Determining Most Important KPIs for Your Outbound Campaign



By Angela Garfinkel

One of the best things about outbound telemarketing is that everything can be measured. Key measurements include sales, sales conversion rate, sales per hour, contacts, contacts per hour, leads finalized, leads finalized per hour, list penetration rate, dials, dials per hour, average order size, average talk time, average handle time, cost per sale, and refusal reasons.

Outbound telemarketing managers and those in the business of outsourced telemarketing services often make the mistake of not communicating what their key performance indicators (KPIs) are. And the reality is that it’s virtually impossible for a team to focus on more than two or three KPIs. I’ve heard telemarketing program managers state that “all of the metrics are the most important KPIs.” That approach is not advisable because when the team works on the program, their focus can be diluted. Even worse, some KPIs can be metrics that are at odds with other metrics.

Some Metrics Affect Other Metrics: Higher telemarketing sales conversion rates may cause a decrease in contacts per hour. Why? Because it takes longer to lock down a sale versus handling a refusal. The average handle time for a sale may be seven minutes, and the average handle time for a refusal may be two minutes. The more sales you have, typically you will see lower contacts per hour.

Higher average order size also may cause a decrease in contacts per hour. If your telemarketing sales agents are up-selling and cross-selling during the call, this should result in a higher average order size. However, both up-selling and cross-selling take time and increase the handle time for that call. Again, the higher the average order size, typically you will see lower contacts per hour.

Higher dials per hour typically are associated with low contacts per hour. If your telemarketing sales team is not speaking with decision-makers, the calls usually will be very brief, and this results in higher dials per hour. I’ve seen some call center managers that set dial goals for the day. In fact, I observed one manager who set a goal of 150 dials per day for each of his staff. For the most part the staff was meeting their dial goal every day, but sales were very low, and the manager wondered why. His staff was being driven to achieve a quantity of dials versus being driven to perform and make the dials productive. When the staff would reach a voicemail for a business-decision maker, they would happily mark the call disposition as “not available” versus what they should have done: Press zero and ask the receptionist for an alternate way to reach that decision-maker or another decision-maker in that office.

How Should a Telemarketing Program Manager Determine KPIs? First, determine the desired results you need on a monthly or weekly basis. Is it a set number of sales? Is it a dollar amount in revenue? Next, determine the resources (telemarketing agents) that you have assigned to the program. How many sales and how much revenue should each person be responsible for? This should be the primary KPI you motivate the individuals of the team to accomplish in order to achieve bonuses or commissions. Finally, train your team on the two or three secondary performance indicators (SPIs) that, if achieved, will aid the telemarketing sales reps in achieving their KPI goal. Typically these SPIs will be contacts per hour and sales conversion rate. A third SPI is often the average order size, since once you have agents reaching their contacts per hour and sales conversion rate goals, the average order size is typically the next item to work toward improving.

If you have an agent who isn’t hitting his or her contacts-per-hour goal, it could be one of two things: 1) they aren’t dialing rapidly enough and are wasting time in average call work or pre-call work; and 2) they aren’t reaching the decision-maker contact and are taking the easy road when they reach voicemail or an unhelpful receptionist. They may need to be coached on ways to be more aggressive or resourceful.

If an agent isn’t hitting sales conversion goals, it is most likely a combination of sales skills and product knowledge weakness. Identify where he or she is weak and provide immediate training to overcome the weakness. People love being coached if the coaching is positive and genuinely helpful. It can be beneficial to have agents listen to another agent who is strong, instructing them to take detailed notes to aid in handling their own sales calls more effectively.

If you’re still unsure how to identify the most important key performance indicators, determine what your boss is being rewarded for. Is it sales? Is it staying below a certain budget? Is it cost per sale? If that doesn’t help, look to the market. By achieving your KPI goals, will your company be in a better market position? That may help guide the answer to the KPI question.

Quality Contact SolutionsAngela Garfinkel is the president and founder of Quality Contact Solutions, a leading outsourced telemarketing services organization with a telemanagement model. Angela has the pleasure of leading a talented team that runs thousands of outbound telemarketing program hours on a daily basis. Angela can be reached at angela.garfinkel@qualitycontactsolutions.com  or 516-656-5118.

A B2B Case Study: Outbound Marketing from Good to Great

By A. J. Windle

Wins and losses: In a world driven by sales, this is how we are measured.

I, like every other person I know, love to win and hate to lose. Whether the scoreboard is based on revenue per hour, sales per hour, completes per hour, or any of the other metrics we track in the telemarketing services industry, there is always one standout metric that your client will consider a win.

Knowing that metric means the difference between winning and losing. But how do you find that metric? How do you evaluate it, benchmark it, and improve it? Business demands continual growth, so how can you continue to deliver sales results once you’ve already hit previously outlined goals?

The answer to finding this magic sauce is to be proactive. The first step is to hit your goals. Once you’ve accomplished those initial objectives, set new goals and strive to reach them, too. Even when you think you’re on top and doing well, remember that good isn’t always great.

A few years back I started a new B2B outbound marketing campaign. The product was excellent, our vendor was wonderful, and the kickoff for calling was fantastic. We hit the ground running. We were reaching our goals, but we quickly realized we had some concerns regarding the quality of the calls. Within a few months, performance started to drop. I wasn’t getting a lot of pushback from the client, but I knew if things continued to decline, I would.

In an effort to be proactive, I broached the subject of launching an additional outbound marketing team in a second location for this client. The goal was to measure performance and quality in an apples-to-apples test. This was a bit of a risk because the second team might not perform well and the test might be a waste of time and money, but we were confident the risk was worthwhile.

