Tag Archives: Ask Kathy

Overcoming Call Reluctance, Part Two



By Kathy Sisk

In part one we discussed the first weakness of call reluctance: agent fears. Now we’ll discuss prospect’s fears.

Most outbound agents don’t receive training to help them handle their prospect’s fears. In many instances, agents are not even aware of these fears. They fall into three categories:

  1. The Approach: What does this salesperson want from me?
  2. Pre-Purchase Insecurity: What if I later regret my decision?
  3. Post-Purchase Remorse: What have I done?

To address this, agents need training to improve their approach. This enables the agent to be more sensitive to and address the prospect’s fears. 

Before training agents on scripting, you must first sell the benefits of using a script. Click To Tweet

Most agents are uncomfortable using a canned presentation, and so are prospects. However, scripts are necessary, especially when working with multiple projects, training a newly hired agent, or to remain in control during the presentation. Scripts also provide more consistency in the performance levels of the campaign. 

The Benefits of Using a Script (Call Guide)

Before training agents on scripting, you must first sell the benefits of using a script. I do this using my “road map” story:

“A script is like a road map. If you were to travel to an unfamiliar city, would you go without a map? Of course not. If you did, it would take longer to arrive at your destination. So it is with your presentation. You start from a beginning point and a destination you want to reach. Not having a script, a format to follow, or a call guide lets your prospect take you on a detour where you do not want to go. If you do not have a map (a call guide), it will be difficult to get back on track. Not using a script gives your prospect greater control of the outcome. Ultimately you are not able to meet the objective of the call.”

The truth is, after thirty minutes of experiencing negative activity with the prospect gaining control, agents lose interest and their self-esteem spirals downward. Eventually this can affect other agents in the call center too.

Next time we will discuss scripts and how to best use them when making outbound calls and overcoming call reluctance.

Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc. has forty years of experience providing call center setup, reengineering, assessments, training, script development, and project management services to centers globally.

Overcoming Call Reluctance, Part One



By Kathy Sisk

Whether you are a trainer, manager, owner, or a telemarketer, call reluctance—the struggle to make phone calls—has been an issue we all have dealt with. Call reluctance is more prevalent with newly recruited telemarketers and companies who are servicing multiple projects, such as third-party service agencies (call centers). With today’s progressive telemarketing environment and the increased career opportunities this industry has to offer, it is extremely crucial to understand what call reluctance is, why it happens, and how to provide practical solutions to overcome it.

Call reluctance is a concern for many call centers, and yet the solution is simple. To overcome call reluctance, you first need to identify the source of where it is coming from. Each year I visit various companies and conduct call center assessments. Most of my assessments have been able to identify two primary weaknesses that need greater attention.

The Agent’s Perspective

First, there is not enough focus on the three primary fears newly hired telemarketers have when they are prospecting for the first time on any given account.

These three fears are:

  1. How do I approach the prospect?
  2. What do I say during my presentation?
  3. When the prospect objects or resists me, how do I remain in control?

If not properly trained, the agent’s productivity will continue to be affected by these fears, the call center will experience high turnover, and the company’s bottom line will spiral down. However, agents can gain greater control of this problem by first identifying the sources of call reluctance, and then developing proven techniques to overcome it.

It is extremely crucial to understand what call reluctance is, why it happens, and how to provide practical solutions to overcome it. Click To Tweet

The Prospect’s Perspective

The second weakness parallels the agent’s three fears, but this time it focuses on the prospect. The key to prospecting is the relationship we develop with our prospects. Part of this relationship is understanding that prospects also have three primary fears they must identify and overcome. The prospect’s three fears also exist in the face-to-face selling arena, but the field salesperson has greater control as opposed to the agent who is prospecting over the telephone.

Next time I will share the three primary fears your prospects have when making outbound calls.

Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc. has forty years of experience providing call center setup, reengineering, assessments, training, script development, and project management services to centers globally.

A Successful Telephone Presentation



By Kathy Sisk

People often ask, “How can I improve my phone presentation?”

A successful presentation is measured by the impact it has on those who are listening. You need to focus on how well you present your delivery and ensure that your listener is engaged. However, remember:

  • Word selection is 7 percent of communication.
  • Tone of voice is 38 percent of communication.
  • Facial expression accounts for 55 percent in a face-to-face presentation.

Your presentation must make up for the loss of visual communication. Therefore, on the telephone, your focus is on how you come across.

To be an effective presenter, establish an emotional connection with your listeners. Also, present with a high level of energy to keep listeners engaged. Speaking with enthusiasm and passion is not only motivating but convincing.

Here are some tips to help you present better.

