When was the last time you bought over the phone from a telesales team?
Was it a great experience or did it leave a lot to be desired?
According to Contact Babel, over 42 billion inbound call minutes were racked up in 2014 in the UK alone. Many of them from customers looking to buy products and services ranging from car insurance to theatre tickets.
That’s a lot of opportunity to satisfy both new and existing customers.
So why is it that so many people dread making that call?
The chances are that contact centres are still committing one or more of the 7 deadly sins of inbound telesales.
The good news is that they can all be avoided, turning customer dread into customer delight.
Sin No 1 – Lack of empathy
The best telesales advisors greet the caller in a warm and friendly way. They also ask for and use their customer’s name appropriately throughout the call. In addition, they actively seek to build rapport and trust.
Hiring employees with a naturally empathetic manner is an absolute pre-requisite for telephone sales. Treating callers as individuals to be served rather than people to sell to sets the agenda for a positive human to human interaction.
Sin No 2 – Not establishing customer needs
Too many contact centre managers still place their telesales teams under enormous pressure to keep talk time to a minimum.
The result can be to force telesales advisors to prematurely launch into a counter-productive one-size fits all sales pitch. Sometimes this pitch comes soon after a quick greeting and a perfunctory gathering of basic customer details.
This is quite simply wrong. You need to give telesales advisors the lee-way to ask enough open questions to establish the customer’s particular needs. This is essential to be able to present the correct product in the right way.
Indeed, fact finding is the crucial first step on any call. Allowing the customer enough time to explain their needs actually saves time wasted later in the call re-presenting alternative offers or objection handling.
Sin No 3 – Talking too much and listening too little
So much call centre training focusses on controlling the selling process rather than opening up the call to the buying journey.
By taking the time to ask questions and actively listen, your telesales advisors gain a position of trust. This helps them to smoothly guide the customer through their options. Often this naturally leads the customer to buy over the phone.
Training advisors to listen more and talk less has additional benefits. For example, it sometimes allows them to uncover hidden customer needs. Most importantly, it helps them pick up on buying signals that they would otherwise ignore.
Sin No 4 – Presenting features not benefits
Fast talking telesales advisors will often list as many features of the product or service that come to mind. In doing so, they hope that one of these will resonate with the customer.
However, “spray and pray” rarely does anything other than confuse.
Successful sales people zero in on those key benefits which deliver the solution that the customer is seeking. They can only do this by understanding the buyer’s needs and targeting their recommendations accordingly.
Having a systematic process such as a script, a flow chart or a check list can often help telesales advisors to navigate to the heart of the customer’s need. This then enables them to pitch the product or service that best meets that need.
Sin No 5 – Overselling or selling too hard
Many contact centre sales teams are driven purely on sales targets such as sales per hour or conversion rate.
Such is their desire to hit their sales quotas that they rush the caller into potentially buying products/services that do not fully meet their needs. Or indeed, match their price or value expectations. The result is often product returns or cancellations of services.
Changing the focus to a “service first, sales second approach” can change the flow of the call. Put away the blunt KPIs such as sales per hour and instead adopt a balanced scorecard to reward the quality of the sale as much as the quantity of sale.
This approach provides a more rewarding customer experience. It also often leads to repeat business further down the line.
Sin No 6 – Pushing for telesales too early
Customers resent sales advisors who try to sell before they are ready to buy. People know when they are being sold and a pushy approach often leads to unintended consequences.
Contact centre trainers spend a lot of time on objection handling. Much of which would be unnecessary if advisors were taught more about helping their customers to buy when the time is right . Rather than asking for the sale at the first opportunity.
Unless the caller is ready to buy, pushing for the sale builds resistance. “Pitch early and often” is an outdated technique that ultimately drags the call out and rarely leads to a satisfactory outcome.
A better solution is to patiently build rapport and trust whilst guiding the customer towards the right buying decision.
Sin No 7 – Forcing the sale
No matter how well the call has progressed, sometimes the customer is just not willing or able to buy there and then. Perhaps, they want to compare other suppliers. Or maybe talk things over with their partner.
This is often when a telesales advisor will attempt to force the sale. Sometimes by hinting that the product will soon sell out. Or the service call won’t take place before the weekend. Or even that prices are set to rise.
Customers rarely respond favourably to this sort of pressure, even if some are eventually manipulating by these tactics into saying “yes”.
Instead, it is preferable for a telesales advisor to check that the customer has all of the information that they need to make a buying decision. Then to call the customer back at an agreed time to answer any further queries and take their order.
The key benefit of avoiding the sins of telesales
If the telesales advisor has avoided the 7 deadly sins, there is a good chance that not only will they make a sale, but importantly they will make a customer.
In contact centres as in other selling environments, it always worth remembering that people hate to be sold, but they love to buy
For more advice on selling correctly, please read about the psychology of sales
Alternatively, download our tips on selling gathered from interviews with sales professionals from a variety of different industries,
PS: The article was originally published in November 2015, has been updated in March 2020