To borrow from Shakespeare: to script or not to script, that is the question.
In the world of B to B tele-sales, minor wars have been raged on whether or not to script the call. There are those who love scripts and they have some compelling arguments to support their claim. Others would rather chew off a body part than script a call and have some rather convincing reasons in their favor.
The truth is scripts can work for and against you. Knowing how and when to use them or avoid them is the key to better sales results. Regardless of where you sit on the scripting fence, here is a definitive look at scripts and the ultimate solution to help you maximize your calling opportunities.
The Case Against the Script
1. Scripts Lack Flexibility
Because scripts are highly structured, it assumes your client based is a homogenous mass that thinks, acts and responds in the same manner. You know and I know that just isn’t true. Certainly in a B to B setting, a script tends to lack the flexibility that is needed in a client dialog. A sales rep has to be able to react and respond to the client depending on the situation and circumstances. Scripts don’t allow that and that severely limits their effectiveness.
2. It Sounds Canned
For the most part, scripts tend to sound ‘canned:’ awkward, stiff, stilted, insincere, mechanical, belabored, rote, bored, lacking conviction and the list goes on. Unless your sales rep is a particularly good actor who can call effectively delivery his lines, the script rarely comes off as natural. Your clients pick this up immediately. They don’t have the time or the inclination to suffer through a droning pitch. Put more simply, prospect know when a script is being read and don’t like it. And rarely do they buy.
3. It Burns Out Reps
Look at a script from your sales rep’s perspective. In fact, why not give it a try yourself. Recite a script thirty or forty times a day, five days a week and four weeks a month and you’ll clearly understand the impact it has on your rep. Mind numbing repetition will frustrate your reps in record time which leads to burnout which leads to turnover. And that costs you money.
Once a script is in place and up and running, sales reps become hooked or dependent on them. It becomes difficult if not impossible for them to think out of the box when the client doesn’t follow the script you’ve set. They recite; they don’t think. Of course what this really means is that you can and will lose selling opportunities.
The Case for a Script
1. Creates Consistency
A script ensures that “everyone is singing from the same hymn book.” In turn, consistency helps ensure call quality. This gives you peace of mind that your client base is hearing the same thing from all reps all of the time.
2. Shortens the learning curve
A script is easy to learn. Plunk it down on paper and you have a training document. In short order, your rep can be on the phone making calls and making money.
3. Reduces call lengths and increases productivity
A well written script gets rid of useless clutter that often accompanies a sales call. Because it is focused and structured, it gets to the point more quickly; messages are more succinct and better understood. This efficiency can carve seconds or even minutes off a call. Multiple those by the volume of calls and the number of reps and you have economies of scale.
4. Provides a Standard by which you can coach
But perhaps one of the most significant benefits of a script is that it creates a standard by which a manager can coach. A standard is specific way something should be said or delivered. If a rep knows precisely what is expected, it becomes easier to support it through coaching and coaching is the key to sustained sales results.
5. Allows you to test
Finally, one of the strongest features of scripting is that it allows you to test various components of a call. For example, you could create two or three opening statements and test one against the other to determine which gets the higher response rate. You can do the same thing with offers. Does offer A out pull offer B? Because you can control the variables of a call, you can isolate and test one component at a time. In this manner you can determine the best mix of words to get the highest return on investment.
So there you have it: a partial list of the pros and the cons. What’s the solution?
It’s simple. Create a hybrid. Take the best of both worlds. Combine the good of a script and toss out the bad.
The trick is to use “scripts’ in certain key parts of the call. For example, the opening statement should be scripted. Think about it: your reps are making sixty cold calls per day to the same target market. This part of the call should never have to change because your initial message should be the same from call to call. Scripting the opening statement creates a call standard. It creates a consistent message that can be coached and supported by you. Best of all, if your reps are using the same opener you can start to test variations and figure out what works best in garnering the client’s attention.
Questioning, on the other hand, is something that cannot be scripted. Oh sure, you can have a list of questions that should be asked but once questioning begins the client can take you all over the map. Your rep needs the flexibility to move where the conversation goes. He needs to “think out of the box.” Don’t script questioning.
Voice mails can and should be scripted. Why? Because you can see what works and what doesn’t work in getting a client to respond. And dare I say it: test!
If you are using offers as part of the selling process, they can and should be scripted. The offer typically doesn’t change so why change the words? If you allow too much flexibility and free form at this stage you’ll discover that sometimes your reps are eloquent and sometimes they sound like the village idiot. Don’t risk it. The offer is the ultimate hook. Make it a standard, coach to it and watch it work. Or test it. Get half your sales team to present the offer in one manner and get the other half to present the offer in another.
Objections are a more troublesome. The problem is smokescreens: i.e., false objections. For instance, you can have all the right words and phrases to deal with a price objection but if that’s just an excuse to get rid of the rep, then a script doesn’t help, it hinders. Instead, you can develop a ‘call guide” for handling objections. A call guide is a process for a given situation. For example, you could teach your reps a 4 steps process to handling an objection (emphasize, verify/isolate, respond and confirm) which would give you structure of a script but the flexibility of free form.
When providing a solution in a complex sale, your rep will likely need to have the flexibility of tailoring the message to a particular client. This is hard to script. However, like objections, a call guide can be used to craft a message that provides the client with key features supported by clear explanations and topped off with a benefit or two.
Script the close. You can have 10 different scripted closing lines if you want but you must ensure that the sales rep uses ONE of them. If you do that, you increase the chances that the sale will close.
The fact of the matter is this: most B to B tele-sales departments typically don’t use scripting in the management of their calls. They give their reps license to do as they please because of the negative perceptions about scripts. Rest assured, sales and opportunities are being lost because a modicum of structure is not being applied. Script certain key parts of your call and you’ll have added a degree of ‘science’ to the ‘art’ of selling.
And if you’re not a script writer, find one. (see article below) The reps will learn faster, apply the knowledge more consistently and sell more. Period.