The key to achieving and exceeding your tele-sales revenues lies not in any single effort (like ‘dialing harder’) but rather on five ‘silver bullets.
’ A sliver bullet is a metaphor for an action that cuts through the complexity of a situation (like achieving a challenging sales objective) and provides an almost immediate solution. The silver bullets below are your keys to transforming your tele-sales program into a sophisticated sales channel.
Silver Bullet #1: Think Tele-Sales NOT Telemarketing
The first silver bullet to achieve superior sales results is to change the way you think about telephone selling. Scratch the surface and you’ll discover that most sales executives have a stereotypical image of the telephone as a “dial and smile” approach to selling; that medium is not capable of much more than a simple, transactional sale.
If you –or others- think telephone sales is ‘about the numbers’ and that ‘ the harder you dial the luckier you’ll get’, then you’re destined for mediocrity. This type of thinking limits the potential of your sales team because it implies that luck, more than anything else, is the key to success. It implies that other activities don’t impact the sales result. And it provides a ready made excuse NOT to change the way companies hire, train, coach and motivate their reps
Tele-sales (vs. telemarketing) is growing in sophistication and complexity. Complex products with longer sales cycles and multiple decision makers can, and are, being sold by telephone. And as a new generation of buyer enters the B2B workplace, the need for face-to-face selling is being replaced by the need for the instant accessibility that the telephone (married with the internet) provides.
The first silver bullet is to start thinking about sales results, not numbers. When you do that, a whole new level of sales will manifest itself.
Silver Bullet #2: Hire Better Telephone Reps
The second silver bullet is to hire a better telephone sales rep; a rep who is cut out to be a telephone sales rep and rather than a desperate soul in search of a job.
Hiring a good reps begins by having a thorough selection process that evaluate the candidate’s potential to sell over the phone. Forget the traditional face-to-face interview process that so many companies still utilize to hire telephone reps. Change the way you hire to reflect the medium. Here’s how.
After culling the resumes, conduct your first three interviews by telephone. The first call is short, maybe 2-3 minutes. Evaluate the voice quality, the grammar, and the articulateness of the candidate. If you like what you hear, have the candidate call you back at a specific time later that day or the next. You’ll be staggered at how many reps ‘fail’ this little test by 10-15 minutes.
Spend more time on the second interview and assess their resume as you would if you were face-to-face. Continue to gauge the voice quality and grammar. Can they EFFECTIVELY communicate?
Next: if you like what you hear, get the candidate to call you back in five minutes and leave a 1-2 minute voice mail. Tell them to leave you a message that answers the question ‘Why you?’ The objective is to determine if your candidate takes the time to plan and craft a good message. Listen to see if the rep ‘sells’ you on the ‘benefits’ of hiring him/her. Can they create a compelling sales message? Do they deliver it well or do the stutter, hum and ha?
The next step is to have the candidate visit your office for a final assessment. Give them a copy of the job description and let them review it in detail. Get the candidate to sit with one of your telephone reps for a half an hour or so monitoring calls and asking questions. You want the candidate to completely understand the nature of the job. If they don’t like what they see and hear, let them disqualify themselves.
If the candidate is still keen, have them complete a sales assessment. Don’t skip this step. It will give you additional perspective on the type of selling style your rep will likely exhibit. Is it compatible with your sale? How does it compare with those who sell well in your department?
Assuming you’re happy with the candidate and the candidate is happy with you, check their references thoroughly and make an offer. This process takes less time than you think because the majority of time is spent on the telephone. It is thorough and complete and reduces your risk of hiring a dud while increases the odds of selecting a superb telephone rep.
Sliver Bullet #3: Train them
The third silver bullet is to train your reps. It seems like a no-brainer but the fact of the matter is, most tele-sales departments are treated like the wicked stepchild when it comes to investing in training and development. Most are grossly under trained. It’s not surprising because it stems from the belief that ‘how hard can telephone selling be? Heck, you just pick up the phone and pitch, right?’
Wrong. It is thinking like that which has stunted the growth of tele-sales programs and revenue results. Selling by telephone all day is tough work. If you don’t believe it, try it yourself. Pick up the phone and dial, not for a token hour or day, but for an entire week. That will be a real eye opener! Deal with the rejection and frustration. Only then will you truly understand the need for a rep to be better skilled in opening the call, handling objections, questioning, presenting an offer and closing or advancing the sale. Only then will you understand that it’s more than “just a numbers game.”
Treat your inside sales team as you would a field sales team. Provide them with precisely the same training. This includes complex selling, account planning, territory management, product and knowledge session and, above all, skills training. Give your reps the skills and techniques to sell smarter!
Silver Bullet #4: Coach Them ‘till They’re Blue in the Face
The fourth silver bullet is probably the most significant in terms of net impact. If you buy into the training then you must buy into coaching. Training provides the foundation for increased sales results. Coaching provides the brick and mortar. Coaching translates the training into action.
The overwhelming majority of managers don’t coach yet it is coaching that encourages reps to try new techniques, to stick with them, to correct them when they stray, to encourage them to try again and again. Coaching is the ONLY activity that can modify and change behavior. Training gets them started. Coaching keeps them on track.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, works better at improving sales results than coaching. Good compensation and incentive programs, games and contests can get your reps to work /sell harder but they do nothing to help your reps sell smarter. Coaching is about smart selling; about being better at selling so that the rep can sell more with the contacts he/she has got. Leveraging the moment.
A superior coaching program has four components. The first is to set the ‘standards’ by which to coach. Here is where training kicks in. If you train your reps on the precise steps to opening a call (5-step process) or to handling a ‘knee jerk objections’ (3 –step process) or any number of other skill sets, you establish an objective foundation by which to coach. Your feedback will be based on cited expectations rather than your arbitrary comments and suggestions.
The second component is to actively monitor live or recorded calls. Schedule the time, get in the trenches, and listen. Next, analyze what you have heard against the standards that you set. The rep will either be performing to that standard or not. Finally, based on your analysis, provide constructive feedback. (See Related Article: The 10 Worst Feedback Mistakes Tele-Sales Managers). The coaching silver bullet really works! Use it.
Silver Bullet #5: Motivate and Entice Them
The final silver bullet is to provide a decent compensation program and develop a motivating environment. Tele-sales reps and telemarketers are woefully underpaid thanks in large part to the ‘telemarketing’ mindset.
Hate to say it, but you get what you pay for. When you offer a rep $32K with a chance to make a paltry $3K in bonus, you get candidates who did not get the jobs at $40K. When you cap your reps commission, you stifle initiative and ales. Then it becomes a vicious circle, the underpaid, under trained and under coached rep does not do terribly well when it comes to selling so it becomes difficult for the company to justify an increase in pay. Sound familiar?
One of the best approaches to getting and keeping a good inside sales rep is to start off by offering a higher base rate with a moderate commission rate. After 60 or 90 days, reduce the base and increase the commission rate. This allows your rep to learn your products, generate some sales and build a client base. It also gets them to work both harder and smarter!
Monetary and non-monetary incentives are also necessary to create a motivating environment. If you actually picked up the phone and dialed for a week, you would understand the precise implication. Activities like contests act like oil in the selling process; they make selling faster, easier and more effective.
Treat your tele-sales program as significant and it will become significant. Your telephone selling program can become a significant revenue source.