Managing a company to do what you want, how you want it, and when you want it is difficult to say the least. In most cases, a company is a vendor and the expectation is that you pay them to do a certain job and they do said job. In the case of a lead generation company, the relationship is often a little more complex — but that is not to say that it is more difficult to manage. The reason that it is more convoluted is that it is a long term relationship that truly benefits both companies to be successful with each other. Most client/vendor relationships are one time, one job events or result in a minor service being rendered on a regular basis (for example, outsourcing payroll). Referral generation, or customer service for that matter, outsourcing is a major partnership. If the referral generation company doesn't successfully generate referrals for your organization and the expectation exists, your sales will lag beneath the projections. If your company does not successfully turn the referrals into sales, the generation company will either have a hard time collecting on standard lead fees or will not receive commissions.
All together, ensuring that your company and theirs are working together smoothly is critical. The question is — how do you do that?
Truthfully, there is no 'best way' in my opinion. There are, however, a few key points that need to be addressed in any partnership. This one is no different, just specialized.
Managing an external organization requires communication. The level of communication depends on the work they're doing, how often they're doing it and pre-described requirements. It is important to ensure that there is communication in both directions — from you to them and, certainly, from them to you.
For a lead generation company, I would require at LEAST a weekly email with the number of calls made, contacts completed, and referrals generated. I would also require a daily report of all referrals generated for either that day or the day prior. Other options would be detailed reports on success ratings, estimated future possibilities, success by agent on your campaign, time of day or day of week successes, average times on calls, and other such granular information. There are dozens of criteria that a good telemarketing software can report on. For one of the best out there, please contact me and I will put you in touch with the sales team.
As I indicated, communication needs to be a two way street. This will allow the lead generation team to optimally ensure quality as well as quantity. It is important to communicate in terms of successes on the referrals, whether any of the referrals stated that they had not been contacted, and how strong the lead was. These three basic sets of information are critical for your referral generation company to improve.
"The lack of synergy between sales and marketing on lead generation is so common as to risk cliche. It goes like this… marketing feels that sales doesn’t follow-up on marketing generated leads. Sales counters that the “leads” aren’t any good. And so on. " – Brian Carrol's Blog
The same result occurs between a referral generation company and yours if communication is not kept regularly.
Although this may seem to be more of a co-operation tool than a management tool, I believe that it falls under managing the external organization. Ensuring that they are trained, in full, to be able to give the clients the information that you want is very important. Many times, a company simply says 'generate leads' and then wonders how come the referrals are unaware of certain capabilities, requirements, or costs involved. The expectation was that the referral generation company would deliver this information to the client — but this was never trained.
Single Point of Contact
Working with a single point of contact is always best. Ask for a backup (preferably a senior management level) just in case you are unable to reach your immediate contact on a critical issue, but try to work with the single point as much as possible. Request communication tools that you are comfortable with — email, phone and instant messaging. When working with the single point of contact, setup the schedule that works for your needs. You are the client, in this case, even though this is a working partnership. For example, request your reports every day by 9:00 AM their time and a conference call once a week on Thursday afternoons. It is important to create a working relationship with your point of contact so that they can concentrate on resolving any problems, hang ups or concerns that you may have. In exchange, however, make sure that you are available to answer questions in a timely fashion when they have a problem.
Be Willing to Cut Loose
This is a hard decision to make after you've put in all the time to verify a single point of contact, figure out the training, settle on reporting needs — but you need to be willing to cut loose from the company you're working with when they are simply not doing what you need. Whether this is because the leads they are sending you are a waste of time, whether they are not sending you anything, or whether they are simply putting you off all the time — at some point, the decision must be made to go to a different company. There are always exceptions to this, but it is something that each individual organization needs to decide on. It is, however, something that needs to be decided on consciously.
As you can tell, all of these points impact each other. The largest thread is "communicate". Without communication, the lead generation company will fail and you will not see any positive impact from their referrals. An outsourced company that generates leads and referrals for you is incredibly potent — don't let the opportunity slide through your fingertips without making an effort!