Telesales is a dirty word. The unwelcome call in the middle of an evening meal, the automated calls to a mobile, and the seemingly endless text messages for PPI claims or personal injury awards. These unwanted and some would say nuisance calls have tarnished an entire industry that, at the very top, delivers hundreds of millions of pounds of business for some of the country’s largest and most respected companies.
“Businesses selling to consumers have given sales a quite frankly awful reputation,” says Nicola Hartland, the Founder & CEO of Xcel sales, from her new Wokingham offices. “That is not what we do. “Businesses selling to each other, through well researched and targeted calls from intelligent and informed individuals that is a very different industry. That is at the heart of Xcel sales.”
Nicola, 35, started her career in IT sales, quickly rising to lead a sales team generating over £2.5m a year for her employer. at just 22, she was part of a team that sold that business for over £10m. “It was whilst in this role I tried to find a company to help me with lead generation,” says Nicola. “We wanted help in keeping the sales pipeline flowing, leaving my team to concentrate on closing those leads. I couldn’t find anyone that I would trust with the company’s reputation. Lead generation seemed to sit right at the bottom and the grubbier end of the sales profession.” So Nicola decided to do something about it. Xcel sales, now approaching its second anniversary, has moved to larger offices on three separate occasions, has a second office in Aberdeen, employs ten people.
The Xcel sales approach is a world apart from the traditional telesales model, where often junior sales staff will work through a long list of businesses aggressively selling to chase commission payments. “Ours,” explains Nicola, “is a collaborative approach. We will spend upwards of three months getting under the skin of the business. We want to know everything there is to know about our client - its products, geographies, customers or clients, key decision makers and their unique selling points.” This discovery stage leads to a detailed target audience profile of the potential clients and customers Nicola and her team should approach. “We really do aim to act as a natural extension to our own client’s sales and marketing functions,” says Nicola, “so calls are received as one senior executive speaking to another. It is an involved and intelligent approach.” This means that scripts are banned from the Xcel sales offices, as are target numbers for calls. “If I see a colleague on the phone for an hour talking to a senior exec on behalf of one of our clients that has to be a good thing,” says Nicola. “It means that they are developing a relationship.”
This approach does call for an intelligent sales team, and Xcel sales take great care and pride in its recruitment. The team is drawn from a variety of sales and marketing backgrounds. Xcel sales works with a variety of industries including oil and gas, financial and professional services and IT. Its staff work in small groups typically focusing on one industry sector. The team is supported by some sophisticated IT systems that allow important information to be captured and stored for future use. For example, if a target customer has just completed its sales cycle or is contracted to a supplier for a set period of time, this information can be captured, with call reminders created for a future date. “People buy from people,” says Nicola. “and if we can capture information that demonstrates our human touch, whether that might be simply remembering when a contract is up for renewal, or perhaps something more personal, it will help our clients.”
The professionalism that Nicola is injecting into telesales, or lead generation as she would prefer it to be called, is beginning to attract wider attention.
Outsourced sales is one of the emerging trends and she is pioneering the way. She is a terrific example of how the industry is changing.” So what next for Nicola and Xcel Sales? She is as ambitious for her own business as she is for her clients’ businesses. “This business will be turning over more than £1m by the end of our third year,” says Nicola. “My longer term goal is to have approximately 50 people working for the business in dedicated industry or sector teams, working across the UK. “I want to see people taking pride in their job. I want to see telesales, or lead generation, recognised as a true professional service.” Visit Xcel Sales website.