When you’re running a thriving sales call center, there’s a whole lot vying for your attention and focus, and ignoring even one of them may prove disastrous. Preparation and practice can help you go from feeling overwhelmed to being confident and successful.
Your call center sales agents are your safety net, and while a robust call center hiring process is indispensable, training staff is equally crucial to achieving a successful outcome. Here’s our guide to the call center training best practices.
How to induct and develop new hires
Even the best salespeople struggle when they don’t have the tools or preparation to succeed. Onboarding new starters effectively will benefit both them and your business. The sooner they start selling successfully, the sooner they justify their salaries. There are a few significant areas that you need to concentrate on to set your salespeople up for sustainable success and build a robust onboarding process.
The most powerful tool in your call center agent’s arsenal. There will be questions from prospects, many of them. Your salespeople need to know the product or service they’re selling better than anyone else in your company.
There are many ways to teach them, but taking a practical approach works best. Run dummy sales calls and grill them like a particularly tricky and knowledgeable prospect would. Only when any questions you can think of can’t stump them are they ready to start selling.
Tools and processes
We trust that your recruits know what you hired them to do, but do they know how you expect them to do it? What is the company’s sales process? How do they use the CRM? What reporting is expected of them and how do they do it? To whom do they report?
Ongoing call center agent training and assessment
Research has shown that without systematic, regular learning and reinforcement, approximately people forget 50% of the information you present to them in the first hour.
Providing your recruits with a 100-day plan containing clear targets and outcomes coupled to an underlying call center training regime to help them achieve these is an excellent way to make sure their first three months are spent productively. Dividing their expected progress into smaller increments is also a great way to prevent them from feeling overwhelmed by the avalanche of new information.
Whether you go the route of identifying one mentor from your experienced team of salespeople to teach new staff members in batches or match each new hire to a buddy who they can shadow, mentoring is one of the most efficient ways to teach newcomers. Just bear in mind that not everyone is a good teacher, so your selection of mentors will take a bit of circumspection.
For some further reading on training your reps, read How to Develop and Train your Sales Team.
Sales call tips, tricks and tactics
Your sales calling team is the voice of your business, which makes it imperative that the calls they make are efficient and effective. The following tips should help you make sure that you’re getting the best value from every minute spent calling a prospect.
Focus all questions on your client, not yourself
You can’t sell to someone unless you know what their needs are and which problem they want you to solve. Rather than barrelling in and telling the prospect how great you are and what you can do for them, spend at least the first part of the call inquiring about their needs and problems.
Plan all your questions in advance
The questions that you ask a prospect should be structured in such a way that they lead the conversation towards the sale. This takes planning and practice. The object is to qualify the prospect and move the deal towards a close, and there’s usually a very specific set of facts and information you need to achieve this outcome. Make sure salespeople know exactly what these are and how you expect them to get there.
Try to avoid a rigid sales script
While a well-structured call script can be a powerful tool in the salesperson’s arsenal, the secret is to teach your call center staff that they shouldn’t merely blindly follow the text, riding roughshod over questions and objections.
A script should be the framework over which your staff can improvise and adapt. If the script is the orchestra, the person delivering it is the conductor, shaping and improvising to meet the audience’s needs.
If you’re struggling to come up with a sales script, why not try one of our customizable cold calling scripts?
Don’t try to do too much too soon
If your team is doing cold calling, there is a natural tendency to want to convey as much information as quickly as possible right out of the gate, but this approach runs the danger of overwhelming the prospect.
Be judicious in trimming the information provided in the first call down to the very essential selling points. Too much information confuses and may put off the prospect. Unless your product is straightforward, you’ll most likely need follow-up emails and calls, and this is where you can get information heavy.
Use data to improve your calls
This ties in with point four above. By studying successful calls and parsing info from your existing data, you should be able to determine what information or part of your pitch moves prospects towards closing the most efficiently. You should do this on a macro and micro level. Regularly review calls with your staff members to determine what works, both for the team and on an individual level.
Keep it relaxed
The traditional hard sell may work on some prospects but bear in mind that most people dislike old-school, pushy sales techniques. People who feel pressure tend to go onto the defensive, and that leads to a no far more often than it does a yes. Keep it friendly, informative, and non-confrontational.
Read our guide on getting back in touch with customers after initial contact, with Sales follow-up templates guaranteed to convert.
Help your team use psychology to control sales calls
There’s a wealth of research available on the benefits of taking a highly scientific and methodological approach to sales calls. Studies show that there are a variety of psychological triggers that can easily be employed with a bit of training.