We started placing marketing calls with the second outbound team in competition with the first group. Within one month we saw a 10 percent increase on overall productivity, and our quality scores were through the roof. As a reward, our client doubled our workload over the course of about two months. We had found the magic sauce. It was time to put this campaign on cruise control and let it work its magic.

We set the cruise at sixty and ran for several months. We continued hitting our sales per hour goals and maintained excellent quality scores. However, while we were meeting expectations, we still had a nagging feeling that we could be doing even better. We decided to launch a third call center site to test the program. The test was small but measurable. Much to our delight, call center site three consistently exceeded the previous call centers’ performance by another 10 to 15 percent and still hit the same quality metrics critical for long-term success.

As the campaign progressed we continued to evaluate the lists we were running with each outbound marketing team. We delegated hours to the teams that were hitting the goals for each of the segments we were targeting. While this may seem like a no-brainer, it takes constant evaluation and proper tracking methods to deploy. By diving deep into team performance and allocating hours to the outbound marketing groups based on their performance, we continued to see improvements across the board. Within five months we were able to double the workload from the client once again.

From a winning perspective, this is a story that I love to tell. It demonstrates the importance of pushing past thresholds, reaching new heights, and being great instead of merely good enough.

And did I mention that I like to win?

A.J. Windle is senior operations manager for Quality Contact Solutions. He is responsible for overseeing the daily operations of client programs. With fourteen years of experience in telemarketing, he has built his career on creating win-win relationships between his team, his clients, and his telemarketing vendors to drive unparalleled success.

The Twelve Steps to Successful Telemarketing – Step Ten: Handling Objections, Part Three of Three

By Kathy Sisk

In the last issue, we covered six objection methods:

1) Restate or Agree and Probe

2) Keep Selling

3) Reflect

4) Feel, Felt, Found

5) Ask Prospect for Best Solution

6) If I Could…, Would You…?

Now, let’s wrap up our discussion on handling objections.

Combined Objection-Handling Methods: You can also combine the methods to be more creative in overcoming the objections. For example:

“I understand your concerns, Mr. Smith. I know that price is important to you, and that you want the best price possible. I recommend a consultation. This would enable you to clearly understand and justify the price. For example, you will increase your employees’ confidence and motivation and enhance your company image. More importantly (pause) you will reduce your production overhead and increase your company’s profitability. If I can show you a way to gain the benefits I’ve just described, would you allow me the opportunity to meet with you personally so that I can validate this further?” (or) “….Would you allow us the opportunity to validate this further by using the program for 30 days? If you’re not completely satisfied, we will refund your investment 100 percent. Does that sound fair enough?” (Assumptive.)

Which objection techniques were used? Yes, the “feel, felt, found” and “If I could …, would you …” methods. Now, you practice combining the methods to create your own style of delivery.

Never Say Never: Never give up on an objection until you try to overcome it at least three times. The first objection may be telling you, “I wasn’t listening.” The second objection is saying, “You haven’t given me enough information.” The third objection is letting you know, “I still need more information; you haven’t pushed my ‘hot button’ yet.” If you still have not been successful after the third round, be sure to leave the door open for future contact by using your easy close:

“Thank you for your time and for sharing this information with me. If I could send information you would have an interest in, what would that be?” (Make this an assumptive statement.)

Be sure to get your prospect to commit to your follow-up call, encourage a healthy call back, and ensure the prospect’s interest in receiving the information. Maybe now is not the right time for your prospect, but if he or she has gone this far with you, there is still an interest. You may need a few more contacts to establish rapport. The key here is to establish and build a relationship. Do not create unintentional bad will by being insistent. Perhaps now is not the time to sell. It doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t begin a rapport now that will develop into a future sale—or even a referral.

A Positive Outlook: A prospect’s complaints are sometimes based on a previous bad experience. An objection can be viewed as a concern of the prospect. Once you have gone through the objection process, narrowed down the objection to the real issue, and determined that you can do nothing more to offer solutions that will satisfy your prospect, you should not have any negative feelings about your contact. You’ve done your job to the best of your ability. Remember, you can always keep the line of communication open by using the easy close. There are still plenty of prospects out there!

Knowing that you have followed what you were instructed to do helps you to remain confident and positive for your next prospect.

Earlier we discussed the benefits of having your presentation in a script format (your road map). Your prospects’ most common objections with your appropriate answers also need to be scripted. In an automated environment, this is accomplished by placing these into the software. However, when you are in a manual environment, these objections and answers should be readily available.

Ideally, what you want to eventually accomplish is internalizing your rebuttals. The best way to do this is by practice—through role playing, understanding how the objection techniques function, and using them daily. Adapt them to fit your company’s needs and start practicing.

This completes the entire series of the Twelve Steps to Successful Telemarketing. (Remember, we saved Step Ten for last.) You can read the entire series online, starting at “The 12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing: Understand Your Market Share.”

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Kathy Sisk is founder and president of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc. located in California. Kathy is a trainer and consultant, contributing thirty-five years of expertise to the telemarketing, sales, and customer service industries.

[Read more of the series “The 12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing”: the prior article.]

[From Connection Magazine April 2013]

The Twelve Steps to Successful Telemarketing – Step Ten: Handling Objections, Part Two

By Kathy Sisk

Here are six methods to deal with objections. Pick the ones you feel comfortable with and that are appropriate for objections you may get from your prospects. The key is to use a method not often tried by your competitors. This helps to set you apart and impress your prospect with your unique style of presentation.

