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“InsideSales.com is exactly what we were looking for... allowing us to dramatically increase the number of leads a single representative can effectively manage.”
Mark Pardy
Market Analyst
Dun & Bradstreet
Canada

The Dialer Back End

Before diving in head first to the actual dialer tools, we've found it helpful to review some basic concepts about how the PowerDialer technology works.

The term "dialer" can refer to a number of things, including VOIP telephony software like Skype, "old school" predictive dialers (i.e., systems that call ahead 4-6 lines and connect live answers to agents), "progressive" dialer systems that automate calling activities but leave the agent in control of how and when they call, or large-scale voice message broadcasting systems. To a certain degree, even your average, ordinary cell phone could be considered a "dialer," since it "automates" the retrieval and dialing of phone numbers stored on it.

Where Does the PowerDialer Fit?

There are benefits and disadvantages to each type of dialer solution, depending on the context in which it is used. The PowerDialer for Salesforce is solidly within the "progressive," or "preview"-style of dialer tool, where all of the dialing activity (placing and connecting the calls, leaving messages) is automated, but the user controls the "pace" of calling.

What sets the PowerDialer apart from competitors, however, is that it incorporates industry-leading research in the field of lead response management to help sales and marketing teams increase not just the number calls they make, but the number of contacts those efforts produce. Users get more done, in the same amount of time, but on top of that, the results of what they do are more effective.

Seek lists, which we'll explore in-depth later in this guide, can dynamically create calling lists from your Salesforce database that "seek out" (hence the name) the best records to call—based on location, time of day, source of lead, age of the lead and more. We refer to this as "Predictive 2.0" technology, in the same vein as "Sales 2.0" or "Web 2.0." Traditional predictive dialers don't optimize calling lists to maximize contact results, they only optimize the number of "lines" to call. They're about keeping reps "busy," rather than getting the most relevant, optimal Leads in front of reps to make contact.

Furthermore, "old school" predictive dialers have traditionally been less effective for business-to-business (B2B) sales. They don't navigate through PBX office systems and gatekeepers, and they don't support automated voice messaging that can be tailored to individual reps. Furthermore, predictive dialers naturally create a built-in connection delay between the agent and call recipient. This leads to abandoned calls, and placing recipients on hold when an agent isn't available.

The lack of gatekeeper navigation and abandoned call phenomenon creates a highly unprofessional image for B2B sales (for example, our own internal research shows that by the time a typical predictive dialer completely works through a list, 1/3 of the names on the list will have been the recipient of at least one abandoned call).

For B2B sales, or for "high touch" business-to-consumer (B2C) sales such as insurance, mortgage, and automotive, a "progressive," or "preview" dialer such as the PowerDialer for Salesforce, sits right in the sweet spot.


Click to view larger image.

The PowerDialer for Salesforce is NOT Voice-Over-IP (VOIP) software

Some users mistakenly get the idea that the PowerDialer for Salesforce is an "Internet phone system," like Google Voice or Skype. In truth, about the only similarities between the PowerDialer and those programs is that you place phone calls with the click of a mouse button. The actual "back end" technology is very different.

When you place a call in Skype, for instance, the data signal stays on the Internet for as long as absolutely possible, until it reaches the last "stage" of the call, when it routes through a local phone carrier. As a result, when the recipient picks up on the other end, your side of the "connection" is running not through a phone company switch, but through your Internet service.

So what's the problem with this, you may ask? Generally it has to do with call quality and reliability. When a data signal travels across the Internet, it typically has to "hop" across multiple systems and servers. Every time the signal "hops," it can create a delay in the outgoing or incoming transmission. Second, we all know that the Internet isn't always entirely stable. System outages, bandwidth fluctuations, and traffic overloads are well-known problems to anyone who has used the Internet for any length of time.

When we're downloading files, or checking out a Web page, these kinds of fluctuations are usually tolerable, because we don't notice minor delays. On a real-time transmission like a phone call, however, problems like these are immediate and severe. Most of us are all-to-familiar with what happens when someone has a bad VOIP line—garbled sounds, dropped signals, and generally poor communication. Because Internet traffic has to "hop" across networks and servers, a disruption in any one carrier will cause problems if a phone call is being routed through that location.

