So you are outsourcing telemarketing, you’re paying a company to generate leads, and now you’re considering using a Sales Development Rep (SDR) to set appointments on your behalf. The problem is, you’ve paid for telemarketing before and you know this won’t end well…

Because outsourcing your Sales Development is the same as hiring a telemarketing firm, right? 


If you’ve ever been burned by a telemarketing company… you might understand the hesitancy here.

You’re not alone. They market themselves as “sales experts” ready to fill your calendar – and maybe even improve your bottom line by getting you more sales. They say they’re the phone reps you never knew you needed, that they’re the ground troops ready to help you with your outbound calling and help streamline your sales team’s efforts…

And things are looking good. UNTIL you realize that…

  • The appointments you’re paying for are shaky at best, unqualified or completely unaware at worst (sometimes the prospect doesn’t even realize that they’ve been booked for an appointment).
  •  You realize that you’re paying for loosely booked appointments that may or may not show and at times have no clue what kind of call they actually booked.

What happened to those high hopes and promises? 

Perhaps the telemarketers ended up tarnishing your company name because now you’re known to have a pushy salesforce, not to mention, they wasted your money by setting unqualified appointments. 

Feel the burn.

This is exactly why, when someone mentions using an SDR, or “Sales Development Rep” or even BDR, a “Business Development Rep”, many companies immediately shut that idea down. They definitely don’t want to go down that route again.

Let’s get clear on this: Outsourcing telemarketing (including call center calling) is nothing like the sales development calls conducted by a team of well-trained Sales Development Reps.

What’s the difference between telemarketing and sales development? The difference is in:

  • what you pay for and how much
  • who they call
  • how they’re trained
  • what kind of appointments are booked
  • how much they know about your company

Let’s take a deeper look at the differences between telemarketing and sales development calls…

What Happens When You Contract Telemarketers…

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1. You get what you pay for

When you contract with a telemarketing company, what typically happens is that you pay them for each appointment booked. Which really only sets you up to get the short end of the stick. 

It’s simple math really; as this is a “pay per booking” scenario, reps are taught to book everyone and everything. A telemarketing service that charges by each appointment set, has an average cost between $35 and $60 per lead. However, about 90% of these that you’ve paid for aren’t firm appointment settings (and 90% is honestly being generous). Oftentimes, you also pay a second time for the lead if it no-shows and they re-book the appointment. (Voila! It’s considered a new booking.)

This means that they will book the call even if:

The prospect is NOT qualified.

Instead, what often happens is that your dear telemarketer is taught how to coach the prospect so that they can be counted as qualified and booked. For example if one of your qualifying factors is that a prospect makes $50K and they say $30k, the telemarketer might say something like, “Is it possible for you to make more than $30k this year?” 

Of course they’ll say, “Oh yea I could get bonuses or a raise.”

To which your telemarketer responds, “Great! Then I’m gonna mark $50k because we anticipate your pay increasing.” The prospect will agree and you move on.

It’s just a “callback” conducted by the prospect.

“Callbacks” often get booked as appointments even though the prospect has not booked an actual appointment. What actually happens is that Mr. Prospect says, “Hey, thanks for calling, but I don’t have time to talk right now. Can you call me back Friday afternoon?”

From there, the rep books the appointment on behalf of the salesperson at that time even though the prospect only wanted the telemarketer to call back at that time.

It’s a grey area.

If there is a grey area, telemarketers want those numbers so they will still typically book the call. Every appointment set with your sales team is more money in their pocket, notwithstanding the shoddy quality of appointments booked.

As a result, you pay for loosely booked appointments that may or may not show – and at times have no clue what kind of call they actually booked. 

2. You might as well forget quality prospects

Shocker: Telemarketers buy lists.

While a company will tell telemarketers what they need as far as prospect profile and pre-qualifiers, it’s typical for telemarketers to not harvest leads who opt-in to a list. Instead, they simply buy a list. Not that this is not a specially curated list of warm prospects for them to call on your behalf. Sometimes these lists have even already been used for a prior call campaign that they’ve had for a different client. I mean why not save the money and recycle lists? 

What’s wrong with buying lists? A few key reasons to be aware of:

A bought list is colder than cold.

A bought list is basically today’s version of calling out of the phone book. In the 1990s, telemarketers would commonly say, “Here’s a phone book – let’s hit them all!” Today’s version is being handed a list and not knowing where it came from. 

That means that if setting appointments for a construction company, for example, the rep might say “Well, we are doing work in your area…” (The truth is, they probably aren’t. You are just on some bought list and they don’t want you to know that.) OR…

They will say something like “Oh your friend must have filled this out for you…” You can see why telemarketers get a name as sleazy salespeople.