1) Restate or Agree and Probe: You can find the real issue by restating or agreeing and then probing. For example:

Objection: I have no money. Restatement: “What you’re saying is that if it were cost-effective, you would consider it. Is that correct?” (Make this an assumptive statement.)

Objection: Send me information. Agree: “I would be happy to…”

Objection: I’m not interested. Probe: “What are some of your concerns?”

You won’t use all three; you will either restate and probe or agree and probe. By using the restate method, you can get a confirmation from your prospect. This identifies the real issue quickly. You can then proceed to your probing questions. Otherwise, agree and then probe to draw out real the issues. Agreeing helps defuse the objection quickly so your prospect will actively listen and respond to your probing questions more openly. Let’s consider the two examples and demonstrate how they work together.

Restate and Probe: “What you’re saying is that if it were cost-effective, you would consider it. Is that correct?” (Make this an assumptive statement.) “Other than affordability, what other concerns do you have?”

Agree and Probe: “I would be happy to send you information. What information would be most valuable to you?”

Once you have either restated and probed or agreed and probed, then you must outweigh the objection with features and benefits, get reaction, and, if your prospect’s response is positive, you can then close.

2) Keep Selling: Your second method of handling objections is to keep selling. This works best when you have previously received a “yes” response. You can refer to the “yes” response your prospect offered when you get a reaction in Step Eight. Using this technique makes your prospect accountable for what they have agreed to earlier in your presentation, when you asked: “How valuable would this be for you?” You need to remind them of their positive reaction. Here is a format to follow – just fill in the blanks to fit your prospect’s response.

“I understand, Mr./Ms. Prospect. We talked about many benefits. You liked the fact that _____________, and the idea that we can give you ____________. One of the areas we haven’t talked much about is ______________. Mr./Ms. Prospect, how important is that to you? [or] How valuable is this to your company?”

This gives you an opportunity to do additional selling. However, there is some flexibility when using this technique. If you don’t want to go into something else and risk pushing another hot button, you can change the format slightly:

“I understand, Mr./Ms. Prospect. We talked about many benefits. You liked that __, and the idea that we can give you __. What other concerns do you have in allowing me the opportunity to validate this further?

3) Reflect: The reflect method is similar to the keep selling strategy. The only difference is that you do not add additional selling points or get a reaction. This is more readily used when you get a “no” response when you get a reaction in Step Eight. You need to refer to what your prospect said “yes” to in your restatement in Step Six. This will remind the prospect of what his or her needs are. For example:

“We talked about many issues. You mentioned that your company sees the value of__, and you have a concern with__, and you feel that conducting a competitive analysis would help you to determine (pause) the cost-effectiveness of your current product. What other concerns do you have about receiving this information?”

4) Feel, Felt, Found: This technique is another excellent method for handling objections, especially if your prospect is skeptical, unsure, or sounds irritable. Defuse the objections with feel, felt, found statements, and then offer solutions with your features and benefits. One drawback when using this method is that many salespeople tend to use it; it may sound too familiar to the prospect, which could cause a negative reaction. Therefore, when using this technique, be sure to use verbiage that is unique and unfamiliar: Do not say, “I understand how you feel, and others have felt the same way until they found out that…” Below, are some alternatives to the feel, felt, and found words to help you be a little more creative.

Feel = Empathy (put yourself in your prospect’s place)

“I respect what you’re saying…”

“I appreciate your concern…”

“Thank you for letting me know that…”

Felt = Relate (get them to understand that their concerns are not unique)

“Many people I speak with share the same concerns…”

“It’s not uncommon today…”

Found = Offer Solutions (give your prospect objective answers)

“Until they discovered…”

“Until they had an opportunity to…”

Try not to sound canned when using this technique. You must be sincere so the method comes across naturally. Again, you do not necessarily have to use the words feel, felt, found. Instead, be more creative in your statements by using variations. To put this into a better perspective:

“I appreciate your concerns about the cost factors, and it’s not uncommon in today’s market. It’s unfortunate that, for a company such as yours that desires to upgrade, what usually is standing in the way is the financial affordability. Once a company has an opportunity to evaluate and compare our competitiveness in the marketplace, and compare our guarantee and pricing structure, they see that we are able to reduce (pause) their bottom line by 30 percent. If you could accomplish this same savings, how important would that be to you and your company?”

5) Ask the Prospect for the Best Solution: This is helpful when you have done everything possible to overcome your prospect’s objection. Don’t use this in the first two rounds. However, you have nothing to lose when you use this as your final resort. This method is known as the bottom-line objection technique. When you really want prospects to see your position, this helps put them in the position of selling themselves.

“What would you suggest?”

“What can I do that will help you see the benefits?”

“What would you recommend?”

“What would be of interest to you?”

“What can I do to validate this further?”

“What would it take to earn the right to do business with you today?”

6) If I Could…, Would You…? This method is popular with many salespeople. It can be extremely effective when used with the proper verbiage so it sounds more original:

“I appreciate what you’re saying. If I could show you how we can (describe), would you agree that this would be valuable information?” [or] “…Would you allow us the opportunity to service your needs?”

Note that these are closed-ended trial-closing questions. You can also use an open-ended approach, such as, “How valuable is this information?”

Use the six objection-handling methods as your model when entering into Step Ten. Choose the method that is best suited for the type of objection you receive. By first interpreting the objection, you will be able to select the most appropriate means of handling it. Remember: Always outweigh the objection with benefits, then get a reaction—“How valuable would this be for you?” —and finally close.

