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2014 Sales Trend 2 – Telesales will have to make dramatic changes

March 5, 2014 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Customer Service, Sales Trends

The second Sales Trend for 2014  is ‘Telesales will have to make dramatic changes’.

In-bound and out-bound telesales and call centre operations have traditionally focused on the uncomplicated sale of easy-to-understand commodities and the service support of relatively simple customer issues. Now, with the increasing demands of more sophisticated buyers they are going to have to make some dramatic changes.

buying-over-the-internetAnd with more people buying over the Internet, as opposed to telephone shopping, the number of people involved in those ineffective call centres is likely to drop. At the same time, demand for more effective and sophisticated in-bound call centre operations, that address customer service, pre and post-purchase enquiries is likely to increase not only in the Business to Consumer (B2C) space but very much so in the Business to Business (B2B) arena .

Demands from knowledgeable customers, with sophisticated needs and plenty of choice means that call centre operators involved in out-bound selling will have to improve their knowledge and skills base, learning how to conduct sales interactions and hold discussions about solutions (as opposed to products) that buyers want. Rattling off a litany of features and benefits about a product, in the hope that something will trigger buyer’s interest, is going to disappear just as Formula Selling – the staple for call centre sales methods since the 1960’s – has seen its end.

Today, this “shotgun” approach to tele-selling won’t work. Buyers have become too individualised, too sophisticated to put up with this shallow and useless approach.  Unless call centre operators have the skills to understand every buyer’s unique expectations and needs; unless they can offer a solution, rather than a product, they are likely to see sales and along with that, demand for their services, decline.

On the other end of the scale, those call centres that provide support and service are also going to feel the positive impact of change. Call centre operators without the power to offer meaningful solutions or who have no decision-making power are going to end up as a cost, rather than a revenue generating activity as fewer customers call for solutions.

In 2014 those companies that make customers work through call centres, where there is no power to immediately solve problems are going to find increasingly vociferous buyers reporting about poor experiences on social media.  The ‘galley slave’ obsessive numbers focus of these types of operations is a major liability, leading to worse sales and service results not better. Shifting off shore or outsourcing in order to reduce labour costs is going to backfire too, unless overseas/ outsourced operators are trained to interact effectively with the company’s field sales teams and customers in Australia and other ‘developed’ nations more effectively.

Those call centres who train and empower their call centre operators to be part of the overall sales strategy and sales capability of the companies they represent are going to find an increasing band of supporting buyers. Providing a combination of product knowledge and sales / service communications skills, especially in consultative and solutions sales capabilities, along with technical expertise in the field and a clear sense of the purpose of the companies they represent is going to be mandatory for any call centre – in or out bound.

its-time-to-rethink-telesalesThis shake up means a radical re-think for telesales operations.
Smart companies will see their tele-sales teams as a vital part of their overall sales operation. Some may even bring back in house those teles-ales teams that were previously outsourced or off shored.  Smart companies will train, coach and expect their internal sales and service people to work in concert with their field sales colleagues not only as excellent client facing professional sales people themselves but as key conduits back into the organisation linking the value chain in its entirety.  The tele-sales people of smart companies will be committed, connected and in control of their role in driving the sales effort across the entire value chain both now and over the long term and everyone will benefit especially their customers.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au

The problem with noisy call centres

February 26, 2014 in Brand & Reputation, Communication, Customer Service

If you look up ‘Noisy Call Centres’ on the web you will find a lot of information about the welfare of call centre staff. Often working in open plan office environments side by side, with many people speaking at once, ringing phones, office equipment hum and in some cases loud music in the background, you can understand why the welfare of staff is top of mind.

 Auditory Processing Disorders When the brain can't hear.

Auditory Processing Disorders
When the brain can’t hear.

The ability to concentrate and do your job well in these environments can be severely hampered by all these distractions. Try selling and servicing in these conditions – it can be very challenging. Especially for those people who may have Auditory Processing Disorders where a person struggles with decoding speech in noisy environments.  The impact on effective listening, problem solving, and concentration can be especially strong on these people. I know as I have issues with auditory processing myself.

That is why you will see all manner of equipment to reduce the background noise for call centre staff usually by way of sound cancelling headsets which, these days, work very well by all accounts.

That is great for call centre staff but has anyone in these call centres considered what it is like from the customer’s perspective?

The background noise in these call centres, in most instances, is so loud that is makes it hard to hear the person we are speaking with. This background noise is transmitted right down the line via those microphones to our headset on the other end.  We can hear everything. And in most cases it is not pretty.

