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(dead air, because the dialer is ahead of the rep.)
Inside Sales Rep: “Hello uh….Mrs. Sal…Salzibar…um…Saldibar”
(no time to get the name right.)
Inside Sales Rep: “Okay, Mrs. Saldibar. How are you today?”
(poor guy is still being told to start with that line.)
Inside Sales Rep: “We have people in your area to provide estimates on windows and other home improvements and…”
(Rattled off like a third grade book report.)
Me: “No thanks. We recently had our windows redone. Can you please remove my name from your database?”
(I ask nicely because, irritating as it is, I know their world and their pain.)
Inside Sales Rep: click.
(Oh, alright then.)
Here’s what I believe is wrong, having worked for a call center software company and headed up inside sales for a number of years. First of all, the center is using a dialer (which they all do) which presents calls at a break neck pace, without giving the rep time to compose himself, let alone get a slightly tricky name correct. Furthermore, these reps are in and out the revolving door because they receive about 30 minutes of training and are harnessed, like plow horses, to their headsets and, lo and behold, here come the calls. And, if they are working for a telemarketing company, they may have almost zero knowledge of the product they are hawking.
There is simply no “win” here for anyone and it’s hard to believe that this “cost efficiency” really pays out for anyone, at least not long term. I have worked with inside sales reps many times over the last twenty or so years and I do know that, while many may appear to have thick skin, they need a lot more support than one might think. Here are some fixes, whether you run a telemarketing firm or you have hired some folks to do your dialing:
1) Slow down the dialer. Or lower the rep’s quota. I know that this is a numbers game, but the rep who called me clearly had his finger on the trigger as soon as I had uttered my “fine”. There is a race to answer as many calls as possible. Bad sales tactic.
2) Treat them as humans, they will act like humans. Calls like the one I’ve shared hurt the rep, the prospect and the company brand. It’s not worth it. Far less people will “bite” with a robot on the end of the line. If it’s a few hours or a day, they need to get plugged into what is being sold and need to get their heads around what they’re being asked to sell. Frankly it’s good for your brand.
3) Listen up. Clearly if a manager had heard the exchange above the rep would have either been fired or given additional training. It was so over-the-top awful, it’s hard to believe anyone is listening. But someone is paying. Most agencies will be able to tap you into live calls periodically. If the reps are under your nose, shame on you if you’re not listening…
You’re right, these are straightforward. Too simplistic. Too common sense. But I have worked with telemarketing firms which take the time and it shows. The bottom line is that you lose a little margin on the front end and gain gold on the back end. Which will it be for your company?
Bottom line, you have product to move. We all get that. But take a few minutes, or hours, to understand the people you are putting out there to spread the word about it. A few more hours, here and there, will make a huge, measurable difference in how your product is perceived.
The dollars will follow.
It turned out that there were a couple of twists and turns going on in the prospect’s head that were invisible to them; just never hit their radar. So what was looking like a solid “yes” had a lot of “no” attached to it.
Then when the buying process got dragged down in seemingly insignificant red tape, the reps were left looking clueless. There was never really a “yes” to begin with. And they never had a chance to untangle and remove obstacles to the sale because they never saw them. Could they have? Yes. But they needed to get inside their prospect’s head.
Your customers were, after all, once prospects themselves. If your customers are out there gathering dust, time to open up the dialog with them. The payback is huge for the following reasons:
- They like to talk about their decisions.
- They are usually willing to share their thought processes.
- They always appreciate being asked.
Your clients may or may not produce that silver bullet that will solve all your mysterious lost sales questions. But the process of opening up dialog with them will, at the very least, help you better navigate those twists and turns that happen inside your prospects’ heads. Even if you end up losing the sale, you’ll know why, and use that knowledge for your next sale.
Susan Saldibar is a marketing specialist, providing high quality marketing services to businesses seeking profitable growth. Offerings range from marketing and sales plans to content and social media services. Visit www.susansaldibar.com for details.
When I ask a client if they have a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis, eyes glaze over and arms fold. It’s a tangible reaction and a totally understandable one. Analyses, reports, and plans have a bad reputation for clogging up the business engine, especially for small businesses which must operate non-stop to keep their wheels turning.
Putting together a SWOT doesn’t have to bring your business to its knees. Here are the basics in a nutshell. Take a whack at it and pass it around for comment. Your marketing/sales engine will be more targeted and fruitful. You might even get some surprising insight in the process.
First, review your Value Proposition: Can you fill in the blanks below?
“We provide/manufacture/sell XXXX (what) to XXXX (whom) for the purpose of/to solve the problem of XXXX (the problem/need/desire). We are unique/different because we XXXXX (how you are different from competition), instead of XXXXX (the “less appealing” way the other guys do it).”
Obviously you need to wordsmith the statement above so that it reads properly, adding words and phrases that reflect your brand. Once you define your Value Proposition, you should always be prepared to state it!
Now, create a SWOT chart with your Value Proposition in front of you:
- Strengths: What are they (think people, product, promotion and sales) and what are your doing as an organization to keep them strong?
- Weaknesses: What are they and what steps are you taking to eliminate or mitigate them?
- Threats: This is a critical area, especially given today’s hard-driving, fast moving information culture. New competitors can emerge overnight. Who are they today? Where might they likely come from tomorrow? How can you get in front of the curve and be ready? Keep a list. Which ones can be turned into opportunities?
- Opportunities: What are your current and future opportunities? What steps are you taking to develop opportunities into tangible new business?
