A motivated, efficient, and high-performing sales team is where the rubber hits the road in business. Punting the right product and monitoring with all the right technology means little unless you have the right sales team, and they stay on their game.
After all, sales productivity and performance are the leading edge of most businesses; the bottom line is that sales efficiency determines, well, the bottom line. The challenge is to increase sales efficiency and performance, yet word on the street is that it’s not so simple.
The figures from an annual study done by The Bridge Group attest to this sentiment. In 2012, 44% of organisations surveyed found that increasing sales productivity was the toughest hurdle they faced. By 2017, that number was up to 49%. Let’s take a closer look at this problem and see also why outsourcing sales tasks goes a long way to solving it.
If we drill down into the data a little, we find that productivity, recruiting the right people and getting them skilled up are chief concerns. Let’s start with sales productivity, loosely defined as generating more revenue with fewer resources (time and money). In other words, the more a sales rep sells, with as little cost to company as possible, the more valuable that sales rep is.
On average, an in-house salesperson only spends about a third of their time actually selling, with the rest of their time being taken up by admin tasks, meeting and other non-revenue generating activities. In a business that incorporates sales, marketing, production, and admin under one roof, it’s easy for that to happen. In an outsourcing centre, that’s not the case. The primary focus is on selling, and a telemarketer’s time is reserved for this function.
Be that as it may, there are tried-and-tested ways to up performance, from using the right tools to keeping your sales force happy.
The right tools: By definition, a tool is something that makes life easier. In sales, CRM platforms come into their own here, as they address the time-saving notion that any process that can be automated, should be automated. With redundant and admin tasks out of the way, there is more time to dig into the direct sales toolbox and implement those with a proven track record. Sales tools help to keep track of data, organise it, and sell more.
Mapping a consistent sales process: When salespeople can follow concrete steps, worked out from the evidence of what has worked previously, it frees them up to connect with the prospective customer. This requires that a sales process be analysed, tactics be developed, and a roadmap drawn up. Of course, reviewing this plan periodically and remaining flexible with regard to evaluating new tactics, especially those proposed by the team, is the way to keep it current.
On-point tracking: If you know where you are and where you’d like to get to, it sets a starting point as well as a psychologically motivating stretch goal for your team. Consistently measured, metrics such as contact, lead and close rates, not to mention the all-important conversion rate, can not only identify places that need improvement, but can also set your team up for success in the friendly jostle for top spot on the performance ladder.
Reliable routines: Salespeople are a busy lot, and the key is getting things done. Out in the field, that presents a challenge as each salesperson must create their own schedule incorporating follow-ups, emails and travel plans. In a contact centre the schedule is formulated once by a manager, and is applied across all agents, saving considerable time and money.
Daily goals and motivating for success: Nothing motivates like success, so when achievable goals are set, reached and, importantly, recognised and celebrated, the inner motivation to do better and more is instantly sparked. In the team sport atmosphere of a contact centre, this benefit really comes into play.
Slick communication: Keeping in touch with salespeople, discussing solutions to hurdles and efficiency, is a major yet vital task of any sales manager. Team meetings and one-on-ones are the go-to here, facilitating feedback from sales agents as to what’s working and what could be done better. In the contact centre environment, a dedicated campaign manager has this as a core function.
Recruiting sales stars: The salesperson is a particular breed – unselfconscious, never discouraged, humble yet able to subtly dominate in a conversation – and the evidence suggests that personality plays a big role in determining success. So much so, that a specialised onboarding process is a considerable determinant of team success. Selecting the right candidates can be challenging for a business that has so much other stuff to do. At a contact centre it’s an entirely different situation as the experienced HR manager has long developed an eye for the sales stars, is an old hand at sorting out the wheat from the chaff as it were.
Scalability: There will be times when demand increases exponentially, as has happened with certain products and service into the pandemic. To maximise on this kind of windfall, when it comes, a sales force needs to be able to upscale and fast. Problem is, that comes with huge downside risk when the increased demand peters out. Scalability is a main reason that businesses choose a BPO partner, who assumes that risk. The upside is that, as a business, you can rest assured that if the gold rush comes, you are brilliantly positioned to capitalise on it.
Align the marketing and sales teams: The theory is that while the marketing crew makes a punt for an area where it thinks the most promising leads are, the sales team goes after those leads and converts them to revenue. In response, sales discover in real-time which leads are actually the best, and it’s marketing’s job to attract more of those leads. It’s like one hand washing the other, and what better way to maximise this partnership than to make sure that both parties are working well together. In a contact centre environment like Boomerang, we have built-in feedback processes that make sure information passes seamlessly between sales and marketing and vice versa.
