Many marketing organizations are enlisting the services of third-party teleservice providers to drive qualified sales-ready leads via teleprospecting. And whether teleprospecting is a new endeavor or you're looking to replace or augment an existing vendor, embarking on a pilot program is usually a smart first step.
A pilot program will allow you to test your chosen vendor(s), your approach, target market, and messaging. It also provides you with an understanding of the results you can expect from the initiative itself, such as how many leads and what types of leads are generated as well as the impact to the sales pipeline—lead acceptance by sales, conversion to pipeline, etc.
But not all pilot programs are created equal. Running a pilot for too briefly—perhaps only four to eight weeks—can provide inaccurate and inconclusive results. Instead, marketers should plan on investing at least 12 weeks in their next pilot program.
The longer a pilot program, the more accurate the results, and the more likely you are to create leads that your sales organization really wants.
1. Ramping up takes time
No matter how seasoned the teleprospecting agents are or how much training is conducted, the majority of pilot programs will include a ramp-up period. During this timeframe, the agents learn the best ways to use your unique messaging and value propositions. They also need this time to gain confidence in their new-product knowledge.
Agents use ramp-up time to uncover the unique layers of the decision-making process at each targeted organization, determining who to really speak with to obtain the most meaningful leads. Those contacts often differ from the contacts within the target database.
In analyzing more than two dozen pilot programs that we have conducted for our clients, the average quantity of leads per day is 17% higher during the third month as compared to the first month. Though that is our average increase, the difference between the first month and the third one can be as great as 54%.
Those statistics illustrate the importance of allowing a pilot program to ramp up in order to fully understand its potential over the long-run.
2. Early spikes should be scrutinized
Though many new campaigns get off to a slower start due to the ramp-up period described above, some pilot programs produce the opposite results, yielding an unusually high quantity of leads in the first month. Based on our experience, this spike happens in just fewer than 20% of our pilot programs.
In most cases, that type of a spike can be attributed to the target database. Pilot campaigns that initially focus on a very warm group of marketing responders or a "top priority” list segment can produce higher initial results. During the first weeks of teleprospecting, the agents identify the low-hanging fruit from the warm sources, which elevates the lead volume.
However, as the pilot moves into cooler prospect segments and data sources, the spike evens out, and the true ongoing production is realized. If a pilot program is conducted over a very short period, the results will be elevated, which could lead to disappointment down the road.
If your results are much higher than anticipated, consider the source of the data and whether it can be replicated on an ongoing basis. If it can't, then you will be doing yourself a disservice by not testing additional sources and prospect segments.
3. Integrating sales feedback sets up success
Though the previous two reasons are focused on the quantity of sales-ready leads derived from a pilot, it is equally important—if not more important—to also refine and test the quality of your leads during the pilot period.
The goal of teleprospecting is to uncover high-quality leads that create a robust pipeline and ultimately new customers. However, the sales cycle for many B2B solutions can be quite long, such as 6-18 months or longer. Therefore, waiting until revenue is realized before deeming a pilot program successful is not realistic.
Instead, it's important to engage with the sales teams and solicit their feedback once they have had time to follow up on multiple leads (approximately three to five weeks into the pilot).
Find out about their experiences with your leads. Have they made contact? Was the information accurate? What additional information would they like to see? Will the leads be accepted to their pipeline? What next steps have been set?
Providing that type of specific lead feedback will allow tweaks to the teleprospecting approach, messaging, lead definitions, and even the target market.
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Pilot programs must be built to allow adequate time to gain sales feedback, make adjustments, and then gather additional feedback. Engaging with your sales organization in that manner during the pilot program will also lay the foundation for a successful relationship between the teleprospecting team and the sales executives, which will positively impact your long-term results.
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