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Best Practices for Generating Leads in the Call Center

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By : Mary Shanley

Whether you own the business, or are managing a lead generation program for your company, the bottom line results of all your campaigns are incredibly important.  That bottom line is almost certainly linked to how many sales you generate over time.

Unfortunately, if you organization is like most companies, you essentially throw away 50% of your lead opportunities without even attempting to service them.

It doesn't make sense to spend the time putting together the program, working through all the details and problems and committing money to the media if you are not going to maximize all the opportunities in front of him.  I am certain virtually everyone would agree with me that you want every lead possible to turn into a sale. Even if it takes time, you owe it to yourself and to your business to generate every dollar of revenue that is possible.

Crazy as it seems, we see an incredible amount of businesses running lead generation campaigns that are not developed and optimized to generate every sale possible. It is so sad and disappointing to see these businesses fail or not fully meet their potential because the lead generation campaign stops at step one instead of following through and doing three additional things that will maximize every sales opportunity.

The first mistake that most lead generation programs make in a call center is a poor lead qualification script that is used inconsistently and not systematically to maximize every opportunity. Too often, the agent or salesperson who takes the prospect call tries to ascertain needs by developing a conversation that doesn't follow a systematic, specific list of questions.

An organic conversation might sound better than a scripted one, but if your agent or salesperson tries to ad-lib the conversation, there is a great chance he will fail to ask really important, really basic questions that will help determine the best way to process that lead.  It is imperative that you determine what those most important qualifying questions are so you can create a Qualification Database of all of your prospects and build information that will tell you when they are ready to buy.

Let’s say you are generating leads for a financial product like a Reverse Mortgage.

Clearly, not everyone will be qualified today. Depending on your geographic coverage, maybe those from certain states or zip codes would represent your best prospects. It is important, therefore, to qualify based on location.

Another qualification question will be what is the age of the prospect? If they’re not over 62 or 63, will they be a true prospect for you? Another qualifying question might even be the value of the home.

So let’s look at the different ways these questions could be asked.

The salesperson might ask of the consumer, Are you over 62? and if the consumer says no I’m not, they might end the conversation and go on to the next lead. But the right way to ask the question is:  What is your age? That’s because that prospect might be 60 or 61 and if you capture that information properly you’re going to have prospects with whom to follow up over the next few years.

The quick question related to ZIP Code or state is very similar. The salesperson might be looking for people in New York or New Jersey or Illinois depending on where they market to or where they are licensed. And if they determine they’re not good prospects for them they might end the conversation and fail to ask where the consumer lives. But they may not know that your plans are to expand your coverage in the coming months and those Pennsylvania leads would have been a prospect for you in the very near term. We have even suggested to clients that they sell leads they can’t use to other companies to recover their media dollars.

The lead qualification script is absolutely critical to long-term growth of your company and to the success of your lead generation program. Capture the detail on every prospect that shows interest or raises their hand so that you can re-market to them at the appropriate time. Things change.  Your market could expand and changes in valuation can turn homes that were previously unqualified into qualified ones.  Keep an open mind as you develop your script and make sure your call center is capturing all of your qualification questions completely.

The next mistake we see too often in the Call Center is a focus only on hot leads. Of course we want to maximize current leads into sales, but you need to take a big picture overview in order to develop a truly successful campaign.

For example, we developed a new campaign for a company who is generating financial leads. They had been running radio, and the leads were being sent direct to their internal salespeople. Because of the way the program was created, the salespeople were focused only on the current hot lead calling in. The Sales People literally were throwing away leads that needed follow-up the next day, week or month. There was no automatic, lead follow up action put in place to maximize all the potential leads.

Certainly, if you are selling a product that virtually every consumer needs then maybe you can add on salespeople or increase media and eventually you will increase sales. But for most of us, not everyone is a prospect. Plus, that's not the smart way to improve your bottom line. By doing that you're focusing on only the prospects who have an immediate need despite the fact that a significant portion of customers might demand your product at a later date.  Why ignore those future prospects?

Ignoring them is a costly, ineffective strategy. The smarter strategy is to work with the leads for which you have already paid and create a Lead Nurturing program that will stay in touch with those prospects until they are ready to buy or die.

A Lead Nurturing program works best when it is a combination of Inbound & Outbound telemarketing, direct mail and email. Depending on your prospect base and what they've told you in their initial lead qualification conversation, the plan of which one goes first and at what timed intervals, will change.

You need to follow up with your prospects in a time interval that makes sense for their needs and their expected time for purchasing your product or service. This clearly ties back to your development of an effective lead qualification script so you can maximize sales opportunities with all of your prospects.

It's really unfortunate that consumers and business owners have had too many experiences where they've been burned by shady or disreputable businesses. In order to maximize your prospect base, you absolutely need to show you can and should be trusted by your prospects. The way to do that is by being consistent in the information you provide to them and building credibility by demonstrating your best practices.  This goes not only for prospects who are indicating a current interest but also those who may not have a need today but still want information.

For example we have had prospective clients tell us if the prospect is not ready to buy right now, they advise agents to get off the phone as quickly as possible. They are concerned about the cost of the talk time.  It’s embarrassing that a company would have so little regard for a prospect that is showing interest in their company’s products or services.  In this time of instant reviews and feedback online, every company needs to constantly think about their perceived brand image with customers and prospective customers. Every opportunity you have to communicate positive messages about your credibility, your positive customer feedback and why you are the best option should be seized.

For example, as you follow up with your non-hot prospects, the information you send should be informational and, if possible, specific to your product or services. If you are a waterproofing company, information about the dangers of mold in your basement due to a wet foundation is perfectly educational and provides benefits to the consumer yet also promotes the need for your product.

Testimonials are an incredibly effective way to communicate to your prospects that you are a reputable company that should be trusted. If you market locally, letting customers know the town in which you did the business is also helpful.

I’ve also seen a lot of very effective use of humor in newsletters both online and print versions, that communicate to the audience the company is managed and owned by real people. Since senses of humor differ from person to person, however, it is important to be fairly conservative and respectful of all tastes when including humor in campaigns.

Whether you are sending out newsletters direct-mail postcards, email or making a telemarketing call, the most important thing is to listen to your prospects and respect them. Do your best to develop a relationship with them so that your company is top of mind when they are ready to purchase.

In Wrap up:

After 30 years in the Call Center & Telemarketing business, we have seen first-hand and heard about some very poor customer experiences.  But the truth is there are thousands of companies that have built an outstanding business by taking advantage of the strengths of a 1 on 1 conversation that is started with a telemarketing call.  Make each one as positive as possible, and use this fabulous medium to build your company maximizing all of your sales opportunities…not just the “easy” first half.

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