Technology Changes Dynamics for Telesales Agents

In the old days of selling, a brochure went out; a week or two went by, and a representative placed a follow-up call to determine if the information had arrived, whether it had been reviewed, etc. Too often, the literature never made it to the prospect’s desk, or it got buried under a pile of other stuff.

Unless the prospect was enthusiastically awaiting the brochure, the process could become derailed in too many ways. Often, the representative would repeat the steps with the same person over and over.

This concept of a representative speaking with a prospect and agreeing to send that person some information through the mail should essentially be over. While it is still important in some situations to send items through the mail, such as samples that must be felt or used for evaluation purposes, now is the time to re-evaluate your process and closely question its effectiveness.

Time is being compressed in an incredible manner thanks to e-mail and the Internet. Companies should use this change to their advantage by giving representatives the tools that can change the dynamics of the sales process. For example, not only should the representatives have the obvious tools, such as e-mail, to work with, but also all relevant sales information should be retooled as an e-mail attachment. Since it is no longer necessary to invest a lot of capital in printing brochures that typically become obsolete before a dent has been made in the ordered supply, companies should invest time in developing online brochures that look impressive and can be forwarded to prospects and clients using programs such as Adobe Acrobat.

Furthermore, representatives should type letters from scratch in only rare circumstances. Template letters should cover each likely scenario so that representatives can simply cut and paste.

Like all sales tools, these new ones are effective in relation to the way they are used. So it is critical that as managers, we make sure call-backs are set at appropriate intervals once the information is forwarded to the prospect. Many representatives have a tendency to shy away from the accelerated follow-up schedule that these new technologies allow. Monitor the schedule closely; make adjustments as necessary, and more impressive results should follow. It may not always be possible to influence the process to as large a degree as we would like, but the representative should respectfully push the envelope.

Representatives also need to become adept at driving prospects to their company’s Web site as part of the sales cycle. The Web should evolve to be the showcase for a company’s products, services, credentials and methodology. It is not enough, however, to give a Web address and invite someone to go visit. In most business-to-business situations, the prospect can go online while talking with the representative.

While many consumers do not have two phone lines and are unable to do both at the same time, this problem is lessening gradually due to enhancements like cable Internet access. It will be a few years before this option can be used consistently on a business-to-consumer level. When the technology is available, it provides a unique opportunity for a representative to walk a prospect through specific aspects of the Web site that are aligned with the person’s interests. Also, instead of asking the prospect to type in a lot of text in order to access a certain page within the site, it is best to send them an e-mail that contains a hot link to that page.

Last, it is important to begin an aggressive campaign to capture e-mail addresses from as many prospects and clients as possible. It has become incredibly valuable to capture this information and use it to stay in touch with people in a considerate manner. I have found that people no longer give their e-mail address as willingly as they did a year or so ago. They seem besieged with the number of e-mails they are receiving. I still think it is perfectly possible to get an e-mail address if you can build a value proposition to the prospective customer.

In most cases, it makes sense to ask for the e-mail address at the conclusion of a conversation; it need not be the sole basis for the call. A representative’s approach should resemble the following script: “I want to let you know that we’ve started a monthly newsletter that is designed to keep you abreast of important changes in the … industry. It’s been very well-received, and it’s completely free. Would you like to receive it?” If yes, then “I just need your e-mail address.”

The tools that inside sales representatives have at their disposal today are awesome. From an organizational perspective, it is imperative that companies stay informed of the newest tools and techniques. Not only will these approaches frequently accelerate the sales cycle, but they probably can reduce the acquisition cost of a new client as well.

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