There is no doubt that managing a sales team is a full-time occupation that not only requires technological as well as people skills, but also a finger on the pulse of trends and new sales tactics. In a business with other areas of focus, such as admin and production, it can be an onerous task. But it is a task overlooked at the firm’s peril.
This is one reason many businesses have already or are looking to outsourcing their sales process, in the knowledge that their BPO firm of choice, like Boomerang SA, specialises in all the contingencies of managing a flourishing sales team. At Boomerang, this is what we do, and we’re really good at it.
A bird in the hand, they say, is worth two in the bush. Well, there’s truth to the cliché or it would not have found its way into the compendium of useful human wisdom. It certainly holds true when it comes to customers, in that retaining the customers already on your books is worth two (or a lot more as it turns out) potential customers.
Customer retention, customer stickiness, increasing customer lifespan, building client relationships – this is the jargon you will hear bandied about the marketing desk, and it means one simple thing: “How do we keep our present customers happy, coming back for more, and sending their friends our way?”
There is a cost to getting new customers on board, and the longer they stay the greater the return on investment (ROI), a phenomenon that keeps the number crunchers at the core of your business smiling. In other words, there is a direct correlation between customer retention rates and making a profit.
Consider these figures:
● Keeping existing customers is 5X cheaper than acquiring new ones.
● Increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by between 25% and 95%.
● Eighty percent of your future profits will come from 20% of your clients (general reference here is the Pareto principle or 80/20 rule).
● Sixty five percent of business comes from existing customers, who are more likely to spend more and purchase more frequently.
● Existing customers are 60% to 70% easier to sell to 4 , compared to the 5% to 20% likelihood of selling to a brand new prospect.
● The quality of customer service plays a huge role, with almost 50% of customers switching to a competitor if they experience bad service.
Of course, how to allocate budget spend between customer acquisition and retention then becomes a debate, but for the purposes of this article, let’s focus on retention strategies, since it is apparent from the documented research that retaining customers has an indisputable positive influence on the bottom line. The figures attest to the common sense notion that looking after your customers keeps them buying and brings repeat business.
Effective customer retention strategies are called for, whether they be of the tried-and-tested variety or the experimental variety.
At Boomerang, we understand that although sales figures speak volumes, it is the quality relationships we forge with customers that keeps them coming back. Smart businesses know that the first sale is just the beginning.
And as experienced customer service professionals, we do this on the behalf of our clients. Here are some of the ways in which we keep customer retention in sharp focus:
1. Our passionate and engaged employees are skilled at relationship building When one of our agents picks up the phone, or responds to an online chat, they are trained to be ‘leaning in’ to the conversation, letting their customer feel important and acknowledged, like talking with a new friend that we’re interested in getting to know better. At Boomerang, we give our agents a reason to care. This is the human factor, and relationship building will never go out of style. Marketing expert Noah Fleming 4 makes the spot-on comment that “I don’t believe you ‘close’ a sale, you ‘open’ a relationship. The sales transaction is the start of a relationship, not the end. Effective marketing is an equilibrium – it’s the equal balance of getting customers, and keeping them.” So when we treat customers like the people they are and not ‘sales generating objects’, they respond like real people, revealing what their real needs might be. Then we’re in business, as this customer may well come back a second time.
2. Listening superpowers and openness to feedback We listen to hear, not just to respond, not only during the call but afterwards too. Surveys, after-sales calls and requests for customer feedback are intrinsic to Boomerang’s service offering, and in this way we position ourselves to really hear our customer’s needs, and make changes where required. We are not only open to feedback, but welcome it with open arms, and customers respond by reaching out to tell us what we’re doing well and what we could do better.
3. Customer satisfaction Measuring customer satisfaction (CSAT) is an indispensable way to understand how well, or not, we are doing our job. The standard way to measure CSAT is through responses on feedback requests sent after contacts. The information gathered is useful, not only for celebrating the success of getting it right and encouraging more of that behaviour, but also, and more importantly, seeing where we get it wrong. Negative feedback helps us to find and fix any weak links in our customer service chain, and at Boomerang we use this invaluable CSAT feedback in upskilling our agents.
