Riding a Wave of Success | Article

SurfControl calls on Cerida for Rapid Response

man on surf boardThere are certain times when a confluence of events can create an environment like no other. The moon in the seventh sky, or Jupiter aligning with Mars, for instance. In today’s fast-paced and constantly evolving business world, successful companies must be vigilant and nimble in order to respond quickly and take advantage of such favorable conditions when they present themselves. If these companies don’t possess the necessary resources in-house to accomplish their business objectives, they collaborate with another company who does.

That is exactly what SurfControl did when it commissioned Cerida to help market its education software package.

SurfControl, based in Westborough, Massachusetts, develops and markets Internet filtering software. Recently, the company encountered a small window of opportunity created when Congress passed the Children’s Internet Protection Act. This law mandated that schools receiving government funding of any type acquire some kind of software that monitors and filters out undesirable Internet content. SurfControl’s Cyber Patrol software package was the kind of solution schools needed to be in compliance with the new law.

The Need for Speed

To date, SurfControl had been employing the typical methods of selling, like direct mail and cold calling. But now the company needed to significantly ratchet up its sales efforts by generating new leads and following up on them quickly to strike while the iron was hot. The need for speed led SurfControl to outsource its telemarketing efforts.

“We had one in-house telemarketer, who could make only so many calls, so we outsourced to Cerida,” recalls Mary Cardwell, SurfControl’s marketing manager.

Cerida Corporation, based in Andover, Massachusetts, touts itself as an advanced customer contact center that focuses on driving the entire sales cycle, from marketing to customer development. The existence of its Rapid Response Team (RRT) made the company a perfect solution for SurfControl’s needs. In a two-month span, Cerida generated 650 sales leads resulting in excess of $600,000 in potential revenue.

Telemarketing versus Tele-qualifying

“The RRT was set up specifically to meet short-term business needs of existing clients and new clients,” says Jean Lambert, Cerida’s president and CEO. SurfControl certainly had a short-term need. But the software company also needed added value.

Cerida’s Lambert is quick to make the distinction between telemarketing and tele-qualifying. “We employ four different levels of people, so we can look at the buyer’s end goals and objectives . . . and then map the appropriate service to that. We’re not just smile and dial.”

According to Lee Heffner, Cerida’s vice president of service delivery, the key to Cerida’s success in the SurfControl project is its personnel. They are all college educated and capable of sustaining intelligent business conversations with prospects. “One of the unusual things about our high success rate with SurfControl, considering the length of the engagement, was that our employees were not scripted,” says Heffner. “They had training on SurfControl’s product, then took that information and leveraged it into meaningful business conversations with the prospects.” Heffner says short-term projects are usually scripted.

An unscripted presentation was important to SurfControl. Since the software company was marketing to the education sector, it wanted telemarketers that were polished and conversant. “We needed a very professional company to help us out,” Cardwell says. “We’re dealing in the education market where telemarketing has such a bad reputation. We needed somebody who was able to deliver a very natural presentation, not scripted.” With Cerida’s upscale personnel, SurfControl was able to brief them on the product’s basic selling points and then let them hit the phones. “I think they do a lot of high-tech stuff, so they conceptually grasped it very easily,” Cardwell adds.

Cerida provides services like detailed progress reports, database management and a motivated workforce that isn’t satisfied with just moving down a call list. Lambert recalls that during the company’s pitch to SurfControl, the BPO supplier promised to not only take the list provided but also enhance it by digging around the school system and adding the appropriate people to the list. Cerida cleaned up the database, removing people no longer with the organization or who work with the organization in a different capacity.

Smart People Make Smart Decisions

Lambert says the love affair with technology has blinded many companies to the value that people bring to the process. She tells the story about a potential client who selected another supplier because Cerida was too expensive. The client was marketing a $5,000 piece of software. This telemarketing company made three failed attempts to contact the CEO of a large and well-known corporation. When he didn’t respond, they pronounced the lead dead, took the CEO off the list, and moved on.

However, CEOs of big companies rarely get involved in purchasing software that costs $5,000. Lambert explains that at Cerida, putting smart people on the phone is what it takes to get the job done right. “You need someone to say, ‘Gee, I don’t think the CEO is probably the appropriate person to talk to. If I ask his administrative assistant who has that responsibility, I’ll be able to dig my away around in this organization.’”

SurfControl was looking for a short-term outsourcing solution so it could take quick advantage of a small window of opportunity.

Lessons from the Outsourcing Primer:

  • Outsourcing delivers a core competency at a competitive price, compresses ramp-up time and increases speed to market. This is important for companies trying to take advantage of a small window of opportunity.
  • If you have a special need, make sure your supplier can meet it. SurfControl wanted an unscripted presentation, which is not common on this kind of project. It selected a supplier who was able to meet that request.


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