Posted by: Sarat Varanasi | February 28, 2010

Addressing Unique Challenges in Selling BPO Services

If you are anyone like me who has been in the ITO world for a long period of time and has transitioned or in the process of transitioning into BPO Services, you would know by now that selling BPO services is a completely different ball game as compared to ITO services. In this article, I will focus on the differences in selling high end value add BPO services. While pure play call center type solutions are not easy to sell, they require a totally different skill set, they require vendors to understand and play a lean mean numbers game. Value add based selling in the call centers arena is a much tougher challenge when compared to high end BPO/KPO services where one has to concentrate heavily on the long term strategy and value addition. Some of these high end services might also include a significant amount of process re-engineering (which is the way it should be).

Understanding the process: This is an obvious observation. A successful BPO sale requires a heavy understanding of the clients Business Processes, in depth knowledge of the systems in the process and key pain points at various levels of the clients organization. While we can start at the executive level, understanding the pain points at the end user level is also extremely important. While BPO in general is treated as a horizontal offering, clients expect the vendor to bring in process expertise. For ex: you cannot expect to sell a BPO deal to a healthcare provider if your partners do not have appreciation about the revenue cycle management process or a strong F&A background. You cannot sell a FP&A BPO offering without appreciation for the dynamic nature and customer interactions in the process.

Tip: All BPO deals are transaction heavy. Presenting tools which can help customers manage the transactions by exception and establish, monitor KPI’s always helps the customer. This is where the IT and BPO synergies come to play.


Understanding the client organization: In most ITO deals, the ultimate decision authority is mostly the CIO. However, in many BPO deals, understanding the ultimate buyer is in itself a herculean task. It is either a combination of department heads, the CFO and or the COO. In order to appeal to the different buyer segments, vendors have to do a few things

  1. Carefully analyze and identify the key decision makers
  2. Craft a message which shows short term cost savings and long term strategic advantage. BPO deals are generally much longer term in nature and require vendors to clearly portray a strategic vision for long term planning and implementation.
  3. Most BPO processes would require some amount of automation, process improvements. Providers should help clients understand the Synergies between IT and BPO and articulate how IT can help improve process, go beyond the SLA’s and establish new metrics

Transition methodology: The success of a BPO project clearly depends on effective transition of knowledge. Unlike ITO deals where a faulty code can be redone or tweaked, an unsuccessful transition could be disastrous to the BPO project. Clients often want to understand the vendors approach to

  1. Knowledge transition, tools used during the process, duration of the transition, the methodology, the metrics for reporting etc
  2. They would also like to understand the process of re-badging, the specific % of client personnel that will become part of the BPO team
  3. Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning. The processes which are generally transaction heavy and sometimes have high confidentiality /security requirements associated with it require vendors to have a well defined BCP in place.

Breadth and depth of services: BPO has seen the rise and fall of some very small undercapitalized vendors who specialize in a niche area (mostly setup due to the demand they saw at one client). Clients want to know the breadth and depth of the services the vendor has to offer, the number of years they have been in operation, the security certifications/standards vendors hold themselves to and at the same time understand other areas of opportunities.

SLA’s and Metrics: This is a key part of any BPO deal. Clients always have standard SLA’s they would like to measure vendors against. However, the successful vendors always go above and beyond the stated SLA’s and recommend installation of new metrics/automation in the process. For ex: in a recent project where we were measured against AHT (Average Handle Time), we went above and beyond and completely removed manual intervention in the process, introduced new metrics to measure idle time and turnaround time for resolutions. In the long run, this helped us establish ourselves as true partners in the process and gave us an opportunity to expand.



  1. If you are looking for one key difference its learning to sell to process owners rather than IT Directors or CIOs.

  2. Very thoughtful analysis Sarat. Good luck in your efforts!

    • Thank you Riaz. Appreciate your feedback.


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