The key to a successful presentation is remembering that you are the presentation. Click To Tweet

Know Your Audience

Gear your presentation to the market. Prepare for who you’re presenting to and adjust accordingly. If you’re speaking to a high-level decision maker, such as a CEO, your presentation must be on a different level than for a mid or low-level employee, as their decision-making process and expectations are different.

Do Your Research and Know the Facts

Do your homework. Obtain facts from reliable sources to validate your claims. Your presentation must be relatable to your listener. When doing so, your listener will be impressed with what you know.

Customize Your Presentation

Design your presentation accordingly to convince and attract your listener. Talk with your audience instead of reading your presentation to them.

Prepare Yourself

This preparation increases your confidence level, and your listener will hear it. Role-play different scenarios and prepare for any issues you might encounter. This helps minimize your nervousness when presenting to those you have not fully established rapport with. Know your key points. Be prepared to address questions and objections.

Present Your Material

Remember, you are the expert on the subject. When presenting over the phone, use the same gestures as you would in person, including facial and hand expressions. Using body language emphasizes and paints mental images for your listener, even though they can’t see them.

The key to a successful presentation is remembering that you are the presentation.

Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc. has forty years of experience providing call center setup, reengineering, assessments, training, script development, and project management services to centers globally.

Develop the Habit of Monitoring and Coaching, Part 2



By Kathy Sisk

In the first part of this two-part series, we discussed the skills that an effective call center coach should have. We also covered key motivational techniques to get agents producing. For the next step, we’ll look at developing a comprehensive, department-wide motivational plan.Help agents determine any problems and find ways to overcome them. Click To Tweet

Your Departmental Motivation Plan

  • Set the criteria for winning rewards, ones that are fair and attainable.
  • Decide what your campaign objectives are and when you want to reach them.
  • Evaluate unforeseen problems that occurred in other reward campaigns to prevent a repeat of previous mistakes.
  • Retrace your steps to find out where the source of previous problems came from.
  • Determine the specific criteria that agents need to meet to earn the reward you’re offering.
  • Be clear on the time frame for starting and ending the campaign.
  • Define what is eligible and non-eligible for the reward.
  • Predetermine the rewards you will offer based on the difficulty of the campaign.
  • Remind agents of how close they are in reaching their goals and alert them if they’re falling short of them.
  • Help agents determine any problems and find ways to overcome them.
  • Don’t isolate each agent’s results. Instead, publicize their results—such as by using cardboard thermometers hung on a wall with each obtainable goal as measurements shown in red. Find ways to make a positive statement.
  • Incorporate an accountability factor into your campaign. This means what, how, and when you will collect data and evaluate results. Define the methods you’ll use to distribute rewards. This includes what role management will play and any fanfare.

A properly designed motivational plan will spur your staff to achieve outstanding results, while a poorly conceived or misaligned plan will have the opposite effect.

Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc. has forty years of experience providing call center setup, reengineering, assessments, training, script development, and project management services to centers globally.

Develop the Habit of Monitoring and Coaching—Part 1



By Kathy Sisk

I often write about agent training; however, once the initial training is completed, the next step is to ensure that the floor manager continues the process. Here are some tips for proper agent coaching. This will motivate agents and help them adhere to what they’ve learned, as well as integrating accountability into the process.Always treat your agents professionally. Click To Tweet

An Effective Coach Should Know How to:           

  • Provide on-the-spot personal attention on a regular basis
  • Recognize other people’s needs for coaching and counseling
  • Coach on a consistent basis
  • Schedule time each week to conduct hands-on assessments
  • Hold agents accountable for improved performance
  • Address performance or attitude issues in a timely manner
  • Be patient, offer encouraging words, and always bring out the best in agents prior to critiquing them
  • Know what to listen for, how to recognize when the correct skills are exhibited, and how to give constructive feedback
  • Use professional language
  • Learn how to resolve conflicts and develop the ability to negotiate

Motivational Techniques to Get Agents Producing:

  • Give a specific goal or target to reach each day. For example, for outbound calling you could say: “Today I would like you to preselect fifty potential contacts you will make tomorrow.”
  • Get your agents to meet at least one daily requirement each day.
  • Don’t force agents or make threats—such as job security—to get them motivated to do their best.
  • Always treat your agents professionally.

In the next issue, we’ll talk about how to develop a departmental motivation plan.

Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc. has forty years of experience providing call center setup, reengineering, assessments, training, script development, and project management services to centers globally.

Why Telemarketing Programs Fail, Part 5



By Kathy Sisk

This is the final segment of “Why Telemarketing Programs Fail.” Our wrap-up looks at script branching, the agent learning curve, supportive communication, and appropriate follow-up.

