Fledgling Telemarketing Unit Delivers Strong Sales

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The surprise telephone success of sales agents whose health and age limited the amount of in-person sales calls they could make has caused Arrow-Magnolia Inc., Dallas, to take its first formal steps toward the creation of a telemarketing division.

"We evolved into phone sales by virtue of age," said Fred Kenner, company president. "We had several sales people who had worked for us for a long time and they were getting older and having trouble traveling to different appointments. They started making sales calls from the office and we found that the success rate was the same over the telephone as it was in person, but now they were making four times as many calls. All of a sudden we had senior, aging sales people producing more business than they had ever produced in their lives."

The company, which manufactures and distributes chemical products used in cleaning and maintaining equipment, began allowing a few sales people to work over the phone a few years ago but did not give serious consideration to establishing a teleservices division until this year. Now the company has set aside a bank of 15 to 20 phones, and has 11 sales people currently contacting prospective customers and dormant accounts over the phone. In addition, the company plans to hire a few telemarketers for the telephone sales staff, marking the first time it has hired staff specifically for telephone sales.

The company has approximately 120 sales representatives across the country, and while it will always maintain an in-person sales staff, it sees strong potential for the growth of its telephone marketing division. With a variety of chemical cleaning products - including cleansers and disinfectants for telephones and computers, degreasers for bulldozers and a line of pesticides and herbicides - the company feels there is a large, untapped base of potential customers from which to draw.

"We ended last year with revenues of about $13.7 million," Kenner said, "but we compete with companies that have $500 million to $700 million in revenues. There is no market cap as far as the possibilities open to us."

The company aims to double in size in the next five years and is finding new prospects through referrals and lists from the seven or eight trade shows it attends each year. In addition, the company may begin buying more business-to-business lists from list brokers.

The company's telemarketing staff currently dials by hand and uses scripts from manuals. The telephone sales staff is trained internally.

Quality monitoring of telephone sales staff is being handled informally. Because of the small size of the staff, managers are able to see and speak to sales staff every day. Managers are aware of which sales people have the strongest performance and are working with those that need improvement without directly monitoring phone calls.

The company has also launched an e-commerce Web site at www.arrowmagnolia.com. The company plans to offer discounts on initial Internet orders as well as a special of the month available only through the Web site.
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