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How to Evaluate and Select a B2B Teleprospecting Partner

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Many marketing organizations are placing an emphasis on the role of teleprospecting as a component of their business-to-business lead generation strategy.

Perhaps one of the reasons behind that emphasis is the endorsement that teleprospecting has received from SiriusDecisions, a leading sales and marketing research and advisory firm, when it added teleprospecting to its new Demand Waterfall model.

As a result, many organizations are turning to third-party teleservice vendors for the first time. Navigating the dense outsourcing market of providers can be overwhelming even for the most experienced marketer, however.

The following are seven steps that can help you locate, evaluate, and select the right teleprospecting partner for your organization.

1. Define what services you need


Before you set out on your evaluation, it is critical to assess your needs.

Marketing and Sales management should jointly discuss your organization's teleprospecting requirements. For example, organizations may need account profiling expertise, assistance qualifying leads and setting appointments, or help with nurturing long-term leads.

All of those can fall under the umbrella term of "teleprospecting," so if you do not properly define your team's needs, you may waste time with vendors ill-suited for the task.

2. Prioritize and categorize your 'must have' vs. your 'nice to have' items

Make a list of all the services you require in a teleprospecting partner. Although nearly everyone is seeking quality output (in the form of leads, appointments, data...), some requirements are individual to each company, including the following:

  • Integration with your CRM or marketing automation solution, or both
  • Data augmentation
  • Scalability to handle large-scale growth
  • Specific industry or solution expertise
  • Integration of multimedia
  • Creative, social media, and Web services

Making a list of what's most important to you, as well as categorizing your "must have" and "nice to have" items, will help you interview vendors and develop a meaningful request for proposal (RFP).

3. Ask for referrals and conduct research

Teleservice agencies are popping up everywhere. Though many are quality-focused organizations, others are "smile and dial" firms with questionable quality. Ask your professional network for referrals: Marketing colleagues, Sales managers, business partners, and your marketing agencies are excellent resources.

In addition, take some time to look online. Look specifically at B2B marketing directories and publications. Look for televendors that have spoken at marketing events, those that were published best-practices or sourced in marketing publications, and those that have written bylined pieces. All those are indicators that the vendor is an industry leader.

4. Request a phone call via the vendor's website

Once you have compiled your list of potential vendors, go to their websites and request a sales call. This approach will give you insight into how promptly and professionally they respond to a Web inquiry.

During your initial conversations, be sure to look for the following positive indicators:

  • Can they clearly articulate their area of specialization, and how do they differentiate?
  • Are they asking you pinpointed questions to better understand your needs?
  • Do their core services align with your needs?
  • Have they clearly defined a next step with you?

The sales rep's ability to conduct a meaningful dialogue with you in the first conversation is crucial, as it's an indicator of the vendor's culture and overall communication abilities.

5. Create and distribute a meaningful RFP

Once you have narrowed your list to 4-6 potential vendors, create and distribute an RFP. A well-written RFP will help you determine the right vendor for you.

To ensure vendors can provide valuable insight and relevant answers, thoroughly describe your current situation, needs, and expectations within the RFP. Include as much detail as possible on your solution, target market, volume, regional focus, etc.

Here are some categories and questions that you may include in your RFP.

Company Overview

  • Describe your company's...
    1. Background and relevant experience
    2. Long-term growth strategy
    3. Competitive advantage and its sustainability
    4. Organizational and client support structure
  • Provide three relevant references.

Development Process

  • Describe your development process and major milestones.
  • Explain how much involvement is required from the client.
  • Describe your approach to risk mitigation for new engagements.

Agents and Staffing

  • Explain your agents' skill sets and background, as well as experience targeting our market.
  • What is your average agent tenure?
  • How do you hold agents accountable? What processes are in place to track and manage performance?
  • How do you handle large activity spikes, such as a product launch?

Training

  • In detail, describe your employee development and skills-based training programs.
  • Explain how agents are trained for a new client.

Data and Technology

  • Describe how you collect, store, and share data with your clients.
  • Explain how your company integrates with a client's CRM andr marketing automation solution.
  • Provide an example where implementation or development of a new technology has resulted in cost reduction or improved customer satisfaction.
  • Do you have proprietary tools that differentiate you in the market? Explain.
  • Describe your technology and processes to accommodate call monitoring by your clients.

Results

  • What metrics are commonly used to measure program performance?
  • What steps do you take to ensure program goals are obtained?
  • How does your company troubleshoot issues if results are not aligned with expectations?
  • Provide examples of client reporting.

