B-to-B Teleprospecting: Capacity Planning and Load Balancing

The core curriculum of most MBA programs includes operations courses that introduce concepts like throughput, kanban and capacity planning. These concepts were designed initially for manufacturing applications to ensure optimal utilization of resources to meet production goals. That said, they can be applied to marketing and sales functions as well, including teleprospecting functions that operate between the marketing functions that feed them, and the sales functions they serve.

Unfortunately, many organizations fail to integrate capacity constraints and load balancing into their marketing and sales planning processes. Too many companies isolate these functions from one another. Often, a marketing function is responsible for running demand creation programs for a specific product line, but has no control, or even visibility, into the receiving function’s capacity to handle the volume of leads that it creates. Time and again, we see marketers generate inquiries and leads, only to be stymied by followup processes that are delayed for weeks and an insufficient touch coverage model.

For teleprospecting functions, capacity planning and load balancing are critical. Key points to remember about each of these concepts include:

  • Capacity planning. For teleprospecting, capacity planning involves modeling the human resources required to meet specific objectives. In b-to-b, this means working backward from revenue or bookings goals to reverse the demand waterfall and determine the number of qualified leads required from a teleprospecting team to fill the pipeline and generate closed business. To generate this quantity of leads, planners must determine the number of conversations, connects, dials and emails required. Divide the total amount of activity required by the activity expected over a normal workday to determine the number of agents needed to meet revenue goals. From this baseline, factor in additional considerations, namely seasonal (or event-driven) fluctuations in demand, attrition (to account for normal and expected turnover on the team) and ramp time to develop newly hired agents into productive resources. Include reasonable downtime or excess capacity to account for fluctuations.
  • Load balancing. This exercise reconciles inputs (number of leads) with available resources (agents) and planned treatments (touch coverage model over a given time period). The intent is to optimize the workflow and maximize output while remaining on schedule, without a backlog or queue of leads developing. Of course, disruptions will occur, necessitating changes to the variables to return to a steady state. For example, establish dynamic lead scoring thresholds to adjust the flow of leads that enter the teleprospecting workflow. Another option is to increase the number of resources to handle the workload. Recruiting player-coaches or team leads to work the phones, augmenting internal resources with outsourcer partners, eliminating meetings to increase call volumes – all are strategies for temporarily adjusting the number of available resources to manage workload fluctuations. The final lever to consider is treatment: In times of overloaded capacity, consider a more stringent prioritization schema on whom to call, or institute a lead-tiering system and reduce total call and email volume for lower-tier leads.

Speed of responsiveness can greatly impact conversion rates through the top stages of the demand waterfall. It’s difficult to maintain responsiveness levels without proper capacity planning and load balancing. So, if you don’t have an operations skill set in your teleprospecting organization, either develop it or consult with your outsourcing partners to develop a reasonable plan that allows you to execute in a more predictable and controlled fashion.

About the Author

Jason Hekl is Service Director, Demand Creation Strategies, at SiriusDecisions. With an emphasis on developing and executing demand generation strategies to accelerate growth, Jason has sourced, developed and closed millions of dollars in new business throughout his 19-year career. Follow Jason on Twitter @the_hekler


1 Comments

  • Chris Ronald, Harte Hanks, 22nd February 2013 at 4:06 am

    Reply

    Great blog, Jason. It is critical to deploy the right level of skilled resources to meet the required demand and align with predicted volumes of marketing enquiries and the expectations from sales.

    In my experience, high-performance tele-prospecting teams also need to have the agility and proactivity to respond when marketing leads are lower than forecast. A team that can adapt and switch to targeted outbound activity to the ‘white space’ is a must. Peaks and troughs in volumes can also be handled through the smart management of ‘always on’ nurture programmes.


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