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A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

Sales

Telemarketing can be a very cost-effective approach to sales. Calls are faster and lower cost than visiting customers in person, and at the same time can also be more flexible and compelling than a sales letter.

But telesales is also challenging. Successful cold-calling is an art: it can be difficult to get people to listen, let alone convince them to buy, and the inevitable rejections can be wearing. Effective telemarketing relies on understanding how telesales can work for your business, and making sure that telemarketers have the skills they need.

Telesales planning

Telesales works best if you are clear about what it can - and can't - do for your business. Selling directly over the phone - cold-calling potential customers and convincing them to make a purchase - may not be a realistic option and could damage your reputation. Instead, you might use telesales as part of the sales process - for example, to introduce yourself to a potential customer before following up with a sales letter, or to make an appointment for a meeting.

Telemarketing can also be an important part of dealing with existing customers. Once you have a relationship, as well as responding to enquiries you may be able to use telesales to prompt repeat orders.

Whatever use you make of telesales, you'll need to decide which employees should be responsible or whether to use a telemarketing service. You'll also need to take into account legal issues, such as regulations covering unsolicited sales calls and consumers' cancellation rights.

Cold-calling and effective sales calls

Many people find cold-calling unknown potential customers a particular challenge. Some employees continually put off making cold calls, preferring to concentrate on other tasks that they are more comfortable doing. Even when employees are motivated and incentivised, lack of confidence can undermine effectiveness.

The right approach can make cold-calling easier: for example, if cold-calling is seen as part of sales lead generation - identifying and qualifying sales prospects - rather than there being the expectation for employees to make an immediate sale. While completely scripted sales calls tend to be inflexible and sound artificial, well-planned calls with clear objectives are more likely to succeed.

Telesales training can help employees develop the right skills and attitude. As well as being able to cope with potential hostility and rejection, successful telemarketers need a whole range of skills:

  • understanding how to get past 'gatekeepers' to speak to the right person;
  • knowing how to prompt a positive response;
  • building rapport and actively listening to what the contact wants, rather than pushing for a sale;
  • dealing with questions and objections;
  • recognising when to close a sale and how to do it.

Unless you plan to outsource telesales to a telemarketing company, you'll want to invest in making sure that employees have the right sales techniques and negotiation skills.