Only this week did I get a call from a job board provider telling me about their services and all the while there was loud music playing in the background and lots of chatter from other staff mixing in with the person I was trying to listen to.  It was very distracting and just came across as very unprofessional. And besides this excessive noise can lead to increases in stress related issues amongst call centre staff which can affect productivity.

This isn’t an isolated incident, it happens with lots of call centres whether we are calling them or they are calling us.

So what impression are you trying to create with your call centre? How do you want to be received and perceived?

I have been speaking about this with many colleagues and friends gauging their experiences and all of them without exception did not like the background noise that emanates from these noisy environments. One person mentioned to me his experience with the Apple Help Desk which, in contrast, was very quiet and professional. There was no background noise and the staff member was very focused and attentive. It was, by all accounts, a very pleasant experience for my friend.

If call centres want to become a key sales channel for businesses they need to lift their game and work towards more professional standards which include having the right environmental conditions to begin with.

When researching this piece I came across some useful tips to help minimise the background noise and create call centres that are more conducive to professional sales and service cultures:

closing-earsWays to minimise the risks from background noise include:

  • use sound absorbent materials and partitions of a suitable height in the design of the contact centre work stations and breakout areas
  • ensure office equipment such as printers and photocopiers are separated from the immediate work area
  • identify and remove faulty telephone lines and headsets
  • hold team meetings and briefings outside the immediate work area
  • encourage workers to not speak loudly or to hold conversations near call handlers, particularly during shift changeover
  • train call handlers to control voice levels
  • reduce the level of background noise in the contact centre
  • ensure damaged equipment and network faults are repaired promptly
  • When setting up a contact centre, consideration should be given to locating it away from main thoroughfares and other areas such as lunch rooms, meeting rooms, amenities and outside smoking areas where large groups of people are likely to congregate and use mobile phones. This will help to minimise the risk of mobile phones interfering with headset use.

As mentioned in Call Centre Helper, a UK publication:

  1. Active_Noise_ReductionReduce staff density
  2. Use White Noise machines
  3. Use large office plants to deflect noise
  4. Use a 2-ear headset
  5. Use noise cancelling headsets

If we make call centres quieter and more conducive to effective communication where both parties can listen and interact without distracting background noise I wonder what the effect would be on results: sales, service and the like?  Just a thought.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au

Tips for using email and web leads effectively in sales

August 8, 2013 in Customer Service, Education in Sales, Sales Driven Organisations, Sales Skills, Social Sales

Sales can be made in several ways: face-to-face, over the phone, web-based, direct mail or via e-mail.  With the plethora of internet businesses now transacting sales online you’d be forgiven for thinking that you could dispense with sales people all together but in many instances you would be incorrect.  There are very few businesses that can run purely on the internet with no sales people interaction required.  At the very least these online businesses need customer service or ‘live chat’ enquiry centres where customers queries, complaints and comments can be addressed effectively.  How well these business execute this function it critical to their ongoing success.

For other businesses that deal in face-to-face and telephone sales how you deal with web leads and use email is incredibly important to keeping sales opportunities rolling in.  Sometimes sales opportunities come in from different time zones and overseas or some customers may work night-shift and require additional communication options by other means.

Almost all businesses are now in a position to provide customers and prospective customers with the chance to engage with them via a web request or email.

How quickly and how well you respond to these requests is becoming increasingly important to attracting and retaining your customer base. Take for instance the retail car sales: many dealerships have their own websites now or places on the car sales sites where prospective customers can request information etc. If the sales people from those car dealerships do not follow up within 1-2 hours the lead goes cold. Gone. Lost.

fast response to web leads

follow up within 1-2 hours or the lead goes cold

The prospective customer has moved on to another dealership.

Respond fast to web leads

If you are not in a purely online business then ideally you would respond to a web sales lead as fast as possible (immediately when possible). If appropriate our first tip would be to call the customer first (assuming they left a phone number).  If they are not there leave a specific message stating why you are calling and your contact number.  Then follow up with an email stating the same and leaving a contact number.

While it is easier to return emails than phoning someone the only time we would suggest emailing in place of phoning first is if the customer is operating in a different time-zone and it is not appropriate to call them in your work hours.  In your email you should see if you can arrange for a mutually suitable time you can both speak.

How to use and not to use email

E-mail is a medium of communication that can be used to overcome some of the challenges in dealing with customers where face to face contact is extremely difficult or as a supplement to your regular sales activities.  However, you should not expect email to become your main selling portal.

