"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 ~

How Telesales Training Needs Are Changing

Telephone sales training and coaching needs change every year...

Standards universally tend to slip year on year (month on month usually) unless you are particularly watchful and organised with telesales coaching, it's a fact of life in business. Telesales departments are often run simply on KPI returns and actions taken to announce those figures! Madness, and the road to an implosion in the department.

Technology such as VOIP and CRM systems and all manner of reporting devices and clever technical advances are all interesting and often changing upward for the better but the bottom line year on year is that those operating and working in telephone sales from small companies to large call centres see standards slip as soon as coaching stops and training is left off the menu. Giving people all singing and dancing computer screens never helps them sell better, never helps them realise that it is time in the phone that counts.

Most training and development can be summed as a few hours or days listening to others and then later being hammered with KPI results.

KPI led sales coaching is as much use as a chocolate fireguard. Just telling staff to improve figures does not work. Telephone sales coaching is a real skill and can only effectively be passed on by those with a business lifetime of experience in the front line of making cold calls, making appointments, opening accounts, looking after and closing big deals. Anyone in their twenties to forties claiming to be a sales coach is not. He is a failed salesman running his car on the hard shoulder of the motorway of sales. Sales people in their 20s and 30s usually remain sales people they do not become coaches!

Confident, competent telephone sales coaches arrive at the end of their successful careers not in the middle of it. So your telephone sales training needs should be met professionally year on year. Forget also the "selling themselves" merchants who lead the great unwashed through a two hour tour de force sales seminar and focus on the guys who work with individuals to ensure they all have the required depth of knowledge on why customers buy and why they do not buy. Why it's important to work very smartly instead of dogged commitment to a sales process that allows 80% of the working day to be spent scrolling through screens and researching leads. To make this your team's year get in touch with an authentic, time served telephone sales coach.

10 Ways Telephone Sales Training Can Improve Your Appointment Setting

And save your bacon in every area of the office...

Imagine appointment making without any company training or product knowledge? Try that thought out and you can probably work out 10 ways, for yourself, that telephone sales training within your organisation, at every level, is essential. For appointment making though, you cannot really do it at a mediocre level let alone a high level unless you have a properly trained company, let alone a properly trained sales team.

Even for all those funny people who call themselves "I'm just inbound" or equally bad "I'm just operations", "I'm just customer service", "I'm just accounts", "I'm just web services", "I am head of marketing so don't take or make sales calls", "I am in product development not sales", "I'm actually the manager not sales", "I'm just the receptionist", "I am the directors P.A. , not sales", "I am the director", "I am the managing director".

That's 12 people or 12 departments that will completely deny being associated with sales or appointment making in your average company. People will say pretty much anything to wriggle out of being associated with sales for their company. So are you quite sure you still have the question about how telephone sales training can improve your appointment making?

Everyone in a company needs to be trained up to a certain competence level with regard to answering the telephone effectively for a company. I cannot count the number of dire experiences I have had whilst visiting companies and having to eavesdrop (just by being there) on the most atrocious calls and lacklustre behaviour by staff at all levels taking inbound enquiries/support issues and complaints. Just awful attitudes and a "me, me me" approach to the very people that effectively pay the wages of the numbskulls often answering the calls. That's the customers, the clients...call them what you will but they remain the people who directly or indirectly keep companies going.

Dire hardly covers it. Orders and customers lost at the drop of a phone by incompetent and uncaring staff. That's why they need training and ongoing coaching. Turning an inbound enquiry into an advance or an appointment to make a new sale is important and lost on almost all those mentioned above who come to work with the "I'm not sales" attitude. Think about it.

I can say the above almost as if there were no other reason for telephone sales training and telesales coaching like say... growing the customer base, keeping existing clients very satisfied, dealing with delivery issues, dealing with faults, grabbing opportunities for up-selling and opportunities for cross-selling, opening new accounts, saving very dissatisfied customers from deleting you as a supplier. That's before we even start on turning these calls into appointments for more and bigger sales.

The above scenarios and attitudes is how it is often in most companies. You may have your finger on the pulse in the actual sales department but I can promise you there are nooks and crannies in almost every department where people will be answering calls poorly.