If you’re using a sales script, it’s vital that it incorporates as much sales psychology as possible. Here are a few essential tips to get you started, but we encourage further reading.
Your product or service probably solves a problem for the customer, and the pitch should naturally get to how you plan to do that, but starting on a negative note is a bad idea. Even just kicking off with something frivolous like a sports result or a prospect’s plans for the weekend is better: the friendly and warm intro will make them more receptive to whatever follows.
Keep it clean
Telling your prospect that their current provider and your competitor sucks may seem like a good idea, but steer well clear of this method. In a rather interesting psychological quirk, people have what is called spontaneous trait transference, whereby they end up associating the bad things you say about a competitor with your product.
There are many positive ways to point out how you’re better, and your civility will be rewarded.
Empower the prospect
People love to feel empowered by making their own decision rather than being sold to. A simple shift in approach away from telling them that your product solves their problem to asking them whether, now that you’ve told them about it, they think that it could solve their problem, makes a big difference in how the prospect experiences the buying decision.
Use natural curiosity
A series of experiments performed by neuroeconomics pioneer Paul Zak detailed the powerful effects of storytelling on human decision making. Narratives that include a climax and resolution trigger powerful responses in the listener, caused by the release of Oxytocin.
This neurochemical promotes feelings of empathy and connectedness, building trust in the mind of your prospect. You’ll need to work hard on creating your brand story, but it’s work that will benefit almost every part of your business.
The beauty of the modern data-driven sales model is that you can learn from the mistakes of others rather than making your own.
Regardless of your niche and target market, you’re likely to find a study on exactly is the best time to phone your prospect when they’re at their most receptive.
Tracking, reporting and optimizing
Sales tracking refers to keeping records and detailing all aspects of your sales process. Your calling system and your CRM should dovetail perfectly and allow you to set up robust reporting and tracking structures. You should also look for a system that automates as much of this reporting as possible. A visual sales pipeline is a great tool.
Every business is unique and presents its own measures of success, but there should be a few key trends and outcomes that you can always use regardless of what you are selling.
Here is a list of the basic metrics you should be monitoring in your sales call-center:
The average number of calls to close a deal
Every good salesperson knows that they can’t control the prospect’s response, only their own actions, so not every call they make will lead to a sale. Once they understand how many calls they need to make to close a deal, it becomes easier to structure their daily activities and make sure they’re hitting the right call frequency.
Average conversations per day
This metric ties in with the point above but is also a great way to monitor and compare how different members of your team are doing. You might find that your successful team members make fewer calls of higher quality, or that the guy who makes the most calls sells the most.
Percentage of leads contacted
Even cold-calling usually relies on some form of lead generation. It is essential to know how many leads are being contacted and track the outcome. This feedback can be reverse engineered to improve the quality of your lead generation and scoring efforts as well.
Average contact attempts per agent
One great way to judge how good your sales process is to track how many touches it takes to close a deal. This metric will also give you solid insight into which of your team members are resilient and can really push for a sale.
Dials to closure ratio
You need to first define what determines a close for your call center staff. Is it a prospect who shows interest and gets added to an active pipeline? Is it merely a prospect who answers the phone and engages with your sales pitch?
Regardless of how you judge a call to be a success, agents are empowered when they understand how many calls they generally need to make in order to close a deal.
Not sure what tools to use to get these data? Read how to find the best workforce and tech in one of the other articles in this series.
Turning your reports and data into improvements
Using a calling system like Aircall in conjunction with a good CRM means you’ll have a wealth of call data at your disposal, but this data is useless unless you’re willing to get your hands dirty and start interpreting it.
When approaching this task, there are three necessary steps you need to take to achieve success
- Automate data collection effectively
- Generate simple, actionable reports from this data
- Use your insights from this data to improve your sales process
Modern technology makes steps one and two effortless and easy, so what you really need to concern yourself with is point number three.
To do this, it is vitally important that you start by defining which insights you need in order to close more deals and outperform your competitors. Be wary of placing too much stock in vanity metrics. In the beginning, you should be focusing on the underlying metrics and actions that move a deal through the stages of your pipeline.
Once you’ve determined which metrics matter, you need to set up your desired reporting and analysis frequency. If a deal takes three months to close, you can probably get away with bi-weekly or monthly reporting, while high-volume sales environments will require a much more frequent rhythm.
Find out how to Master your Sales Call Management Using Pipedrive and Aircall in one of the other articles in this series.
When it comes to call center training, data should serve you, not the other way around. If you’re struggling to turn points one and two above into point three, you may need to adjust what data you’re looking at before trying again.