There are many different ways to improve contact centre sales conversion rates. Here are five quick tips to boost sales performance immediately.
1. Employ Resilient Advisors – Not Necessarily Extroverts
Generally, longer calls tend to convert better than shorter ones. If a sales advisor is able to keep the attention of the customer for longer, then this may mean that the customer feels comfortable talking to them.
With this in mind, Oliver Heaton, Head of Sales at Response Tap, recommends hiring extroverts.
Oliver says: “Being an extrovert means being sociable, enthusiastic and ambitious. Sales advisors need to be confident in talking to whoever is on the other end of the phone and be able to quickly build a rapport with them. An introvert, or someone who finds it difficult to communicate with people, is naturally going to struggle with this.”
However, hiring extroverts does come with a warning, as Carolyn Blunt, MD at Ember Real Results, adds: “Contact centres often attract extroverts, which is generally great in terms of the energy they bring. But if you like to talk a bit too much, then it can get in the way of your ability to listen to the customer.”
“While you might be really knowledgeable, remember the value of pull communication, which is to ask questions rather than bombard the customer with information whether they’ve asked for it or not. Extroverts will sometimes do this just because they know all of the information and like to talk.”
So we asked Michael Melhado, the Director of Luther Marketing Group: “What do you like to look for in a sales advisor?”
Michael said: “It’s great to have somebody who is tenacious. Unfortunately, part of the job is to take setbacks, which are disappointing, but to process the knock-back, learn from it and move forward with resilience and tenacity is great.”
As well as resilience, Michael also suggests that you look for potential sales advisors with the following values.
- Open to learn
- Emotionally intelligent
- Problem solver
- Motivated by their own success
- Team focused
2. Use the ABC Philosophy
A key part of contact centre sales is objection handling. When it comes to this, Michael Melhado encourages us to use what he calls “The ABC Philosophy”, which stands for Acknowledge, Bridge and Close.
A classic objection is when the prospect customer says that they are too busy to take the phone call. To overcome this objection, Michael recommends that you “first tell the customer that you understand and appreciate that they are very busy – this is the acknowledgement part.”
“Then, talk about how the product or service that you are trying to sell can help busy people. This a classic example of bridging from the acknowledgement to your product/service.”
“Once you’ve made this connection, between the objection and how your product/service can overcome it, revert to some of the messages that we planned to use in the pitch – this is the close, as you should now be back on track.”
To help advisors to feel confident with this philosophy, it can be good preparation to prepare for common objections and to get ahead of any further objections that can be anticipated. This will also help to build the prospect customer’s confidence in the advisor, and that is great because people like to buy from experts.
However, the only way sales advisors can stay experts is through continuous training, Michael warns, saying: “Ideally, there will be set times every week for continuous training, and objection handling should be a key module.”
“It is great also to have scheduled and unscheduled discussions with a supervisor, in which advisors can talk about some of the lessons that they’ve learned that week, which really helps to build a culture of continuous learning.”
If you’re struggling to find the time for continuous coaching in your contact centre, read our article: Being Super-Busy: The Modern Excuse for Not Coaching Staff
3. Get the Greeting Right
When cold calling, sales advisors will need to use good opening lines to keep the customer’s attention throughout the call.
As Oliver Heaton tells us: “The opening line needs to be polite, upbeat and make the customer feel like they will receive some benefit from not hanging up.”
The opening line needs to be polite, upbeat and make the customer feel like they will receive some benefit from not hanging up.
So, remember to show courtesy in how you talk to people. Start with a nice opening, such as ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’ and then bring in a friendly opening line.
Don’t Apologise For Calling
Yet, as Michael Melhado warns: “Don’t apologise for calling them. Our philosophy is that we have got something that can really help the potential customer. But it can be tricky not to apologise for calling while avoiding over-selling at the same time.”
“So, when cold-calling companies, we try to greet them firstly with a courteous hello and our names. Then, we would tell them the name of the company and give a little explanation of what we do.”
“Within the explanation, it is good to tell them how we’re benefiting companies similar to them. We try to give the customer the impression that we’ve made one call and that one call is to them, today.”
With this in mind, Oliver shares his favourite and least favourite examples of greetings that sales advisors use.
|Bad Examples||Good Examples|
|“I know you’re busy but…”||“Are you free to talk for two minutes?”|
|“I’m not selling anything…”||“Hello. I have an offer for you that you may be interested in, which solves the problem of…”|
|“You don’t know me, but…”||“Hi, this is [your name] from [your company name].”|
“Are you free to talk for two minutes?” – Rather than telling the customer that they’re busy, try asking whether they are free. It is a natural reaction to say “yes, I am free”.
“Hello. I have an offer for you that you may be interested in, which solves the problem of…” – This includes a friendly opening line and then immediately moves on to telling the customer that they would benefit from listening to what the employee has to say.
“Hi, this is [your name] from [your company name]” – This answer seems much more genuine because it provides the employee’s name.
“I know you’re busy but…” – Telling the customer that they’re busy will make them think that they are actually too busy to take the call, even if they are not.
“I’m not selling anything…” – This does not seem genuine and makes it seem like the customer is being sold something.