10 ways? There are 50+ ways telephone sales training and ongoing telephone sales coaching can help any company. Contact me for more information and an appointment!

Telephone Sales Pitching Inspiration

Notes and Quotes on pitching...

A great book on pitching is simply called "The Pitch". It  is a good, short read but hard to find. By Eileen Quinn and published by Faber and Faber. I would advise anyone making a living on the phone to buy this book, if you can find it. It's subject is pitching film scripts to producers, but it's appeal is universal for anyone trying to pitch an idea to someone else. Highly recommended.

Your 'pitch' is the beating heart of any call you make in telephone sales or appointment making. Many telephone sales offices pay little notice to their scripts and loads of dog-eared old ones, useless ones, crumpled drawn-on ones are lying around everywhere. I cannot stress enough that a well scripted pitch is the 'big thing' in the process for achieving success with appointment making and telephone sales.

An enormous gap in most telephone sales training is around the pitch. For telephone sales training and appointment setting training you need a first rate script writer. The correct pitch is as important as the correct pitcher. Anyone in telephone sales needs personalised help with their pitching, very few get it.

Here are a few favourite quotations on pitching:

  • Pitching is like conducting an autopsy before anyone's died. Pitching is selling. Pitching is talking. Pitching is dating." (Anthony Minghella)
  • "Anything can be pitched, it just needs the same amount of dedication given to it as the (product) itself." (Nick Osborne)
  • "Sales are contingent on the attitude of the salesman not the attitude of the prospect." (W. Clement Stone)
  • "Junk is the ideal product...the ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy." (William S. Burroughs)
  • "Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around their neck saying 'MAKE ME FEEL IMPORTANT'. Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life." (Mary Kay Ash)
  • Really understanding and utilising the above quotes will help you form a better mindset for the job in hand which is pitching to win.

    Just calling people and talking, garbling, fumbling, being evasive, being obsequious, talking past the sale, talking past the completely closed door, all ends up as you talking to yourself and a dead phone line. Pitching on the other hand is a refined skill and when combined with qualifying or disqualifying your target audience it is the make or break of your daily life in telephone sales and appointment making.

    "Life is a pitch". Think about that. Think about all the pitches we all do every day in order to get by and in order to get ahead. If you can develop a unique sales pitching style, your pitches will be shorter, more authentic and your success rate higher. Please contact me for in-depth advice on telephone sales pitching and pitching for those hard to get appointments and meetings. I am a pitch specialist, pitching being possibly the hardest attribute to develop in sales but once you have it you are in the winners' enclosure and with continued energy could actually stay there.

    Qualities Of A Great Telephone Sales Employee

    What trait is paramount in the best sales staff?

    The answer is the same as for the best employee anywhere....DEPENDABILITY. Here is the true story of Mr Dependable, Joe Foster. Britain's most reliable worker - he has NEVER taken a day off in 65 years of working.

    The 81 year old great grandad started his first job when he was 15 and claims a 100% attendance record ever since. He joined the army at 18, then worked in electrical maintenance and moved on to a local council before joining train operators South Eastern 31 years ago.

    Joe keeps fit by cycling to work daily from his home nearby, no matter what the weather, and says he has no plans to blow the whistle on his career. He says "I remember my first day all those years ago and thinking how exciting it all was. A lot has changed since then but I still take as much pride and satisfaction in my job today."

    Joe says his secret to a healthy life is is a Mediterranean diet with lots of fruit and vegetables and avoiding high cholesterol foods. He also has two cloves of garlic, two teaspoons of olive oil a day and a a cod liver oil tablet for his bones and nails. He has never taken a day off ill and passes a medical test for his job each year. Whilst Joe is exceptional I would say only 5% of all the people I have worked with in telephone sales or trained for appointment making fit into a category anywhere near this level of dependability.

    If all telephone sales departments had dependability programmed into their telephone sales and appointment making training there would not be such high levels of churn on the sales floors. Also there would be far less surprise from the sales team when their employment is terminated through lack of commitment and dependability.

