Tag Archives: Ask Kathy

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

Objections Are Opportunities—Part 1



By Kathy Sisk

An objection is not a rejection. In most cases an objection means, “I need more information.” Assume that objections will surface during your presentation. Therefore, be prepared to handle them.

Objections give you an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your prospect and allow you to sell your products, services, company, and ideas. It is a time to listen, probe, and understand your prospect’s needs.

There should not be any feelings of personal rejection. Your prospect’s objections are not directed at you personally. Do not be defensive or react negatively. More importantly, do not attack the objection with more selling. Instead, remain in control and impress your prospects with your persistence and professionalism. This is a time to discover their real issues so you can overcome them. Objections give you an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your prospect. Click To Tweet

For the next few columns we will focus on common objections and how to best counter them. Let’s begin with some basics.

If early in your presentation, prior to asking questions to qualify and establish your prospect’s wants and needs, your prospect sounds or behaves in a negative manner, it usually results from a concern they had prior to your contact with them. If your prospect seems rude during your presentation, try to release the barriers.

Defuse the prospect’s resistance by saying: “I appreciate you letting me know this. Please share with me some of your concerns.”

This serves to clear the air, and your prospect is more likely to open up and tell you the real issue. When you find out what bothers them, it’s easier to overcome and outweigh your prospect’s concerns. After you defuse their fears, the following is an example of how to overcome the objection of “It’s too expensive.”

“I understand price is a concern and you want the best price possible. To determine how we can better meet your needs, I just need to ask a couple of quick questions if you don’t mind.” Now you can begin to probe in order to gain more insight so you can overcome the price concern by justifying it with your features and benefits.

Next time we will look at interpreting objections and the best techniques to overcome them.

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.

How Do I Handle a Premature Objection of “I’m Not Interested?



By Kathy Sisk

If your prospect interrupts your presentation before you get to the purpose of your call, here’s what might be occurring: 

  • Your prospect is busy, and it’s easier to say, “I’m not interested.”
  • The prospects says “no” to everything.
  • The prospect does not want to be sold anything due to negative experiences.

When faced with this, the “easy close” offers an ideal response to identify what type of prospect you have and gives you an opportunity to regain control.

First, say these three important words: “I respect that.” This diffuses the situation. Often your prospect’s guard comes down. Now you can proceed.

“I would like to provide you with information about [describe what you can offer, using an approach-and-hook statement to arouse interest]. Would that be all right with you?”

Do not elevate your tone of voice at the end of this sentence. That makes it a question and reinforces that your prospect is in control of the conversation, and you will get more negative responses. Instead, drop your tone of voice on the last word to make it an assumptive statement. Identify what type of prospect you have and gives you an opportunity to regain control. Click To Tweet

When your prospect agrees, qualify whether he or she has an interest in the information or is trying to exit the conversation. Say one of the following:

“Once you’ve had the opportunity to review the information, I would like to gain your feedback. Does that sound fair?” Again, end this “question” as an assumptive statement. This allows you to send information and make a follow-up call. Set a day and time to follow up so it becomes a stronger callback.

However, if you do not want to send information, you can continue by saying, “To ensure the information I have will benefit you, I need to ask you a couple of quick questions if you don’t mind.”

Proceed to your probing step: Qualify your prospect, establish his or her wants, and create the need for what you offer. This scenario puts you back in control of your presentation. Keep in mind that using an easy close will not work all the time, but it will get you further into your presentation than not using it.

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.

Optimize Training Time and Cost



By Kathy Sisk

Every manager knows it’s crucial to expand employees’ knowledge and skills. Call center agents need ongoing training to improve competency, achieve quality performance, and deliver excellent service. Plus, system changes, product launches, and process improvement all require training.

However, programs need careful planning to maximize the training time, minimize costs, and make a good return on investment. Therefore, efficient training is important. Consider the following:

Assess Training Programs Thoroughly: A common mistake is to implement a training program without first determining the needs of agents. For example, sales training isn’t the solution to low-close ratios if agents don’t believe in the product. In this case focus on improving the agents’ morale now and invest in sales training later.

Consider Coaching: Efficient training doesn’t have to be stringent. Regular agent coaching sessions may be enough to address needs and improve performance. Provide relevant advice that agents can use to deal with callers. Informal interactions are an effective form of communication and a big help in enhancing agents’ product understanding.

