By Dee Karawadra
The GS Online MLS Forum is abuzz with talk of telemarketing lead variations: leads with statements, appointment-setters and lead databases with millions of prospects, to name a few.
But what are the most effective ways to generate qualified leads? And how do you capitalize on these pricy gems?
We, as ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs), are always looking for new ways to get our hands on hot prospects. Leads are a necessity in the payments space.
MLS Forum member UTAH997 posed an intriguing question: "How much would you pay for qualified leads with billing statements?"
Responses posted by Forum members ranged from $100 to $1,000 per closed deal.
Hundreds of companies offer leads to sales agents. Most of us have tried some of these sources and found they often take us nowhere. Sometimes this is due to a lack of agreement on what a qualified lead actually is.
To some, a confirmed appointment with a merchant is qualification enough. Others want the lead source to ensure the merchant will have a statement ready at the appointment.
Regardless of what your qualifiers are, make sure they match those of your source.
MLS Forum member Rome brought up an important subject: "We recently hired a few appointment setters," he posted.
"We had them calling the new business licenses in our area, and they have all complained that they have been hit way too much."
Rome experienced what many of us have also encountered: new businesses being overwhelmed by telemarketers.
Lead lists don't come cheap, and they have no guarantees. And, given how overused most available lists are, the odds of closing new business with this method are slim.
So, does it make sense for a one-person operation to hire a full-time telemarketer? If you are writing five to 10 merchant accounts a month and you want to increase your sales, this could be a workable solution.
Should you employ someone exclusively to generate new business contacts? I would not recommend it initially. However, you could start with a part-time source.
I know of a few agents who have one person managing day-to-day customer service and office details while they are out selling. The inside person needs to be able to multitask and be willing to do lead generation and office management.
Some agents ask their spouses to do lead calling, primarily when their businesses are just getting off the ground. Whether you hire someone through advertising or use your niece in college, it is usually a win-win scenario.
To make this successful, be sure to write down what you require in a qualified lead, and train your telemarketer well. Communicate your schedule, and get a good list of businesses for your helper to call.
Now, here is the main ingredient for a successful team: Follow-up. How many times have you regretted not following through on a referral?
Don't let this happen again, especially if you are paying for contacts. Follow-up is what will get you in the front door.
The next step is lead management. Customer relationship management (CRM) is all the rage these days. CRM applications, such as those offered by Salesforce.com and PeopleSoft.com, have become increasingly popular.
An effective CRM program can bring enormous benefits to ISO and MLS lead management activities. It is crucial to track all of your contacts. A good program should have the following:
A CRM product can increase productivity by automating key aspects of the selling cycle. It can maximize team selling effectiveness and give an accurate view of the sales pipeline.
I, like many, use a CRM product for a comprehensive grasp of my company's leads. It also helps ensure the leads I provide to agents are high-quality.
A lead is worthless if you don't follow up and track it.
If your ISO provides contacts or sets appointments to help you obtain more business, make sure you understand the company's expectations for follow-up and reporting.
If I provide an agent with a qualified lead and don't see it come in as a signed application, or if I don't see any information on lead status, I feel like I'm wasting money.
Lastly, if you are accepting leads, be sure to follow through on every appointment. Don't cherry-pick the good ones.
This is where some experienced agents go wrong. They burn the leads that don't look promising, or they don't follow up on small-volume merchants.
Whether you are using third-party or in-house telemarketers, you must remember that people are waiting for you to close deals so they can get paid commissions.
If you earn a reputation for not following up or for picking only those leads you think will be successful, your sources will not work as hard for you.
No matter how you accomplish it, establishing a reliable lead source will take your business to the next level. Find out if your ISO offers a lead program. Be diligent. Make sure you and your sources share the same objectives. Be organized and coordinate your efforts.
Most importantly, you should always follow up.
Dee Karawadra is the founder, Chief Executive Officer and President of Impact PaySystem, based in Memphis, Tenn. He and his team have a wealth of knowledge on the merchant services industry, with a niche in the petroleum market. Dee's experience on the street as an agent has guided him in laying a foundation for an agent program that is both straightforward and lucrative for his agents. Contact him at 877-251-0778 or email@example.com.
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