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Contact Rate
A critical factor that is tied directly to the skill of the telemarketer and the quality of the telemarketing plan is the Contact Rate. The contact rate, or number of dials per contact, describes the ability of the telemarketer to get past gatekeepers and voice mail, chase down the decision maker, and get them on the phone. A telemarketer who can't get past gatekeepers and voice mail, and get the decision maker on the phone, will simply fail – no matter how many dials they make.

It turns out that while there are over 2 million telemarketers in the country, based on the pass-rate for our Telemarketing Skills Assessment though, less than 5% of them actually know how to do the job. (One of the reasons we developed that test, by the way, is to find the ones who actually can get past gatekeepers and voice mail.) Given that penetration of skill, do you really think it's possible to staff a whole call center in East Cupcake, Indiana, (or even Bangalore, India,) with qualified B2B professionals? (That's why we use a virtual model, by the way.) But if your telemarketers can't get past gatekeepers and voice mail, your campaign will fail.

To know how to get past gatekeepers and voice mail takes years of experience and training. The average B2B professional at JV/M, for example, has over 15 years of B2B sales experience, and they all have been trained in the leading professional B2B sales techniques. In fact, we've even written the definitive "how to" for professional B2B telemarketing, called "The Most Powerful Weapon in Your Marketing Arsenal." At JV/M, we actually like gatekeepers and voice mail.

Just as important as what it does take is what it doesn't take: tricks and subterfuge. Telling the gatekeeper that the decision maker knows you when he really doesn't, sending a letter to give you an excuse to call, calling when the gatekeeper is at lunch, or bullying your way past her are all techniques that don't work. If your telemarketing firm uses them, it tells you that they really don't know what they're doing. And worse, that they might burn your market.

Beyond the challenge of getting past gatekeepers and voice mail is the simple need to chase the decision maker down. Most decision makers travel, or are in meetings all day. Knowing how to reach them once you're past the gatekeeper requires focus and creativity. When choosing a telemarketing firm, ask yourself: How do you get focus from someone who doesn't even take notes? And how do you get creativity from a script?

If your telemarketing firm knows what they're doing, put a low number in this field. If they don't, triple it.