In the next issue, we will conclude the discussion of objection handling methods.

Kathy Sisk is founder and president of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc., located in California. Kathy is a trainer and consultant, contributing thirty-five years of her expertise to the telemarketing, sales, and customer service industries.

[Read more of the series “The 12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing”: the prior article or next article.

[From Connection Magazine March 2013]

The Twelve Steps to Successful Telemarketing – Step Ten: Handling Objections

By Kathy Sisk

In previous issues we have covered the twelve steps to successful telemarketing, with the exception of Step Ten, the objection step. Provided you have followed the steps closely, objections will typically occur during your trial close, Step Nine, when you ask for a commitment. An objection during this step is not a rejection; assume objections will surface during some of your presentations. In most cases, an objection means that the prospect needs more information.

Interpreting, Narrowing, and Overcoming Objections: Objections give you an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your prospect – another way to continue selling your products, services, company, and ideas. It is a chance to listen, probe, and understand your prospect’s needs. There should not be any feelings of personal rejection. Your prospect’s objections are not necessarily directed at you, so don’t be defensive or react negatively. More importantly, don’t attack the objection immediately with more selling. This is a time to remain in control and impress your prospects with your persistence and professionalism.

Let’s Review: Early in your presentation, prior to Step Five, when a prospect behaves in a negative way, it is usually the result of a concern they had prior to your contact. If your prospect seems rude during the beginning of your presentation, try to release these barriers. Ask, “What are some of your concerns?” This statement invites dialogue, and your prospect will be more likely to tell you the real issue. If this approach is unsuccessful, conclude your presentation by using the “Easy Close.”

You can always try approaching the prospect at another time. Never close the door permanently. Don’t allow a prospect’s resistance to affect your future prospecting efforts. Instead, continue with a positive attitude. Resistance may indicate that the prospect is not ready at this time, so your best option is to use the easy close technique. This will give you another opportunity in the future.

Whenever you get objections, the following provides you with ways with which you can regain control and effectively close (depending on where you are at within your presentation).

Defuse a Negative Statement: Acknowledging and agreeing with your prospects is one effective way to get on their good side, especially if your prospect is angry or upset. Defusing your prospect’s anger will increase the likelihood of a successful outcome. You can defuse many negative situations with statements such as:

“I understand your concerns.”

“I know price is important to you.”

“Of course you need to think it over.”

“I’d be happy to send you information.”

“Thank you for making me aware of that.”

“I appreciate your concerns.”

“I respect that.”

When objections surface during Step Nine, your first step is to interpret what the real issues are. To make this determination, you need to establish precisely what your prospect is really saying. For example, “I’m not interested,” “Call me back in six months,” or “I’m not ready now” are not real objections. The prospect’s disinterest may be superficial and mask unidentified concerns. By determining what the real concerns are, you will be better able to overcome the objections. When receiving objections, here are three questions to answer:

1) Where do you stand with your prospect? Analyzing at what point in the twelve steps the objections arise will help you to know where you stand with your prospect. When using the twelve steps as instructed, objections most likely will surface during the trial close. Therefore, you stand strong with your prospect. In Step Nine, you have completed most of your presentation.

Think about what you have accomplished so far. You established rapport in the first four steps by stating who you are, the company you represent, and your location. You told your prospect how you acquired his or her name, respected his or her time, and stated the purpose for your call. Then, in Step Five you qualified your prospect, established what the prospect’s wants were, and created a need for your products or services. Your prospect confirmed those needs when you restated them in Step Six, and then you fulfilled those needs (by telling the prospect what he or she wanted to hear) in Step Seven, the selling step. In Step Eight, you got a reaction; you gained a positive yes response confirming that you fulfilled the prospect’s needs. Therefore, by the time you entered into the trial close in Step Nine, you were in a strong position. Now you just need to regain control as you have throughout your presentation.

Without the twelve steps, objections usually occur early on, within seconds of your initial presentation. Now where do you stand with your prospect? In an extremely weak position. This is the primary reason for the first four steps. Each step is designed to eliminate your prospect’s resistance before it occurs. In this way your position is stronger when you enter into the trial close. You now have more ammunition to outweigh and overcome your prospect’s objection.

If the objection occurs within the first four steps, you know that your rapport-building process was not effective. To determine what went wrong, you need to analyze during what step the objection occurred.

Remember, approximately 10 percent of your prospects will say “no” to everything, and that is not through any fault of your own; it is a statistical reality. Should you get more than 10 percent resistance early on within your presentation, it is because you are not properly implementing the steps.

Unless you record yourself and evaluate your presentation, it will be difficult to determine what went wrong and where you need to improve. For example, if you get resistance when stating the purpose of the call (Step Four), then you are probably raising your pitch on the word “mind” when you say, “…if you don’t mind.”

If resistance occurs after you have introduced your company name, you are pausing too long instead of quickly going into your fifth function, the landmark or location. You need to say, “…and we’re located (pause).” Be sure to use the word “and” immediately after you state your company name; this will help you not to pause. Pausing at an inappropriate place gives the prospect an opportunity to interrupt your presentation. Interruptions usually end on negative notes rather than positive ones.

When objections occur during the trial close (Step Nine), you have greater confidence in overcoming them, since by this point you have built rapport and credibility, and you stand firm with your prospect.

An objection occurring in Step Nine indicates that your prospect needs additional information. This information should have been provided in your selling step. Consider this objection as an opportunity to progress in your selling efforts.

