Over the last several years, according to MarketingSherpa, marketing departments are increasingly taking responsibility for tele-prospecting. Why do you suppose that is happening?
Let me be clear: teleprospecting is not selling something over the phone, a function that remains squarely in the sales organization. B2B companies use telesprospecting to follow up on and qualify marketing-generated responders, and identify and generate demand through outbound calling.
While I explained in a recent MarketingSherpa blog post that teleprospecting should serve as a bridge between sales and marketing, one department has to own the function, and marketing seems to have momentum. For good reasons.
Before I break down why marketing should own this function, let me say that people I respect believe with all their hearts that teleprospecting belongs in sales. This is their general rationale:
- It’s a sales activity.
- The best teleprospecting representatives should have career paths into sales and should have a sales aptitude. (Ex-road warriors are a hot commodity in the recruiting profile of many organizations.)
- You need a sales culture in a teleprospecting operation – yes, all the braggadicio and rah-rah stuff that the black-turtleneck crowd arches an eyebrow at.
- The teleprospecting representatives must have a sales-like compensation structure, based upon results.
- The teleprospecting representatives should be aligned with sales.
While there is always a situation that would be an exception, I generally agree with all of their points.
But so what?
Are any of these reasons valid enough for sales to own teleprospecting? Sure, there’s the “if it walks like a duck” argument. But lots of us have duck walks and we’re not, in fact, ducks.
Here are more compelling arguments – on behalf of marketing ownership – listed in increasing importance:
1. With the right teleprospecting approach, more inquiries will convert to sales-accepted leads. The teleprospecting team can set up a structured approach to nurturing accounts. They can provide follow-up and network to identify the appropriate buying influence, cross-polinate one interest to another, and execute numerous other tactics that result in a bigger revenue contribution from upstream marketing campaigns. Obviously, marketing must find the right balance between wringing the last nickel of campaign revenue and obtaining a good return on investment. But with responsibility for the entire function, better yields are entirely possible. Can sales do the same thing? Yes. But marketing has the greatest vested interest in capitalizing on upstream investments.
2. Teleprospecting can improve upstream demand generation yields. Not only does teleprospecting convert leads, it can elicit precise feedback on each one so marketing can better tune media, messaging, and tactics to improve the upstream investment yields. Can sales do this? Yes. But again, marketing has a much greater vested interest in making sure upstream campaigns work well.
3. Teleprospecting overlaps with demand generation. Clearly, when teleprospecting representatives cold call, share a value proposition, and discuss how solutions solve problems, those representatives are generating demand. They are just doing so by phone instead of emails, landing pages, blogs, and other forms of contact. Marketing owns demand generation. Teleprospecting is one really important tool in the demand generation toolkit. You wouldn’t take paid search or email marketing from the toolkit, would you? Giving marketing demand generation more clearly divides sales and marketing responsibilities at each stage of the buying cycle. The bigger the company, the more important it is to delineate responsibility. This divisions by stage of the buying cycle will reduce duplication of effort.
4. Integrating teleprospecting into other forms of outbound marketing can improve its efficiency. Integrated marketing works for a reason. So does integrated lead nurturing. You need one group to design and orchestrate messaging, timing, frequency, and method of contact, and then set up experiments to optimize the contact, messaging and information-exchange strategy. This lead-optimization experimentation must become de rigueur for marketing. That will be challenging if you take the most important tool – teleprospecting – out of the marketing toolkit.
5. Teleprospecting operations can teach marketers more empathy for sales and can result in better sales-marketing alignment. I have interviewed a lot of marketers who really don’t understand the very hard job that sales people do. That’s one of the reasons there is often a war between sales and marketing (including the use of the occasional deadly email hand grenade). If marketing has to manage this very difficult teleprospecting function, then maybe, just maybe, more marketing professionals will appreciate and even empathize with the sales organization. After all, to manage teleprospecting, marketing has to worry about recruitment, on-boarding, on-going training, activity and productivity metrics, attrition, capacity planning – many of the same challenges faced by the sales organization.
Marketing will also have to eat its own dog food: they’ll see for themselves just how qualified their leads really are. Sure, they may initially blame the teleprospecting operation (just like they blame sales) for not following up properly. But at some point, after making changes, they’ll see that lots of marketing leads really aren’t qualified or even responsive. After all, marketing does not have the resources to phone the leads endlessly.
Even better, teleprospecting representatives, if properly aligned with sales, will be on the front lines of the lead-quality war. Deal by deal, they will hear first hand what was and was not qualified and which leads did and didn’t close. This level of empathy and integration combined with insight into the downstream sales funnel cannot help but make marketing better at generating leads that actually optimize sales productivity. And, if done properly, teleprospecting will help marketing understand the extent to which they help optimize the productivity of both teleprospecting and sales.
6. Marketing has the best skill set to develop the right kind of customer-centric marketing messaging. I’m not saying marketing always does create customer-centric messaging. But marketing has the ability. In the process of testing openers for various buyers personas and developing assets that will convert marketing responders to sales-ready leads, marketers will learn a lot about what motivates customers to respond. With teleprospecting, the interaction rates are generally high and so the list size for setting up meaningful experiments is small.
7. Teleprospecting operations will not get converted into a quota-carrying inside sales team when the next CSO is hired. If you have been around long enough, you’ve seen sales leadership more than once convert a perfectly good teleprospecting function into a pure inside-sales play. It usually happens when money is tight. Or it happens because a new sales leader thinks that everyone on his team should actually sell, carry a quota, and earn their keep. (And it’s completely reasonable for sales leaders to give his or her sales people quotas.)
8. Teleprospecting, sized and executed properly, will significantly increase marketing’s revenue contribution. Nothing contributes revenue like teleprospecting. Not paid search. Not social media. Not the corporate website. And certainly not brand advertising. This is a workhorse capability and a platinum return on investment – even executing pure outbound calling is worthwhile if it’s done well (e.g., the average selling price is high enough).
9. Because teleprospecting will increase revenue contribution from marketing, the CEO will increase marketing funding as a percentage of revenue. Most of us believe that marketing is underfunded. However, too often proof of marketing’s contribution is murky and contentious. The right teleprospecting operation will put an end to that problem and open up new levels of funding and political power to the CMO.
Now you can see why more and more CMOs are asking the CEO to move teleprospecting into marketing.
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