Consultative Telemarketing V Social Media Marketing

People have been selling via telephone for over a century now – whilst over the last decade new routes to market including Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter has hit the headlines.  When selling a complex product or service, will these new forms of marketing really take the place of ‘selling by telephone’? 

If Marketing isn’t your forte, then it’s probably difficult to work out your best route to market. With so many options these days – do you open a shop? Do you write a website?  Do you attend webinars?  Do you join Linkedin?  The list just seems to go on and on and on.

So what is Social Media Marketing and how does it differ from classic Consultative Telemarketing?  The Dotcom boom of the late 1990s and early 21st Century saw a massive change in the way that individuals and organisations communicated with one another.  This was via the rise of the website as a selling medium and more importantly the emergence of Google.  Google has been so successful that there are literally thousands of people aspiring to write the next big thing on the Internet and make their fortune.  The question here though is “Are people seeking to make your fortune or enticing you to make a fortune for them?”

A supposed ‘Twitter Expert’ recently engaged me in conversation.  He tried to win me over to this new medium in favour of Consultative Telemarketing.  After 15 minutes of smoke and mirrors he told me a story of how everyone was twittering about Stephen Fry stuck in a lift.  At the end of his monologue, I asked the question “Were people interested in finding out about Stephen Fry because they had never heard of his name before and wondered who he was?  Or were people twittering because they already knew his name?”  In other words, my Twitter Expert was struggling to tell me how Twitter could possibly increase awareness for a new product or moreover how on Earth it could increase sales? I have no doubt that if one paid Stephen Fry enough money to promote something that this would increase sales, but isn’t that Stephen Fry being paid to do the work rather than Twitter? Certainly Twitter is an exciting new medium – but does it make sales?

When you pick up the telephone and engage in a meaningful conversation with someone who may want your complex product or service, the process is very direct if you know what you are doing.  Similarly, anyone writing a website to be found on Google is providing a shop front on the web to sell their services.  If you understand the art of Search Engine Optimization then you can drive potential business to your door, albeit that most people will end up having a telephone conversation with you before they buy.  So for complex sales the website and the telephone work well together or you can use Consultative Telemarketing on its own to succeed.  But will Social Media Marketing bypass the website and telephone call as a means to a sale?

Reid Hoffman, founder and CEO of Linkedin was interviewed by Bloomberg last week.  He was asked about Linkedin and his connections with Facebook.  When asked about ‘The next big thing’ it was interesting to see how Mr Hoffman discussed Google as the benchmark for internet success.  More interesting from a sales perspective, was how Mr Hoffman bypassed the question as to why he didn’t see Twitter coming as a source of competition.  Even more interesting was how Mr Hoffman tried to steer clear of the conversation about making sales from Linkedin, Facebook or Twitter.

I think the key point here is that just about every global SEO expert places Google as the benchmark for Internet success or failure and even Hoffman’s Linkedin and Facebook sites still pale in to insignificance when compared with the success of Google.  From a sales perspective, if Google likes you, then you are likely to gain sales lead generation from the Internet. 

Google is so successful because it helps you find what you are looking for, and on the back of that it generates huge sums of money from advertising revenue.  But Google was a flash of inspiration, as to how to give people what they wanted and they made money as a by-product.  What many non-savvy marketing people haven’t realised is that the CEO’s of Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter are all highly envious of the sales Google are making – and they all want a slice of that pie.  But I do question whether they are really offering you a way to make sales rather than simply building their own bank balance?

Consultative Telemarketing helps you decide who to target, how to target, and finally engages in meaningful conversation with prospective buyers.  Google can lead prospects to your door, although for a complex sale, you’ll probably end up closing a deal via telephone.  Social Media Marketing in terms of Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter have more in common with the type of networking you would expect at a pub, restaurant or breakfast club – but will that really win more sales?

As a Business Development expert I’m always on the lookout for new ways to reach prospective customers.  Personally, I’ve never been a great fan of the breakfast club.  After an early start, you find yourself at a hotel eating breakfast, surrounded by an array of accountants, bank managers and solicitors all hunting for business.  But if you are selling a complex offering to a potentially niche market, the likelihood of you meeting a prospective customer is relatively small.  The organisation hosting the venue is making money on selling breakfasts and the organiser (probably a bank) is often making more sales – but are you making more sales?  So let’s take this analogy one stage further and ask the question – if you go to a giant breakfast club on the Internet – who is really making the bucks?

One of my clients said to me this week “Gosh the market is slow at the moment and I wish I could see more prospective customers, but my offering is very complex – should I do more Social Media Marketing?” My client has never picked up any work from a breakfast club.  He has picked up work from his own network of friends but he didn’t need Linkedin or Facebook to do that for him; he simply needed to pick up the telephone and call them.  There is an urban myth going around where everyone has heard of someone, who has made lots of sales by joining Linkedin. Yet when I ask everyone if they made a sale, the answer is always “No, but give it a few months and I bet I will”.  Strangely enough people have been telling me the same story for almost 5 years and I’ve won every bet!

I’m now in my mid-40s and I’ve been in Business Development, Sales and Marketing for about 25 years.  As a young man I tried all the supposed great new ideas in the 80s from MLM (Pyramid Selling) to joining the financial deregulation and selling pensions.  The one thing that all aggressive sales companies teach you straight away is to call all your family and friends.  Funnily enough, as crass as it sounds, it does work.  Facebook and Linkedin are really an extension of this idea and there’s nothing wrong with that – but do you honestly believe that putting your name somewhere on a website full of another 45 million names, that this is better than picking up the phone and calling people yourself?

At the end of the day, there is really no substitute for planning who you want to do business with, picking up the telephone, and calling them.  Facebook, Linkedin and the thousands of other directories out there are all useful sources of information.  One of the first rules of marketing is ‘differentiation’.  In marketing we talk about USP’s (Unique Selling Points or Propositions).  You have to ask yourself who you want to deal with and what you will offer them.  However cleverly Linkedin attempts to dress up the offering, do you really believe that you will manage to differentiate yourself from the other tens of millions of people in their directory?  If you seriously believe that your friends and family are going to be your customers – do you really believe they Facebook will get to them quicker than picking up the phone and calling them?

I’m not knocking Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter or whatever comes out next.  As a platform for discussion and building networks they’re great – that’s what they’re made for.  But when the CEO of Linkedin avoids talking about their value as a method of creating new business, then shouldn’t that help you to see that it’s not a platform for making sales?  If you want new business, then pick up the phone and call your prospects.  If you lack the skills – then hire someone to help you.  It may be old school – but Consultative Telemarketing is still the No.1 way to find and win new business.  If you need more help, call me on 0870 042 1263 or email me

Stephen Law is a Business Development expert. Over a 25 year period, Stephen worked has worked from a Foot Canvasser and Telemarketing Junior in the 1980s to an Executive Director and Company Secretary in the 1990s. Stephen's sales and marketing career spanned the IT, Communications and Technology sectors, where he was always top in his field. Stephen has also been head of Manufacturing, HR, and R&D for a number of organisations. In 2005, Stephen decided to form his own company offering Business Development via Consultative Telemarketing. Few people enjoy telemarketing as much as Stephen and fewer still understand how to communicate effectively with senior decision makers. Stephen is an Associate Partner of the No1 UK Business Development Agency and an Honorary Director at the LCDA for Business Development, where he has taught the Art of Selling at London South Bank University.

Posted in Business Development, Telemarketing

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