Script Branching

Branching allows agents to take other avenues to meet the same objective, which is to close the sale, make an appointment, or generate a lead. Branching is always preplanned and allows agents to go off script and be creative. The outcome is the same, but the process is different.

Agents need to understand the process of branching, which is covered in basic training. Branching allows agents to use their skills and techniques to guide the call using a more personalized approach.

This challenging process, however, takes practice for agents to perfect. Being able to branch is what differentiates one agent from another as far as productivity; it’s why one agent may have an 80 percent conversion rate while another has only a 20 percent conversion rate.Providing agent feedback is key. for succesful telemarketing programs. Click To Tweet

Agent Learning Curve

Often either the client or the center doesn’t allow enough time for the learning curve to develop so the call success rate can improve. With every campaign, there must be ramp-up time for agents to gain confidence with the project. Too often the client or call center management expects immediate results. Then the client will prematurely terminate the campaign, or the project management team gives up before the agents can perfect their work.

Allow time for adjustments and script enhancements. It’s ideal to let agents tell you how they think you can improve the program. Often agent feedback is key.

Supportive Communication

Establish clear communication between agents, supervisors, and the client regarding successful or unsuccessful calls. Always take time to review the campaign results and consider necessary changes.

Appropriate Follow-Up

Interaction between management, agents, the project manager, and the client is essential, particularly when information is given regarding the progress of the campaign. Open communications between agents and managers is vital in reaching a more successful outcome.

To help ensure that your telemarketing campaigns succeed, consider these four pitfalls and work to avoid them. Also review the items in the first four parts of this series to produce better results faster.

Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc. has forty years of experience providing call center setup, reengineering, assessments, training, script development, and project management services to centers globally.

Why Telemarketing Programs Fail, Part 4



By Kathy Sisk

In the last issue we discussed properly assessing and preparing agents for training before the start of your campaign. Now we’ll look at what happens during the calling period.

A Challenging Task

When it comes to outbound campaigns, it isn’t realistic to think the prospect is waiting by their phone in anticipation of your call. On the contrary, the prospect may have already been inundated with calls like yours, in the middle of doing something more important, or they aren’t available.

Additionally, they may not have an interest in what you’re calling about. If you get any negative response early in your presentation, the method of handling it is critical. One of the most challenging parts of an outbound call is handling a premature “I’m not interested.”

The Easy Close

Using the “easy close” technique will help you through this challenge and allow you to continue with your presentation or keep the door open for future contact.

Here’s a typical easy close to the I’m-not-interested brush-off: “I respect that. If I could provide you with information that could save you on your insurance policy, how open are you to receive more information about this?”

The idea is to get the prospect to say “yes”; this turns a negative into a positive. This approach allows you to move on to the next portion of the easy close, which is to qualify their interest by saying, “To make sure that you can benefit, I need to verify some information, if you don’t mind.” This final portion of the easy close gets another positive response that helps you go to the next step of your presentation, the probing step.Preparation is a vital key to overcoming potential obstacles. Click To Tweet

When the campaign is carefully planned, and you incorporate what you learned in your training, you will gain greater confidence in handling calls and experience more positive outcomes. Preparation is a vital key to overcoming potential obstacles.

In the next issue we’ll tie everything together for a cohesive, well-thought-out outsourcing campaign.

Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc. has forty years of experience providing call center setup, reengineering, assessments, training, script development, and project management services to centers globally.

Why Telemarketing Programs Fail, Part Three



By Kathy Sisk

In the last issue we discussed telemarketing program expectations, the list, and reporting when setting up and managing a campaign. Part three is about the importance of properly assessing and preparing agents for training before the start of the campaign.

Agent Assessing

Carefully selecting the attributes of the campaign with the agents is an essential aspect of overall success. Identify this up front during your agent selection process. The best time to assess agents is before you hire them. Assessment tools should be in place to select the right agents prior to investing time and money into training them.

After assessing telemarketing agents to find the right ones, continue to assess them during the basic training (soft skills), simulation (role-play), and applied training (live calling) phases of their preparation. Not all agents will pass the basic training, and not all agents will pass the simulation training. Furthermore, it’s essential to select the right agents for the applied training phase. This is where they will represent the client to prospects.Poorly trained agents are one of the quickest ways for a campaign to fail. Click To Tweet

Agent Training

Poorly trained agents are one of the quickest ways for a campaign to fail. Sometimes a program starts without asking for adequate training from the client or assigned project manager. Another issue is the call center replacing an agent during the program but failing to give them adequate training.

However, too much training on product knowledge can hinder the agent from performing well. Also, too much information may intimidate agents if they feel they can’t learn all the details.

