By Brian D. Jaffe
For dental manufacturers and dealers, incorporating an outbound telesales organization in your marketing mix can be an incredibly powerful and cost effective approach to growing your revenues and increasing your market share. On a typical day, a dentist is inundated with hundreds of advertisements from magazines, websites, email blasts and the increasing number of social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. Marketers are beginning to leverage outbound telesales programs as a means of getting above the noise.
I recently consulted with an international dental implant manufacturer that was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on traditional advertising, but achieving only limited results. Their cost for acquiring each new account exceeded $2,500. After I helped the company build an outbound telesales organization, their acquisition cost decreased to less than $300 per account and they were more effectively and efficiently securing new business.
Insource or outsource
How do you develop an effective inside sales team? The first step is deciding whether to create an internal team or outsource the function to another company. While the latter option is generally less expensive, an internal team will yield better long-term results, as they are solely focused on mastering and selling your product. An external team is likely selling two or three other products at the same time, making them less informed on the intricacies of your product. Also, it’s extremely difficult to train, track, and monitor a team that is located in India, Canada or the Philippines.
Hiring the right people
If you decide to build an internal telesales organization, hiring the right people is critical. Telesales is a challenging profession that demands a unique blend of personality traits and skills. It may take ten calls to get through to the decision maker and another five to make a sale. The key personality traits of a successful telesales representative are a positive attitude, contagious enthusiasm, perseverance, and a willingness to learn. Energy, maturity and passion will always outperform product or technical knowledge, though of course those attributes are important as well. Some dental companies task their inbound customer service representatives with making outbound marketing calls. However, the skills and competencies required for these two important functions are critically different, so it is best to keep them separate.
Once you have hired the right telesales team, the next step is implementing a rigorous training and education program that focuses on product features and benefits, clinical usage and efficiency, sales techniques, rapport and tone. If a doctor or an office administrator asks a technical question about your product that the telesales representative is unable to answer, the sale will be lost. The upfront investment of time and money in training a team has been proven to yield superior sales results in the long run.
A key factor in building a successful outbound telesales system is installing a robust customer relationship management system. CRM systems enable you to track every step of the sales process, including prospects, call volumes, conversations with decision makers and sales. CRM systems range from simple programs such as ACT!, which provide basic sales data, to more complex systems such as Salesforce.com or SugarCRM, which show the sales pipeline, post-sales and customer service information. For companies new to these systems, I typically recommend a simple solution, which will help you maximize its potential. While the more advanced systems provide greater functionality, your staff will probably only use a portion of the features. Regardless of which system you choose, it’s important to fully understand the hidden fees for customization, mobile access and integration to your internal systems.
Once you have implemented your CRM system, the next decision is the timing and frequency of your calls. In my experience, the best time to reach a doctor is during lunch or just before or after office hours. At these times, the office administrator may be out of the office and the doctor might answer the phone. If the telesales rep does not connect with the doctor on the first try, she should not give up. If your market research suggests that a practice can benefit from your product and service, you should make at least five calls over a period of two weeks to get through to the decision maker. However, if the gatekeeper states emphatically that the doctor is not interested in your product, then it is best to follow up a few weeks later.
In a typical sales call, the telesales rep has less than 15 seconds to grab the attention of the office administrator before she hangs up. A compelling pitch is critical. In this economic environment, the most effective sales pitches are those that enable the doctor to make more money, cut costs or reduce patient chair time. These benefits need to be stated in a clear and compelling way. The sales script is a dynamic and evolving document that you can improve upon and tweak over time. Testing slight variations will help you optimize your pitch. Even the slightest variation in the timing, tone, message or approach can be the difference between rejection and making a sale.
Similar to external sales reps, telesales representatives should be paid a combination of base and commissions. Most companies use a compensation structure consisting of 80% base and 20% commissions. Compensation becomes much more challenging when the telesales team serves to set up appointments for external sales reps. In these cases, a telesales rep may actually make the sale on behalf of the rep. This may create a conflict regarding who receives the commissions. To resolve this issue, commissions should be shared between both teams. In other words, the telesales rep and the outside sales rep should be awarded commissions regardless of who makes the sale.
Key decisions such as sales compensation, technology, and whether to insource or outsource all play a role in implementing a successful telesales program. I counsel all of my clients to start small and design a program tailored to their specific products and services. A small program can easily be expanded over time. Whether you are focused on acquiring new customers or growing business from your existing accounts, supplementing your existing marketing initiatives with an outbound telesales program will allow you to grow your market share at a relatively low acquisition cost.
Brian Jaffe is the president of Quantive LLC, a sales and marketing consulting firm focused on helping international medical device companies launch their products in the United States. He has spent the last 15 years building outbound telesales organizations for companies including Implant Direct Sybron International and Hiossen and Suni Medical Imaging. He has an MBA from Harvard University and a master’s degree in engineering from UC Berkeley. He can be reached at [email protected].