Selling a product or service is always a challenging task.
Selling a product or service over the phone by making cold calls is even tougher.
More often than not, prospective customers tend to say outright that they are busy and disconnect the line.
So how do you, as a call centre sales agent, make your pitch and extract a positive reaction?
'I'm not interested'
This is a common knee-jerk reaction people have towards salespeople, particularly telemarketers. You may have used it yourself when you got that pesky call that interrupted your lunch.
In order to counter this, you need to stop 'selling' and start building a 'relationship'. You should avoid making a 'mini presentation' that most salespeople do about themselves, their company, etc. Focus, instead, on the problem your product solves. For example: "I am calling to see if you would be open to ideas about lowering the interest rate on your credit card or reducing your monthly bills on telecommunication, etc."
Notice that you are not selling your product at this stage; you are just focussing on the customer's problem or pain area.
Most call centre agents are trained to provide as much information as they can to potential buyers in the vain hope that such verbal diarrhoea will translate into more sales.
This approach is always a mistake; it ends up overwhelming the customer. Remember, customers don't base their buying decision on information alone.
When was the last time we bought a product only based on a rational line of thought?
Customers have needs and they base their buying decisions around them. They couldn't care less about a company's full suite of products/ services. Their concern is solving their immediate problem and addressing a hidden emotional need, nothing more.
Here are some common mistakes new sales people make:
~ Lack of preparation.
There is an old saying: 'Success happens when opportunity meets preparedness.'
~ Not listening and talking too much.
Ninety per cent of salespeople never listen, which is why they are doomed to be ineffective.
~ Failing to close the sale.
Many studies show that 70 per cent of all sales people NEVER close the sale. The fear of hearing a 'No' stops them from even asking the customer to buy and close the sale. Believe in what you are selling and close the sale.
~ Poor or no follow up.
Follow up and follow through is where 90 per cent of all great sales are made.
~ Small thinking.
Want bigger sales? You must think bigger. Ask these questions: 'How high is high? What is my maximum potential?'
~ Failing to establish and/ or maintain a rapport.
~ Failing to really commit and establish yourself as an expert in your field
Prepare your pitch
Whether you are selling long distance phone connections or credit cards over the phone, the need is not the credit card but the convenience of being able to buy the desired product on credit.
This clearly makes the credit card just a means to an end; it also helps the phone sales agent align his/ her sales pitch accordingly. Unnecessarily detailing all the wonderful features of a product may make a customer wonder if they are paying for features that aren't applicable to their unique situation. Ultimately, it could even cause them to rethink their decision.
Sales over the phone can be tricky as the customer bases the decision on the agent's description of the product. The agent's sales pitch should be such that the customer can visualise the product and its utility. Sometimes, the depth of a sales agent's description can also cause confusion.
Telephone sales agents can eliminate the possibility of overwhelming their customers if they structure their sales scripts accordingly (a sales script highlights the key features and benefits of the product and provides answers to standard objections and questions). It can be handy, especially for new sales agents.
The challenge is to present the information in such a way that key information is retained and the customer is persuaded to make the buying decision. Sales agents must think through their scripts and focus on what is really important to the customer; they should then organise and structure the information appropriately.
Most people simply don't know how to put themselves across over the phone.
They do well, however, in face-to-face meetings. They dress well, make eye contact, use a firm handshake, present crisp business cards and smile warmly. The person who has to deal face-to-face with a prospective customer has a lot of props to rely on.
Here are some tips on developing a great telephone personality and improving your overall effectiveness
Speaking slowly and clearly
The tendency is speed up when one is nervous and this makes one sound like an amateur. Enunciate your words more than you normally do. Many people are in the habit of slightly slurring their speech, which does not create a good impression.
Your customers are not in front of you but you still need to seem nice, open and friendly to build a relationship. Your smile will reflect in your positive tone and voice. It will also add warmth to your tone and make you sound real.
Write out your opening lines
Rehearse it, off the phone, many, many times. This will make you sound professional and organised, and therefore, credible. Your opening statement must always address your customer's needs.
What does your customer want?
What's in it for your customer?
Why should he/ she listen to you?
Have the answers to these questions ready. The first few seconds will determine the course of your call. You have to invest time to ensure you put your best foot forward.
Allow the customer to lead the process
The best way to control the sales interaction is to ask open ended questions. This is also the best way of learning whether or not your product or service meets the needs of your customer. Quality questions that uncover specific issues, problems, or objectives are essential in helping you establish yourself as an expert.
For example: 'Would you be interested in a lower interest rate and higher credit limit?' works much better than 'Are you looking for a credit card?'
Plan your telephone presentations in advance
Think out all the various scenarios you might be faced with and write it out. This is called pre-call planning or scripting.
It will help you remove some potential objections that the customer may have. It will also save you the embarrassment of being caught off guard when the customer asks you a question.
Keep in mind you can phrase anything positively, negatively or neutrally. Phrasing your words positively will help you get better results more easily.
Ask for the sale with conviction
This is also known as 'Closing the sale'. Is there any reason why you won't be enrolling in this offer today? Are going to join today? Would you like to pay for this through your credit card? Talk in a positive way and help the customer make a decision to buy.
Tape yourself for self-improvement
Listen to yourself carefully and decide in which areas you want to improve.
For example, if you don't like what you hear, you know why your customers are saying 'no' to you. Make an action plan. Focus on only one area at a time. When you feel comfortable, move to your next area and repeat.
One must remember that information consumes the attention of the listener; the more the information you pour in the minds of the customer, the less you tend to score with them.
It is important to remember the 'SW-SW-SW-WN' formula of sales -- Some will, some won't, so what, who's next.
Persistence is the key to sales success! Get back to your phone now and become a sales champion.
Sunder is a corporate trainer with a leading BPO in Delhi. He can be reached at email@example.com.