2) Was your prospect listening? You have assurance that your prospect was listening to your ideas when you ask for and receive a positive reaction in Step Eight (“How valuable is this to you?”). Your prospects are not going to readily respond positively unless they were truly listening. Therefore, an objection during the trial close indicates your prospect was listening, and this second question is not the issue.

Should you get a negative response during Step Eight, any one of the following might have occurred:

  • You did not satisfy your prospect’s needs in Step Seven: Selling Features and Benefits.
  • Your prospect wasn’t listening to your ideas during Step Seven. This suggests that your prospect was not impressed.
  • You did not create the need in Step Five, the probing step, and yet you continued with your presentation.

The solution is to ask the right questions and listen to your prospect’s responses during the probing step so when you enter into your selling step you will ensure that you touch the prospect’s hot buttons. Once you have accomplished this, you will be able to encourage a positive response in Step Eight, when you get the prospect’s reaction. This is important, since you cannot move to your next step until this happens.

If you have completed all the steps and you still receive a “no” during the trial close, you’ll need to determine what the real issue is. Consider the following points when beginning to handle objections (Step Ten):

  • Attempt to determine if the objection is the result of a preexisting issue or a misunderstanding of the product’s features and benefits.
  • When you hear an objection, consider it an invitation to provide additional selling points.
  • Draw out your prospect; try to understand his or her needs.

You will find the best approaches in the article, “Six Methods of Handling Objections,” which will appear in the next issue.

3) What is your prospect really telling you? When your position is strong with your prospect and he or she was listening to your ideas, your only alternative is to consider this question. When faced with an objection, you need to interpret the objection. For example, when the objection is about price, your prospect might say, “It’s too much money,” or “I can’t afford it!”

You don’t want to agree with your prospect’s objection, nor do you want to assume it is what the prospect actually means. Agreeing with the objection decreases your opportunity to close. First, interpret the objection by thinking, “There must be a misunderstanding or a misconception about the products or services.”

Second, assess what that misunderstanding or misconception is. If you were to gather all the possible objections you would ever receive, they’d fall into six categories. Using these categories to handle an objection enables you to interpret the objection more clearly and customize your rebuttals to your prospect’s specific needs. The six types of objections are:

  • Money: “Too much money” indicates that there is a misunderstanding; “Not enough money” indicates a misconception of the cost.
  • Time: “Not now, call back” shows there is a condition standing in the way.
  • Information: “Send me information” is a hint to confirm if the prospect is actually interested, whereas “I have to talk it over with my partner” is something you need to qualify to see if it is true.
  • Competition: “I know someone in the business” or “I like ABC Company” indicates a need to better educate the prospect.
  • Customer Service: “I don’t like salespeople” or “I never do business over the telephone” suggests that the prospect has had a bad situation or experience.
  • Silence or Guttural Utterances: “Yes,” “No,” “I don’t know,” “Don’t care,” or “Maybe” means you’re losing control. You need to break through undetermined barriers, take control of the situation, and get the prospect to open up.

Once you have categorized and interpreted your prospect’s objections, the next step is narrowing down the real issues and beginning to overcome or outweigh the objections. Your interpretation enables you to select the most effective objection-handling method.

Kathy Sisk is founder and president of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc., located in California. Kathy is a trainer and consultant, contributing thirty-five years of expertise to the telemarketing, sales, and customer service industries.

[Read more of the series “The 12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing”: the prior article or next article.]

[From Connection Magazine Jan/Feb 2013]

The Twelve Steps to Successful Telemarketing – Step Twelve: Post Close

By Kathy Sisk

Once you have received a commitment from your prospect, you need to reinforce or strengthen that commitment with a post close. Many agents are instructed, “Close and get off quickly.” In reality, what they’re being told is, “Close and get off quickly, before your prospect changes their mind!”

Provided you have followed your presentation as instructed, you do not need to be concerned. If you have received a “yes” response in Steps Six, Eight, and Nine and you were able to close effectively, remaining on the telephone and gaining additional information is just a part of your presentation, and your prospects will continue to be receptive.

The post close step will decrease cancellations, rescheduling, or no-shows. The post close serves to overcome the third fear point (“What have I done?”). Wouldn’t you rather have this surface now as opposed to later when you no longer have control? The following is a checklist of what you need to do in your post close:

  • Highlight points that are in the prospect’s best interest.
  • Offer motivating words of encouragement to bring excitement to the idea.
  • Ensure that all decision makers will be present for the appointment.
  • Ask open-ended questions that will further your direct presentation.
  • Remind the prospect of his or her commitment to you.
  • Go over scheduled appointments or delivery dates.
  • To end your conversation, add any other ending in your close that would fit in at this point.
  • Thank the prospect for their time and consideration.
  • Never hang up first.

The following is an example of a post close:

“Thank you for your order. To ensure that your product arrives to you in a timely manner, I need a little more information.

  • To whose attention should I send it?
  • What is the correct spelling of your last name?
  • What department should I direct this to?
  • What is your billing number?

“Thank you for the additional information. I will process your order today, and you should expect your package within the next three weeks. Should you have any questions or concerns, ask for me, Debbie Smith, and I will be happy to assist you. Is there anything else we need to consider before I finalize your order? Have a terrific day!”

Congratulations! With the exception of Step Ten: Objections, you have completed the rest of the twelve steps. In the next issue I will begin teaching you on how to overcome objections.

