January 7, 2011

Using the telephone as a support tool

Telemarketing / sales is a much misunderstood and under rated marketing tool, and I’m not talking about those annoying dinner time calls from people who can hardly speak English, get your name wrong or sound like robots. If professionally handled and specifically targetted, telephone selling is the best, most cost effective way to reach your customers, and can even be used to sell capital expenditure and high cost items. Telephone sales calls are faster, cost less than visiting customers in person, and at the same time can  be more flexible and compelling than a sales letter.

But telesales is also challenging

Successful cold calling is an art . . . it can be difficult to get people to listen let alone convince them to buy . . . and you need a thick skin to handle rejection. Effective use of the telephone relies on understanding when to use the appropriate skill of telemarketing, tele-research or telesales, and making sure that your team have the skills they need. It amazes me how many companies expect staff to make sales calls with no training what so ever. EVERYONE in the business should have telephone skills, not just the marketing and sales people.

The key is to not think of it as selling, but as an ongoing conversation with your clients. Used in combination with email marketing, face to face appointments and client feedback surveys, using the telephone could very well be your most important marketing tool. But use it with discernment.

Telesales planning

Telesales works best if you are clear about what it can do for your business. Cold calling potential customers and trying to convince them to make a purchase is not always the right way to go. You should use telesales as part of the client communication process in all areas of your business, not just as a sales tool. Every touch point in your business that requires the telephone as a communication tool with your clients gives you the means by which to identify a potential sales opportunity. And anyone can do it, and SHOULD! It’s not about hard selling or closing deals. It’s about conducting meaningful conversations that elicit information about your customers’ desires, wants and needs.


Cold calling and effective sales calls

Many people find cold calling unknown potential customers a particular challenge. Some employees continually put off making cold calls, preferring to concentrate on other tasks that they are more comfortable doing. Even when employees are motivated and incentivised, lack of confidence can undermine effectiveness.

Cold calling doesn’t need to put employees under immediate pressure to sell. Any employee can use a soft sell approach in that they make more than one call over time to talk about “anything” that is important to the client, and build a relationship. They just need to create interesting discussion points on topics that are interesting to the client, and over time this will turn the cold call into a warm call. While completely scripted sales calls tend to be inflexible and sound artificial, well-planned calls with clear objectives are more likely to succeed.

Telesales training can help employees develop the right skills and attitude

As well as being able to cope with potential hostility and rejection, successful “telephone users” need a whole range of skills:

  • understanding how to get past ‘gatekeepers’ to speak to the right person
  • knowing how to prompt a positive response
  • building rapport and actively listening to what a contact wants rather than pushing for a sale
  • dealing with questions and objections
  • recognising a sales opportunity

Telemarketing can perform several useful roles including:

  • Identifying key personnel at target companies
  • Gaining appointments for salespeople
  • Following up on mailshots, exhibition attendance, or potential customers who have responded to advertisements.
  • Researching the potential of a new product or a new sales area
  • Keeping in touch with existing customers: reminding them of special offers or anniversaries, or checking that they are satisfied
  • Direct sales of goods which can be sold on a trial, or sale or return, basis

You can improve the response rate on mailers by 20% if supported by a telesales effort, and up to 50% on appointment booking for sales people when used pro-actively, rather than waiting for prospects to call you. Telesales calls to businesses are generally more successful than to individual consumers.

Telemarketing offers a way of reaching prospects and customers, without the impracticality of visiting them face-to-face. It can hit higher numbers of contacts and save both time and money.

However, telemarketing also has some inherent disadvantages. You cannot see the impact you are having on the other person, nor can you be certain if you have their interest or their full attention. Recipients also find it easier to cut you off than if you were physically in front of them.

It is possible to make first time sales over the telephone, but success might depend on how well-known or easy-to-understand the offering is. However, telesales works best for making initial contact, keeping a customer informed, and encouraging repeat sales. Face to face calls are better for negotiating, building trust & building relationships.

More articles on this topic coming soon.

  • Finding the right telesales skills
  • The difference between Telesales, Tele-research & Telemarketing
  • Telesales planning & structure
  • Whether to outsource your telesales programme
  • Telesales scripting
  • Telesales ration analysis & reporting
General, Telesales & telemarketing
About Janice

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