    Nobody expects to employ a team made up of Joe Fosters but there is a widening gulf between him and most who go to work in telephone sales departments these days. It is up to SME business owners to employ reliable people and very much up to individuals to be that reliable person. Serious and straightforward telephone sales training and sales coaching helps enormously in producing a dependable team. If the attitudes described here are bugging your team then get in touch with me.

    (The Joe Foster story quoted above was written by Samantha Booth of Mature Times, September 2015 issue).

    Fear Of Success On The Telephone

    How common is the problem and what can be done? 

    Sometimes it's fear of failure that affects people but It's very often fear of success.

    I come across many interesting examples of 'phonophbia' which is best explained as a fear of picking up the phone. Whilst it's true that many are fearful of the process of calling strangers and 'selling' very often a fear of success is what defeats callers before they even start. They seem quite able to come into a new telesales office with fairly good credentials themselves but as soon as they hear the 'buzz' of others they pretty much reduce themselves to a state of non performance that guarantees poor results for quite a long time. Now why is this?

    Sometimes new team members sabotage themselves by not believing they can compete with the buzz they are hearing. In many cases it's that simple. An internal switch has flipped and either needs resetting quickly or if it keeps tripping out then a more radical answer must be sought.

    People are perfectly able to hit the ground running and, with serious care and attention, make their mark almost from the start. Poor recruitment and poor telephone sales training procedures or the very lack of them completely often is a big part in the high turnover situation that many offices experience. You might however have low turnover of staff but often you should have a higher turnover because you are wrongly sticking to a group of people who are not exploiting the position of telephone sales executive or appointment maker to its full value. Think about your results and what you feel your competitors are achieving.

    My methods do not allow for unusually long periods of induction. Decisions are made quite early on as to the suitability of the sales team and methods for moving them forwards as individuals. Please contact me for fuller detail on the above.

    The Drama Of Telesales Floors

    Do they imitate the stage or are we all somewhere else?

    Surprised? All your team are performing on the same stage reading the same script at the same speed and volume but each is acting in a different play!

    Your entire team can work from the same script and sit in the same office but it is 99% certain that they are all performing in a different play. Some in drama, some in comedy, some in suspense thrillers, some in the worst plays ever, some in shaggy dog stories, some in science fiction and yet others are one man shows with little connection to those around them. But all supposedly reading the same script and working for the same company? All is usually not what it seems in a telesales room.

    The reason for the above is that all of us are self-talking and interacting in our own worlds. Our reality is the story we each tell OURSELVES every day that then allows us to behave in the way we behave. So no matter what the script, no matter what the stage, we will all be delivering our own version of our own reality based on the words in front of us, as interpreted by us, to make ourselves comfortable enough to be able to deliver the message. That is how you get the differences in presentation; sometimes good, sometimes very good, but often bad and detached from what should be going on. Telesales mentoring and coaching will bring a team closer together in their outcomes.

    If you are still with me on this the above is the very reason teams need to be broken down into individuals and each individual will need their own way of being managed and creatively driven into a style of performance that will both satisfy their personal view of themselves and likewise help the overall aims of the company. All done outside the arena of the telesales department. To get the very best from each person and get it consistently is a whole lot more than dishing out qualified leads and telling everyone "it's a numbers game".

    If you understand this you will be taking steps to ensure the above. If you have any questions on how to implement this strategy for your team, large or small feel free to contact me for advice that will change your sales team for the better and allow for individual expressionism that will WIN clients over to your company. Relying on carrots and sticks is another way of running a team. It is not worthy of discussion here and is the precise reason many disgruntled business owners will be reading this page. Newer people will be here hoping to know how to get telephone sales training on the telephone right from day one.

    For telesales and appointment making it is so important NOT to minimise or trivialise either the team or the purpose for which they are used. Please contact me for advice on telephone sales training and ongoing mentoring and coaching for telephone sales and telesales appointment making teams.

    Successful Telephone Sales Training and Coaching

    Is being trained and coached painful, and is it worth the pain?

    One response to my telephone sales training and telephone coaching stands out for me. People generally start off being fairly uncomfortable. Rather like visiting the dentist, the anticipation of pain is far more disturbing than the reality. The reality, unlike the dentist, is often a very enjoyable journey of self discovery.

