What to Do When You Struggle with Sales and Marketing

Every telephone answering service and outsourcing call center owner wants to grow his or her business. There are only two ways to do so: growth through acquisition and growth through sales and marketing.

The benefits of growth via a sales and marketing strategy is ongoing, incremental, month-after-month sales. It’s controllable and sustainable, yet many answering services and call centers struggle to do it well. What should you do if you struggle to reach a good ROI (return on investment) with your sales and marketing efforts?

Give Up: Sadly some answering service owners and managers are so frustrated over their lack of sales that they effectively give up. In essence they go through the motions of marketing and merely react to what sales inquiries come in. They stop selling.

Since a lack of sales removes all chances to grow and may not even cover account churn, they resort to the other growth strategy: they buy other answering services. If they can’t make sales, they buy them. (Or they sell their answering service to someone else, but this is an extreme way to deal with the sales and marketing dilemma.)

Outsource Sales and Marketing: As an alternative to giving up, which isn’t recommended, you can outsource all your sales and marketing functions to a company that specializes in the art and science of call center growth. They may work on a retainer basis or on a commission basis or a combination of both, but a good sales and marketing company can provide cost-effective, controlled growth month after month. Don’t overlook this option.

While outsourcing sales and marketing is a viable strategy, first make one more attempt to turn things around. There are two options: take over sales and marketing yourself or hire a proven professional to come in and turn things around. See the next two points.

Make It Your Focus: As the owner (or business manager) no one has as much passion about your business as you do, and no one has more at stake than you. Delegate all other aspects of your job to key staff and then take over the sales and marketing yourself. This may mean you become the new sales manager or, more likely, it may require you do all the sales work yourself.

Give sales and marketing 100 percent of your time and your full attention. The future of your business is on the line if you fail. Once you get a handle on selling and have a steady stream of new business coming in, then you can hire a second salesperson to work with you. Once that person has a proven sales record, then you hire a second and you become a manager (who still sells). Continue to grow your sales team one person at a time and eventually train one of your team to take over your job as sales manager. This approach takes time, but it can work.

Hire a Professional Sales Manager: The final option is to hire a seasoned, professional sales manager to come in and fix the problem. Here are the keys. First, the sales manager needs to have a proven record of sales management success. Next, they must have experience selling an intangible service. Third, they need an entrepreneurial mindset and a willingness to do whatever needs to be done.

Now, a couple of warnings when you hire an outside sales manager. First, remember they are good at sales and will try to sell you during the interview, so make sure they’re selling value and you’re not hiring fluff. Second, incentives motivate them, so the compensation plan you offer should emphasize bonuses tied to successful results. If they balk at this, then they are the wrong person. Last, expect to pay top dollar for top talent.

While giving up when it comes to sales and marketing is never a good idea, outsourcing is always an option. Or you can seek to fix things by taking over the department or hiring someone who can.

Don’t let sales and marketing struggles doom your answering service or call center. Take steps to turn it into a strength.


Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center and telephone answering service industry, which helps clients grow their revenue. Contact Janet at contactus@callcenter-salespro.com or 800-901-7706.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.