Investing in Your Sales Staff Pays Off

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Sales of any type involve a balance between contacts and conversion. Telemarketing probably emphasizes these elements more than any type of direct marketing.


Contact and conversion statistics are looked at by call center management several times an hour, by account management several times a day, by operations management a few times a day, by vice presidents and vendor managers daily. The list could go on.


As technology evolves, telemarketing companies develop improved call manager efficiency, list modeling and information management. Reporting and tracking tools have opened everyone's eyes to new methods of call center management. List segmenting and modeling have improved, and we have created improved methods of cost management. Though so many strides have been made in the industry working to improve sales through contacts, there have been relatively few strides in improving through conversion.


Technology cost-benefit analyses are relatively simple. Decisions affecting conversion are much more complicated. You can quantify that for every dollar spent on X technology, you can validate saving or losing an incremental amount of money. However, qualifying any dollars spent on training, development or coaching can prove very difficult.


We have seen training classes get larger and sales teams grow in size. As supervisors assume additional tasks, monitoring time is reduced, and individual coaching is done only as absolutely needed. Centers often justify these changes as cost-control measures because of the savings, through reduction of expense, without a readily apparent direct revenue loss.


Training expenses, unlike some technological expenditures, have long-term returns, which are easily clouded by variables on a day-to-day basis. Spending time in or around call centers reveals the many losses that result from this approach.


Everyone has heard phone sales representatives who sound lost and inept. Some of them eventually get the hang of the job; most quit, but others may stay and poorly represent or even misrepresent your client, company or product for months, even years.


Considering the dilemma facing call centers, here is an analogy: What if you gave a caveman a Playstation? You could explain how to use it, plug it in, start it up and so on. After you finished doing your "training," you could leave the newly trained caveman alone to enjoy his new game console.


While he may have understood you (assuming that you teach English as well), he would still not be prepared to play games on his own. He eventually would get lucky and occasionally move in the right direction just as an undertrained sales rep can stumble onto a sale. Most games would be short-lived, and your new friend would never understand what he had done wrong, just like the undertrained sales reps who get hung up on hour after hour. Your friend would move on to something more interesting - just like a telephone sales rep who quits coming to work.


Had you observed his efforts at playing the game, you could have continued your training and coached him to master the Playstation. By monitoring his actions, you would have the powerful opportunity to reinforce the positive behaviors and correct or modify the areas of opportunity. The same is true of sales reps; observations through remote monitoring, tape auditing, list seeding and simple supervisor call monitoring uncover a variety of issues a trainer could not have anticipated in the classroom. This hands-on coaching and training would allow you either to reinforce your previous training or train to augment current skill levels.


The greatest investment a telemarketing firm can make is in continued training and coaching of its sales staff. This investment yields numerous returns, including improved list yield by converting more potential customers and preserving client brand by ensuring that the client's good name is not tarnished through poor representation. In addition, the work habits of well-trained salespeople will improve as they become more comfortable performing their duties. Beyond sales performance, consider the expense of turnover when employees leave because of the frustration of being unable to perform the job. After that, new-hire training needs decrease, as does the cost of recruiting.


Like money invested in technology, money invested in daily training of your sales staff will provide returns. One of the most important and earliest dividends comes in the form of increased billed hours. Not only will lead lists last longer when contacts decrease due to increased conversion, but also success generates new or additional business.


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