The “prospects” on bought lists have not opted in. 

Yikes! This is an extremely rocky road when calling in Canada with SPAM laws  – and even in the US with a do not call list registry. Violating either of these can get a company fined. However, it will not be the telemarketing company that receives the fine. It is the company they are “representing”. That’s because, to the prospect, [ABC Telemarketing] has not called them, it’s [YOUR COMPANY NAME] that’s called them. After all, when the rep says, “Hi, this is Jane with ]your company name here],” that is what the prospect takes as fact.

One member of our team, our Director of Outreach, Stacy Barz shared a funny (sad but true) example of this…

“Once, I worked for a timeshare company where we booked appointments for people to “tour”. I was tasked with doing a “quality control listen-in” for a rep (note: this rep was always creative with replies and not in a good way). On the call, the prospect asked the rep point blank if this was a “sales pitch type thing.” 

His reply was ‘No they’re not selling anything. In fact, you can leave your wallet in the freezer.’

When the prospect got to the appointment, they were irate and said, ‘We left our wallets in the hotel fridge because we were specifically told you would not be selling anything!’”

They Don’t Respect Opt-outs

Some telemarketing companies buy lists where the prospect has not only not “opted-in” to receive calls, but if they have specifically “opted-out” and request that they receive no further calls, one common practice is for the telemarketer to simply pass it along to a coworker to call. As you can imagine, this again can result in fines if the prospect has told them to be put on a “do not call list” and they feel harassed by the company enough to report it. 

3. Good luck getting a professional to represent you

There’s not much to tell here. Telemarketing firms are known for using a churn and burn approach in their hiring processes and often have a crap retention rate with their employees. For this reason, in many cases, if you have a pulse and can read a script, they will most likely give you a chance. You don’t need prior knowledge or experience to make telemarketing calls.

That means that as a telemarketing client wanting someone to set qualified appointments for your sales team, you’re at the mercy of luck-of-the-draw.

4. well, what’s their training like?

Three words regarding training: It’s not likely!

The typical telemarketer training entails either learning as you go on the phone or listening in to someone for a short period of time. In many telemarketing firms, training is not emphasized because they feel you’ll learn best if thrown in the deep end. 

What does that mean for you, the telemarketing client? It means you may have an untrained, unproven telemarketer setting appointments for your business. 

Doesn’t that just sound scary and like it could go bad? Oooh yes and yes it does go bad.

Here’s another story from a former telemarketer, “One company I worked for had a “just jump on the phone and do it” approach. No one taught you how to work their phone system. So one day a new hire thought she put someone on hold and called them a “[insert lovely expletive]” but the prospect heard it all. Incredibly, this person was not fired, just told where the mute button is.”

Take from that what you will.

5. Don’t expect the telemarketer to represent your business positively

Telemarketing companies will give their reps a script – and nothing else. They really are not required to know any more than that about what your company does. This results in a rep that at times makes up answers that a prospect wants to hear just to get that appointment booked so they can get paid.

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What to Expect When Adding an SDR Component to Your Marketing…

While it might be the case that not every telemarketing firm is like this, we’ve worked with plenty and have spoken to enough companies with telemarketing reservations to know that there’s got to be a more effective way. Enter Sales Development…

*** For more information on Sales Development vs. Lead Generation
and how they fit together to support your sales team, read our blog post,
What’s More Important, Lead Generation or Sales Development?” ***

First, a quick definition of sales development, LinkedSelling President, Ben Kniffen, defines it as: 

“The art and activity of nurturing the leads you’ve generated to be able to move through your sales pipeline.”

When you work with an outsourced SDR team, you’re essentially hiring them to make calls to leads who’ve shown interest. On the call, the SDR will qualify them and if they’re a marketing qualified prospect, the SDR will encourage them to book an appointment for on your sales team’s calendar. 

So to contrast this with telemarketing calls, here’s what to expect when you contract Sales Development Reps to make calls on your behalf:

1. Expect qualified appointments

When working with an outsourced lead generation and sales development team, you are not paying per appointment set, you are paying for marketing – with included SDR services as a component to round out the marketing they provide.

Think about it like this…

The firm doing your marketing is generating these leads already, when they offer SDR services, they only want to go the next step and cement these leads into appointments. This is entirely different from telemarketing calls for several reasons:

These are qualified prospects.

These leads meet your qualifications for the prospect profile and are genuinely interested in speaking to you about your company. Normally the marketing company might hand over leads for you to find time to call, so these leads are the same ones you yourself would be calling to book. The difference is that the marketing team realizes your time is worth more than setting an appointment. They want to free you up to simply take those appointments and be fresh for them.

