. While issues about qualifications and necessary skills are still a concern, this at least shows hope for manufacturing in the U.S. Regardless, those of you in industries like SCM software may have already felt the effects of these struggles and sooner or later, you’ll have to contend with cutting costs in hard times.
Outsourcing non-core functions is a good and common alternative during such times. When a seemingly deteriorating employment rate means you’ll need to start doing away with these functions, your business might be stripped down further and further only to processes that define you as an SCM software company.
What makes this problematic is that there is still a necessity for some of those non-core functions. A quick example would be lead generation.
Your business provides a service to other businesses. And as such, you need B2B sales leads in order to establish connections with possible software clients and nurture their interest so you’ll get a chance at a sale. However, the skills, tools, techniques, and technology required for this process are not exactly within your company’s forte. At the basic level, your company does best in research, development, followed by project implementation and maintenance.
Lead generation on the other hand is a marketing venture. It’s about knowing how to connect with possible clients, find out what they need, and show them how you’d like to offer a solution. This is situation where a great amount of technical know-how may not actually be all that advantageous. When you’re looking for SCM leads, you’re looking for information on businesses who are willing to be convinced that you have the answer. The good thing about focusing only on core functions is that it allows you to put all effort into doing what you do best. That means delivering on your promises won’t be so difficult. What would be difficult is finding people to give those promises to.
The sad reality is that doing what you do best might not be enough to survive in a struggling economy. You still have other needs that don’t pertain to your specialization. That doesn’t mean you have to make things harder by trying to fulfill them yourself. That’s where outsourcing comes in. It does away with the costs of investing in a process out of your own company’s pocket. Don’t be afraid to start today when you’re feeling the weight of all the instability and uncertainty.