Business Development: Make your own first impressions

Business Development: Make your own first impressions

Should I prospect internally or outsource? It is a good question. Here at the Kingston Training Group (KTG), we spend our days focused on the prospecting activities of office technology dealerships. We are constantly training, monitoring and evaluating the ongoing prospecting efforts of our clients in dealerships of all sizes. I am frequently asked if I have ever thought of creating a call center.

Yes, I have. However, while I am sure there are a few call centers out there that get some positive results, for the large part, outsourcing your prospecting means that someone else is making the first impression for your dealership. The likelihood of a telemarketer using your dealership’s client references, success stories and unique features, along with an understanding of the culture of your region of the country, is not high. Typically, these telemarketers do not have any skin in the game, as they are not making meetings that will result in selling opportunities for themselves.

It is true that outsourcing is supposed to create more selling time for sales reps. However, if the meetings set up by someone outside of your dealership are not qualified or do not actually happen when your rep arrives, it creates wasted time. And that wasted time does not create more selling time.

Here at KTG, we believe that dealerships should hire sales reps who understand and agree that a significant portion of their income will be derived from their ability to cultivate and close net new business sales. New salespeople must be “hunters” and should never be allowed to simply “farm” current relationships.

So, what are the options of keeping prospecting in-house, but still creating more selling time for your tenured sales reps? We recommend a model that can accomplish this goal in any size dealership. Essentially, it involves creating a business development department that will yield qualified net new meetings for any dealership. We will also take a look at another option for bringing the task of scheduling meetings in-house.

The Mentor’s Scheduler

Our recommended model begins with identifying how many people your dealership can add to the organization. When hiring to fill the telemarketing void, dealerships should focus on finding candidates who want to grow and become successful office technology sales reps.

I suggest your dealership bring on new sales reps and have them start in a “ramp-up” program that includes a combination of product training and prospecting. This candidate should be paired with a mentor or seasoned sales rep who has time in his (or her) calendar for more net new meetings. The new sales rep should be able to use every tool in his arsenal to set new meetings, including cold calling over the phone, strategic follow-up email campaigns, social media outlets, LinkedIn connections and foot canvassing. Effective net new meeting prospecting is so much more than a call from a telemarketer to “introduce” your company.

The tenured rep will act as a mentor for your new hire during the ramp-up phase (the first 60 to 90 days of employment), during which time the new hire will focus solely on prospecting and developing specific product knowledge. The mentor should take his protégé out at least twice a week for foot canvassing. He should also accompany the new rep on several meetings that were scheduled by the rep, so the rep can further learn how to pitch and close net new business opportunities.

The new hires should be responsible for setting a minimum of four to five new meetings a week by the end of the 60-to-90-day mark. At this point, the rep will start working to schedule his own meetings, and the sales manager should be prepared to step in and accompany the rep on any confirmed net new meetings. The rep can continue to do all of the due diligence associated with a new sale, working closely with the manager to learn the process of consummating sales. This way, the sales manager can train so the rep is not only learning, but is also earning commissions. 

Identifying the potential success of a new rep is critical during the hiring phase. If the rep is unable to schedule net new meetings for his mentor during the rampup phase, it is highly unlikely he will become a long-term, successful, tenured sales rep. This will also give the dealership an opportunity to evaluate the new hire and determine his long-term viability, before any headhunting fees become due, thus saving both time and money.

A successful hire in this program should be a “win, win, win.” The mentor will have his calendar full of net new meetings without having to dedicate his time to prospecting, the new sales rep will start to earn commissions while still learning the business, and the dealership will be filling its sales force with motivated, professional “telemarketers.

Full-time Appointment Setters

The other option, though not desirable, is to hire full-time people dedicated to scheduling meetings. However, it will be difficult to hire the right people and it will also be the largest revolving door in the dealership, given the way most dealerships traditionally compensate appointment setters. 

My first job as a marketing professional was to schedule meetings for the sales reps of an on-demand printing company. The company offered me a small hourly wage, a few more dollars if I set the meeting, plus a small commission for any consummated deal. This never sat well with me and still doesn’t. Our sell cycle is too long to keep a telemarketer excited to constantly prospect with the fervor, dedication and enthusiasm necessary to set great appointments if he is waiting 60 to 90 days and beyond to earn a bonus based on the performance of a sales rep. This does not create the motivation for a telemarketer to perform at a peak level over a long period of time, and I know from experience that this creates callers who make 40 dials a day and schedule three to five meetings a week, at best.

The ideal hire for this position should want to be compensated for the qualified meetings they set and not want to wait for the money after sales reps close the deals. Pay the money for the scheduled qualified meeting right away and you will have people motivated to call more instead of taking smoke breaks and “cleaning out the database.” Done correctly, this employee should be scheduling 10 to 15 net new meetings every week and be garnished salary if he does not; that is what you are paying him to do. He will need to sit in on many office demos so he can watch customer reactions and learn about the solutions you sell.

Teach Them to Fish

Teaching someone to fish or having someone fish for you — it is the age-old question. Your sales reps are hired fisherman. Make them fish. It is their job. However, a good new hire who wants to win for you, can be trained and ramped up to succeed can also be a great appointment setter. The bottom line: You must be in control of the message that is being conveyed about your dealership to your prospect in order to properly start a successful partnership. You are not in control when you use an outside resource.

Kate Kingston is president of the Kingston Training Group, which provides prospecting sales training to office technology dealerships across the country. She can be reached at


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