4. We are responsive Especially when it comes to inbound queries, the quicker we are off the crease the better. There’s nothing like a prompt response to get a customer smiling, and we have positive measures in place that ensure we stay on the ball in this regard. Also, agents are trained to do whatever is on their power to resolve issues quickly, to deal with complaints promptly, courteously and efficiently. Customers remember this, and remember bad service even more readily.
5. We delight our customers At Boomerang, we encourage our agents to personalise their chats with customers, to identify emotional drivers and to respond to these needs. In addition, we add value and reward loyalty where we can. A pertinent example would be the 1 Call Assist product we have developed in-house that is offered to customers of our insurance clients. Thanking and appreciating a customer for choosing our service among all the competition out there goes a long way too.
6. Strong employee loyalty Of course, all good things begin at home, and when we treat our employees with respect they go the extra mile for the customers they serve. The way our leadership treats employees, drives how employees treat on another, and how they in turn treat customers. What happens inside the organisation is felt outside. So customer retention starts at the top.
7. Quality products While there are many soft skills that keep customers coming back, we keep a keen eye on the fact that the product or service offered must be up to scratch. And if there are quality problems, to give this feedback to our client so they can be sorted out. So, although optimisation or getting new customers on board may be seen as the sexier aspect of marketing, the bread-and-butter that maintains any business is certainly the way in which it approaches customer retention. The first purchase is just the beginning, the real business value lies ahead.
1. Alan E. Webber, "B2B Customer Experience Priorities In An Economic Downturn: Key Customer Usability Initiatives In A Soft Economy," Forrester Research, February 19, 2008.
2. According to research done by Fred Reichheld at Bain & Company.
3. Paul Farris in Marketing Metrics.
4. Noah Fleming is a Marketing Expert, Consultant and Author of “Evergreen: Cultivate the Enduring Customer Loyalty that Keeps Your Business Thriving“. Quoted on ngdata.com.
The burning question: do you outsource your contact centre and back office process functions, be it B2B or B2C telemarketing, inbound customer services or outbound call centre services, or do you build your own in-house teams?
Growing companies are learning what their multi-national and larger counterparts already know – outsourcing contact centre and back office services can improve efficiencies, reduce costs and done right improve customer satisfaction.
Here’s the usual scenario. Businesses have at its core staff who know its products or services inside out. So when it comes to customers calling in wanting a fix to a problem, or seeking information, employees are brilliantly positioned to help them.
Thing is, there are more and more customer calls, emails and information requests coming in. That’s a great thing because it means you are attracting more customers, but a not-so-good thing in that it is pulling your people away from their primary responsibilities, which is to focus on the core business of making the product or delivering the service.
So, there’s a decision to be made, as telemarketing and customer service now need their very own department (again, a good thing, because it means business is growing). There’s a choice to be made, do you gear up and manage this function in-house or, like other products you may source and buy in, do you outsource the contact centre function. Like most choices, there are the pros and cons but in balance, business process outsourcing (BPO) comes up on top.
Here’s why. First off, at a BPO centre like Boomerang SA, in the words of CEO Rob Joubert: “Contact centre, telemarketing and customer services – that’s our core business and it’s what we do really well. We know all the ins and outs, so when it comes to these services, we can be more effective than companies who do not have these functions as core business. We have spent years learning the art of delivering professional contact centre services and we have invested in the people, process and technologies required to deliver great customer experience”.
Like other specialist services you might outsource, pay point management for example, contact centre management and staff have honed the service to a fine point. There is the capital investment in appropriate technologies and the associated maintenance costs of running a contact centre that has already been footed by the outsource partner, and there is little reason for your business to reinvent the wheel as it were. In the choice to outsource, your business has immediate access to trained staff and dedicated specialist management resources and your staff can focus on increasing productivity in your core business.
Rob adds: “Not only do we match or exceed the quality of in-house off-shore contact centres, but we are able to do this regularly at a better price point.”
But what about the concern: “My staff know my business best and call centre agents are just not going to have that same passion?” After all, brand loyalty is seen as being strongest in the founding company itself.
Quality outsource services providers will be cognisant of this bias and take active steps to counter it by creating dedicated teams of people who are immersed in the client company culture, people that embody its values and receive ongoing training to keep them up to date with products and services offered. Employees dedicated to a client strongly associate with the client brand.
As a growing business, ever aware of mounting costs in a changeable environment, there emerges a need for flexibility. As business volumes change, you will need to ramp up or scale down the number of call centre or telemarketing agents to meet this change. Here’s where outsourcing really comes into its own, as this risk is passed directly to your BPO partner, and there is no call to suddenly find a budget to meet increased costs.
