Sometimes it amazes me when I think back to my earliest telephone selling days at Time-Life Books.
Like most starving students, I was squeaking by, lucky to pick up odd jobs here and there when I spotted a flyer in a guy’s hand at the college job placement office.
“WANTED: BRIGHT, ARTICULATE STUDENTS!” it bellowed.
“That’s me!” I announced from over the guy’s right shoulder. “Are you really interested in bright, articulate students? Well, I fit that description.”
Greg, the sales manager, told me to come in for an interview at 5, and if successful, I’d hit the phones and sell Time-Life Libraries after about an hour and a half of classroom training.
That’s exactly the way it worked, and after I smiled and dialed for about 45 minutes, I made my first sale. In fact, I probably closed two or three during that shift, which ended promptly at 9.
It was, as they say, a marriage made in heaven: I was made for telephone selling and it was a perfect match for me, earning me full-time money for part-time hours. Within eight months, Greg moved up in the organization, opening the Chicago office, and at the ripe age of 19, I stepped into his shoes as the local sales manager.
True to form, I trained new people as quickly, yet just as thoroughly as Greg had trained me, showing them how to earn exceptional money in record time, which leads me to this question:
Why are so many companies inept and inefficient at getting telephone salespeople up and running?
I’ve come up with five reasons:
(1) Most training programs are filled with fluff masquerading as vital content. At Time-Life, we trimmed the fat, leaving a lean process that worked.
(2) Telephone training typically happens last in the sequence of events associated with inducting new people into a company. Trainers make the fatal error of front-loading too much “product knowledge” and too little in the way of selling skills. Within that four hour framework at Time-Life we taught people how to open, describe product, delay and answer objections, close and close again, confirm orders, and transition easily from one library to the next. We could focus on telephone selling skills because we had narrowed the product piece in advance.
(3) We limited the chance for “phone fear” to rear its nasty head. By getting folks onto the phones a.s.a.p. we maximized the odds that they’d sell something super-fast, before they could build up fears and anxieties. It wasn’t a big deal to make calls because we purposely made it no big deal.
(4) At the same time we learned who had the right stuff and who didn’t within that four hour window. Usually, if a newbie sold a deal during that first shift, he or she would stay with us for at least a matter of weeks if not months. If they didn’t, about 40% would return for their next shift, and if they still didn’t score, they would either decide to quit, or they were gently persuaded ours wasn’t the right opportunity for them. Most companies don’t have the urgency necessary to make a quick personnel decision, as we did.
(5) Few firms understand the challenges of selling by phone, so they treat this job as if it fits the mold of other positions, when it does not. Simply put, there are phone-people and there are face-to-face people, and usually individuals are not both. Phoners like the phone; they’re enchanted with the potential of the medium. Facers need to get visual feedback to know where they stand with prospects, and they might be great in the presence of others, but they are much smaller than life in the phone world. Human resources types, including most trainers prefer to press-the-flesh. If they were real phone folks, they’d never, ever run ads for telephone sellers that say: “NO PHONE CALLS, PLEASE!”
Of course, our success at Time-Life, and my subsequent success as a consultant and trainer, is predicated on the very important fact that we completely think out the sequence necessary to get from A to Z in a telephone sale. Never do our trainees have to stop to ask themselves, “What do I say, next?”
We provide all of the tools, so the only question that comes up is, “Given where I am in this conversation, where do I look to find exactly what I need?”
In future articles I’ll address exactly what new people should have at hand, and other crucial things you can do as a business owner or manager to develop your own telemarketing pro’s in four hours, or less.