Inside Sales And Telemarketing Help Boost B2B Brands: Really?

First of all, I’d like to extend a big “Thank You” to my readers and followers who responded to an invitation last month to participate in the 2010 B2B Marketing Budgets and Mix survey that Forrester fielded together with MarketingProfs.  Without your responses, the research would not be as broad or relevant — so thank you again! 

After closing the survey and digesting some of the results, I was really surprised by one finding. After reviewing our process and validating the data, my researcher, Zack Reiss-Davis, and I believe that the result is not a technical problem with the survey instrument nor its execution. I decided to share what we found and get your thoughts on why B2B marketers may have answered the question as they did. 

In January 2010, we found that 65% of the 249 B2B marketers we surveyed at firms with 50 or more employees use inside sales/telesales as part of the marketing mix. This percentage is slightly greater, but not dissimilar, to what we found in early 2009 (62% said they use inside sales).

Of the 65% who use inside sales, 34% said they found it “highly effective” for driving brand awareness.   Brand awareness?   Really?!?  That’s on par with webcasts/webinars and the company Web site for effectively building brand, according to the same survey respondents.

I act incredulous because in prior years, many fewer marketers rated inside sales as highly effective for building brand.  In 2009, for example, only 21% (of the 62% who said they use inside sales) rated it highly effective for building brand.  They did rate it very effective for generating leads — which makes sense since inside sales is one of the “moments of truth” when buyers and sellers engage person to person. And personal selling is essential in B2B marketing.

But for building brand?  How does that work?

So I decided I should run this mystery by my readers/followers and hear what you think.  Which of the following possibilities would you pick as the most likely explanation for this result?:

1) It’s an anomaly. Either the respondents didn’t understand the question or interpreted it in some unexpected way and their answers are not consistent with actual practice.

2) It’s the economy.  Many firms slashed marketing program budgets last year.  To try to compensate, firms turned their inside sales teams into outbound, cold-calling machines tasked with reaching out to buyers to chat about products and services. Remarkably some buyers paid attention.

3) Inside sales begins to play a bigger role in lead incubation.  Respondents are starting to see inside sales/telemarketing play a larger role in educating, building relationships, and “keeping in touch” with prospects than simply just dialing for dollars.  New sales enablement tools help telesales see what “leads” look at when visiting the site, and can better inform subsequent conversations when used properly. Personally, I would call this “lead generation” but — because the activity may not produce qualified leads this quarter — marketers may see telesales helping to create a positive brand experience beyond building pipeline.

As I ponder this result, I have to admit that I’m favoring explanation #3 right now.  However, what I really wonder is “Am I missing something?”  Is there some new way — that I have yet to run across — where companies use inside sales to create awareness, answer buyer questions, or do something other than advance deals to close this quarter?

Let me know what you think.  Best answers get credit in my upcoming report.

If you would like to preview the results of our B2B marketing mix and budgets survey– and see where your B2B peers are heading in 2010 — please join me Tuesday, February 9, 2010 (11 am Eastern, 8 am Pacific) for my Forrester Teleconference where I will talk about our findings prior to the report publication.  Hope you can join me then!

9 Responses to “Inside Sales And Telemarketing Help Boost B2B Brands: Really?”

  1. Laura Ramos Says:

    Thanks for the comment Carl. Your point is well taken. Yet I think many companies treat telemarketing like telesales and focus the role on appointment setting. Rather, I’d like to see telemarketing measured and rewarded on how well they help to engage prospects. The simple task of following up — and offering to help provide more information — in a low-pressure, high-touch manner can go a long way to establishing buyer trust early in the B2B relationship.

  2. Carl Lewis Says:

    Ardath has a good point. Perhaps one can see that telemarketing nowadays play a better, more deeper role other than generating leads and closing sales. It does promote company brand awareness. B2B marketing has more “interested” prospects than b2c which allows more prospects to engage in conversation.

    I just chanced upon this blog recently and was unable to join the conference. Anyways, this is a great read all throughout.

  3. Stuart Armstrong Says:

    Branding? “not a concept nor task for the lowly tele-sales team”……welcome to the new B2B world of the empowered, informed, web enabled, measurable ROI always there for the client- $100k inside sales professional. CRM-VOIP connected 24×7 with a 360degree view of the client. Can they drive brand?……..

    whats brand? a companie’s collective +/- reputation for solving business problems and delivering customer services while meeting stakeholders ROI goals and acting as a responsible corporate citizen.
    Sum total micro/macro, local/global of: Awareness, reputation, specific buyer knowledge, product SKU reputation, customer service, viral user recommendation (Netpromoter score (NPS), market share, size, etc.