Why?  Well how long does it take to write a well crafted, well intentioned, unambiguous email?

Answer:  a very long time.  If you have the chance to speak to the person via phone to progress the sales or initiative contact then pick up the phone.  You will get where you need to go much more quickly than relying on e-mail by itself.

Send emails that the recipient wants to receive.

Send emails that the recipient wants to receive.

Tips for using e-mail.

  • In sales, ideally, you use email to confirm details of meetings times, overview of a discussion, facts, meeting agendas.  Do not try to use emails to convey emotional topics or difficult issues as too many things can be misread or misinterpreted in an email leaving you worse off than you were before.
  • Emails are effective for setting up an agenda prior to a client meeting. (see our article on setting the sale agenda)
  • Write your emails in a way that it makes sense to someone who does not know you. Put things in context, spell out acronyms.
  • Be both friendly and professional via email, even with people you know well.  Have a greeting (‘Hi xxx’ or ‘Hello xxx’ or ‘Dear xxx’ if it is really formal), and a sign off (‘Kind regards’ or ‘Cheers’ or ‘Sincerely’).
  • The subject line needs to be short, clear and specific which helps your receiver make a prioritised decision.
  • Spell-check and proof-read emails before sending.
  • Keep it short.  Long emails don’t get read. Most people don’t realise this and spend a lot of time crafting lengthy emails when a simple, to the point email is better.  It is much harder to say what you have to say in a few sentences but your messages will be much more effective if you can master a shorter email.  All paragraphs should be less than four lines long and use bullet points whenever possible.
  • If you send an attachment, let people how long it will take to read it.
  • Watch for formatting issues. Use simple text that translates well into any email system.  If you are writing an email in MS Outlook, remember that the formatting options available to you are not available to many others who receive emails. So try to write the emails in plain text. Use a “*” rather than a formatted bullet. And watch for funny symbols, different font use, color use, or curly “smart” quotes.
  • Copy in the person who gave you an introduction or referral.  This does two things: It keeps the referral partner in the loop. Since the referral partner will probably be a key circle of influence, you want to ensure that person is aware of what you are doing. It legitimizes you to the customer. You really did get an intro from the referral partner — and you are proving it by the CC.
  • NEVER put anything in an email that you would not say to  someone in person. Never put anything that may incriminate you or anyone else in an email.  It is a legal document and can be used in a court of law.
  • Keep your signature relevant.  Use your signature box to convey your company’s clear message; your contact details, your brand, your social media connections (Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, etc.).  It is all adverting real estate.
  • You can also attach a vCard. vCards are very useful. A vCard is a file format standard for electronic business cards. A vCard (usually a .vcf file) is an attached contact file that is compatible with many contact management systems like MS Outlook: Mail. vCards carry contact information and you can also have them carry a marketing message.

We hope this helps you use email effectively when selling.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au

How many clients and sales are you losing out the back door?

April 24, 2013 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Brand & Reputation, Customer Service, Sales Culture, Sales Driven Organisations, Sales Forecasting, Sales Measures - Inputs & Outputs, Sales Pipeline

Are you aware that it is six (6) times more expensive to acquire a new client than it is to retain an existing client?

Keeping clients onboard and engaged with your business is just as important as your sales team finding new business sales with new and existing clients, however many businesses do not pay enough attention to the back end of their business leaving client retention to chance.

Have you ever mapped the whole value chain of your business and looked at where your clients engage with your company?

How many client touch points are there? 

The more client touch points there are across your business the more chances you have of either:

  • impressing your clients and keeping them engaged with your business due to great service, great solutions,  great ideas and due respect for your clients’ custom OR
  • losing them out the back door due to poor service, poor communications, non-user friendly systems and resources, difficult complaints handling procedures or just plain indifference on the part of  the client services team or other departments

customer-retentionToo many business leaders complain about poor sales results yet they don’t address a major sales issue – the retention of existing clients and repeat business.  For example, one Barrett client reported recently that their sales team brought in 4,500 new accounts in one year while their service/operational teams lost just over 4,000 accounts because of poor service and indifference to client priorities – ‘It’s not my job’ was the catch cry down the line.  Fed up and frustrated their clients just stopped doing business with that company and no one asked why… until recently and now the real reason for declining Sales Growth is emerging.  This company is not alone – losing good quality sales and clients due to disconnected or disengaged staff beyond the sales team is a real problem. 

So before you lay blame solely on your sales team for declining sales you may like to look at the following information: 

-          Over 68% of clients leave a business because they are upset with the treatment they have received from the people in that business.

