Communications News

Audioconferencing Aids Efforts in Telemarketing

Audioconferencing Aids Efforts in Telemarketing

I. Jenkins

Telemarketing has proven its worth as a combination of telecommunications technology and direct personal selling. It offers increased control over sales travel costs by qualifying prospects before incurring travel expenses, and it supports more-efficient handling of clients and accounts, combining service with new sales.

Now telecom managers have the opportunity to demonstrate to their companies’ management that telemarketing power can be augmented by using another telecommunications technology–audioconferencing–to reinforce a marketing message.

One example can be found in the difficult yet rewarding medial market. Health-care companies, in business to sell indispensable medical products and services, are concerned about the efficiency and thoroughness of their marketing methods to reach and hold physicians, pharmacies, clinics and nursing homes. Physicians, in particular, because of the often urgent nature of their work and busy schedules, are among the most difficult to contact. By simply doing their jobs, their secretaries or nurse/receptionists can be helpful, but also obstructive.

The standard, tried-and-true personal call, without any telephone pre-qualification, has inherent disadvantages: higher travel expenses incurred in covering thinly populated rural territories or travel between major cities, as well as time lost from more productive activites.

It has been estimated that it costs a pharmaceutical company over $100 per completed personal call to a physician (with some medical equipment companies often spending $300 to $400 for a product demonstration). A part of this $100 investment is direct-mail costs in preparing the way for the personal visit, intending to boost its effectiveness. Yet there are uncertainties about the effectiveness of direct mail, with many variables involved in its execution. Dick Ray, vice president of marketing of TeleRx Marketing in Springhouse, Pennsylvania, tells of a recent medical journal article that included a report from a physician who saved all his unsolicited mail during 1982. He discovered the collection weighed 503 pounds; among the letters, brochures and pamphlets, he counted 41 unrequested periodicals. Genuine Sales Adjunct

Much has been written about telemarketing as a sales aid in initially qualifying sales leads and preparing the path for the sales call. In its simplest form, it is a method of appointment acquisition. Combined with audioconferencing, telemarketing can be a genuine marketing/selling adjunct.

The selling process depends on timing, among other things. There often is a crucial moment at which a sale has optimum potential for completion. This sales close, in turn, often depends on the salesperson having at hand all the information needed to convince the potential buyer.

The need for ready access to important data in selling is explained by Jerry Servoss, president of Telemark International in Denver. “The sales process is sometimes suspended by a lack of information,” he says. “The selling cannot proceed until a key point, often technical, it clarified.”

The salesperson needs an immediate means to get an answer to a question–often technical–without a break in the sales process (that is, ending the interview, leaving and then arranging another appointment). “By quickly telephoning an audioconferencing bridge, the salesperson and the prospect are linked to an expert, if necessary, from his or her own company or a mutually agreed-upon objective resource person,” explains Servoss. All can talk easily in the teleconference to solve the problem.

Servoss adds that a telephone bridging service can be alerted in advance. The salesperson can be made aware of the teleconferencing option and have the phone number to call. “In some cases, a large order hangs on the answer to a formative or factual question,” he explains. “This immediate access to information avoids the usual procrastinations and prevents the salesperson from being put on hold.”

Momentum is retained; the sale is made.

Because there is no way to predict all the ramifications of a sales situation, it is desirable for a salesperson to gain as such control as possible at the point of sale. Telemaketing helps qualify prospects, which is one kind of control, the telephone conference, filling the gaps that might come up in the sales presentation, is another kind of control. The salesperson can quickly arrange for the prospect to ask questions of an actual user, a former or current customer who has purchased an identical product or service, all by telephone, with the salesperson still in attendance, controlling the situation.

Another way to combine telemarketing and telephone conferencing is with the use of audioconferencing for peer discussions among high-level decisionmakers, such as physicians. After a new drug has been released by a pharmaceutical manufacturer, there is a period of trial during which time the drug is cautiously tested and appraised. As with many complex products, there is a “Catch-22”; physicians will not prescribe a new drug without having total confidence without using it. So they wait, sometimes years, to hear through word-of-mouth about the experiences of other physicians. They need a way to pool their limited experiences of the drugs with others efficiently.

By using a teleconferencing bridge, an audioconference is arranged shortly after a drug is put on the market. Two or three physicians who are using it successfully talk with 10 to 12 physicians who are interested, but havent yet used it much. Tape-recorded excerpts from experts’ audioconferences are also played to them, describing the benefits and shortcomings of the product. If what they hear sounds promising, they are given the opportunity to prescribe the drug for a limited number of patients, and return to another conference a few weeks later.

They can then pool their experiences in an organized fashion, and see if the product is living up to its promises. If they each use the product only 10 times, they will have more than 100 experiences to talk about. They participate from their own homes at night. All project design, invitation, moderation, telephone and conference bridge charges are paid by the pharmaceutical company. Helps Boost Sales

Many dramatic sales increases have resulted, even for more mature products that had previously leveled off. It works for many other products, as long as the product is superior and either high-ticket or high-volume. Virtually nobody is going to make a substantial decision without first talking with other people, and either trying in a small way or observing what someone else is doing. The process is organized and accelerated in a much more thorough and objective way than anyone could do alone. Also, word-of-mouth is much more credible than salespeople or advertising, and this method is an organized word-of-mouth delivery system.

As a result of this physicians’ review by peers (those who have maximum credibility with other physicians), the product is, in effect, marketed with objectivity and thoroughness. It is screened for side effects or negative results. Both the physicians and the pharmaceutical companies get what they need.

COPYRIGHT 1985 Nelson Publishing

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group