    IF marketing has done their branding job in the first place- and made sure the companies inside the ICP universe (ideal customer profile) are at least generally AWARE of the company, then it should not fall to the inside reps to spend 1-2 minutes identifying the company to the NEW prospect.

    However, all initial sales calls are branding calls for the first 1-2 minutes (OR 2-3rd interaction), IF that prospect has no idea of who the company is, SKU’s, products, problems solved, etc are.

    Inside sales reps are proud workers and 95% will take the time to learn the companies “brand place” in the market niche. If surveys indicate that a companies brand is weak, and surveys show the inside sales team is driving brand awareness- then the marketing bonus should be given to the insides sales teams. If marketing reps spent more time listening to these front line workers, then they would know exactly how low the brand equity is- and take corrective action- before these blogs start getting tweeted around.

    regards
    Stuart

  4. Steve Harriman Says:

    Hi Laura: Just attended your webcast which I found most interesting and helpful.
    NetQoS (now CA) has long been a proponent of inside sales and we have worked hard to make it a core competence at the company. In a high growth business (at NetQoS, ~50% of revenue came from new logo sales), the ISR is usually the first human contact a prospective customer has, so they can be very influential in creating the initial brand impression/experience. In Marketing, we endeavor to educate the ISRs on the content we deliver via marketing programs so they can follow up with intelligent, probing questions in context, and uncover the prospects’ problems/needs/goals. For this reason, I am a big fan of in-sourcing ISR talent.

  5. Inside Sales Top Method for Lead Generation in 2009 according to Forrester and MarketingProfs | Ken Krogue Says:

    [...] study for 2010 is coming out soon, but her most recent rankings in 2009 are as [...]

  6. Aaron Dun Says:

    This one caught my eye for, as I explained at one BU 2010 kickoff last week: “You are all brand managers, every interaction you have contributes to brand building and awareness, right down to the VM you might leave.” But Inside Sales contributing to awareness? I surely hadn’t though of it in those terms even though intuitively it makes some sense.

    But what we ARE doing is thinking ever more closely about those front end interactions. The team in India used to scatterbomb their calling, even if they were connected to a campaign. But now, just as we segment our direct sales teams efforts, we are also examining how we can segment our inside teams effort to help them build ongoing “relationships” that tie into our marketing campaigns and use even VM as a tool to move people through the awareness/research phases when they are ready.

    Case in point, we sent out a high end dimensional piece to a key prospect. No response to that or the multi-touch email follow-up. The direct team member who owned the prospect followed-up by phone respectfully, but repeatedly. And just when he was about to give up 6 weeks later, boom the prospect called him back. His message: “I didn’t know a lot about you, but you caught my eye, and were persistent. We are going to bid on a project and we want to talk.”

    The moral as always: sustained and consistent contact does work. You could argue for both demand gen and awareness building in this example, but the net result is the same. We are pushing these changes in our inside team rapidly.

    -@ajdun

  7. Robert Lesser, Direct Impact Marketing Says:

    I agree with Ardath (indeed almost all of the time) in that lead nurture has evolved to play a larger role for telesales.

    Another reason is that as the role of telesales has expanded while the amount of spend on brand awareness media has declined. Witness the decline of print advertising and overall marketing spend on pure brand awareness.

    I would also suggest that brand engagement is more important than brand awareness to B2B marketers. Thus we are seeing a movement to social media marketing and telesales, where live people can engage prospects.

    Laura, I look forward to the report!

    Best,

    Robert

  8. Laura Ramos Says:

    Thanks Ardath, and good to hear from someone with your expertise on this topic. I suspected that using insides sales to have “business topic” conversations — outside of the normal sales qualification motion — was behind this result. But I was also concerned that it might be something else that I was missing.

    Thanks for adding some color to reason #3.

  9. Ardath Albee Says:

    Hi Laura,

    I work often on joint projects with Brian Carroll and his team at InTouch. We’ve been incorporating calling with content nurturing touches for several years now with great results. Since buying cycles are longer, we build the conversations around business reasons the content in the nurturing touches address, while at the same time learning more about the prospect.

    The reason marketers may have said “awareness” is because we find that the callers’ personal connection rate is higher when the prospect recognizes the brand/company based on their experience of value with the content. Hence they are more willing to engage in conversation. And, of course, calling based on a business reason that the prospect has expressed interest in doesn’t hurt, either.

    Just my spin on your #3 above.


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