Pitchers and catchers have reported and the remaining team members are trickling into Spring Training. Always a great time of year: the sales year has launched, the Sales Kick Off meeting is history, and now it is time to get down to some serious business. Time to stretch your sales and management muscles and focus on the telesales business at hand.
In the spirit of the baseball season (and the prospect of another World Series), I like to start the season by brushing up on my selling skills. And what better resource than sales books with a baseball theme?
My favorites? Baseline Selling by Dave Kurlan and Management by Baseball by Jeff Angus. Worth reading, rereading or, at the very least, digging into a few chapters.
Check out these chapters:
Baseline Selling: ‘Chapter 3: In the Zone – The Psychology of Sales’.
Dave Kurlan writes ‘When you step to the plate in sales, you want to have your game face on by being sure of yourself, confident in your product and presentation, and certain that your prospect needs the solution that you can provide.” This chapter is packed with ideas and exercises that prepare you to step to the plate with confidence.
Management by Baseball: ‘Chapter 6: Charting Hits: Optimizing Player Performance’. Jeff Angus says ‘To win, you have to improve player performance – and do it continually. You do this using four specific practices….Experimentation, OMA (Observe, Measure, Analyze), Applying, and Coaching.”
Play ball and keep selling!
I had the opportunity to hear Tammy Erickson speak about the future of the workforce (Confab Conference, 11/29/2007). Tammy is co-author of Workforce Crisis: How to Beat the Coming Shortage of Skills and Talent . In her book, Ms. Erickson and her co-authors explore the world of work and the expectations of each of four generations (Traditionalists, Boomers, Gen X, and GenY). The authors identify a seismic shift that is starting to happen in the workforce as Boomers move into semi-retirement and leadership positions are held by Xers and Yers.
Tammy says Gen Yers are happy to do the work but cannot imagine taking 60 hours to do it or committing to the face-to-face posturing they see being done by elder generations.
Time to rethink the jobs to be done: How do we revise and redefine our Telesales jobs to ensure that we are prepared to respond to the GenY candidates who will be looking for a blend of work and life outside of work? Fascinating stuff. We need to embrace it now in order to define jobs in the near future. Check out Tammy Erickson’s blog on Harvard Business Online.
Point-by-point comparisons of the candidate’s experience to the position you are hiring to will create more successful outcomes.
A complete understanding of the position you are filling is an essential part of the hiring process. Now, that might seem obvious but it is (or perhaps it is not) surprising how often an attractive candidate is hired and is later to be found incompatible with the job. And this after there has been the usual investment of time and energy to get the Telesales person oriented, acclimated, trained, supported. All Telesales managers can point to at least a few of these hires over the course of a hiring lifetime.
Dave Kurlan, in his blog ‘Understanding the Sales Force’, gives an ever-too-frequent example of a sales person hired with sales experience that is incompatible with the new, current position.
So, how can you stack the deck in your favor?
Start with a complete understanding of the position you are hiring. And write it down. Make sure the interview tests for comparisons to the attributes and characteristics of your job profile. Assign the components to the each stage of the interview (pre-screen, initial interview, follow-up meeting, etc.) in order to end the process with a complete comparison. And be sure to check in mid-process to ensure you are on track to compare every point. Of course, this is Telesales, you can always call the candidate to get a response to any unanswered categories if you find the interview team has not filled in every category.
Continue here to see the Telesales Position Checklist for Interviews.
In a recent study published by Marketing Sherpa, call center management at Franklin Covey made some interesting discoveries when they analyzed their web generated leads. And all of it did not follow commonly held beliefs about best time to call and how long to age leads.
Their insights into their business?
A. There is a point in time when it is too early to follow up on leads. On the other end, of course, is the time when results drop off dramatically. Their analysis determined that their callers should wait until the next business day before pursuing the lead (and waiting one day longer negatively impacted the results).
B. Don’t write off Fridays, you never know what you may find. This turned out to be the best day of the week to reach prospects.
C. Be prepared to make staffing adjustments and decisions based on the responsiveness of your prospects and customers. Franklin Covey hires part timers for Friday coverage and encourages full timers to take Mondays rather than Fridays off.
What’s the takeaway?
- Determine, upfront, the factors that are important to analyze.
