Catapult Telesales Via E-Mail
February 12, 2001
There is great value in integrating direct mail with a telephone call (outbound or inbound). It makes the task more manageable for the representative, and it increases the likelihood that a call will result in a positive outcome. This is especially true if the offer is well-matched to the list and the data are highly accurate.
E-mail has dramatically changed direct marketing. It adds a fantastic dimension that, if used properly, can increase your response rate and shorten your selling cycle.
The first thing to be sensitive to is that e-mail marketing is not free or even cheap, unless you use a database that you already own. That is a big misconception. Most people are, or were, under the impression that e-mail campaigns were a lot cheaper than direct mail because there are no postage charges.
Companies that market targeted, opt-in e-mail lists understand that they have a valuable commodity. The universe of available e-mail lists is far smaller than the universe of direct mail lists. So in addition to charging a fee for every name that is rented, many companies charge a “transmission fee” as well. When the costs are added up, the total can approach the investment required to create a direct mail piece and send it to the same audience.
What, then, are the attractions of e-mail? One is the immediacy of the campaign. Direct mail can take several weeks to determine whether a program is a statistical success. With an e-mail blast, the outcome usually will be evident within two days. Another plus is that the e-mail can direct the prospect to a Web site (or a particular page on a Web site) through a hot link. Thus, interested prospects can learn more without having to pick up the telephone.
If you plan to tie an outbound call to the program, know that calls should occur within a day or two of the e-mail. With the quantity of e-mails that people are receiving, it is important to act quickly before the message is deleted or forgotten.
On an initiative designed to stimulate an inbound call, the responses are apt to come rapidly, almost like an infomercial. Be prepared for the spike, as it will be entirely different from that of a direct mail campaign.
Representatives should be trained on the dynamics of using e-mail and the Web. This includes timing their outbound calls appropriately and guiding a prospect through a review of your Web site on the fly.
Recently I spoke with an individual who had requested specific information from my company. The file was e-mailed to him several days earlier, but he could not find it. I offered to send it to him again while we were on the telephone so we could discuss it right then and there. By taking that tactic, I was able to avoid an unnecessarily elongated sales cycle. I also was able to maintain the interest and focus of the person with whom I was speaking.
Another prospect had a question about something she had seen on my company’s Web site. Rather than ask her to recount the point from memory, we went to the Web site together and located the page that she had a question about. One side note here: Dial-up access is essentially a relic. If your representatives are constrained by a slow connection, a prospect is apt to get frustrated and lose interest in the exercise.
The tools just described are phenomenal, universally available and are not being employed as widely as you might imagine. Are your representatives Web-enabled? Can they fire off an e-mail in an instant?
I have written before about the pitfalls of giving representatives Internet access. Those obvious distractions still exist. However, the amount to be gained is now so significant that it is a necessity in most call center/inside sales environments. The key is managing the tool with strict guidelines so it is not abused. A policy that limits the use of e-mail and the Web to business applications is fair and appropriate. Representatives will not be pleased, but the Web and e-mail can be a more significant distraction than personal calls or smoking breaks ever were.
One point to be careful about is making certain that all e-mails from the department are grammatically correct.
To begin with, the bulk of correspondence should be template driven. Just as most responses to objections can be written out beforehand (because they can be anticipated), the same is true with most e-mail. Any text that a representative composes from scratch should be proofread by a capable supervisor. It is the equivalent of call monitoring, and it is an area in which, just like monitoring, constant focus will lead to improved results. It is also an item that tends to fall to the bottom of the priority list.
The call center/telesales department as it was once known is largely a relic, especially on a business-to-business level. The new contact center is more dynamic and provides for a much more informative and often accelerated sales cycle.