August 1st, 2012
In case you’re still not familiar with the term, upskilling is commonly defined in business as the practice of training one’s in-house workforce to have additional skills. For accounting, this can be an advantage during times when job requirements do not match the skills of the general population. Another advantage could be expanding the range of specializations of your accounting services by increasing the skills of your current employees. On the other hand, doing so should also be complimented by adding variety to the way you generate accounting leads.
For example, if you’ve only been using telemarketing so far then you can either try and upskill if it’s in-house or outsource to a company that is already in the midst of upskilling their call center agents. And yes, they’re out there. Besides, the costs of training could be high and it could still take time just for your own accounting personnel to learn the new skills. You wouldn’t want the cost of your services to skyrocket as a result because your raised up the costs of your own accounting leads.
Now with regards to upskilling itself, here are a few things that marketing can teach you:
- Make sure the basics are covered – Be careful about just upskilling anybody. Start first with those whose current skill set can match the new ones you’d like to add. It’s only common sense that if you’re going to add variety to the accounting skills of your work force, that work force needs to know accounting basics.
- Pick skills that give you an edge – Be aware of current events as well as the current state of your target market. Use market research to help you predict new demands for a certain type of accounting service. After that, you’ll now know which kind of skills you’ll need to invest in.
- Keep an eye on costs – Naturally, you have to make sure that upskilling doesn’t eat too much out of your finances that they’ll raise costs. A rise in cost might not work to your advantage if a lower one was supposed to be your main selling point.
Another thing you need to keep in mind is that you don’t necessarily have to market these new skills. Despite how you’ve predicted a rise in demand for certain accounting services, not all businesses have any real need for them. Don’t present them with too many options that aren’t relevant to their more immediate needs.
Now with that said, it’s now time to see how you (or an outsourced provider) can upskill your current telemarketing service. It can arguably be a lot simpler compared to upskilling your accountants because it’s just about integrating additional forms of marketing:
- Email marketing – Some telemarketing firms are already integrating the use of email so that it can offer support to telemarketing efforts. For example, emails can be used to request permission to call instead of calling directly first.
- Social media – The telemarketing industry has also begun to use social media to a certain degree. The online engagement can be considered as a form of qualification before taking it into the next phase of actually talking with the prospect on the phone.
- Websites – Managing websites and optimizing their content can attract more calls but it takes additional IT-marketing skills to completely succeed.
As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life so upskilling to increase the variety of both your services and B2B lead generation can be a good idea. Outsource though if you want to play it safe.
July 18th, 2012
Risks are inevitable in business. However, one can’t deny the endearing effect of a success story that came out of something that only had a small chance at it. In fact, the Harvard Business Review defines this as the long-shot bias.
“One of the most pervasive of these is a phenomenon called the favourite long-shot bias, first observed by the American Psychologist Richard Griffith in 1949. Since then, numerous studies have found evidence of the bias at racetracks and other sports betting markets all around the world. Indeed, it is probably the most discussed empirical regularity in sports gambling markets, and the literature documenting it now runs to well over a hundred scientific papers.”
Regardless, excesses of this bias are a deadly reality. Just look at the case of Facebook’s IPO. Even though many of its supporters more or less worship the ground that Mark Zuckerberg treads, the disasters surrounding Facebook in the stock market have done more than prove his company’s vulnerability.
Speaking of which, that is just one example of what happens when you have an unhealthy love of risks. Here is a simpler example from the same HBR blog:
“This oversensitivity to small changes in likelihood at both ends of the probability spectrum gives rise to an interesting phenomenon in gambling on horse racing; punters tend to value long shots more than they should, given how rarely they win, while valuing favorites too little given how often they win. The result is that punters make bigger losses over the long run when they bet on long-shots than they do when betting on favorites (they still make losses when betting on favorites because the racetrack takes a percentage of each bet, but the losses are smaller). ”
Given the recent popularity of risk-taking and how more and more people are discouraging reserved positions, one can conclude that there is a small ‘epidemic’ of the long-shot bias. Unfortunately, as shown above, this bias isn’t all that healthy (hence, the ‘epidemic’ label). Now this has both good news and bad news:
- Bad News – It means that more business owners out there are making reckless mistakes all for the sake of their love of the long-shot. What’s worse, such frequency could lead to more mismanagement unless expert steps are taken to put it under control.