Agents have different strengths and weaknesses. You can enhance their performance if you don’t focus on just one area; provide training that develops and sharpens a variety of skill sets.Popular forms of call center training are e-learning and classroom sessions. Click To Tweet

Determine the Appropriate Training Method: These days the most popular forms of training are e-learning and classroom sessions. Pick the approach that most effectively achieves your goals. Each has pros and cons, so choose the method that optimizes time and cost.

  • Classroom sessions are more expensive because it requires you to pull agents from the floor and increase staff hours to cover their work. You may incur additional costs such as meeting room space or printing materials. However, classroom sessions excel in teaching soft skills, such as sales and customer service enhancements.
  • E-learning is cost-effective and convenient. Agents learn at their own pace, and scheduling is easier. E-learning sessions are typically shorter than classroom sessions and are effective for product and process knowledge training.

Design Programs That Support Your Goals: First set training objectives, and then develop programs to achieve them. For example, to focus on call resolution, training should enhance agents’ ability to ask the right questions, solve problems, and improve product knowledge.

Invest wisely in training to maximize results.

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.

Professional Telephone Skills



By Kathy Sisk

When you make or receive a call, your telephone skills reflect you and your company. It’s important to project professionalism in handling calls because it affects the image of your company, product or service, and you. The key is to put customers first. Make them feel good by practicing professional telephone skills: be courteous, helpful, and genuine.

Use Your Voice to Make a Difference: Start by taking a breath; you’d be surprised at how better you sound when you’re relaxed and not out of breath. Sounding in a rush gives a negative impression. Consider these scenarios:

  • Answering or making a call: State your full name in a friendly tone, and avoid using wordy expressions. By simply stating your first and last name, you save time. The success of each call depends on the tone of your voice; make sure you always sound welcoming and willing to help.
  • Answering someone else’s telephone: State the person’s name before you identify yourself. For example, “Hello, Mr. Jim Smith’s office, this is Janice Gold.” And never use your title such as, “Mr. Smith’s office, Ms. Gold.”
  • Answering a departmental phone: Always identify yourself after stating the department, “Hello. Bookkeeping, this is Janice Gold.”

Answer Quickly: Taking too long to answer projects a negative impression. Callers will wonder if anyone is there, which gives your conversation a difficult start.

Find Out Who’s Calling: A critical telephone skill for inbound calls is to ask the caller’s name; then use it to build rapport. Also, confirm the spelling; ask if you’re not sure.

Transfer Calls Professionally: If you can’t help the caller, let him or her know you will connect them to the right department. Customers get frustrated when their call is transferred, so stay with them until they’re connected to the right department. You may also take the caller’s name and number so the appropriate person may return the call. Taking these extra steps shows respect to callers.

Take Messages: A complete message should include:

  • the caller’s name
  • the company
  • the date and time of call
  • preferred callback number and extension
  • the best time to return the call, and
  • all other relevant information.

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. 

Call Center Employee Satisfaction Management

By Kathy Sisk

Your agents handle your customers’ calls. In order to keep your customers happy, you should first make your employees happy. Managing employee satisfaction includes creating a positive work environment. Here are some suggestions on how you can effectively manage your employees and help put them in a productive mind-set.

Talk About Performance: Good or bad, your employees need to be aware of their performance; it lets them know if they are getting closer to their goals. If you don’t give them feedback, your employees may feel frustrated. Provide agents with feedback to show you appreciate what they are doing. Your feedback should be proactive and offer positive reinforcement.

Promote Success: Obstacles are inevitable. Your agents will run into obstacles while doing their job, and this is not necessarily a negative thing. What isn’t helpful is not doing anything to remove these roadblocks. Your inability to promote success in the workplace can decrease employee satisfaction; it can demotivate your agents and make them unproductive.

Don’t Ask Your Employees to Do Something You Won’t: One way to gain your agents’ respect is to set an example. Assign managers to take the frontline job from time to time. Better yet, let them see you handle a customer’s call. This will show your agents your willingness to do a great job and provide them with tips on proper call handling.