    This discomfort levels vary depending on the degree of aversion to change that needs to be achieved. Some self-examination is required and that can unsettle participants. However, almost all those who are capable of "getting" my methods move forward and the process has a happy ending. The few who cannot or will not move forward are easily identified and the best solution for the employer is usually the obvious one.

    Telephone sales training is like training for the theatre or sports training. Nobody gains if nobody trains. Quickly identifying those who are unable or unwilling to improve is one very achievable outcome for the employer. 'The Untrainable' is a good title for a horror film set in an under-performing sales office. The truth is that usually less than 10% of your team will be untrainable or unwilling to participate in the battle to do much better.

    The most satisfying part of my work is seeing the smiles on the faces of those who are able to go to work on themselves, their sales techniques, their conversational style and ultimately their strike rate. Once the deals are in the bag then the appreciation is like an avalanche. Change in a sales office is challenging but It is never that hard, once everyone accepts what they really need to be doing each day to get the new success levels that they are often clearly able to achieve. 

    One interesting aspect of professional telephone sales training is what do you get without it ? What do you get without continuous and focused sales mentoring and sales training ? Well, you don't get much is the answer and many of you reading this will know exactly what I am saying here. You will get used to mediocre performers. You will get used to the same sorry faces trailing into the office with 30 seconds to spare before work starts. You will get used to the complaining, the bitching, the missed weekly and monthly targets. You will get used to the revolving door and appalling churn rate of staff on the phones. You will get used to the team stealing time at the start and end of each day. You become familiar with feelings of gnawing self-doubt when really you could be swinging with your team from a chandelier if you only got to grips with the situation instead of sinking in the quicksand of mediocrity. Getting serious help with telephone sales training is as easy as going to my contact page!

    A little pain for a whole lot of gain? Think about it. Telephone sales training from an expert always pays off once you have grasped the nettle of poor performance due to lack of skills and lack of the right kind of motivation and sales mentoring.

    A Look At Telephone Sales Teams

    Would your mother like your team?

    Do you like your telephone team? Would your mother like your team? Here are a few notes on recruitment for telephone sales and appointment making that should make you sit up.

    Given that you agree with the saying "All things being equal people buy from people they like, and all things being not so equal people still buy from people they like" why do we often end up working with people we do not like?

    Surely it should also be "All things being equal people work with people they like and all things being not so equal people still work with people they like"? Of course life never actually works out this way. We all end up working with what we consider are 'challenging' types.

    The saying "You don't have to like the people you work with" was clearly introduced to business by someone who was working walled-up in a monastery. Of course you have to like the people you are working with if you employ them in your sales room. We all make up our minds very quickly, often on sight, if we like other people. There are few excuses for employing someone that you may pretty quickly be at loggerheads with or someone you have a good idea may become a disruptive influence in the single most important division of your company, the telephone sales room.

    In telephone sales one of the bigger issues with the team on the phone is often the team on the phone. You must have standards and you must not deviate much from these standards. I recently had someone come for in for a possible permanent position with a client dressed very poorly for a work interview but that could have been overcome. What did it for him were the earphones, not just around his head, but plugged into his ears!

    Please make sure you have standards and make sure you really hammer them home in any interview. There are many non PC questions that I will ask- and frankly who cares? I am not interviewing for jobs at the Guardian newspaper I am interviewing for jobs on the telephone for appointment makers or salespeople. In our field everyone can pick up a phone and say something to the person at the other end in some manner and with some conclusion. So telephone sales recruitment and appointment setting recruitment are all about disqualifying people who do not have pretty much exactly what you desire in an applicant. Another issue is wasting money on clearly inappropriate staff on the vague notion that they 'might pick it up'. Invariably these borderline cases do not perform sufficiently well long term. Set the bar high for recruitment onto your team and keep looking is my advice for building the best telephone sales and appointment making teams. Then ensure ongoing professional training and coaching input.

    Throwing mud against a wall, employing shifty looking people and people who do not speak properly is lazy and poor recruitment. Your team will simply reflect your own ability or lack of judgement where the right personality for your company's telephone sales office is concerned. The same is abundantly true for appointment making roles. The appointment standard will always reflect the personality and professionalism of the caller. Telephone sales training and sales coaching in general can achieve a great deal with a team of individuals but you really must have the right raw materials to start with.