“You don’t know me, but…” – The best and highest value sales come after a rapport has been built with the customer. If the call centre worker says they don’t know the customer, then the rapport has already been broken before the conversation has even had a chance to start.
For more examples of good greetings, read our article: The Best Customer Service Greeting Phrases – With Examples
4. Create Healthy Competition Between Sales Advisors
Motivating call centre employees can create an environment where a culture of optimism can flourish. Healthy competitions in the workplace increase motivation and productivity when used in the right way.
Oliver Heaton says: “Consider creating teams competing against each other, as this will boost all of the participating members’ enthusiasm and productivity. Encourage employees to share what works and what doesn’t work with their team members.”
“Have competitions which encourage employees to try new tactics and publicly mention the new tactic used by the winner to all the other employees. This will allow employees to learn from each other and will improve the skills of everyone in the call centre.”
Examples of motivation games that sales contact centres can play include contact centre battleships, pod wars and “knockout”. Instructions for all of these games and more can be found in our article: “Motivational Games for Call Centres“.
However, Michael Melhado stresses that the success of motivational games often comes down to how incentives are created.
While many contact centres will offer advisors a hefty bonus at the end of the year, that won’t provide motivation all year round.
“Create an incentive plan, because prizes and awards need to be staggered. While many contact centres will offer advisors a hefty bonus at the end of the year, that won’t provide motivation all year round.
“So, spread out your ideas throughout the year to ensure you’re giving continuous bursts of motivation. Games and incentives work well when they are built as a ‘fun habit’ to boost morale.”
For examples of what makes up a great incentive in the contact centre, read our article: Staff Incentive Schemes That Work
5. Focus on Selling Solutions to Challenges
It is one thing to sell a product, something that sales advisors will be very familiar with, but it’s another to sell solutions. By discussing the problems that the prospect will likely have, it demonstrates that you know the area well – and people like to buy from industry experts.
As Michael Melhado says: “Solution selling is all about how the product or service can benefit the prospect. When you sell solutions, you sell the benefits and not the features.”
“A common mistake is that a lot of sales advisors talk about how good their product or service is, but the prospect, especially in the first instance, is more interested in how you can address their business needs.”
A common mistake is that a lot of sales advisors talk about how good their product or service is, but the prospect, especially in the first instance, is more interested in how you can address their business needs.
So focus on what’s in it for them as a good starting point, but you also need to look at who you are selling to, and this is where getting through to the decision-maker is important. Remember to avoid pitching to the receptionist, but to build rapport with them first and use statement questions to add direction to the call.
Direction is often difficult to establish when cold calling companies because, in most companies, there won’t be one individual decision-maker but a “decision-making unit”.
Michael says: “You’ll likely get through to a decision-making unit, which can cover a whole spectrum of top functions and people. While you have the people that sign off the budget, the ultimate decision-makers, you may also have to sell to recommenders and influencers as well.”
Role playing is key here, so sales advisors are confident with what to say when they are put through to different members of the prospect company. Role playing is also great in building an advisor’s confidence in solution selling.
Two Bonus Tips
6. Consider Call Tracking
It doesn’t matter how well a company plans out the workload for its call centre, there will always be times when it doesn’t have enough staff waiting to take every call.
Destination CRM research has showed that 80% of customers hang up instead of leaving a message. Therefore, if the customer has to wait too long, then they are most likely going to hang up and call a competitor.
So Oliver Heaton recommends call tracking software, which can send call handlers a “missed call alert email” that usually contains the caller’s contact number and which marketing activity motivated their call. This includes the keyword searched if the call originated from a website view from a search engine.
According to Oliver: “This enables contact centre staff to make the most of their less busy times by calling back customers whose call they were unable to take earlier.”
“Measuring the number of missed calls also enables you to see the times of the day when there are more missed calls and plan your staffing as appropriately as possible to reduce the number of missed calls in the future.”
For more on exciting contact centre technologies, read our article: The Top 10 Emerging Technologies in Contact Centres
7. Make Sure Sales Advisors Can Be Heard
Quite often in a busy sales environment, there is a lot of external noise, and advisors sometimes have to talk over each other to be heard over the phone.
Background noise and having to pay extra attention to be able to work out what is being said can be very annoying to a potential customer.
As Oliver Heaton says: “If an employee cannot be heard, they need to raise their voice when talking over the phone, which may be perceived as rude or disrespectful by the customer.”
“Invest in high-quality noise-cancelling headsets which will minimise the effects of external noise as much as possible.”
This is a message that contact centres seem to be listening to, as our recent research revealed that more than half of contact centres receive no complaints about background noise.
What was also surprising was that when the complaints do come, they come from the advisors themselves. If this is the case in your contact centre, offering advisors a choice of headsets would be one way to improve the quality of sales calls and advisor satisfaction too.
To find the best headsets for your contact centre, head over to our headsets directory page.
For more on sales from the contact centre, read our articles:
- Top Tips for Selling Over the Phone
- How to Develop Sales Focus in a Customer Service Team
- The Right Words and Phrases to Use on a Sales Call
Originally published in June 2013. Updated in October 2018.