People usually don’t last long in telemarketing.
And it’s no wonder either.
You’re thrown on the phone with only a bare minimum of sales training and product knowledge.
In other words, when you’re new, you can’t tell your ass from your elbow.
This means that you either swim or you sink.
And most people sink.
In my best guess, most people last an average of 2-3 months before they call it quits – not because they’re quitters, but because it’s a helluva tough business.
So why was I any different?
It sure as hell wasn’t because I was better.
In fact, I was probably worse than most.
During my first many months of selling on the phone, most of my conversation would sound something like this:
Me: “Mr. Customer? This is Nicklas calling from ABC Utility company – am I disturbing you?”
Now, if the customer didn’t say “yes you are disturbing me” and immediately hung up (which is what happened more often than not) then the conversation might continue something like this:
Customer: “No, it’s okay”
Me: “Great – I’m calling to talk to you today about your internet and phone solution” (This literally might be the worst introduction to a sales-call in the history of mankind, but it was the one I stuck with repeatedly and consistently in spite of it’s less than stellar effect)
Customer: “Umm, okay – I’m pretty satisfied with where I’m at though?” (After 10 or 20 calls you get used to hearing this types of objection, and know that it’s pretty much a standard gate you need to get through to get to the meat of the conversation)
Me: “But what if I can make it cheaper for you?”
Comment: This is the number one pitfall in the world of selling – centering the conversation around price instead of value and the benefit the customer gets from using your product
Customer: “Then it’d have to be a lot cheaper” (Translation: I know I would be an idiot to say no, so I’m going to find a way to say yes, without cornering myself later on, because I’m not that stupid)
Me: “That sounds good. So first things first – tell me about your internet solution, what is your download speed?” (This is an error that I (and almost everyone else in sales) makes regularly – focusing too much on the product, and assuming that the customer knows as much about it as we do, instead of what the customer needs)
Customer: “Umm, I don’t know – I think it might be 10 or 20 megabytes or however it’s called?” (A: This was a number of years ago, B: this is a highly predictable response, and what it means is that the person you’re talking to is not fully sure of the answer, and so they give you the one that they think is right – because what else are they supposed to do? This makes them feel intellectually inferior and might generate subconscious animosity towards you, or at the very least erode any chance of creating trust)
Me: “Okay, no problem, I’ll just make a note of that here (I usually didn’t). Now tell me, how many mobile phone subscriptions do you have in your household?”
Comment: Notice here how static and staccato this conversation is. How it’s centered on the product and not the person(s) involved in the sale. What happens when this is the case is that there is no trust from the customer’s side, because it’s very evident that you’re more interested in making the sale, than you are in the customer. Now whether or not this is the case, we obviously never want to make our self-interest transparent to the customer, because it erodes the entire basis of making a proper trust-based sale.
Something else that’s important here, is that if we only focus on the products (or services) that the customer currently has, we have no way of knowing if it corresponds to what they need. Maybe they would be better off with a solution that is slightly smaller in certain areas and bigger in others or vice versa. But if we just focus on what they currently have, we’ll never know.
The conversation would go on like this for a while, so we’ll fast forward to where it gets interesting – namely the closing phase.
Let’s just say that I was able to put together a solution that was either cheaper for the customer, or where I could provide more value for the same price, it should be an easy close right?
At least not consistently – and out of the ones that did agree to make the switch around 20-25% regretted their order and cancelled before it could take effect.
What this taught me was that until you treat the customer like a human being with needs, wants, struggles, ideas, fears and thoughts, instead of a potential purchaser of your product – an empty vessel into which you can pour your sales-gab in the hopes of achieving a little bit of commission – then what you offer won’t be attractive to the customer.
Another thing it taught me is that price is not the end-all, be-all of the sales conversation that I thought it was. I mistakenly thought, that as long as I could provide what the customer said they wanted at a cheaper price, or get them a better deal for the same amount, then I would make the sale right then and there.
What I figured out instead – after much trial and error I might add – is that in order to be an effective salesperson I needed to approach everyone differently and adjust my approach to reflect the person I was talking to. It might sound banal to you, but it took me about 10 months for this to occur to me.
Last but not least, my early endeavors in telemarketing taught me that the best sales to make – the ones that made me feel the best, and the ones where the customer left the encounter feeling better off than they were before – are the ones where the conversation centers around the person, and not the product. When I connected with the person on the other end – whether it was around what they did for a living, their children or what they were doing in the moment – I ended up having an entirely different conversation with them, than when I tried to get in and out of the conversation as quickly as possible.
The reason I remember this is because it happened so rarely – and since we were measured in part on how many calls we could have we were also discouraged to do so – but when it happened, the results were so clear, and the feeling so good, that it made all the difference.
Oh, and these were of course the customers who ended up buying the most, and being the most satisfied.
That concludes the end of part 1 – stay tuned for part 2.