August 20

9 Reasons Why B2B Marketing Should Own Teleprospecting

Marketing Strategy


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:

  1. It’s a sales activity.
  2. 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.)
  3. It would help if you had a sales culture in a teleprospecting operation – yes, all the braggadocio and rah-rah stuff that the black-turtleneck crowd arches an eyebrow at.
  4. The teleprospecting representatives must have a sales-like compensation structure based upon results.
  5. 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 sales development 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-pollinate 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, but it can also 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 contact forms. Marketing owns demand generation. Teleprospecting is one essential 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. These 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 tough job that salespeople do. That’s one reason there is often a war between sales and marketing (including the use of the occasional deadly email hand grenade). If the marketing has to manage this complicated 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, onboarding, ongoing training, activity and productivity metrics, attrition, and capacity planning – many of the same challenges the sales organization faces.

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 will be on the front lines of the lead-quality war if properly aligned with sales. 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 marketers 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 an excellent 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 salespeople 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 end 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.

Image by: Dots and Spaces

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About the author 

J. David Green

J. David Green is the CEO of PipeAlign, a company that helps B2B companies tell a winning story, scale that story across sales and marketing, and measure and improve what matters most. Among other accomplishments, Dave generated a billion dollar sales pipeline in 20 months for Avaya, increased SMB revenue for Symantec from $2MM a year to $25M a year in twelve months, wrote a book on scalable lead generation, and has spoken at the DMA, MarketingSherpa, the BMA, the AMA, and many other events.

  1. @Wim @ Sales Sells
    Thank you for the kind words. Your point about the value of teleprospecting is spot on. When companies outsource because they think teleprospecting is not strategic, they are wrong. Period.

    I do think that outsourcing can bring big advantages because outsourcing firms must compete and because, generally, free markets create efficiencies for buyers. Outsourcing can also offer clients economies of scale.

    At the end of the day, what’s really important is how one goes about using the phone to generate demand and to qualify and nurture leads. Whether it’s outsourced or done in-house is less important than doing it right.

  2. @Kevin Campbell
    I agree with both your points. I’m surprised that more sales leaders don’t demand that marketing take 100% ownership of pipeline development. I’m surprised that CEO’s aren’t clamoring for this, in fact. You’re also right about teleprospecting improving lead quality. There’s been a huge amount of press regarding the value of automated lead scoring but the most important indicators (like whether there is really a need or not) simply requires a conversation and some judgement. Thanks for the comment.

  3. @Maegan Anderson
    Thanks for the kind words. Inside sales or telesales is a rapidly expanding area for sales organizations, whether it’s to manage resellers, cover SMB, or manage aspects of key accounts. I do think it’s a mistake, though, to confuse lead follow up with other forms of inside selling.

  4. Thank you for this kind of blog. I agree to you Dave, sales should follow up on qualified opportunities. Marketing message is always dynamic, there is ever a battle between marketing and sales about when the sales professional takes the baton.

  5. Great post David, I think it’s a shame to outsource teleprospecting. In-house teleprospecting representatives are truly part of your company culture. They have a direct line with the marketing and sales department and can quickly respond to changes in strategy. Monitoring and analyzing these calls can also provide great info about the market and your sales strategy. It’s sad to see so many companies outsource their teleprospecting.

  6. Sales should demand that marketing own the teleprospecting function because it builds a clear link between the success of the upstream marketing and the quality of the leads that are ultimately delivered to sales. Experience has shown us that without marketing ownership of the teleprospecting function, the quality of the B2B lead generation programs upstream are substantially diminished.

    Point #2 of your post talks about marketings vested interest in the campaign activity upstream, but it fails to make the important link to the quality of the leads being passed to sales and how better leads build a stronger bond between marketing and sales that will be beneficial to everyone.

  7. I agree with you David. Teleprospecting belongs to marketing. Teleselling, now that belongs to sales. Thanks for the info David.

  8. Yes David i agree that … B2B helps in lowering the cost for selling and marketing, in anykind of business. As well as its cost reduction technique for the company so as to overcome mediator too …
    Thanks for sharing this nice info David. Its really a magnificent information.

  9. Dave, I believe the market agrees with you. In our 2010 LeadGen Metrics & Compensation Study we collected information from over 225 technology companies. We ask where does the group report and found that it is a 50/50 split between sales and marketing. That is significant in that it is a 92% increase in a shift to Marketing over the previous year. We believe it is due to not only the reasons you stated (which are well articulated btw) but also due to the transition to a more effective sales and marketing alignment. This is an important topic… thanks for bringing it to light.

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