- Capture this information, starting with the first call of the campaign.
- Once you have enough data to analyze, do so.
- Act on what you’ve discovered, both by making adjustments to the campaign and systems and by making adjustments to your staffing & coverage.
- Every campaign is at least slightly different than the one before. One company’s prospects do not respond exactly the same as another’s.
- One size/one answer does not fit all.
Greg Brown offers some practical advice in his work.com ‘Guide to Sales Incentives’. His best advice?
Make the program simple. Easy to understand, easy to measure, easy to track. Provides the incentive to get the job done without having to get bogged down in the details.
Promote it, promote it, and then promote it some more. Leverage the program to the hilt by referring to it constantly.
Track progress publically. This ensures accuracy but, more importantly, it taps into the competitive juices of the Telesales people.
Be sure to have the rewards on hand. Make it real and make sure your reps trust the program by rewarding in a timely fashion.
In a survey of 205 b2b marketers and a review of the results of thousands of telemarketing campaign records, TeleNet Marketing found that it took an average of 7 calls to connect with C-Level prospects and that it took up to 12 calls to C-Level contacts before daily call returns started to drop off. The full survey results are presented on Marketing Sherpa, reference article 30060.
Recommendation: Tell your reps the results are in the numbers. And be sure that they are armed with targeted voicemail scripts which give the prospect a compelling reason to return the call.
As a Sales Manager, are you spending a lot of cycles trying to identify the best compensation plan, the right incentives, the most motivating sales contests? In his article, ‘Stimulate Your Staff With Questions’, Keith Rosen, The Executive Sales Coach TM, recommends that sales managers ask their sales reps to identify what motivates them.
Here are his suggested questions:
- What do you want in your career that you don’t currently have?
- What do you want to be doing that you aren’t currently doing?
- What are you doing now that you don’t want to be doing?
- What areas do you want to strengthen, improve, or develop?
- What is most important to you in your life/career? What does a successful career/life look like?
- What is the legacy you want to leave behind when you are gone?
- What are the three most important things you would like to accomplish right now?
- What is your plan of action to achieve those goals?
- What do you need that is missing and which prevents you from reaching these goals?
- How can I best support you to achieve these goals? (Uncover how each employee wants to be managed and supported.)
Outside motivators are good, internal motivation is better.
Effective training is a key component to successfully teleselling and teleservicing and there are many companies who offer sales and service training.
Here are 3 questions to ask before you select a Tele Training partner:
1) Is this training company the right match for my business?
Is this company expert in delivering Telephone skills training?
Does this company have customers that:
a) sell to the same sized companies
b) and target the same level of decision makers
2) Is this company’s training offering repeatable?
The best telephone skills training programs are those that deliver training in modules. Once you complete the training, you can follow up with training in key focus areas. Be sure to select a program that is easy to deliver frequently, either by engaging an outside trainer or by purchasing access to modules that you can use as needed.
3) What do I need to do now to prepare for reinforcing the skills and techniques my team learns?
Plan ahead for what follows the training. Commit to reinforcing the telesales skills and techniques. Review this requirement with the trainer you select and establish reinforcement and retraining plan before the training starts. Build this into your plan and your training budget.
An updated approach to sales questions provides updated sales results
Check in with your Telesales team, make sure they have eliminated ‘old style’ sales questions from their sales conversations with prospects as well as customers.
In his article Sales Training: The Power of Questions, Kelley Robertson points out that the old style line of questioning many sales representatives are trained to use do not advance the sales conversation and often work against the sales representative. Can’t you see the prospect rolling his/her eyes when asked the question ‘If I could save you money, would you be interested...?’
- Determine your key objective.
- Consider the person you will be speaking with.
- Use “what” questions.
Managing the sales calls with well tuned questioning techniques and open ended questions, will result in a deeper knowledge of your company’s customers and prospects. And a deeper knowledge will enable your Telesales people to present solutions that appeal to the customer’s needs.
There are so many moving parts to Customer Service and Telesales organizations that it is good to work with some standard checklists. www.justsell.com has a number of good ones that can be used as is or customized to an organization. Check out the Sales Evaluation. It is designed as a self-evaluation tool for sales reps but could easily be used by managers. The Customer Service Checklist is a good, basic start for a new Customer Care department.