This is where the PowerDialer for Salesforce comes in. Essentially, when you click to place a call using the dialer, InsideSales.com sends a signal to its dialer servers, which act as the phone carrier switch. In this case, the only data that travels over the Internet is the signal to initiate the call.

InsideSales.com has strategically placed servers at data centers in multiple locations, each connected directly to the telephone backbone. When the signal to place the call comes in, the server actually opens a data connection directly with the phone system, not over the Internet. This ensures call quality and reliability are extremely high, while still offering the benefits of digitally automated phone calling.

The "Two-Leg" Call Method

When the dialer server gets the signal, it initiates a call through the phone carrier, but InsideSales.com does things a little bit differently than a traditional carrier. To increase speed and flexibility, for things like leaving voice messages with a single mouse click, the InsideSales.com dialer systems doesn't place just a single phone call, it actually places two.

When the dialer server starts a phone call, it first attempts to connect to the user—their station phone rings, and they pick up. We call this the "agent leg" of the call.

Once the user picks up, the server recognizes that the agent leg of the call is established, and places a second call, or "leg," to the person who was dialed. As soon as this happens, the dialer server instantly bridges the two calls together.

The graphic below shows a basic outline of this process:


Click to view larger image.

Every call initiated by the PowerDialer follows this process—first we connect the "agent leg" to the caller, then the "client leg" out to the recipient. Get used to this terminology; if you ever need technical support related to the dialer, InsideSales.com agents will often ask whether the problem seems to originate from the agent leg, or the client leg.

The PowerDialer is NOT a Ratio Dialer

We mentioned it earlier, but the PowerDialer is not a "predictive" dialer in the traditional sense, but the benefits of the PowerDialer typically far outweigh the disadvantages when calling B2B. The PowerDialer can produce 60-70% of the total call output of a predictive dialer, but does so without the annoying call delay and dropped calls, while the user is free to navigate internal phone systems and gatekeepers, and leave voicemail at the click of a button.

The PowerDialer Optimizes Calling Lists

As mentioned, the PowerDialer for Salesforce incorporates dynamic call list management through Seek lists. Seek lists are "dynamic" because they automatically update themselves over time as users do their work.

When new leads arrive in your database, Seek lists can automatically add them to the queue and move them to the top of the calling order. When records get marked as inactive, or unqualified, a Seek list can automatically remove records from the queue. They can target records based on when they were added to the database, current status, the number of times the record has been dialed, how long it's been since the last call attempt, and more.

The goal of Seek lists is to ensure users are calling the best targets, at the right times, with the right message, to increase contact and qualifying rights.

How the PowerDialer Tracks Activity

We mentioned in the Getting Started section that a dialer system naturally adds a new layer of metrics and management to your sales process. With that in mind, we want to talk about how the PowerDialer actually generates the reporting metrics you'll access.

The primary data mechanisms the dialer uses are:

  • Activities (Impressions), and
  • Time.

Activities are automatic action logs generated by Salesforce, tallied as the users do their work. When a user performs certain actions, the PowerDialer sends a signal back to Salesforce, marking the record on which the action was performed, when it happened, and the user who performed it. Salesforce saves a Call Result (completed Task sub-object) in the Activity History section of each record that you dial with all of that information.

The key activity type is usually dials—how many times has a record been called, and at what intervals/frequency? See the sample report view below to get an idea of how this works.


Click to view larger image.

We'll discuss reporting in more depth later, we just wanted to point out how dial activity logging can become a key part of your strategy. Many key metrics will center on dial activity counts—dials per record, dials per user, per date; dials per lead conversion/qualification, and so on.

Time also becomes crucial for creating and managing effective Seek lists. The PowerDialer automatically logs and time stamps every dial. As a result, you'll quickly be able to see how time of day and day of week, time zone location, interval between calls, and other time-based metrics can change the effectiveness of your agents' efforts.

Cool Tip: Activities include impressions on Dials, Emails and Voicemails. InsideSales.com "pushes" updates on these items back to your Salesforce account every 15 minutes on the hour.

Field updates such as Lead Status and Rating on records occur immediately -- they post directly to your Salesforce database.