Rob gives a real time example: “At Boomerang we are geared for short notice scalability. We serve a retailer, for example, in the UK that has demand variations impacted by Covid, where they provide essential services. We doubled up our agents in a month to provide uninterrupted services to them.”
Cold calling continues to earn a seat at the strategy table, because it works. But, like good advice, cold calling is only effective if applied correctly. Let’s show you how.
What is cold calling?
When cold calling, a salesperson calls a prospective customer to introduce them to and sell a product or service that the prospect may or may not have heard about before. It can be used to target businesses (B2B0 or consumers (B2C). Cold calling is an intrinsic part of the B2B sales process in that decision makers can be identified, buyer needs uncovered and a foot in the door secured for an account manager or closer sales agent to see the deal through to fruition. Cold calling has traditionally been a cornerstone of new customer acquisition for many insurance, telecoms, utility companies, banks, and financial services providers for decades. A skilled agent can introduce an offering, qualify the prospect, and obtain a buying decision, as well collect payment details from the new customer – all in one call! Managing to connect with the prospective customer on an empathetic level during the call is imperative to build trust and lays the foundation for an engaging interaction and future business relationship.
Does Cold Calling Still Work?
Whether cold calling works or not is a contentious issue, with opinions (and results achieved) varying greatly. There are many who argue that cold calling is intrusive, interruption marketing, that it is overused and doesn’t work. Then there are others, who continue to achieve profitable and high growth sales results. Kenan-Flager Business School records a 2.5% success rate for cold calling and self-development author Brian Tracy (a respected expert on the topic of sales) strongly endorses it. We believe there is enough evidence to show that, done right, cold calling can deliver great bottom line results, but only a few are getting it right. There is a formula for achieving cold calling sales success: A sale occurs when a quality sales presentation is made to the right person and the right product is offered at the right price at the right time. So, cold calling is still very relevant, but it comes with various provisos for success.
How To Make A Good Cold Call – 5 Top Cold Calling Tips
Preparation, preparation, preparation
Particularly in B2B cold calling, various executives and decision makers have complained that their caller was ill-equipped to answer vital questions pertaining to the product / service at hand. Preparation for a call supersedes merely knowing about the history, milestones, and accolades of the individual or company. The caller needs to have an intrinsic knowledge of the prospective customer’s needs and how they can best be met. The sales process, for B2B, complex sales transactions or for sales with high compliance requirements (i.e. insurance sales) may include a fronter-closer method. Fronter-closer method is where a lead warmer (fronter) will warm up, qualify the lead and transfer to a sales specialist (closer) who will close the sale. Shift the focus – it’s all about the customer.
It’s not just business, it’s actually very personal.
How we make people feel is truly what will be remembered – whether making a critical cold call, or simply going about our lives. The prospective customer can instantly sense if the contact centre agent is interested in getting to know what they need, rather than just closing a sale. There’s an inspiring example in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, where Judi Dench plays the role of an older traveller who lands up in a mentoring role for millennials in a contact centre in India. She cites how she had been spoken to “without a trace of humanity”, when she’d revealed to a contact centre agent that her husband had recently died. In her role, Dench humorously guides a young agent to adapt to the nuances of a conversation, rather than “sounding like a robot”. In the movie, the contact centre agent quickly applied these tips and, sensing that Dench’s character wanted to chat, proceeded to ask her about the TV programme that she mentioned she was watching. So, instinctively, the agent shifted her focus from pushing the sale to the real-time need.
Step into the customer’s shoes
The contact centre industry needs to make empathy sexy. Detachment or indifference can be sniffed out at a distance.
Empathy and authenticity are mutually inclusive, and vital when engaging in a cold call. The contact centre representative must approach the call from a genuine place of humanity, to create a personal resonance with the prospective customer from the start. This is a crucial test that many contact centre representatives fail or are not even aware of. In this regard, it is best to avoid overly prescriptive sales scripts where possible. The telemarketer should certainly not be reading word for word to the prospective customer. When using sales scripting the telemarketing agent should pay careful attention to use the script to structure the call only, to ensure any compliance or communication person-to-person with the prospective client. And, regardless of how the call ends, if the recipient of the call experiences empathy on the other end of the line and an engaging sales experience then the company will gain from brand awareness created and may win this customer at a future date. Be a great listener.
