As telecom technology and cloud computing continue to evolve together, customers and stakeholders are discovering the advantages of a single-source, cross-platform communications infrastructure that takes into account today’s mobile, remote workforce. At the same time, closer ties are being forged between telecom agents and IT providers – in fact, joint marketing of telecom and IT “more than doubled from 4% to 10% year-over-year in 2012,” according to Telecompetitor.
An SMB customer who has yet to adopt a cloud solution may ask you why he should invest in this technology when he considers his own infrastructure and bandwidth appropriate for his business.
Many business upgrades require a resource investment to get started – but with the best upgrades, the ROI becomes apparent in day-to-day results. In the case of cloud computing, you can demonstrate the cost savings many SMBs have enjoyed when they “pulled the plug.” Compare the cost of in-house hardware and software – buying it, licensing it and maintaining it – to a “pay as you use” option that cloud providers offer.
This simple outsourcing of telecom and other systems to a cloud provider can generate dramatic savings.
When you think about how today’s workforce accesses their data – from their computers, phones and tablets, both in the office and on the road – information security becomes a hot topic. You may point out to a skeptical customer that he already uses secured cloud computing every day in the form of Gmail, Google Docs and Facebook or Twitter.
Passwords, encryption and other proven tactics enter into cloud security, but for the customer who remains worried, you may suggest a hybrid cloud solution, in which some information remains in the company’s own network and other data is sent into the clouds.
In-house systems can be a drain: from the space they use in the office to the electricity it takes to power and cool the hardware — not to mention the personnel paid to maintain the systems.
But some ROI studies show that that cloud computing essentially pays for itself within one calendar year of its integration into an enterprise. As a telecom agent, you can use such studies to move closer to a green light from your customer.
For telecom agents, business is all about bandwidth. Getting the right information to the right people at the right time can mean the difference between connecting with a new client and missing out on opportunities.
But lead generation is hard, time-consuming work. It requires the telecom agent to research the prospects, to figure out who to pitch, to make phone calls and to hope to get an appointment. If time, resources and energy equate to a telecom agent’s bandwidth, cold-calling takes up a lot of it.
It’s a fact that a telecom agents’ time is best spent working with clients and prospective clients.Working directly with clients to understand their needs, analyzing solution options, developing proposals and connecting clients with vendors who can best address the challenges of each client are reasons why telecom agents are such valuable partners to clients. These are the activities that generate the highest return on investment and, ultimately, generate the most revenue.
Pounding the pavement is a sales technique as antiquated as analog. It might work occasionally. But mostly it just burns through a telecom agent’s bandwidth.
The answer is to partner with a company that specializes in generating qualified sales leads.
Appointment-setting firms are the secret weapon of the most efficient and successful telecom agents. They are the behind-the-scenes sales force that does one thing—they arrange face-to-face meetings between the telecom agent and representatives from businesses in need of telecom services.
The appointment setting firms take care of the bandwidth-sucking activities related to lead generation:
• research and information gathering
• ensuring that the organization is a viable sales lead
• appointment setting
Once the appointment is arranged, the firm hands the client off to the telecom agent, who can then do the things he or she is best at:
• analyze the prospective clients’ needs
• develop a proposed solution
• present options to the clients
• close the deal and connect the clients to vendors who can solve their telecom problems
Yes, the telecom business is all about bandwidth. It’s what agents provide to their clients, and it’s what an appointment setting firm can provide to agents.
Anyone who has been in the telecom business any length of time knows this one essential truth: A good percentage of customers choose this particular type of service business based on recommendations from colleagues. High-quality leads that are based on referrals have been estimated at as high as 45% of client rolls. So, while drawing up a sales strategy, failing to include a game plan for generating referrals is akin to leaving leads on the table.
Avoid sounding scripted: Everyone has gotten that 7 p.m. dinnertime phone call where a telemarketer has a great deal. It’s hard to ignore the value. But the caller is reading from a script. It’s unprofessional and an amateur move. While it’s a good idea to put a “referral pitch” on paper for the purposes of articulating and stressing specific points, it’s crucial to turn that script into a natural dialogue. Getting flustered when a client interrupts to ask a question is a giant red flag to hone the monologue.
Find the comfort zone: Speak in a tone that feels natural, and use relaxed, comfortable vocabulary. Remember that asking for leads should not be a campaign speech.
Capitalize on compliments: When a client offers praise and expresses satisfaction, remind her that she’ll be the superstar when her colleagues have the opportunity to receive the same stellar service.
One thing every expert agrees on: Asking for quality leads is a crucial element of every sales strategy. Incorporating a referral source program into a sales protocol will eliminate those doorknob lead requests and awkward follow-up phone calls and emails. Without consistently working on and perfecting a reliable strategy, asking for leads can feel awkward for client and sales professionals alike.
While there’s no one secret to sourcing high-quality leads, there are a number of ways to get it right. Letting satisfied clients know they should recommend their professional telecom sales professional to colleagues is a good start.