Until then I encourage you to spend time daily studying, learning, and applying each of the twelve steps. Within thirty days of a committed effort, you will notice a marked improvement in your prospecting and selling efforts. Don’t be interested in merely learning the information – make a strong commitment to get good at using the steps on the telephone. Besides your voice, this is the most valued tool you have.

Kathy Sisk is CEO of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc.

[Read more of the series “The 12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing”: the prior article or next article.

[From Connection Magazine November 2012]

The Twelve Steps to Successful Telemarketing – Step 11: The Close

By Kathy Sisk

An effective close is the natural conclusion to all the previous steps. Whether you do close, however, will depend on how successfully the preceding steps were performed. You should have confidence in your close, provided you received “yes” responses in getting reaction during Step 8 and in the trial close in Step 9.

By avoiding tricky, slick, or fast-talking techniques, the close should simply come down to asking prospects to buy or to make a commitment to see you. (Research reveals that the majority of sales calls end without ever asking the prospect to say yes!). Learning when to close is very important. The right time to ask is when you think prospects will say yes! You will know when a prospect is ready to say yes by asking one of the trial-closing questions found in Step 9. For example, “Does that sound fair enough?” or “Would that be all right with you?” (Remember to use the assumptive approach in your trial closing question.)

The twelve steps have guided you through your presentation while increasing your ability to effectively close. Once you have created the need for your products or services by using the probing questions in Step 5, the balance of your presentation will be pretty much on automatic pilot. However, don’t be overzealous. You still need to fulfill your prospect’s needs in your selling step, gain your prospect’s reactions in Step 8, and then trial-close your prospect in Step 9. Although these steps don’t require as much thought as the probing step, you still need to incorporate them precisely as instructed into your presentation. All the steps work uniquely together, so bypassing one or more of the steps will hinder you from executing a smooth close.

Four Action Guides: Here are four action guides to a successful close:

  1.   Get opinions and elicit a positive response during Step 8:

“How valuable would that be for you?”

  1.   Summarize the benefits and give a positive reinforcement; ask a trial-closing question to get a “yes” or “no” response:

“Would that be all right with you?”

“Does that sound fair enough?”

  1.  If you receive a negative response in your trial close, narrow down the real issues and outweigh them with benefits that will overcome any issues your prospect may have; be sure to get a positive response before closing (see dealing with objections in Step 10).
  2.   Reinforce your prospect’s commitment in this step – the close; then pause and wait patiently for a reply.

Whenever you are unable to close effectively, it means you did not complete a prior step – something went wrong in your presentation. Be sure that you have done the following in the order listed below:

  • Establish rapport (Steps 1 to 4). Earn the right to conduct your presentation.
  • Probe (Step 5). Create the need for what you are offering.
  • Restate (Step 6). Reinforce your prospect’s needs.
  • Sell (Step 7). Fulfill your prospect’s needs through discussion of features, functions, and benefits.
  • Get reaction (Step 8). Encourage a positive response.
  • Trial-close (Step 9). Summarize and ask for a positive commitment.
  • Handle objections (Step 10). Negotiate and outweigh your prospect’s resistance and aim to get a positive response. (If the first nine steps were done correctly, you won’t need  this one, but we’ll cover it in a future issue in case you need it.)
  • Close (Step 11). Assume your position.
  • Do your post close (Step 12). Finalize the order or appointment.

The following are points to remember:

  • A trial-closing question asks for a commitment; the close reinforces that decision.
  • You should begin asking a trial-closing question after you summarize the features and benefits.
  • Ask a closing question only after you receive two or more positive answers during restating in Step 6, getting reaction in Step 8, or trial-closing in Step 9.
  • Help prospects make decisions by pointing out how the benefits outweigh the costs. This occurs during the first function in your trial close, when you summarize the benefits.
  • When you close, expect prospects to say yes! Anticipate a positive response. Use proper voice inflection to create increased confidence in your projection. Assume your close will be positive.
  • When you ask prospects to commit, be quiet until they respond.

Once you have accomplished these action guides successfully, use one of the following closes that best fits your closing objectives.

Three Popular Closes: As you have discovered, it is the right time to close by the time your reach Step 11. You probably have heard that there are over a hundred ways to close. In reality there are only three closing techniques to remember. There may be many different ways to express it, which is a choice you can make on your own. The important issue is to close!

The examples below offer ideas for you to be creative with your own style of close. Choose a close that not only feels comfortable to you but also correlates with whom you are prospecting. For example, you would not want to use the direct close with someone who is an easy-going prospect; the direct close would be more useful with strong personality types.

The Assumptive Close: Ask for a decision, assuming your prospect will make an affirmative, major buying commitment. For example:

“In addition to the benefits that we’ve discussed, is there anything else we need to consider before we schedule delivery?”

“In addition to the benefits that we’ve discussed, is there anything else we need to consider prior to our meeting?

The Contained-Choice Close: Ask your prospect to select one or two proposed delivery or appointment dates:

“What about a delivery on the first, or would the fifteenth be better for you?”

“I can schedule an appointment for you on Tuesday, or would Thursday be better?”

“What time of the day is better for you and Mr./s. Green – the morning, afternoon, or evening?”

Direct Close: Simply ask prospect to take the appropriate closing action. You do not ask prospects to buy, but you specifically ask them to take a closing action. For example:

“Who, other than yourself, do we need to okay the agreement?”

“I need a requisition from you so I can get a purchase order.”

“How would you like to process this?”

“A letter of agreement would expedite your order today!”