Furnish Support: One way to improve employee satisfaction is to supply valued support whenever necessary. This can take many forms, such as updating equipment when it is no longer efficient, giving incentives for a job well done, offering emotional support in times of unfair criticism, and delivering reasonable aid to maintain an employee’s work-life balance. Providing management support builds employees’ loyalty and keep them motivated.

Provide Adequate Training for All: To deliver quality service you must train your employees with excellence. Instill the motto that your employees are your best customers. Provide them with the ideal training program that fits their skill set and job description. Everyone in your company needs adequate training; avoid investing solely in leadership training – your supervisors, middle managers, and agents need instruction, too.

Implement these five ideas to make your call center better.

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. 

Effective Probing Strategies

By Kathy Sisk

The world of telemarketing can be daunting. An agent may lose a customer’s interest and miss a sale simply by asking the wrong question. If you want to get to “yes,” you must ask the right questions. Here are some effective probing strategies to enhance your communication skills and build stronger customer relationships.

Frame Your Conversation: One of the most effective strategies is proper positioning. This gives you permission to ask your customer almost anything and increases your chance of getting the right answers. The perfect way to frame a conversation is to say what you want to do for your customer: Explain the purpose of your call and let the customer know you need to ask some questions to better help him or her. By doing so you justify your questions in advance and encourage your customer’s willingness to cooperate. Say: “Mr./Mrs. Customer, so I can help you in the best way possible, I need to ask you a few quick questions, if you don’t mind.”

Ask Funnel Questions: The funnel effect involves asking general questions to be on point with each answer. It helps the customer focus on useful details about his or her concern. The trick to effective funnel questioning is to ask open-ended questions, which helps you discover useful details to determine the best solution for your customer. It helps you gain their interest.

Flow with the Answers: To ask the right questions, you need to listen. Pay attention to what your customer is saying. By actively listening to each answer, you can properly formulate your next question and get the information you seek. Active listening ensures the natural flow of questions and makes you trustworthy. Following a rigid script is impersonal and makes your customers feel like you are up to something; they won’t believe you really want to get to know them and help them.

Use Positive Words: Having a positive attitude yields positive results. Be energetic and smile when speaking with customers over the phone. This makes them more comfortable about sharing information. Your goal when probing is to get useful details from them. Speaking with a positive and proactive attitude makes it more likely they will respond to you in the same manner.

Kathy Sisk, founder and president of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc., is a trainer and consultant, contributing forty years of expertise to the telemarketing, sales, and customer service industries.

7 Steps to Successful Sales Calls

By Kathy Sisk

Making successful sales calls is not easy. Presenting to strangers over the phone is nerve-wracking, but overcome your fears and pick up the phone. Sales calls are your opportunity to learn about prospects. This is your chance to convince them that your product or service is right for them, allowing you to move toward a profitable sale.

Here are seven steps to sales call success:

1) Understand Your Prospects’ Priorities: Your first sales call is an opportunity to get an in-depth understanding of their needs and wants. Allow prospects to do most of the talking and focus on asking probing questions.

2) Show Familiarity with Your Target Market: Create questions to show your familiarity with your prospects’ market: their business, their suppliers, and their roles and responsibilities. Incorporate information about your prospects into your script or call guide.

3) Believe in the Value You Offer: Believing in your value as a salesperson can help you be more effective when making sales calls. Do not be discouraged if a prospect is discourteous or unreceptive. If you truly believe in the value of your offer, you should not easily be put off. Stay confident.

4) Position Your Product and Business: Present your business and product clearly for prospects to understand. Avoid jargon and technical descriptions.

5) Showcase Your Product’s Features and Capabilities: Focus on explaining your product’s features and capabilities rather than just discussing them. Provide examples that demonstrate how your product or service has helped similar customers.

6) Contact New Prospects Daily: Set a numeric goal for new contacts per day. Reach out through various channels: phone, email, text, and social media. Be proactive when searching for new prospects.

7) Make Follow-up Calls: When you don’t hear from your prospects, contact them again. The key is persistence. Try to contact them two to three times a week. If you still don’t get a response, wait a few weeks and try again. Leave irresistible messages that can inspire your prospects to take action. Continue this process.

Although not everyone will respond to your calls, many will. Making successful sales calls is not easy, but it’s not impossible – and it can be rewarding, both personally and financially.

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

[From Connection MagazineJuly/August 2016]