Turn Telemarketing Into Telesales

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Remember those early DRTV commercials for products like the Ginsu knife? A silver-tongued announcer, an eye-popping demonstration, and that classic phrase "... all for just $19.95" sent millions rushing to their phones. The early call centers that handled these campaigns had to be highly efficient order-takers, able to field a huge volume of calls in a short period of time.


How things change. Now there are products selling on TV for hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Media costs have skyrocketed. And the people calling in on these offers have a lot more questions than they used to.


All of these factors have created the need for an entirely different call center approach -- based on the quality of how each customer is served, rather than the quantity of calls fielded. I call it the difference between traditional telemarketing and the new discipline of telesales.


Simply put, telesales is a philosophy of squeezing every penny of revenue out of every call, instead of squeezing as many calls as possible from the same penny. Here's what a telesales approach can do for you:


• Close more sales. For many high-priced products sold on TV, it's not unusual that less than half of all calls to a volume-driven call center result in sales. By enhancing salesmanship on the phone, you can increase that percentage dramatically.


• Increase average order size. Once you've closed the sale of the advertised product, you have the chance to sell that person accessories, upgrades, refills and more -- all at no additional media cost. In fact, a solid up-sell program can often turn a losing campaign into a winner.


• Accelerate cash flow. Payment plans are crucial to the success of any high-priced DRTV offer. But once you get the sale, it's often very easy to convert as many as half of all buyers from a multi-pay plan to a single payment. A small premium will often do the trick, or just ask. Getting that extra money upfront infuses your campaign with extra media dollars.


Sounds great ... so how do you add telesales to your marketing mix?


First, keep in mind that a telesales call center requires a very different technology platform than a high-volume telemarketing company. Traditional call centers funnel many different kinds of calls to their reps through a single toll-free number. So one ad for exercise equipment will feature the same number as an ad for collectible coins.


Telesales requires a dedicated approach, with individual phone numbers reserved for each offer. That way, the telesales consultant (TSC) knows which offer the customer is calling about, and can personalize the greeting and jump immediately into the sale. You can hear the difference a dedicated approach makes from the moment the call is answered:


Shared line: "Customer service. What offer are you calling about?"


Dedicated line: "Hello, it's a great day at Widget Express, may I have your name please?"


A telesales company can act as a seamless extension of your own company, giving customers greater confidence in the ordering process and a better impression of your company.


Several call centers offer dedicated lines as an option, but relatively few companies make it the core of their business because of the huge technology investment required. Special software must be used so that a custom order screen pops on the TSC's screen even before the call is answered.


By using a dedicated telephone number -- not just for every product, but for each media buy -- you can track the performance of your media with far greater precision. This makes for stronger buys and greater net revenue down the road. A telesales call center has thousands of such numbers available.


The next step is to recruit and train skilled salespeople -- not just order takers, but revenue makers. To find out if a salesperson is truly skilled, make some calls yourself. Does the TSC:


• Create a positive first impression. You should hear enthusiasm, an attentive approach and spontaneous inflection. (You don't want your TSCs to sound like they are reading from the approved sales script.)


• Answer tough product questions. "How big is it? Is it all natural? Can my 350-pound husband use it safely?" A TSC should have thorough and detailed product training and documentation to answer these questions quickly and professionally. You, as the client, should be taking part in that training.


• Maintain control of the call. With high-priced items, it's important to make a complete sales presentation before asking for the order. A skilled TSC knows how to control a call to make this happen. Try taking the conversation off track by asking questions about the price upfront, and see how well the TSC is able to keep the presentation on track.


Once you find a call center with the technology and people to deliver a telesales approach, you need to decide whether it can truly improve your profitability. Traditional telemarketing call centers use statistics like "call-to-order ratios" or "cost per call" to justify their services.


With a telesales company, the only valid measure is net revenue per media dollar. You will likely pay more per call for this added level of service. But in return, you will see more revenue through increased conversions, higher average order sizes and accelerated cash flow. For most higher-priced DRTV offers, the investment in telesales is well worth it.

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