“I would like to schedule delivery for you. Would Friday meet your needs?”

Be creative! Combine your closes. A combined close, for instance, could be an assumptive close and a direct and contained-choice close. An example of an assumptive and contained-choice close might be:

“I’m going to process your order today. How would you like the product delivered, COD or credit?”

A direct and contained choice might be:

“Who, other than yourself, do we need to consider when scheduling our appointment?”

“Would you prefer mornings or afternoons?”

Kathy Sisk is CEO of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc.

[Read more of the series “The 12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing”: the prior article or next article.]

[From Connection Magazine October 2012]

The Twelve Steps to Successful Telemarketing – Step Nine: The Trial Close

By Kathy Sisk

We’re nearing the end in learning the skills of successful telemarketing, but don’t rush things. The next step in is the trial close.

The trial close has two functions. The first allows you to summarize the product or service benefits for the prospect. The second asks for a commitment; this is called a trial-closing question. This question must be close-ended (able to be answered with a “yes” or a “no”) and assumptive in nature – that is, it assumes that the prospect will agree with you. Because you are seeking either a “yes” or a “no” response, a trial-closing question allows your prospect to inquire about any missing pieces.

If you follow the twelve steps precisely, you should not receive objections until the trial close, which is meant to encourage objections. If objections do arise, you want to address them during the trial close rather than in your close. An outstanding presentation in Steps One through Eight should elicit a positive response during trial close, preventing objections from surfacing. This will eliminate the need for Step Ten (Handling Objections) and should make Step Eleven (The Close) the simplest of your twelve steps.

Here is an example of a trial close:

“Our Objection Hotline membership will allow you unlimited training support over the telephone. Our trained consultants will coach and role-play with you while offering words of encouragement to keep you motivated. In this way (pause) you will have greater success in achieving the results you are anticipating. Your membership investment is only $1,299 per year, and each call you make to the hotline is completely toll-free and should increase your production by a minimum of 10 percent. Does that sound reasonable?”

The following trial close is aggressive and should not be used as a first option, except when you’re faced with a prospect that has a bottom-line or controlling personality. This type of trial closes is also very effective when used after certain objections where you need to trial-close again.

“We have a challenge for our prospective clients. Try our products once and allow us the opportunity to serve you at our best. If we are unable to impress you with your first order, we simply don’t deserve any of your continued business. Does that sound fair enough?”

Whether you are closing for an appointment or a sale and what your product or service is greatly affects the wording of your trial-closing question. The rule-of-thumb is to summarize your benefits and ask for an attempt to close. If your prospect is receptive and her or his needs have been satisfied, you should be ready to close. Otherwise, objections may surface, and you must be prepared to handle them.

In many scenarios, an objection during the trial close may be an indication that your presentation needs further improvement. You’ll want to review how you executed each of the previous steps and where you need to strengthen the process. However, some prospects will interject an objection only to test your persistence, in order to see how far you’re willing to go to get their business.

Should your prospect object during your trial close, go directly to Step Ten: Objections. However, let’s assume your prospect gives you a positive response in your trial close; your next step then is Step Eleven: The Close.

Kathy Sisk is CEO of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc.

[Read more of the series “The 12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing”: the prior article or next article.

[From Connection Magazine September 2012]

The Twelve Steps to Successful Telemarketing – Step Eight: Getting Reaction

By Kathy Sisk

Once you have completed Step Seven: Selling, you’ll want to encourage a positive response. This is accomplished in Step Eight: Get Reaction. This serves to test whether you have successfully satisfied your prospects’ needs. Did you tell them what they wanted to hear? Your prospects’ responses enable you to encourage and motivate them to respond positively to the benefits. This positive response will help you confidently move on to your next step, the Trial Close (Step Nine).

Getting a positive response in Step Eight assists you later on should your prospect offer any resistance (raise objections). Because you will gain a positive response now, if the prospect resists later, you can refer to the positive things your prospect agreed to in this step. This technique is called “keep selling.” Getting your prospect to agree with you now is crucial to successfully completing your presentation.

In Step Eight you must not ask for a commitment, since that would likely result in a negative response. For a positive response, here are some examples of good “get-reaction” questions:

“With what I’ve shared with you so far, how important is this information?”

“Understanding all the benefits you are entitled to, how valuable is this to you?”

These examples are generalized; you will need to create your own questions that are relevant to the product or service you are selling. When doing so, it is critical to keep the get-reaction questions open-ended and nonthreatening. Don’t push your prospect. You can have confidence that your prospects will put themselves in a position to sell themselves, provided you have fulfilled their needs in Step Seven by telling them what they want to hear.

How do you know what your prospects’ needs are? Go back two more steps. In Step Five, the Probing Step, you established their wants and created a need. By successfully performing Step Five, you were able to continue with your presentation. (If you hadn’t accomplished getting positive responses during Step Five, you wouldn’t have been able to get this far.)

The open-ended question in Step Eight is designed to elicit the positive response you need to get to continue on to the next step, the Trial Close. A positive response now will lessen the chances of receiving an objection during your trial close.

If you should get a negative response in Step Eight, refer to the “reflect method” in Step Ten: Objection Handling. This method will teach you how to effectively overcome a negative response. Whenever you receive a negative response in Step Eight – such as, “No, it’s not important” – this is an indicator that you did not create a need during the probing step. Instead, you chose to continue with your presentation with a prospect that really wasn’t interested.

However, if you felt you did create a need, then perhaps you made no impact during the selling step. You may need to work on your voice inflection, strategic pausing, your variable speeds, and your selection of emotionally charged words.