-          However, between 54-70% of clients who complain will nevertheless continue to be clients if their complaint is resolved effectively and respectfully.

Prior to the internet one study revealed that happy clients, or clients who have their complaints satisfactorily resolved, told 3 to 5 people while one unhappy client told eleven people, who in turn told five other people.   Now clients can tell about their experiences with suppliers and service providers to hundreds and thousands of people in an instant using social media.  The exact numbers are not specific but with technologies like Twitter and FaceBook companies reputations and brands can be made or broken by client feedback almost instantly.

Clients have more options than ever before and if sales and service experiences are poor they will feel less loyalty as a result. Clients want products and services faster, cheaper and better from whoever will provide them. That means that as a sales and service provider, the competitive advantage for your company rests with you and your people across the entire value chain. 

Client loyalty develops as clients feel a connection with a company and its staff. After all, most companies have the same “stuff”; it’s the genuine understanding of someone’s needs and priorities, the effective delivery of products and services that meet and satisfy those needs, and the genuine offer of service that causes product and company differentiation.

Customer Loyalty is rewarded

Customer Loyalty is rewarded

Organisations that provide superior sales and service experiences can charge more, create greater profits and achieve greater market share, because clients will generally perceive more value and be willing to pay a premium for superior advice and service.

When companies have a commitment to sales and service across their entire value chain it raises the bar of competition. The only way companies can effectively accomplish this is through their employees. As the competitive bar goes up, the quality of employees must go up equally.

Having a better team is good for the individual employee, good for the company and very good for the client. When a company is committed to a proactive sales and service culture, its corporate culture will change to absorb this new dimension, first becoming an integral part, and then becoming the driving force causing amazing results to take place.

The subsequent culture is automatic and infectious. Employees will demand it of new employees, and the corporate culture becomes even stronger because employees have taken ownership.

If you want client loyalty and repeat sales you need to make sure that everyone in your business understands: That selling is everybody’s business and everybody lives by selling something. 

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au 

First, people buy the salesperson

January 25, 2013 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Communication, Complex Selling & Transactional Selling, Customer Service, Education in Sales, Sales Skills

Here’s a simple reality… Prospects and customers buy the salesperson first during every sales call – or they don’t buy at all.

In any major sale, especially Business-to-Business (B2B) or complex Business-to-Consumer sales, the prospect or customer makes a predictable series of buying decisions that lead to a final purchasing decision. The first and perhaps the most important of these is:

                ‘Do I buy what this salesperson is saying?’

This decision is always made before the prospect or customer will seriously consider factors such as your product or service offering and price.  Yet many sales people are unaware that it is how they are presenting and conducting themselves that is setting up the success or failure of the sales opportunity.

Most sales people make the mistake of devoting the selling time to pitching their products or services.  Here’s the problem: whether the prospect or customer realises it or not, the first thing they decide is whether they like and trust you, the salesperson.  If you bury your prospects or customers beneath a mountain of product information while the prospect or customer is making up their mind about whether or not they like and trust you, you have already lost the deal.

When prospects and customers can relate to you, like and trust you, everything about the sales process becomes much easier.  Here are a few ideas that will help you build and gain that trust and create genuine connections…

listening skills

show interest and understanding, be organised

Demonstrate your interest: Stop trying to be interesting, instead, demonstrate your real interest in your prospect or customer, don’t talk too much about yourself.

Show that you understand: People have a strong need to feel understood.  Ask questions, listen and make sure you understand your prospect or customer’s needs and priorities. Confirm the person’s need by restating them so they know you understand their situation by verifying.  Verifying is very useful when trying to understand another person’s situation or point of view. Verifying your customer’s needs requires the combination of three key communication skills: listening, paraphrasing and clarifying. Verifying can be a useful technique to ensure the message has been received and understood by both the sender and receiver. Verifying involves paraphrasing or summing up in your own words what you think the person has communicated.

Use an organised sales procedure: A step-by-step procedure keeps you on track and helps you be methodical, thorough and professional. Your professional approach will sell you.

Be dependable and consistent: nothing annoys customers or prospects more than inconsistency and lack of follow up.  So do what you say you will do. Being reliable, be consistent and above be sincere and genuine.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au 

PS You can get a Sneak Preview as well as purchase and download the detailed 49 page report of the 12 Sales Trends for 2013 now to see which trends will have the greatest impact on your sales optimisation efforts in 2013.   In the meantime you can download our past trends here for free.

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