Great cold callers use open-ended questions to uncover the needs and interests of the prospective customer. An open-ended question is any question that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. Such questions get the prospect talking and deepen the quality of information provided.
Many believe that great telemarketing and telesales persons are great speakers, but to be an excellent cold caller you need to be a great listener first. Active listening is the art to be mastered here, one that is challenging when having to deal with sales targets and deal with constant rejection. And this applies to both B2B and B2C cold calls. But with concentration and intentional engagement, it is certainly achievable. Active listening shifts the focus from sales to value – a refreshing change for a prospective customer. Prospects often provide clues or buying signals to the telemarketer during the call and sales agents are well advised to listen attentively to expressions of interests from the prospect – including sounds of acknowledgement during the call. For instance, a question from the customer is indicative of interest and savvy agents will leverage on this interest to focus on benefits of the product or service that will be of most interest to the prospect. Sell on benefits, not features.
To the untrained ear a feature sounds much like a benefit, but knowing the difference has a huge influence on sales success. Top salespeople will always sell on benefits of the product, not the product features. So, what exactly is the difference between a feature and a benefit? Remember the “sell me this pen” interview question? It is a question often posed in interviews and is designed to gauge whether the sales agent has mastered the skill of selling on benefits as opposed to product features. A feature is “what it is”. In this case, a writing implement. A benefit is what the feature does for the customer. A pen reframed as a benefit then, is that it is a tool for social connection as the buyer writes a well-worded letter to a loved one. Another example of a feature is, “the battery on this device will last 18 hours with regular use”. Phrased as a benefit this may sound something like “the battery on this device will last 18 hours between charges which means that you can enjoy using your device throughout the day without interruptions or recharging required”. Customers seldom buy a product for its features. They will buy because the product solves a need. Therefore, it’s vital for the caller to frame the product features in a way that it solves a relevant need for the customer.
How To Build A Cold Calling Prospect List
Before you even start, you need to be clear about your product offering and value proposition, the landscape you’re operating in, who your competitors are, and what your buyer profile looks like. Then you’re able to compile your prospective customer criteria, considering important aspects like their pain points, compatibility with your established buyer persona, and their affordability.
Here are some tactics to use to nail that cold calling prospect list:
• For B2B targeting, consider aspects like location, industry, size, and purchase information
• For B2C targeting, considerations should include geographic and demographic information
• Study online reviews on competitors
• Identify your competitor’s prospects through online mentions
• Use LinkedIn to identify and review prospects
• Use your network to match prospects to your buyer profile
• Don’t underestimate the power of producing quality, relevant content
• Review past customers, and establish their updated information
From tracking unique website visitors to creating more pipeline or tracking interaction, there are myriad online tools to use for prospecting. These include Pardot, Leadlander, and Hubspot. Be mindful of data privacy and direct marketing regulations in the territories you operate in. Ensure you comply with the legal requirements to operate outbound cold calling campaigns. Be aware that data privacy legislation is in force in countries globally. For example, the EU has General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR), The United Kingdom has the Data Protection Act and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), and California introduced the California Consumer Privacy Act. In South Africa, the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) will be in full force from July 2021.
Measure The Right Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s)
It is important to watch the right numbers not only to ensure your campaign performs optimally, but also to make any improvements that enhance this performance, or remedy obstacles hampering performance.
If your campaign isn’t achieving the desired results, then review your KPI’s.
Key Cold Calling Indicators Include:
• Average call time – what is the duration of the average call? If calls are short, then this may point to a poorly target prospect list or to the caller not engaging the prospect enough to open up a conversation.
• RPC ratio – the Right Party Connect ratio is an important indicator of the quality of the prospect list. Are you getting hold of enough of the right prospects? Poor RPC is a clear indicator that the prospect list is not working.
• Lead to Sale Ratio – what ratio of sales leads are converting to sales? This figure is an indicator of the quality of the prospect list, as well as the effectiveness of the caller. On an individual level, when comparing person-to-person results, this ratio differentiates effective from not effective persons.
• Average sales values
• Refusals – it is also important to record and review the reasons why a prospect refused an offer as much can be learned from unsuccessful sales calls.
When monitoring KPI’s regularly, it makes it easier for the operator to hone in on the focus areas that will achieve the desired result, and how to apply remedies in the form of training, product enrichments, product pricing reviews, selection improvements, and more. For more information on telesales, KPI’s, their meaning and how to manage using KPI’s – request the free info pack from us.