Telephone Sales Training: Nine Steps to TeleSelling Success
If you’re a sales manager or a sales professional, you rely on telesales to meet your targets. Selling over the phone isn’t a natural act. You’ve got to know how to get your prospect’s attention, know what you’re selling, know how to keep yourself motivated, and know how to troubleshoot when there are problems.
Success means on-going training because if you or your team can’t be effective connecting with prospects and customers through the phone, you’ll have a major challenge hitting your numbers.
Read on to learn the nine steps to create, implement, and manage your sales training strategy for a winning telesales team. This is based on the book, “Guerrilla TeleSelling” I wrote with Jay Conrad Levinson and Orvel Ray Wilson.
1: Define Your Culture
“Know what you stand for and what you won’t stand for.”
Sales managers tell me, “I don’t have time to talk about culture. We’ve got sales to make.” I tell them, “If your team doesn’t know this company’s purpose, how they fit into the grand scheme, and why they are important to that purpose, anybody and any behavior will do. Do you want to manage that mess?”
Defining your culture creates consistent customer experience, which creates your brand. Your culture helps your team know how to correctly answer tough questions and helps you know who to hire, how to train them, how to manage them, and why you make the choices you do.
Define your culture with a sales manifesto, a one-page document that’s easy to understand and galvanizes your team into predictable action.
You can define your culture by converting your company’s mission and vision into an action statement. “We’re the team who identifies, creates, and grows a relationship with… ” fill in your mission statement.
You can further define your training culture by describing the attitudes, abilities, and actions of your team. “We believe that our learning and quest to understand our customer never ends because we know more about our products, and our customers, and our competitors than anyone else.”
You can refine your culture by describing what happens when things go wrong. “We hate telling our customers ‘no’ to a reasonable request. We’ll find the answer, make it right, or find someone else who can do it. No excuses.”
These culture statements will either scare you (then go get another job) or excite you (you’re in the right place).
2: Document Your Process
“Know how customers buy and you’ll know what you’re doing.”
The concept of a process means that given a set of inputs, you get a consistent set of outputs. Applied to sales: given a customer’s objective, priorities, criteria, and propensity, apply these communication steps and you’ll achieve a sale.
You might be thinking, “Mark, it’s not that simple.”
Yes, it is. Every successful telesales organization uses some kind of a script – a defined process – that undergoes constant testing and tuning until it closes the maximum number of sales. If you’re going up against a competitor with a tuned telesales process, without a better sales process, you’ll lose, even if you have a better product.
Your successful telesales process depends on your product and how your customers buy it. If you’re product doesn’t require much consideration, it can go fast. High-consideration offerings take time and attention. Some products can be sold with one scripted call. Others need a call and an in-person visit. And others need multiple calls, multiple visits, and a presentation to the board of directors.
Whatever the process, you need to define what creates sales success as efficiently as possible. This means understanding how customers buy what you sell.
Research the answers to these questions:
· How do they find out about you?
· How do they identify that you solve a problem, meet a need, or fulfill a dream?
· Why would they trust you?
· What is their objective that you can fulfill?
· What are their priorities?
· How can you get them to shift their priorities?
· How do they know who to choose?
· What price do they expect to pay?
· What value do they get?
· How do they justify the purchase?
· How do they pay for it?
· Who else needs to support this purchase?
· What compels them to decide?
· What causes them fear, uncertainty, and doubt?
· What’s been their experience around buying something like this?
· What’s their preference?
· Are they loyal to another vendor?
· What is that vendor’s weakness?
· What would motivate them to take action right now?
When you can answer these, and likely many more product specific questions, you will be ready to define your sales process.
Your telesales process consists of high-gain discovery questions, compelling value statements tailored to the customer, objection busters, closing statements, deal sweeteners, and more. Along with this is the decision logic to know what to do next.
3: Create a Compelling Incentive Structure
“Any behavior that is rewarded will be repeated.”
Teleselling is a rough job. Customers are rude: they hang up on you, they don’t want to talk to you, they insult you. When it comes to picking up the phone and dialing, sometimes your headset feels like it weighs a ton.
That’s why top telesales managers have a wide range of incentives to keep the team smiling and dialing. Choose a mix of behaviors (like number of dials and number of messages left) and outcomes (number of appointments booked or deals closed).
One caveat: make sure the reward creates your desired behavior or smart team members will figure out how to work the system. Regularly change up what you’re doing to keep the game fresh and the team on their toes.
Here’s a list of ideas you might choose from:
· First rep with 10 dials gets a $5 Starbucks card. Ready, go!
· First one to get 50 “no’s” gets a $10 Taco Bell card.
· Get 10 follow up appointments, get $20 AMEX card. Everybody wins.
· Celebrate your 1,000th dial this month, get $100 AMEX card.
· Close five customers today, I’ll buy you a steak dinner.
You may wish to have team incentives if your product involves multiple people to close the deal. For example, winning team gets tickets to the skybox and a catered meal while the losing team gets general-admission standing-room tickets and hot dogs.
Once you have incentives in place for behavior, use incentives for product knowledge and competitive information. For example: “I’ve got a five dollar bill for the first person who can tell me three distinct reasons why customers choose us over our number one competitor.” This makes your telesales training sticky.
Knowledge goals pay you on-going dividends because you – and your team – keep receive the benefits long after the training and incentives are over. So make studying for and passing quizzes part of your incentive plan.
4: Set Achievable Goals
“Know where you’re going and know when you get there.”