    Final point, if you have any lingering doubt about a candidate ask yourself if your mum would approve of this person. The question won't necessarily help you in the long term but it's someone to blame when the wheels fall off in a month or two...

    Telephone Sales Staff: In A Class Of Their Own?

    Do they live on the Moon or even Pluto?

    If you look at any business forum on the Internet where recruitment of appointment makers and telephone sales staff are discussed and questions asked you could be forgiven for feeling that, as a species, people who work on the phone are actually from somewhere in outer space. That is how strange the conversations about them always appear.

    Salespeople are referred to with anything from disdain to comedy and pitched as being low down in the the food chain of the modern SME office. This is further established by a glance at the adverts on employment websites. They often attempt to create people who do not exist. The overuse of words such as 'passionate' for telesales must be a turn off for applicants. 

    Selling as a skill is within most of us, that's the crazy part. Nothing happens in life until we either buy or sell ideas. Marriage is a sale. In simple terms you sell the idea of being married to each other or you sell the idea of not being married and doing something else together. This can be applied to everything. The notion that sales people are from the Moon or Pluto is really created by people who are simply just not that good at selling and prefer to sit in judgement of those who can do the business.

    It's a curious argument and the quicker an employer can to grips with the normality of phone sales and those who make it work successfully then the better it will be for their business. Pluto probably does have the best telesales operators but until we colonise the planet or they colonise us we all have to make do with the surprisingly good gene pool of people we already have who are best suited to telephone sales and appointment making. They are certainly out there in every town in the UK so never get dispirited with your recruitment drive. Always be on the lookout for your next telephone star. Your sales team are the key that unlock business success.

    Employing An Agency To Get Telesales Or Appointment Making Staff

    Is this really such a good idea? Read on to discover my view on this...

    My argument is that it does not matter who is doing the fishing for new blood for a telephone team. The fish remain the same. There is no special reason they reply to an agency instead of you advertising directly. Those who feel agencies save them time in recruitment are mistaken at the level of telesales and appointment making. Recruitment is something you need to spend time on every time, do not let people outside your company tell you who is best as they do not actually know. Briefing them and listening to them is frankly no substitute to learning the skill-set for hiring a telesales team and trusting your own judgement and intuition. It is also far more satisfying, costs less and you take full responsibility. (The Perfect Storm). Done correctly the "saving time" issue goes straight out the window. If using an agency I feel it is better to add some money and lots of your own to the budget as the churn rate of staff will certainly be higher. If you are adding time and money why not do it yourself and do it well from the outset?

    There is simply no substitute for hiring your own sales team once you have learned the skills that enable you to pick the best candidates each time. Getting this right is never a precise science but there is much you can do to lessen the chance of hiring too many duds for the vital role of telesales or appointment making. Also you are better able to train staff if you have personally mastered the skills of recruiting winners. With Estate agents the 3 key words are always "location,location,location" with appointment making, telesales, telephone sales and telemarketing the three key words are "training,training,training". Closely followed by "coaching, measuring and rewarding". It is astonishing how many companies just do not know these key principles. Getting a fresh pair of eyes and ears from outside the company can work wonders in this area and that is what I have been successfully doing for a long time. Helping companies get a real grip on the telesales function.

    Getting some sales recruitment training for yourself is important. Knowing what signs to look out for and the 'hidden' body language from those desperate for work but just not suited to telephone sales or appointment setting. For telesales you can either get potentially very good people or hit the bottom of the barrel. Training for yourself in telesales staff recruitment is important and will be a key driver in success or failure of your new department. Most business owners feel it's an entry level job and that they are fully qualified to do the hiring. Unless you have been in telesales yourself for a considerable time, this will be a huge mistake to make. There are hidden gems in the pool of applicants and some shockers that's should never be allowed near a handset or a headset. Using your own judgement backed by telesales recruitment training will always win out over agency hires and loyalty will be much better with your own hires. 