Also, remember that your marketing and SDR team isn’t fee based. This frees up your SDR to focus on setting a quality appointment. You should expect your prospect to be someone who knows what the appointment is and why they are showing up for it. They are not feeling forced to set anything and everything. They want to get an appointment that will show and possibly even buy. Your SDR’s have no issue marking a lead as unqualified and telling the team if they see a pattern so they can tweak the marketing messaging and targeting.

2. Expect marketing companies to generate their own leads

A marketing and sales development company does NOT buy random lists and mold them to fit what you need in a prospective buyer. Instead, they know how to market and find your ideal prospects; they generate interest in your offer and then the SDR reaches out to book the appointment.

In this way, it’s not a call the prospect receives out of nowhere. They have heard of you and your business and they know what the SDR is calling about. 

Is it still a “Cold Call”? 

While the call is unscheduled and therefore at times categorized as “cold”, these calls are actually warm because the marketing team has already given your brand name recognition to the prospect by laying the groundwork for the call.

In fact, the first thing one of our new SDR’s will say when they start booking for us (especially if they’ve done telemarketing before) is, “Wow! This is so nice! They’ve already heard about what we are calling about… almost like they’re expecting it.”

How Do SDR’s Handle “Opt-Outs?

For opt-out situations, the SDR may push back if the person says they are not interested in order to uncover – and if possible, resolve – the reason behind the opt-out  However, once someone says “don’t call me” or “take me off your list”, the SDR will not call them again.

3. You’ve got experienced professionals on your team

A top notch SDR team will look for someone with sales or phone sales/ telemarketing experience. They will interview candidates and typically do a thorough pre-screen so they are confident that once they train them, they will sound natural on the phone and be a positive reflection of their company and yours.

4. …Who continually go through in-depth training

The sales development company will make sure that each SDR can set quality appointments for their own company before they outsource them to a paid client. They invest time into training them in scripting, phone etiquette, and how they do their marketing. Once the training is complete, the team continues to oversee calls and has frequent check-ins, along with continual training to ensure that each SDR acts as positive ambassadors on your behalf.

How SDR scripting is different

While both telemarketers and SDR’s receive scripts to follow, there is a huge difference between how those scripts are developed and utilized. First of all, you as a partner with your SDR, will review any and all potential scripting. After all, it is your name the SDR uses when that prospect answers the phone. 

Why shouldn’t you know what they are saying?

If you are unsure about scripting, the SDR should have no issue whatsoever in taking a meeting with you to discuss why they believe it will work and to find a middle ground that will work for you and them.

Also, SDRs do not have to read the script word for word. In fact, the best SDR’s don’t. However, they will keep the integrity of the script and the meaning the same. They will just do it in their own words so it sounds natural and unscripted. 

Let’s face it, no one wants an overly scripted call that sounds unnatural because at that point the person on the other end of the phone will think you’re a (gasp!) telemarketer and will most likely hang up or curse at you. 

In contrast, think of the SDR as just a friend at a networking event making the introduction to another friend who could benefit from your services.

5. an sdr’s job is to professionally represent your company and book quality appointments

With the in-depth training that an SDR receives, you can rest at ease knowing that a professional represents your company in a positive light. Keep in mind…

An SDR Wants To Be An Ambassador For Your Company. 

Do they know as much as your internal sales team? No, but you don’t want them to. They’re job is to only answer surface questions, not make the sale. At the end of the day, you want them to entice the client to book an appointment with someone on your sales teams who can answer their questions in more detail.

In fact, if you have an SDR who has sold your product or services before, they are tempted to try to sell the client. That causes problems because the prospect then thinks they are already talking to the salesperson and may feel like they were passed off to someone else unnecessarily. In an SDR, you want someone who knows enough to peak a prospect’s interest but not enough to answer buying questions.

A Well-trained SDR Welcomes Your Feedback On Appointment Settings.

Your feedback does not go unnoticed to an SDR team; they take note and tweak their approach as needed to get you appointments that you want to talk to. Granted, not every person who shows up to an appointment will hand you money right out of the gate (and yes, a small minority of these appointments might end up being no-shows), but they will be marketing qualified and they will know that they scheduled the appointment (which I’m aware should be a given but unfortunately, to telemarketing firms it isn’t.)

What now???

Now that you know the difference between telemarketing and sales development calling, you can make a decision as to whether you think your sales team would benefit from marketing along with targeted appointment-setting calls. 

If you’d like to know more about how SDR services work, we’re happy to chat with you about potential ROI, strategy, and whether or not it would be a good fit for your company.

Click below to book a call with a member of our team.

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The post Outsource Calling: How a Sales Development Rep is NOT a Telemarketer appeared first on LinkedSelling.