Above is an example of a SWOT diagram.
[This image is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.]
Every SWOT analysis should have actions attached to build upon strengths, attack weaknesses, develop opportunities and manage threats. Just knowing them isn’t enough.
Have I oversimplified the process of creating a SWOT? Yes! The more time and attention you put towards the process, the more accurate your SWOT will be. The key is to start. It is far better to create a simple SWOT than nothing at all!
Once you’ve created it, keep your SWOT somewhere visible and make sure everyone in the organization is on board with it. Review it at least a few times per year to stay on track.
How are you supporting people who “think different”?
Last month I was absolutely blown away by a CNN segment on The Next List that highlights Jose Gomez-Marquez at Little Devices Lab. First, go read his story. To say it’s amazing doesn’t do it justice. What he is doing is harnessing the technology used within every day toys (wind ups, LED lights, heat sensitive color changing) to provide developing countries with alternatives when traditional medical technology either fails or is just not available. This is innovation to the max, as he routinely purchases toys and brings them to the Little Devices lab for his colleagues to play around with engineering their parts into something to help medical professionals “bridge the gap” between what they need and what they lack. Drip bag sensors and alarms are just a couple of examples of what has come out of the Lab.
It got me thinking about how uncreative even we marketers can be. Oh, we are overflowing with ideas as to how get a new product to market, how to generate interest, and so on. But, in case you haven’t noticed, things are different today. Thousands of out-of-work engineers, programmers, scientists and creative people are, as I write this, trolling their brains to come up with the next best thing. Today, with resources literally a tap away on the internet, unique ideas are not hard to come by. And I can almost guarantee you that the success stories of tomorrow will belong to those who don’t shy away from new technology and aren’t afraid to say “what if we……?” We need more out of the box thinking when it comes to problem solving and moving ideas — concepts — and companies forward.
How to spot ingenuity and channel the out-of-box stream of consciousness that exists among us? Not sure I have a good answer to that. But clearly there are brains out there that are wired differently and we need to put our collective ear to the ground and encourage them. So, if you are a senior or C-level this or that, step back and look at your world and the ideas that populate it. You have the wisdom and the power to guide and support. Find some brains out there to nurture.
The other evening my husband and I were watching TV and our dog, Buddy, a senior citizen pit bull mix, made his usual “rounds”, coming up to each of us, tail wagging, questionable breath, setting his muzzle on our knees with hopes of a quick pat or scratch behind the ears. It’s his duty. Buddy makes his rounds all day long, rain or shine, as if he is serving our needs, whether we ask for it or not. We’ve not only come to expect his rounds, we’ve come to need them as well. He’s always “at your service” in a moment’s notice, even urging him out of a deep sleep.
Through this simple consistent, good hearted act, what Buddy has managed to do is to gain our devotion, affection and expectation of excellent service. While we may complain about it, but we have come to rely upon it.
Anything better than average, delivered consistently with a smile (even with a tongue hanging out) is likely to become a habit, and habits are hard to break.
Your company may not be the brightest, the biggest, or the hippest, but there’s something you do that can become an expectation of your customers. What that “something” is, you need to uncover. But once found, if practiced every day, you will ultimately be rewarded with a loyal clientele.
I’ll get right to the point on this one; we create great plans and don’t execute them. We may start to execute; a few steps here and there. Then we hit a roadblock; doesn’t even have to be a large one; our plan gets delayed, then shelved, then dusty. Here’s what’s probably wrong and some thoughts as to how to get the wheel moving again:
1) You never really had “buy in” from the get go and you probably knew it. If people can’t envision what success looks like, for themselves and the team, you need to either scrap the plan or do a better job of creating that vision.
- Stop with the emails, pick up the phone or walk down the hall and revisit the plan. You are going for a renewed commitment.
- They need to accept and envision the goal, understand their part in making it happen and be willing to be accountable for their piece of it.
2) Goals are too lofty.
- Remember in school if you got a “C” (or worse!) on your report card and your parents insisted on moving that to an “A”? That was a tough goal; nothing in between. So you feel kind of like a failure with a “B”. Same is true with plans.
- Set goals that encourage continued forward movement, even if slowly.
3) Too complex: “Wait, Haley told me that Ryan was supposed to handle the first phase of this, then I was going to….”
- Keep the action steps clear and accountability transparent.
- If you have to invest in a project management system, do it. There are plenty of open source systems out there; go to CNET.com and look for free downloads.
4) Hard to measure progress.
- Know where you are today. Even if it’s an estimate. Get numbers from everyone involved. Then decide what numbers you want to hit.
- I like to ask people “What will success look like?” which usually results in some terrific numbers. Then create some milestones and celebrate when they are met.
5) No one is in charge of the plan.
- You need a leader; doesn’t have to be the president, but someone endowed with the power to prod, cajole and go over people’s heads if necessary.
- During the kick off meeting, make sure the president (or senior manager) verbally passes the baton to this individual. Make it crystal clear.
- Make sure this individual has the right stuff to pull all the strings together. Don’t dump this job on a newbie or lowly clerical worker; they’ll get trampled!
What can you add? It’s easier to create a plan than it is to follow one. You need to put it first on your daily list and decide what actions you’ll take TODAY to move the plan along. If the goals are right, the steps are right and you have a person leading the charge who is enabled and supported, you have a great chance of reaching those goals.
If this article was helpful, let me know and please pass it along!