Generating leads used to involve investing significant resources into expensive marketing campaigns, and then hoping that enough people would be interested enough to make it all worthwhile. Not the most efficient way to do business. These days, BusinessLeads.com is hoping to provide a more efficient, and a more elegant way for businesses to meet their future customers.
In 2010, Zev Posner looked at the way social media platforms were organizing the relationships between people and saw an opportunity to redefine the way businesses generate business leads. He founded BusinessLeads.com as a platform to allow businesses to connect directly with targeted potential leads by way of a third-party the site refers to as a “bounty hunter”.
Businesses looking for leads create posts that include questions to help define the type of person who would make a good lead for them. They also include a price, or bounty, that they are willing to pay for every good lead they are provided with. Bounty hunters can forward the posts to potential leads, and if the leads are interested they can contact the business. For every qualified lead generated in this way the bounty Hunter collects the stated amount from the business.
Unlike traditional lead generation services, BusinessLeads.com is not interested in collecting people’s information and then selling it to businesses. BusinessLeads.com focuses entirely on developing relationships between businesses and bounty hunters, allowing very promising business leads to be generated through the power of crowdsourcing.
BusinessLeads.com is still in beta, which means that businesses can post for free, but the site takes a 15% fee from all bounties. Eventually businesses will be charged for posts as well. The primary goal at the moment is to increase the membership numbers of both the businesses and the bounty hunters — the bigger the crowd, the more effective the crowdsourcing becomes.
The benefits of the BusinessLeads.com system to bounty hunters are fairly obvious. The opportunity to easily earn money for the people you know, and to do so simply for introducing them to products or services that they will find useful is not one most people would pass up. The benefits to businesses are perhaps even more compelling. A lead referred to a business by someone they know personally is the most valuable kind of business lead there is – the kind that frequently turns into a sale.
SMBs have always been a challenging market for both telecom service providers and agents. Because SMBs are unlikely to have dedicated IT staff, they are unlikely to be aware of the state-of-the-art in telephony and data management services. Adding fuel to the fire, even minor decisions can have major effects on an SMB’s bottom line. The end result of all this is that SMBs are often much more likely to avoid risks, and much less likely to adopt new technologies, than larger companies.
The Difficulty with the Cloud
This reticence to adopt new technologies is even more pronounced with many of the cloud-based services now being brought to market. Part of the problem is that the term "the cloud" has been so overused in the media, and has been applied to such a wide variety of technologies, that it no longer holds much meaning for most people – SMB management included.
The other part of the problem is that the one thing most SMBs equate with cloud-based services is loss of control. For most SMBs, data is their most important asset. Entrusting their data to an outside company is an enormous leap of faith for most SMB management teams — a leap that, at least in their view, is not counterbalanced by any tangible benefit.
With smart phones becoming more prevalent, more and more employees want to use their personal handset at work. With traditional on-site telephony and data management systems, this is an IT nightmare. Providing equal functionality, security, and end-user support for the whole range of smart phones available today would be extremely difficult and costly task for large multinational with a highly competent IT department. For almost any SMB, it’s flat-out impossible.
Transitioning to cloud-based services, however, allows SMBs to offload much of the support overhead to their telecom service provider. The cloud also allows standards compliant access methods that should work from almost any modern smart phone, which makes it feasible for a business’ employees to provide their own hardware. This, of course, saves the company even more money in hardware provisioning costs. This advantage alone is often enough to convince the most hesitant of SMBs to start using cloud services.
The best way to gain and keep clients is to take on the role as a trusted telecom advisor. You already stay informed on industry changes, you know your products backward and forward, and you know how to match a problem with a telecom solution. But how do your clients know that? You have to show them. There are three key phases that clients go through, and you need to anticipate what they are looking for in each one.
In the research phase, your prospects are checking out your web site. But you can’t just throw out phrases like “industry leader” and “innovative solution builder” and expect them to believe you. Provide them with the hard evidence. Develop a case study about a client who was able to maintain telecom services during a storm because of a redundancy solution. Post testimonials with pictures of real clients. Write a white paper to help IT Department heads figure out how to set policies regarding BYOD.
Your prospect agrees to an initial meeting, which is a crucial part of their decision to whether or not they trust you as an adviser. This is the time you really need to focus on what makes you different. Your client can get almost any service you offer from another agent – so why should they choose you? The answer lies in how you can help your client’s clients. Think about what your client is trying to provide THEIR clients, and how your services can positively influence that. If you can do that, you have a major advantage.
Once you’ve been hired, it is now time to turn your client into an advocate. The only way to do this is to always deliver. And to always deliver, you need to start with clear expectations. For example, clients often request that their services will have absolutely no down time – and we all know that just isn’t possible. Let your client know that occasionally there will be issues with their service provider, but you will be available to fix it.
Gaining the trust of your prospects can mean lifetime clients, and better yet, advocates for your company. What have you done in the past to earn the role of as a trusted adviser?