- Good News – It’s good news for financial planners who specialize in risk management. Those of you who are looking for financial leads now have an identifiable market. This makes it easier for you to plan out lead generation campaigns and set appointments.
At this point, this doesn’t mean that risks should never be taken. As a matter of fact, there are some cases where taking risks are pretty much a necessity (take career decisions for instance). On the other hand, that might as well be comparing apples to oranges. Though on the bright side, financial planners like yourselves now have a time to shine with a clearly defined source of B2B leads. With this prevalent attitude towards risk, you need to be there to offer aid before an evident long-shot bias starts doing some serious damage. It’s the one edge that you can have over the rest of your competitors!
July 5th, 2012
No doubt that the recent Supreme Court decision on the controversial health care reform is sparking a lot of buzz within the insurance community. A particular topic of heated debate is how it now mandates businesses to provide insurance for all it’s employees. This quote from CNNMoney adds a few more details:
“The ruling also means that companies with 50 or more full-time employees must start providing health insurance for all workers by 2014 or face stiff penalties.”
At first glance, it would at least give you a more detailed picture of what kind of businesses to target if you’re a company that provides B2B insurance. In other words, this could mean an easier time generating B2B leads. Be careful though, not all businesses are thrilled with these recent turn of events.
Regardless, they have to comply. The problem with that sort of attitude is that it could lead to careless decision making. You see, whether it’s an entire business organization or just an individual, rushing somebody never ends well. Once you have the government itself doing that rushing, it can only get worse.
Forcing companies to start sifting through providers might only mean that they’ll just pick the first one they see and be done with it. They won’t try and learn all the details (which is a seriously dangerous thing to do, given the complexity of insurance).
No matter what, it is critical to let your prospect companies know what it is that they’ll be spending their money on. You never know if some of the details might or might not be within the best interests in their business. Before you object, that’s better than having them sign a deal with you only to have the complaints coming in because they didn’t know whether you could cover this or that.
Business leads aren’t just about giving you information about a prospect and what it can tell you to help you get your sale. It’s about sharing information with the prospect as well. That includes information about how your business works, what kind of insurance you provide, what your coverage is, your conditions etc, etc.
Furthermore, maybe the reason why these businesses aren’t so eager to meet with you is because you’re not being accommodating enough. Maybe there are things that you can do to help better your control over the information you provide without necessarily overwhelming your prospect. Simply put, don’t opt for the easy way out. You’ll be no different from the companies who don’t learn well enough about their insurance providers because they just didn’t want the government breathing down on their necks.
To summarize, you shouldn’t always count on government mandates to get prospects moving in your direction. It might do more harm than good. For all you know, it might even direct them to your competitors first before you! Again, it leads to reckless decision making and a short-sighted ‘let’s get this over with’ attitude. It’s bad enough that these people are being forced so you should be as accommodating and not look like you’re just jumping at these ‘opportunities’ pointed your way courtesy of the federal government.
June 21st, 2012
If there’s one thing you can learn from insurance fraud, it’s to never underestimate the possibility of deceit. And as always, the best way to counteract deceit is by being sharp in finding out the truth. So what does this have to do with lead generation (or a call center)?
As you’re well aware, a lead generator is supposed to tell you everything you need to know about a prospect in order to make a sale. You don’t just learn about an opportunity. You learn things that will help you achieve success with this opportunity. Things like the needs, the size, and the budget of a prospect company are just some of the interesting facts you can use so you’ll know (and show) how to be of best service to them.