Nothing discourages a sales team faster than unachievable goals. Setting achievable goals with a stretch goal (a bit bigger than normal) results in a motivated and excited sales team.
The difference between a new rep and a pro is product knowledge and telephone time. So for new telesales team members, set knowledge and activity goals to hone their chops. For example, “Pass this knowledge quiz at 90 percent and you earn… ” and “Make 50 dials and have 10 conversations a day and you’ll hit your target.”
For experienced reps, set individual goals and incentives that capitalize on their strengths and improve their weak spots.
For example, a rep that easily sets appointments but has challenges closing deals, create a multi-threshold target: set 10 appointments, study and pass this competitive knowledge quiz, and close one deal today and you’ll earn… You get the picture.
Yes, this is more work than having a single incentive structure for everyone, yet it’s worth it because of the improved sales efficiencies and tuning to each player’s strength and motivation.
5: Select a Winning Team
“Know who’s going to get there with you.”
A winning sales team is one that learns fast and unlearns easily. They’ve got to be trainable and willing to be continuously trained.
Using the culture you’ve defined in Step 1; decide the attitudes and skills you need to achieve your goals. Don’t worry so much about knowledge, that’s a commodity that grows stale, can be taught, and knowing the wrong thing can limit future growth. Instead focus on the attitude you need for telesales success.
As the legendary former CEO of Southwest Airline, Herb Kelleher observed, “I can teach anyone how to fly a 737 airplane in a few months. What I can’t do is teach them the attitude to get out of the cockpit and unload bags if that’s what it takes to get the plane off the ground. I hire for attitude and teach them the rest.”
Screen your telesales candidates over the phone. If they can’t sell you over the phone, how do you expect for them to sell your customers? Since few people actually answer their phones, start by having them leave you a voicemail message. Is it compelling? Do they sound the way you want them to sound or do they get lost in the rest of the messages? Do you want to call them back?
Give them homework. Ask them to perform some task that represents the work they’ll do. Perhaps research a customer so that they can hold a relevant discussion.
How trainable are they? Teach them how to do some simple new task to see how easily they accept ideas, how they retain information, and if changes in procedures frustrate them.
How coachable are they? Do they accept feedback and coaching, willing to make adjustments to be their best and reflect your company’s culture? For example, how do they respond if you point out a common mispronunciation? (Mispronunciation kills trust with educated buyers and makes the seller sound ignorant.)
6: Teach Sales Tactics
“Know what gets, keeps, and directs your customer’s attention and teach them that.”
Teach them the culture you defined in step 1 and the process that you’ve identified in step 2. Unless they’ve been selling by phone for a while, they probably don’t know what to do to be effective. Even so, they probably have some bad habits.
And while many telesales organizations rely on scripts and script trees, unless you’re selling a low-cost, simple transaction, that’s not enough for a winning telesales force. They need to be able to hold unscripted conversations that explore customer needs, identify opportunities, know what to do next, and move the sale to completion.
Elements of a strong telesales training program include:
· How to create trust and rapport
· Leaving voicemail that gets a return call
· Setting call objectives
· How customers buy the product: thought processes and actions
· Creating and asking high-gain questions
· Uncovering customer objectives, priorities, and criteria
· Presentations that close deals, knowing what to say when
· Managing objections
· How to close to the next step
· How to make an irresistible close
Take a close look at your sales training system to see how you can tune it to work better with your target market.
7: Teach Product Knowledge
“Know – in exquisite detail – what you’re selling.”
The more your team knows about the products from a customer-centric view, the more they’ll be successful. Your team must know why customers buy and keep buying. Ideally, your team will have first hand knowledge and actually use your offering so that they become product evangelists.
You can get a lot of sales power out of, “I use it. I love it! Our customers tell us that they choose us because… ”
They need to know the customer scenarios where you win and why. When they identify a customer situation, they know what to say and do to close deals fast.
8: Teach Competitive Knowledge
“Know – better than anyone else – what you’re selling against.”
The more your team knows the competitive product, good and bad, the more they win against it. Train your team about how the competition sells, why customers buy from them, what they say about your product, and how to combat them.
Ideally, you’ll have competitive products available for them to see, touch, and experience. Nothing is more powerful than saying, “I’ve tried it and it’s just not for me. Our customers agree.”
A confident and excited sales team is a winning sales team.
9: Observe and Adjust
“Know how to quickly troubleshoot and tune.”
Whatever is measured tends to improve. While many telesales organizations will randomly and secretly monitor calls, you may find that you get more mileage out of specifically and overtly monitoring calls thanks to the Hawthorne Effect. Your reps will do their very best when they know you’re supervising and mentoring them. This builds positive sales habits that create a winning telesales team.
Correlate training with sales success. One way to motivate your team to learn more is to show the tie between skills and product training, and winning deals. For example, those with more training certificates tend to sell more and make more money. Those who do well on quizzes tend to sell more.
Training leads to knowledge, knowledge leads to confidence, and confidence leads to sales.
Publicize production. Place a whiteboard or digital display with key performance indicators where all can see. You want the team to know who’s leading and who’s lagging. This spurs the performers to compete to higher levels and will help you quickly spot those who need more coaching and training or need to find a different job, one that brings them success.
Figure out why the winners win and teach that to the rest of the team. Determine why the laggards lose and teach the antidote to those behaviors.
If you’re running a winning telesales team, you’ve got to manage, observe, encourage, train every day. While you don’t need to micromanage them, you do need for them to know you’re there to ensure their success.
Now, go pick up that phone.
Mark S A Smith
Working with leaders to bring in the right customers, fast.