At Dreamforce'12, Groupon.com and K12.com joined me on stage to share how they've transformed their telesales** operations. The two operations could not be further apart. Groupon.com does automated outbound B2B dialing to merchants around the globe to enroll them for their daily deals business. K12.com, on the other hand, has an inbound B2C callcenter for selling K-through-12 home-schooling programs to parents (the fastest-growing form of education in USA per The Economist). Groupon.com relies on sophisticated number-crunching to optimize which merchant to call next, while K12.com relies on building a strong emotional bond with the customer during the sales process (this is obviously a very emotional decision for parents). Both businesses have successfully modeled their unique telesales processes on Salesforce - and become industry leaders at what they do. Amazing.

Here is the full 50-min YouTube video of the Dreamforce session (for K12.com presentation - skip to 21:20, for Groupon.com presentation skip to 39:00, for quick product demo - skip to 08:25):

**NOTE: I use the term "Telesales" loosely - it can be any kind of inbound or outbound phone operation for order taking, lead qualification, or lead nurturing in a B2C or B2B environment. "Telemarketing" and "Inside Sales" are other terms used to describe it.

Top Five Takeaways From Their Telesales Success

As I look back at the two presentations - here are my top five takeaways from their success and how they've leveraged Salesforce to achieve it:

Takeaway #1: The Need for A Solid Foundation

The biggest requirement to run an efficient telesales operation is a robust set of sales automation tools

A solid 'nuts and bolts' foundation in the five areas of campaign management, lead routing & assignment, pipeline management, forecasting and agent management is key to any telesales operation. That gives you the solid bedrock on which you can layer in your unique processes like Groupon.com and K12.com have done. Sales Cloud does a great job of giving you that foundation. You can additionally inject real-life social and business insights into the foundation with Marketing Cloud and Data Cloud

If you need extensions beyond that - a great partner ecosystem in the relevant areas of telephony, marketing automation, order management, e-learning and ecommerce (to name a few) is available on AppExchange

Takeaway #2: Empower Your Agents with A Super-Efficient Desktop

Service Cloud Console (Agent Desktop)

Every second an agent does not spent on the phone is $$'s lost. When on phone, an agent needs all the tools to stay 100% focused on closing the sale

You need an agent desktop which addresses those two big challenges. The service cloud console aims to do that - with complete customizability to your specific business needs using the console toolkit. It is integrated to 80+ telephony systems (both traditional on-prem and new cloud-based systems) using our open-source Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) technology. This gives you intelligent screen-popping for inbound calling (as K12.com does with their Salesforce-Avaya 'on-prem' integration) as well as integration to dozens of dialers for all 5 types of outbound dialing: predictive, power, progressive, preview and click-to-dial (Groupon.com uses 'cloud-based' dialer - InsidesSales.com).

The console is 100% in the cloud - no clunky thick-client running on Windows desktop. So your agents are free to take phone calls on any device (some customers have agents taking phone calls on their ipads while they walk the call center floors!). Also, your IT organization can be extremely agile while rolling out new changes to it. 

Takeaway #3: Create Consistencies in your Sales Processes

Telesales is not only about running fast, it is also about creating consistencies in your processes while doing the running

Some great tools are available from Salesforce to help you with that challenge. Salesforce Knowledge puts dynamic, "company-approved" Rebuttals and Talking Points in front of agents when they are on the phone. If you use complex rules for upsell & x-sell - no need for thick binders sitting on the agent's desk, you can automate them with visual workflowChatter flattens the organization and accelerates knowledge-sharing - be it for new agent onboarding, new marketing launches, or sharing of best practices between agents. Lastly, as callcenters look into gamification to motivate agents - social badges and rewards are available on Work.com.

Takeaway #4: Unleash Your Business Team

Along with agent training, the other typical bottleneck is IT's ability to deliver (in IT's defense: keeping up with marketing is NOT easy!) 

Telesales operations need to move fast and typically deal with some form of business seasonality (as both Groupon.com and K12.com do). For both those reasons, there is a big need for your frontline managers to execute business decisions without relying on IT. Force.com enables you to put basic process automation and workflow in the hands of those frontline managers. Also, analytics is put in their hands with Salesforce Analytics - with the latest numbers available in real-time on their favorite mobile devices (no more waiting for Monday morning email with PDF attachment from IT!). This, in turn, allows IT to focus on the "strategic" initiatives, not the mundane day-to-day.

Takeaway #5: Maximize Revenue Out of Your Customers

Your customer's journey with your enterprise begins with your telesales agent - but it doesn't end there

You need to stay connected with your customers - over any channel they prefer - be it phone, web, email, SMS, or new social channels. You can do that with our multi-channel platform (read my other blog). All the touch-points are captured in the single social profile of the customer - you can then mine that rich data to power your marketing and loyalty programs. Entitlements enable you to segment your customer-base along any business attribute important to you - so that when a "high-value" customer calls in, you can automatically route it to your top sales agent. Or when a key date is approaching for that customer (e.g. a contract renewal date), place an automated outbound reminder call X weeks prior to that date.