    Investing a little more at the outset in training staff and training yourself to get the best staff will save you a lot later on. This is proven repeatedly. On cost alone, if you are an efficient recruiter you will win more success than relying on someone to supply the raw material. Knowing how and where to advertise is another key strength to consider developing. My advice is backed by many years of success in the area of sales and appointment making over the phone. I welcome enquiries and being challenged to deliver effective answers to opening a telesales office within a company or really getting the best from an existing telephone sales or appointment making department without pussy-footing around the need to improve.

    In summary, employing an agency to recruit revenue and appointment making staff is folly. You will pretty much always do a better job in-house. You may need some professional skills help to begin with but then you will prosper. I have no hesitation with hammering this thought home.

    Telephone Preference Service (TPS)

    Should you use it to fend off incoming calls from telemarketers?

    My view is that for your home phone it's an essential to preserve sanity particularly with random call centre companies increasingly using autodiallers to plague the nation. Setting up TPS as an individual is easy via their website and free.

    Business is very different. Disengaging from a business phone call without being rude is not a hard talent to learn. The chances of a caller having really done their research and having something of value to offer are there and after all we are all in business trying to sell our products and services. Using TPS to stop business solicitations is rather like having a football match where you have barred the opposing team from a shot at goal whilst you have a whole organisation dedicated to scoring goals. I have worked with teams from companies who MAKE outbound sales calls but TPS themselves so as not to receive any inbound sales calls. The mindset is strikingly similar with these companies in each case. It's majorly about being too up oneself in business. My suggestion is to get trained in how to disengage quickly from an unwanted call in a polite manner and avoid TPS'ing one's company. It would help of course if outbound telemarketers had much more telephone sales training and ongoing coaching and development. All too often telesales departments remain unsupervised without telesales training so staff have no telesales skills or knowledge of the correct telephone selling techniques and are left to damaging their company's reputation on a daily basis.

    I also know of numerous instances where companies have missed out on conferences and exhibitions in their trade simply through not having received a canvassing call. They don't get the call because of TPS and the exhibition organiser has them deleted from their contact list. It's no use wailing at the organisers after the event you should be attending or worse EXHIBITING at a serious industry event. I have witnessed this a few times and it is hilarious, with executives thinking everyone 'should know who I am' as if they were royalty.

    So TPS for your home phone but not you office numbers is my advice. Plus seriously consider professional telephone training for all those in your team to include everyone who picks up the phone to the outside world or certainly everyone involved in outbound sales calls. If you make outbound sales calls make certain your lists are TPS cleared and put the team on a telephone sales training course or preferably an In-house telesales training programme. 

    Dealing With Charity Phone Calls

    Newspaper readers are being urged it seems to cancel direct debit payments when hounded on the phone by 'professional' fundraisers. What Should we all do?

    My answer is that everyone should consider cancelling their charity direct debits if they receive any calls at home from fundraisers if they have not given their specific consent to be hounded. The whole business of charity funding needs turning on its head with the withdrawal of middlemen raising large slices of cash for themselves before passing on what is left to big charities. 

    Charities keep their distance from their paid contractors who may raise the cash in their high pressure offices.When the whistle is blown against the alleged bad guys raising the funds then the charities, who are wholly aware of the situation, conveniently back off quoting their strictly worded contracts with suppliers and raise their eyebrows in dismay and offer much gnashing and grinding of teeth as a media response.

    Charities are avoiding doing the work themselves because it's easier to use 'professionals' who are known to use pressure tactics to raise funds rather than adopt a proper internal telephone sales culture with first rate telephone sales training. Cash is king for them. Running a decent, honest telephone sales room is possible for any commercial organisation aided by telephone sales training, telephone coaching and strict monitoring of the telesales team.Paying success based commissions to outsiders is where the rot sets in. The charities earn more this way despite the jaw dropping fees charged to them but the tactics become very cloudy and often offensive once an aggressive sales team takes over a fundraising campaign. Everyone knows this and action to compel charities to tighten up will be made soon. Excuse my cynicism but the charities and the middleman will soon run rings around any new requirements and will continue as before. Politely disengage from these calls and report them if they distress you.  

    If you are the charity then consider the advantages of setting up an ethical in house team or teams with professional telephone sales training using effective telephone selling techniques. The current market gives every possible indication of the Wild West and therefore getting your charity on the right side in this business is probably very important.

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