The problem comes when businesses have become too lazy and would rather speed up the process in certain areas. One of these areas is the form of communication being used to connect with prospects. You see it when they automate their marketing messages and become purely dependent on attracting inquiries with as little outbound effort as possible.
Another example would be when they rely too much on online conversations to learn about prospects. They start conversations by going to social media sites or sending emails with interesting subject lines. Granted, these forms of communication aren’t without their perks. Emails don’t disrupt decision makers when they’re in the middle of important management tasks. Social media has the power to grant both exposure as well as insight into how the whole of the target market is behaving.
However, remember the issue of trust? This is where you need to question the reliability of these methods. You’ve probably read and watched many an advisory telling people to be careful about what they read online. It’s even more critical when it comes to having online conversations with someone. These warnings aren’t just limited to children or to keeping people safe from sex predators. It applies to businesses and professionals too. You shouldn’t be too trusting of the messages you receive from a prospect or the things you read up on their social media profile. In fact, even the networking sites themselves encourage their users to use real pictures and other means to show that they’re real people. That says a lot about how easy it is to put up false and misleading information on the Web.
This is why it’s very important to really verify the information you’ve gathered from online sources by using more real, more direct forms of communication. A phone conversation is one such form. It’s not that complicated. You’re hearing a real person’s voice. They’re confirming the things they’ve said in their messages, the addresses on their profiles, and what their company does. If that’s not enough (and sometimes it really isn’t), you can even set insurance appointments so that you’ll be meeting these people in the flesh.
Costs aren’t an excuse to not go to these necessary lengths. (Professional telemarketers can just be outsourced anyways so you don’t have to worry about hiring them all by yourself.) If you want to protect yourself from fraudulent information, then you must do everything to verify the truth.
May 30th, 2012
Taking risks is becoming quite the virtue these days. However, do the facts really line up? Can you really rely too much on the data and less on gut-feeling? Well Jill Dyche of the Harvard Business Review might have something else to say:
“Savvy managers understand that weaving data-driven decisions into the fabric of corporate governance can obviate organizational infighting and drive progress. By establishing clear accountability measures, managers can determine whether and how corporate goals are being achieved, and hold people accountable for how they are achieving those goals. ”
The above quote is simply a small piece of the larger reality Dyche has written about. These days, despite our advancements in high-speed, high-storage information technology, there still exist companies who act too much on what’s arbitrarily subjective instead of the simple facts and hard data.
As a financial service provider, you should be right up there in maintaining the balance of heart over head in company management. The problem of course is that these days risk-takers continue to have a large following of hero worshipers both in the business world and beyond. Another recent example would be the debacle of Facebook’s IPO. Prior to the event, many a business blogger and columnist have expressed concerns over the huge risks investors are taking in buying Facebook shares.
In the following Businessweek video, you’ll see just how many are starting to regret jumping in on the social media hype based on Facebook’s performance:
Despite Mark Zuckerberg’s success, if there’s one thing you can take from the statistics in the video it’s the fact that risk taking isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. But if there’s one thing that does minimize such risks, it’s data.
It’s quite logical really. The more information you have, the more you’ll know about what you can and cannot do. Relying on one’s own gut might work if you were some hero in an action movie but when it comes to business, it’s time to tone down on gut and let the hard facts and hard data take the wheel.
B2B lead generation can be a good example here. You don’t just purchase a contact list of businesses and start calling away. That list needs refining and your marketing strategy needs quality data to act upon. In fact, this isn’t just limited to the finance industry or even the whole B2B market. It applies to all businesses. Companies like yours though are one of those who know just much can be accomplished if you used data to your advantage. In the case of your leads, it tells you if they have the budget to business with you. They help you manage your time when setting financial appointments. They tell you who talk to about your service. In fact, even the numbers still play a role because not having them leaves you with nothing to start with.
Of course, there will be moments when there is still so much uncertainty but the guy who followed his gut comes through with a success story. However, there is just as much virtue in keeping yourself informed and using that information to steer clear of any trouble. Taking risks should be a last resort, not a popular option!