Storage vendor StorageTek Wednesday said it has increased its sales force by adding 56 phone-based agents in a Saint John, N.B., call centre.

These agents will make cold calls to new sales prospects and assist the existing

field sales force by passing along hot leads. The TeleWeb sales channel, as it has become known, is managed by Innovatia, a subsidiary of call centre specialist Aliant.

StorageTek has 28 sales districts across North America, said TeleWeb director Mike Hasler, and it became apparent that there weren’t enough personnel to cover them all. Inside sales executives had to support four sales people in the field, he explained.

“”We want to make sure that we have a very aggresive coverage strategy and that we gain market share and mind share,”” said Hasler. The call centre sales agents are charged with the task of uncovering “”incremental opportunities that traditional sales people can’t get to in the course of a day.””

Five of the phone agents are dedicated to coordinating sales with StorageTek’s existing channel partners. Hasler emphasized that each of the 56 is a qualified sales person with a background in the industry. They go through three weeks of training on StorageTek’s products, sales techniques and call centre operations before making calls to potential clients.

“”We really wanted to profile these people with the exact same profile as one of our traditional sales executives in the field,”” he said. “”If we’re going to invest in a model like this, we want to make sure these folks are really getting to places where we have traditionally not been strong.””

Dave Higdon, an inside sales manager with TeleWeb, is responsible for making sure the 12 agents he is responsible for are up to speed on selling techniques and approaching clients. His staff does “”a little bit of everything,”” he said. “”They discover new leads, they take opportunities from end to end, the work with the field sales. . . . We’re pretty much covering the full spectrum of sales.””

Aliant has set up about 120 call centres in Atlantic Canada, said Innovatia vice-president of sales and business development Doug Drummond — mostly for incoming calls and technical support. This is the first time the company has tried a comprehensive sales force managed from a call centre. The project began in pilot mode in July, 2002, with 22 sales people in six of StorageTek’s American sales districts. Innovatia is investigating the possibility of other similar call centres through its partner MarketBridge, a sales and marketing consulting firm.

Response to TeleWeb has been positive so far, said Hasler. StorageTek surveyed its customers before launching the project. Some said that they’re happy to buy from agents over the phone, particularly if its a product they already have or something similar. Othe

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