It’s best to segment training at a pace where agents feel confident enough to present it using the call guide (the script). Once an agent can confidently go through the call guide, your focus should shift to the delivery quality of the presentation. Then you can train agents how to branch off the script whenever necessary. This is a vital part of the delivery process.

Summary

Be sure to assign the right agents to the campaign. Not all campaigns are alike, and neither are all agents. Some campaigns need a more assertive agent as opposed to other campaigns that require an easy-going approach.

Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc. has forty years of experience providing call center setup, reengineering, assessments, training, script development, and project management services to centers globally.

Why Telemarketing Programs Fail, Part Two



By Kathy Sisk

In the last issue we discussed the key reasons telemarketing programs fail. Now let’s look at some vital aspects of setting up and managing a campaign.

Expectations

Having unrealistic expectations can cause agents to become unmotivated and produce poorer results. Having unrealistic expectations causes staff to handle the campaign in a state of “crisis management.”  

A Project Management Guide (PMG) outlines expectations for the campaign; it’s the responsibility of those assigned to carry out the PMG to meet those expectations. Expectations should be tested and defined to address all variables. The PMG also needs a “what if” section so if something doesn’t go as planned, alternatives are provided to correct mistakes and adjust expectations. This increases the internal and external communication between the client, the project management team, and the assigned center.

Database

For outbound campaigns, the database is critical for success. The database must be fresh and pre-scrubbed. The demographics should closely match the ideal customer the client seeks. A list that is outdated, poorly targeted, overworked, or not scrubbed will eat up calling hours, yield inferior results, and frustrate agents, along with everyone else who is part of the campaign.Having unrealistic expectations causes staff to handle the campaign in a state of 'crisis management.' Click To Tweet

This is where the disposition of calls is crucial. The agent must have a clear understanding of the target prospect to identify how to best disposition each call and identify a bad lead. If there are too many bad leads, the list may need replacing.

Reporting

The project manager will assist the client in assessing the profile of an ideal list. Once identified, the reporting of the dispositions from the list is defined. This allows agents to report more accurate results. This helps everyone determine the quality of the list for outbound campaigns, quality of the marketing efforts for inbound campaigns, the effectiveness of the assigned agents, and a determination of the overall results. The per call results enables the assigned task team (such as floor supervisors, shift supervisors, quality assurance department, and project managers) to assess the results of the campaign and make appropriate changes to enhance the overall results.

Next time we’ll discuss how to properly assess and prepare agents for training.

Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc. has forty years of experience providing call center set-up, reengineering, assessments, training, script development, and project management services to centers globally.

Outbound Script-Writing Principals



By Kathy Sisk

How can an outbound agent overcome the pitfalls of heavy legislation that affects agent burnout? By incorporating script-writing principals using the “12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing.”

Since the national do-not-call registry took effect, many telemarketers have inundated unregistered consumers with outbound calls. Furthermore, many call centers have discovered just how crucial it is to have properly designed scripts that are in compliance and distinguish them from their competition.

Today’s heavily legislated environment forces companies to make drastic changes to their script-writing principles. This change ensures that agents adhere to legal compliances while meeting demanding production requirements.

When making outbound calls, particularly more challenging-type calls such as cold calls, scripts require careful step-by-step planning to help agents get through the call professionally and personably while meeting the legal compliance requirements enforced by both state and federal authorities.

Throughout the years I have had many opportunities to visit call centers across the globe, and I have identified two primary weaknesses in agents’ call scripts:Scripts require careful step-by-step planning to help agents get through the call. Click To Tweet

  1. Poor Flowing Script: Most scripts do not provide enough focus on the flow that allows agents to easily move from the “introduction” to the “post close.” Typically, it’s expected that the agent “think outside the box,” but that isn’t always possible when the agent struggles with inexperience, poor training, or a new campaign they have little-to-no experience with. A poor delivery will reflect negatively on the company, ultimately causing a decline in sales and customer retention.
  2. Inadequate Responses for Negative Encounters: The agent may not know what the primary fears their prospects have and how to overcome them before they surface in a negative encounter.

For the past thirty years I have trained agents’ in my “12 Steps to Successful Telemarketing” (with modifications to meet legal requirements). When following the twelve steps, agents’ productivity surpasses production goals while meeting demanding compliance issues.

Script writing is an art and needs careful attention to the direction, verbiage, and style of the presenter. If agents handle customer service, tech-support, sales, and especially cold calling, the twelve steps will enhance an agent’s style of delivery, give them greater control of their calls, and produce positive results.

Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc. has forty years of experience providing call center setup, reengineering, assessments, training, script development, and project management services to centers globally