Here are some top tips for how your advisors can increase their effectiveness in selling over the phone.
Let’s face it. The vast majority of training solutions focus on skills and tactics such as complaint handling, empathy, tone, etc. However, leading call centres operate differently from the rest…
1. One more day of sales training in induction
Increase the weighting of good sales training during the induction process. Many companies understandably allocate 3 to 6 weeks training on product knowledge and compliance issues as part of the induction process but only one or two days to sales skills and then have an ongoing buddying system. This is great, but how about increasing initial sales skills training by one day?
2. Hire more “salesy” customer service staff
Increasingly customer service staff are required to be more sales oriented. It’s not a bad idea to do what many organisations are increasingly doing and that is to hire more “salesy” customer service staff.
3. Recruit smartly
Ensure that recruiters, both internal and agencies, are skilled at extolling the virtues of a customer service role that requires sales orientation as opposed to purely emphasising the importance of a willingness to sell.
4. Be patient
Contact and call centre environments are characterised by results orientation. It’s important to be patient when trying new processes and techniques out, as well as looking for quick wins.
5. Pilot new sales campaigns
When piloting new approaches, processes, training, etc. use a reasonable-sized pilot group. For instance, if you have a team of 500 staff create a pilot group of at least 50 to 60 people and if possible take them out of their normal teams so that you can truly establish what is working and what is not working.
6. Staff for cross-selling
If cross-sales involves the transfer of opportunities from customer service staff to specific sales teams, ensure that there is sufficient staffing on the other side of the organisation to avoid queues.
7. Transfers are better than call backs
If immediate cross-sales are your aim, weight transfers higher than call-backs. This will have a tremendous impact on the number of sales achieved in real time.
8. Determine up-front the level of qualification required
This will reduce the potential for animosity between sales and customer service staff over the quality of staff being transferred.
9. Desk training is of limited value
Many organisations are rightly focused on ensuring they maximise the number of calls handled during the day and as such prefer “at-desk training”. When introducing a new way of working such as training customer service staff to cross-sell, or an approach to handling objections that is radically different from what agents have been doing in the past, I would strongly recommend this be done away from the normal working environment. Results are likely to be far better as staff really need an open environment to air their concerns, fears and anxiety about doing things differently!
10. Include team leaders in agent training sessions
Include team leaders in agent training sessions, as well as providing separate training for team leaders. This makes it easier for them to reinforce learning as they have witnessed reactions to training of new techniques and can formulate the best ways to deal with these reactions in their normal working environment.
11. Communicate well
Communicate the importance of suggested changes in working practices well in advance in order to gain buy-in and to make staff ready to learn.
Buki Mosaku is the founder of Results Oriented Sales Solutions and helps clients generate more prospects, close more sales and grow existing business
12. Get the agent desktop right
Make sure the call centre agent’s desktop is set up to provide them with the information they need to up-sell and cross-sell, when they need it. Ideally, the system should be able to automatically display offers that are relevant to the customer, based on historical data and other criteria, at the right point in the conversation. Then, the agent should be able to easily log the customer’s response for future reference.
Desktop automations go a long way to help call centre agents up-sell and cross-sell. They reduce the amount of information the agent needs to remember about available offers and where the information about them is stored, so that s/he can focus on engaging with the customer and explaining the benefits of the offer clearly and effectively. The offer should be more attractive to the customer because it’s relevant to them and well presented.
Steve Raby, VP EMEA, OpenSpan
13. Make sure customers can hear what you are trying to sell
When making a sales call ensure that the caller can clearly hear what your sales representative has to say. It may seem like a simple thing but interfering background noise from a busy call centre can easily distract your potential customer who will struggle to hear details of what you are offering. It is equally distracting for the sales representative who has to fight with noisy colleagues to make themselves heard above the constant ‘hubbub’.
A recent independent survey found that invasive background noise can seriously detract from a positive customer experience. The research showed that twice as many customers were extremely dissatisfied with their call experience when there was invasive background noise compared with those calls where no invasive background noise was present.
To cut out the ‘hubbub’, organisations should invest in high quality headsets, with noise-cancelling microphones. Sales calls are much more likely to be successful.
14. Keeps calls short and to the point
A short sales call that explains the purpose of the call and the product or service on offer in a concise way is much more likely to lead to a sale.
