"An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field."

~ Physicist Niels Bohr, quoted in the Harvard Business Review ~

The Best Telephone Sales Trainer in the UK?

You may have typed that description into Google at some point...

Perhaps searching in Google is what led you to this article…? However, if you do you will find no single 'best'. Instead there will be a 'best' for a certain type of team and for individual situations. If you run a call centre, you might actually be looking for customer-service training, which is something entirely different. If you are a reactive company looking to improve your inbound response team, well, yes, you’re in the right place, particularly if you are looking to help an outbound team or a mix of both. If you have just one person making new business calls for you, contacting an acknowledged and accredited coach is in my opinion the best advice anyone can give.

For me, though, the big ‘but’ is, are you using the right description in the first place?  Sales ‘training’ can be a misleading term. To get service skills to the highest levels, companies should aim to train staff themselves.  In other words, the owners/bosses should be the trainers.  This should be mandatory.  All staff within a company need to be fully trained on what the company is offering.  They should also be fully up-to-speed on the competition and on the current industry news – in other words they should know exactly what the company does within its sphere of operations. When it comes to improving individual performance and making staff more proficient on the telephone, though, the process very quickly morphs into sales ‘coaching’.

Sales coaching is about the people who are making the calls, together with all other aspects of their activity and behaviour whilst they are in your employ. My primary stipulation concerning a potential sales coach is that the person needs to have had pretty much a lifetime’s experience on the phone before they can hope to help others to the highest level. They need to have been truly ‘out there’, with a whole raft of experience, plus notable successes in real-life scenarios, which they can then pass on to the next generation.  This is how I acquired the skills that helped me become a dynamo on the phone!  Anyone who relies on theory - not to mention seminars which include demeaning and patronising role-play - should be given a wide berth, as should youngsters who don’t actually have the wherewithal to sell anything themselves but who are nonetheless promoting themselves as 'trainers'.  You should also be wary of large, so-called training companies with a one-size-fits-all approach to business in both the private and public sectors.  My first question in this instance would be, who are their trainers?  In telephone sales, when it comes to coaching, people with university degrees and/or backgrounds in IT, including foundation courses in business consultancy, will not stand a chance against years of hands-on, personal experience in how to close a deal.  Whilst I would agree that not every successful salesperson is cut out to help others, what I do know is that no telephone sales coach can be successful without having had a truly outstanding career on the phone themselves. This is the fine distinction you need to make.  Always look for experience over bells and whistles.

During the course of my own career as a salesman, I made a sizeable income closing sales for a variety of high-profile businesses and I could have gone on to make more.  However, at the age of 50 I decided I really needed a change - which brings me to another point.  If you were a successful telephone closer, why on earth, in your 30s and 40s, would you give up that level of income to become a trainer or a coach?  You wouldn't, would you?  Consequently - and quite understandably - people in business tend to be skeptical about coaches and trainers who self-evidently have plenty of gas left in the tank but who have pulled over to the hard shoulder and stuck a coach or sales trainer sign on their windscreen.  People reinvent, rewrite and repackage the subject of sales help all the time.  However, have you ever seen the same done on persuasion techniques?  Of course not.  The art of persuasion is as old as time itself.  The focus needs to be on the qualities of the person delivering the sales message as distinct from the message itself.

I would not be foolhardy enough to claim that I’m the best at what I do.  I have, however, been described by some as the most authentic they have encountered.  With every individual I work with, I certainly do try hard to get them to produce and project the very best version of themselves, every day, both in the office and on the phone. Others in my field may claim to do the same, of course, so the ultimate choice is yours.  This is why I encourage prospective clients to speak to my existing clients if they need reassurance that their investment in me is the correct route towards increased performance for their company.  I don’t think I have ever had negative feedback from former clients, which indicates I have fulfilled their expectations.  Whomever you choose to help you, though, do keep in mind the axiom that not everyone can be coached to success. Some will wilfully resist help;  others cannot be helped at all.  But around 80% of the individuals in any one team will show significant improvement after receiving targeted, bespoke advice. So, on that basis alone, it's surely worth the investment.

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