Otherwise, assuming you have gained a positive response during Step Eight, you’re now ready to proceed to the next step, the Trial Close, which I will cover in the next issue.

Kathy Sisk is CEO of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc.

[Read more of the series “The 12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing”: the prior article  or next article.]

[From Connection Magazine Jul/Aug 2012]

The Twelve Steps to Successful Telemarketing – Step Seven: Selling

By Kathy Sisk

There are four necessary elements in an effective selling presentation, which we will cover in Step Seven. Learning and customizing these steps to meet your prospect’s specific needs will greatly enhance your success with the other eleven steps. These four elements are features, functions, implied benefits, and stated benefits.

Features: Introducing features is the first approach in promoting a product or a service. Features tell your prospect which specific product or service you are promoting. This will assist you in customizing your presentation to meet the individual needs of your prospect.

Examples of “feature” words include: consultation, ABC company, XYZ services, competitive analysis, telemarketing training, evaluation, and 123 computer.

Functions: Step Five helped you to identify your prospect’s needs. Describing the functions will help you to highlight your prospect’s needs prior to describing the benefits. The functions are what the product does, how it works, and the different needs it will address. You will want to identify which functions are the most important to your prospect by evaluating the responses you got from your open-ended questions in Step Five.

Examples of function phrases include: provide information, twenty years in the business, provide a second opinion, offer objection-handling training, ideas are provided that, define financial needs, analyze existing programs, 480 megabytes of memory, and twenty-four-hour service.

Implied Benefits: Prospects do not purchase a product based on its features or functions. Their decisions are based on the benefits they will receive from the features and functions. The implied benefits tell your prospects what “good” they will derive by using the product or the service. There is a tendency to pass over this all-important element, but it should not be ignored. If the implied benefits are not included with the other elements of your presentation, you may end up losing the prospect altogether. Mentioning the implied benefits will help push your prospect’s hot buttons, because this appeals to the emotional aspect of the sales process.

The implied benefits justify the cost in the customer’s mind. Words and phrases associated with implied benefits include: confidence, success, satisfaction, self-improvement, increased knowledge, peace of mind, improved performance, quality control, and customer-oriented.

Stated Benefits: The stated benefits are the bottom line. Most likely your prospect will be thinking about the bottom line throughout your presentation. The stated benefits relate to the money or time made or saved by using the product or service. However, all too often this step is overemphasized. Many salespeople believe that the money issue is the only thing the prospect cares about, and so this benefit is expressed by the salesperson throughout the presentation.

It’s essential to state the benefits when you’re trying to accomplish your primary objective, which may be to bring the prospect in, send a representative out, place the order today, or create a favorable enough impression so that your prospect will remember you and your company. However, remember that the implied benefits are what justify the cost – stated benefits tell the prospect how they will save their time and/or money by saying “yes.”

Words and phrases associated with stated benefits include: profitable, cost-effective, productive, timesaving, faster speed, reduces downtime, affordable, increased value, lowers overhead, and increased income.

Key Points of Features and Benefits: The prospect buys benefits, not features. It’s important that you identify and continue to evaluate the differences between the two. There is a tendency to become absorbed in stressing the features of a product over the benefits a prospect will receive. This can be detrimental when you try to get a reaction (Step Eight) and conduct the trial close (Step Nine). Time spent talking about size, weight, shape, durability, and performance all serve to detract from the overall objective of the call, which is to sell. It is critical to translate the features of your product or service into the benefits your prospect will receive.

Translating Features into Benefits: The four functions must be used in order to make Step Seven effective. The following is a model to follow. Simply fill in the blanks with information related to your products or services.

“Mr./Ms. Prospect, from what you have told me I recommend (features). I recommend this because (functions). What this will do for you is (implied benefits) and, more important, (pause) you can (stated benefits).”

In actual use, it might sound more like this:

“I recommend (pause) a consultation. I recommend this because it will provide you with information about other services you’re entitled to. What this will do for you is (pause) update your information and provide you with more options to choose from. This information will increase your knowledge and awareness, giving you more confidence when you’re ready to upgrade. Most importantly (pause) you will save time in researching the information on your own, and you may be able to reduce your cost.”

As you describe the features, the prospect may be thinking, “Why should I buy this product?” By directing your prospects’ attention to the benefits, they are able to answer this question themselves. As a rule, people don’t want to be sold, but they will eagerly help sell themselves.

Don’t Forget: Always describe the features, functions, implied benefits, and stated benefits in this order. By doing so you stress your selling points in an order your prospect will be able to recall. Don’t mix them up; this will only confuse your prospect. Also, limit yourself to no more than two features during this step. Otherwise, you run the risk of overselling your prospect.

It is important that all four of these elements – features, functions, implied benefits, and stated benefits – be implemented in the selling step. Skipping one of them makes the presentation incomplete and increases the risk of an unsuccessful close. However, remember that one of these four functions is often neglected during most presentations: implied benefits. Implied benefits appeal to the emotional side of the sale. They are the sizzle in your presentation.

Without including implied benefits, you are only addressing issues related to money or time – that is, stated benefits. Why do you think consumers patronize higher-priced stores when the same products can be obtained elsewhere for less? Because of the implied benefits. They outweigh cost almost every time.

In the next issue I will share some specific selling tips and techniques to help successfully complete this step.

Kathy Sisk is CEO of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc.

[Read more of the series “The 12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing”: the prior article or next article.]

[From Connection Magazine June 2012]