Andrew Doyle, Sales Director – GN Netcom (www.jabra.com)
15. Get the website right
A new breed of customer has emerged. They’ll check you out online before they even think about doing business with you. They also have a shorter attention span than ever before. While it’s critical your website succeeds in attracting their attention , service availability is crucial in retaining this and converting it into a successful transaction.
Communicating with prospects via online channels has become a process of speed-dating. You’ve got a few seconds’ audition, so you’d better look good and, most importantly, be ready for it.
These next-generation prospects are prone to switch horses mid-ride, by picking up the phone halfway through a webchat or shooting off an email expecting an immediate, relevant response to a query found deep within a web page. Call centre agents must be equipped with the visibility, knowledge and tools to engage effectively in all these situations.
Andrew Mennie, General Manager, eGain EMEA (www.egain.com)
16. Drive sales through service
Companies that receive customer calls – and so have regular contact with customers – should look to their customer service agents as being their best sales tool, as well as their chief problem solvers.
Neither activity is likely to be successfully achieved if agents have to battle with technology and processes rather than concentrate on their customers. In fact it’s likely to leave both customer and agent dissatisfied by the interaction.
By implementing a unified desktop solution you can give your agents an intelligent, contextual view of the customer, and of your corresponding products and offers. This gives the agents the knowledge that they need to answer questions and enable them to act on all available opportunities to cross- and up-sell.
Guy Tweedale, Senior Vice President, European Operations, Jacada
17. Actively pursue lost sales
Put a process in place to identify and contact customers with the aim of recovering lost sales. Firstly, it’s crucial to identify where potential customers fall off your site/abandon the shopping basket, and then rectify the problems identified in the analysis. Clearly you need to capture customers contact details as early as possible in the buying process in order to contact them and offer help if they do drop out. Secondly, time is of the essence. Whether using Email, SMS, or phone calls, research shows the vast majority of customers need to be called within 5-15 mins of navigating away from your site, otherwise they’ll buy elsewhere or lose interest in the product.
18. Develop a co-ordinated approach to communicating with customers, online and offline
Link up the website ‘drop-offs’ with your sales team as quickly as possibly. Quite often brands’ in-house functions operate almost independently; surprisingly some of the bigger brands are the worst offenders. So the website is controlled by the marketing or I.T. team and once an order is placed that goes into the back office system. Meanwhile the call centre is taking and making calls from their database, with little to no visibility of what is happening on the website. What happens to the ‘nearly-customers’ that dropped off the website? Usually nothing, at best it may trigger an email or appear on a report at the end of the month. Jumping on these hot leads with a timely phone call will send your conversion rate through the roof. There really is no substitute for speaking to someone one-to-one – it’s the ultimate personalisation tool.
19. Customers need help
Offer the customer as many options as possible to get help / information on the products and service you offer. Eg. telephone numbers, Call back buttons, instant messenger, email, FAQ’s page. If you do offer assistance to customers, make sure the resource is there to offer timely, relevant and comprehensive help.
Treat any calls generated by web drop-offs (dropped baskets) as Customer Service and not just ‘sell sell sell’. This approach is proven to work extremely effectively: ‘I noticed you’ve just been on our site and have not completed the checkout process. I was just calling to see whether there was anything I could help with…’. Equally with closely competitive insurance quotes for example, a friendly call can help tip the balance and make the right choice for customers.
20. Be transparent, especially with pricing
Ensure all prices/costs are visible to the customer as early as possible in the buying process. Research shows ‘hidden costs’ is the number one reason for customers dropping baskets and navigating away from websites – it may seem underhand and implies you have something to hide. Adding costs late in the process – such as unjustified delivery cost, tax, processing fees, or other charges – is an absolute no-no, as is offering confusing payment terms. Critically analyse your site and identify anything that could put off potential new customers.
21. Focus on intelligent converting
Profiling your customers prior to contacting them is important to your conversion rate as it lines up qualified ‘hot’ leads (rather than luke warm) for your call centre sales team. Thus applying a certain amount of intelligence will identify the customers that you know have a better chance of conversion, and weed out the no-hopers or tyre kickers. Look at order value, time spent on the site, order history etc to help make the best commercial decisions.
Scott Reid is the Managing Director of Leadcall
Click here for our Top Tips for Selling Over the Phone