Outside demand generation firms (sometimes called appointment scheduling) can be a critical component of your marketing strategy. They bring a level of data science and technology to cold calling that is difficult to replicate in-house. But the logistics of managing these outsourced sales processes are more complicated than you might think. Below are ten sticking points that often cause friction in these types of arrangements. Before negotiating your Statement of Work, I recommend spending some time running through the “what if” scenarios below.
1) Outbound Marketing – How will you market to the accounts assigned to the outside firm? Will you invite them to attend webinars that you are hosting? Will you send them monthly e-mail newsletters? Will you solicit their opinions for research studies that you are conducting? Most outside firms will ask you not to directly market to the accounts they are calling into. Why? Because you may risk over-communicating with the prospect.
2) Lead Sharing – If you do decide to continue outbound marketing to these prospects you will need to devise a lead sharing process. How will you share Marketing-Qualified-Leads (MQLs) with the outside firm and at what frequency? Do you batch up a list of webinar registrations, PDF downloads and email clickthroughs once per week? Or once per day?
3) Inbound Marketing – Suppose a Director of IT from Walmart fills out a form on your website asking to see a demo of your product. This is a great inbound lead, but Walmart is one of the accounts you have assigned to the outside agency to prospect into. Can the outside firm count that as a lead since it was one of their assigned accounts? Did they really do any work to generate this lead? Who should be the first point of contact to qualify the need? Do you route the lead directly to the Memphis-based Account Executive that calls on Walmart?
4) Existing Customers – Supposed you have a base of 2000 paying customers already that have at least one of your five different product offerings. These customers are each assigned account managers in the customer support organization. Do you want the outside firm to be able to call into these 2000 base accounts? If so, you will need to define roles and responsibilities for each group. What types of conversations and activities are the in-house account managers having versus the outside firm? Perhaps the outside firm is looking for cross-sell and up-sell opportunities while the customer support organization handles renewals and cancellations.
5) Lead Definition – How do you define a lead? Does the prospect need to be well qualified with budget, authority, need and timing? Or do you simply want to have conversations with the right types of buyer personas in your ideal customer profile accounts? Is there a lead acceptance process or do you empower the outside firm to book meetings on your team’s calendar?
6) Customer Needs to Reschedule – You have a meeting on Wednesday at 4PM with the Director of Human Resources. On Monday, he notifies you that he needs to reschedule. Or even worse, he simply no-shows on Wednesday. Whose responsibility is it to reschedule? If the meeting cannot be rescheduled does the outside firm get credit (and payment) for the lead?
7) You Need to Reschedule – What happens if you need to reschedule? Whose responsibility is it to find another day/time? What amount of lead time (in advance of the scheduled call) do you need to provide the outside firm? What happens if the prospect changes their mind and does not want to reschedule? Is the outside firm eligible for credit (and payment) for the lead?
8) Bad Meetings – What happens when a call goes bad? Supposed the outside firm books an appointment with a divisional CIO at a Fortune 500 account. When the CIO gets on the call s/he is not really interested in a discussion and tries to rush your account team off the phone. Does that count as a lead? Is it really the fault of the outside firm?
9) Weekly Reporting – How often will you meet with the outside firm? And what information will you expect them to share? At a minimum you will want a list of conversations that occurred along with the name of the company, individual contacted and discussion topics. Do you want to hear about bad conversations as well as good ones? Is there information you want to collect from prospects who are not interested – such as the reason why? Do you want recordings of phone conversations?
10) Termination for Convenience – There is a high failure rate with outside appointment scheduling engagements. These firms are experts at emailing and cold calling decision makers. But they are not magicians and they are not market makers. If your in-house teams are having trouble getting leads because of weak market demand, don’t expect a miracle from an outside firm. You should think about what will happen when something goes wrong. How much notice should be required for you to terminate the contract? A month? A week? You will be required to pay during the termination period.