Quality

  • Explain how your company manages the overall quality of services provided.
  • Describe your company's quality audit processes.
  • What is your process to adjust your product (i.e., leads) based on client feedback?

Recommendations

  • Based on our needs, provide recommendations for an adequate pilot program.
  • What are your top five critical success factors for programs similar to ours?

Pricing

  • Explain how you price your services. Provide rates.
  • Provide pricing for your recommended pilot program.

Note: Your procurement department will likely have a list of mandatory financial and legal questions to also include.

6. Evaluate RFP responses based on a predetermined scoring model

In most cases, vendors will spend significant time and effort responding to an RFP. It's equally important that the evaluator spend significant time and effort reviewing and evaluating each response.

One way to help the evaluation process is to first detail your expectations and criteria for each question asked in the RFP. Then, you can compare vendor answers against your expectations/criteria and score answers, as follows:

  • Unresponsive to question = 0
  • Does not meet criteria/expectations = 1
  • Meets criteria/expectations = 3
  • Exceeds criteria/expectations = 5

If "nice-to-have" questions are included in your RFP, then you may want to weigh those questions slightly lower, using a different point scale.

This process will help you to more clearly pinpoint the vendors that most closely align with your needs.

7. Perform a site visit

Based on your RFP evaluation and reference checks, you should be able to narrow your selection to two agencies—or even a clear winner. Either way, perform a site visit before making a final decision.

During the site visit, ensure that the company—and specifically the management team you will work with—illustrates the same level of professionalism, knowledge, and expertise that was displayed in the written RFP response.

A site visit should include...

  • Face time with an executive to hear the company's long-term vision
  • A meeting with your future account management team
  • A tour of the facility
  • An interview of potential agents
  • A viewing of systems and reporting

Once you've made your selection, communicating your decision to your new partner is easy. But be sure to take some time to personally call each participating vendor and provide some insight into your selection process, as well as feedback on their organization.


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Kathy Rizzo is vice-president of sales and marketing at TeleNet Marketing Solutions, a lead generation and lead nurturing company.

LinkedIn: Kathy Rizzo

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Comments

  • by Amber Thu Mar 14, 2013 via web

    This is a great list. Before signing up with anyone, make a list of what you want then look for a company that can deliver them. Also, learn as much as you can about the company.

  • by Greg Dunne, CEO Mansfield Sales Partners Thu Mar 14, 2013 via web

    Very thought provoking article. Although the list is extensive, there are still some missing items that, in my experience, are critical. These are:

    - Management. One of the biggest obstacles to the success of these programs is the creation and execution of a management plan for the outsourced provider.
    - Goals. The stated goals for the program should never be limited to activity based metrics (number of calls, number of meetings etc.).
    - List development. The quality of the lead lists is critical to the success of the program.

    http://www.mansfieldsp.com/

  • by Sheldon Sachs Fri Mar 15, 2013 via web

    This article makes a great many valid points and, for the most part, I agree with the criteria Kathy suggests as useful for selecting a tele-prospecting partner. But choosing a partner is very different from choosing a vendor. Vendors provide commodities; partners have far greater value and import to your business.

    So I can understand why you might use an RFP to obtain a commodity, but I can't imagine why you'd want to use an RFP for selecting a valued, mission critical partner. The qualities you're looking for simply can't be scored or measured in the same way. There are too many intangibles and, most importantly, the most vital criterion is trust - your trust in the value that partner brings to your sales process.

    Mike Falkson, the CEO of my company, eti Sales Support, blogged on this topic a while back (http://etisales.com/why-bother-with-rfps/) Mike referred to a prior blog by Seth Godin in which Seth said “A resume is an excuse to reject you. Once you send me your resume, I can say, 'oh, they’re missing this or they’re missing that,' and boom, you’re out.”

    Mike draws a parallel between resumes and RFPs by pointing out that most of the qualities you would use to "qualify" a b2b sales partner can't be reduced to a spreadsheet for comparison purposes. He says that an RFP is "just an excuse to pigeonhole you as another commodity." And he continues to quote from Godin's blog to point out : “Great jobs, world class jobs, jobs people kill for… those jobs don’t get filled by people emailing in resumes. Ever.”

    The same goes for selecting a new service provider. Rarely are great solutions delivered by those who present well written responses to RFP’s. Offer and execution are not the same.

    www.etisales.com/blog

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