Philippines finds niche in outbound sales

Despite their conservative culture, Filipinos have proven they can be aggressive in competing for a place in the outbound sales market of the booming call center industry.

"Provided with the right tools and the drive to succeed, Filipinos make excellent sales agents," said Bill Laughlin, president and chief operating officer of U.S.-based call center Pacific Hub.

According to Laughlin, outbound telemarketing and sales coming from the Philippines result in convinced and satisfied customers who do not shift to a competing service or product, and who willingly entertain follow-up sales calls. As a result, he said outbound sales from the Philippines produce more revenues compared with those coming from India.

The situation is credited to the fact that Filipinos have a much closer relationship with -- and a better understanding of -- American culture and can easily be trained to speak American, and even British, English.

"It is important to be able to relate to what the customers want and to understand (some features of) American consumerism such as purchasing and credits in order to be able to sell a product or service," said Laughlin.

Eschewing the typical inbound offerings of most call centers operating in the Philippines such as customer service and directory assistance, Pacific Hub has decided to position itself in the outbound sales area.

Laughlin pointed out that most call centers in the Philippines prefer not to do outbound sales services because of the negative impressions of customers regarding persistent telemarketers. However, he said there is an incredible need for outbound sales services, thus, their reason to go into that market.

Laughlin emphasized that a person must be able to sell first before he can provide customer service or any other form of product support.

Since establishing its Philippine office about two months ago, Pacific Hub has already signed up four U.S.-based clients from such key sectors as telecommunications, financial services, and Internet Service Providers (ISPs). All four have signed two-year contracts.

The company is looking forward to closing deals with local clients as well, particularly from the country's largest business sectors.

Aside from its main office based in the U.S., Pacific Hub has a branch office in the Philippines. It has no plans of branching out to India.

Staffed with approximately 100 agents, the company expects to hire an additional 300 over the next three to six months and double this figure by the end of the year.

Although Laughlin agreed that the top concern of the business is still finding people, he believes that the reported 1 percent acceptance rate is much too low.

"We have come across a lot of qualified agents in the process of filling up our seats and I hope that several experts will agree with me that we could increase the Philippine acceptance rate figure to at least 5 percent," he said.