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Nov 26, 2008
Case Study

Rediscover Lead Gen Gold by Reaching Exec Assistants with Telemarketing Tactics: 4 Steps

SUMMARY: Marketers trying to reach top execs often view executive assistants as gatekeepers that block access to these prospects. With the right approach, those gatekeepers can open the door.

Find out how a software company with a little-known product landed 15-minute phone briefings with high-level prospects. Hint: They added a twist to their telemarketing campaign by enlisting executive assistants as their messengers and facilitators.

Lori Wizdo, VP Marketing, Knoa Software, wasn’t having much success with common lead generation tactics, such as white papers and search engine optimization. Her company’s software, which monitors end-user performance of applications, such as CRM systems, was so new that few people were searching for it.

“It requires a conversation with a prospect to actually position what we do as a solution,” says Wizdo, “because the positioning is based upon a conversation that takes into account the context of customer, their industry, a specific pain, or a goal they are trying to achieve.”

Online lead-gen tactics weren’t giving her sales team enough chances to have those conversations. Wizdo needed a way to directly reach out to target executives, who often use executive assistants as gatekeepers.


Wizdo and her team created an appointment-setting telemarketing campaign with a twist. Instead of contacting executives directly, the team called their prospects’ executive assistants and asked them to forward an email request for a 15-minute meeting with Knoa’s top sales executive.

They wanted the business and technical discussion to take place only between a prospect and the company -- not a telemarketing representative who lacks the body of knowledge needed to reflect a prospect’s business context, pain and goals. “You simply can’t train an outside telemarketing team to have” that knowledge, says Wizdo.

Here are the four steps they used for the campaign:

Step #1. Create email message requesting a 15-minute meeting

To control the message that telemarketing representatives communicated with prospects, Wizdo’s team developed a short email message asking for a 15-minute meeting between them and Jerry Dolinsky, Knoa’s EVP Worldwide Field Operations.

Because many prospects didn’t know the company or the software category, the email provided a brief description of the company’s value proposition.

The team settled on five paragraphs that contained examples of the impact other customers had seen from installing Knoa software, such as:
o Increasing sales at British Telecom
o Savings from operational improvements at Kimberly-Clark and Kraft
o Rapid implementation at Medtronic

(See Creative Samples link for a copy of the email.)

Step #2. Identify target prospects and develop call list

Based on previous sales, Wizdo’s team knew that monitoring applications for CRM and sales force automation software presented strong conversion opportunities. For that reason, they targeted executives in charge of the budget and functional decisions for those systems – typically a VP of sales or VP of sales operations.

- Wizdo’s team started with two lists of Siebel software purchases.

- The telemarketing team double-checked those lists and searched other executive databases for prospects that met the criteria.

- After they had a list of target executives, the telemarketing team researched the names of their executive assistants. Techniques included:
o Phone calls to company operators to confirm the executive’s address and name of their assistant
o Listening to executives’ voice-mail greetings for a contact name – if the caller requires immediate assistance

Step #3. Place calls to prospects’ executive assistants

Telemarketers placed calls to executive assistants and followed a script that showed respect for their role. It also gave them the final decision over sharing Knoa’s information with their bosses. The goal was to convert executive assistants into champions rather than have them act as gatekeepers.

Here’s how they did it:

- Telemarketing reps called and introduced themselves as the executive assistant for Jerry Dolinsky.

- They explained that they had an email to send describing Knoa and suggesting a 15-minute phone call. They also asked the executive assistant to review the message and decide if it is appropriate for his or her boss.

- If the executive assistant refused to look over the email, the telemarketing representative asked for a referral to another executive assistant within the company who might be interested.

- If the executive assistant agreed to review the email, the telemarketing rep sent it immediately and asked for a date and time to follow up to learn if the prospect was interested in a meeting.

- Telemarketers tried calling five times for each name, staggering those attempts over different times of the day and days of the week over two to three weeks.

Step #4. Follow-up on email message to set up meetings

The telemarketing team followed up with all executive assistants who had agreed to look over the email. They asked if the assistants had forwarded the email, and whether those executives had agreed to a meeting.

- If the executive declined the request for a meeting, the telemarketing reps asked again for referrals to other executives within the company that might be interested.

- If the executive agreed to a meeting, the telemarketer would work with the executive assistant to arrange the phone briefing. (Telemarketing representatives had access to Dolinksy’s calendar.)

- If the executive had not yet reviewed the email, the rep would arrange for another time to call for a second follow-up.


By enlisting executive assistants as meeting facilitators, Wizdo gave her sales team the chance to have high-level conversations that fill the sales pipeline:

- 81.3% of executive assistants gave permission to send the email.
- 10.5% of executive assistants gave the name of another executive to contact.
- 5.1% of contacts resulted in meetings.

One of those meetings resulted in the shortest close time for a deal Wizdo has ever seen. A call placed in mid-December, 2007 resulted in a deal by Q1 2008. Now, Wizdo says a “disproportionate percentage” of the company’s current opportunity pipeline is directly attributable to the calling campaign (she declined to give a specific number).

The calling campaign also is more cost-effective than Wizdo’s white paper, webinar and other content marketing programs:

- The cost of one telemarketing meeting is equal to the cost of 10-13 white paper leads and 4-5 webinar leads.

“In terms of the economics of giving sales people meeting opportunities, the economics are pretty astounding,” says Wizdo.

Useful links related to this article

Creative Samples from Knoa Software’s appointment-setting campaign

Knoa used Corner Office Leads as their outsourced telemarketing vendor:

Knoa Software

See Also:

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