The second Sales Trend for 2014 is ‘Telesales will have to make dramatic changes’.
In-bound and out-bound telesales and call centre operations have traditionally focused on the uncomplicated sale of easy-to-understand commodities and the service support of relatively simple customer issues. Now, with the increasing demands of more sophisticated buyers, they are going to have to make some dramatic changes.
And with more people buying over the internet, as opposed to telephone shopping, the number of people involved in those ineffective call centres is likely to drop. At the same time, demand for more effective and sophisticated in-bound call centre operations, that address customer service, pre and post-purchase enquiries is likely to increase not only in the business to consumer (B2C) space but very much so in the business to business (B2B) arena .
Demands from knowledgeable customers, with sophisticated needs and plenty of choice means that call centre operators involved in out-bound selling will have to improve their knowledge and skills base, learning how to conduct sales interactions and hold discussions about solutions (as opposed to products) that buyers want. Rattling off a litany of features and benefits about a product, in the hope that something will trigger interest, is going to disappear just as formula selling – the staple for call centre sales methods since the 1960s – has seen its end.
Today, this “shotgun” approach to tele-selling won’t work. Buyers have become too individualised, too sophisticated to put up with this shallow and useless approach. Unless call centre operators have the skills to understand every buyer’s unique expectations and needs; unless they can offer a solution, rather than a product, they are likely to see sales and demand for their services decline.
On the other end of the scale, those call centres that provide support and service are also going to feel the positive impact of change. Call centre operators without the power to offer meaningful solutions or who have no decision-making power are going to end up as a cost, rather than a revenue generating activity as fewer customers call for solutions.
In 2014 those companies that make customers work through call centres, where there is no power to immediately solve problems, are going to find increasingly vociferous buyers reporting about poor experiences on social media. The ‘galley slave’ obsessive numbers focus of these types of operations is a major liability, leading to worse sales and service results, not better. Shifting offshore or outsourcing in order to reduce labour costs is going to backfire too, unless overseas/outsourced operators are trained to interact effectively with the company’s field sales teams and customers in Australia and other ‘developed’ nations more effectively.
Those call centres that train and empower their operators to be part of the overall sales strategy and sales capability of the companies they represent are going to find an increasing band of supporting buyers. Providing a combination of product knowledge and sales/service communications skills, especially in consultative and solutions sales capabilities, along with technical expertise in the field and a clear sense of the purpose of the companies they represent is going to be mandatory for any call centre – in or out bound.
This shake up means a radical re-think for telesales operations. Smart companies will see their telesales teams as a vital part of their overall sales operation. Some may even bring back in house those telesales teams that were previously outsourced or offshored. Smart companies will train, coach and expect their internal sales and service people to work in concert with their field sales colleagues not only as excellent client-facing professional salespeople themselves, but as key conduits back into the organisation linking the value chain in its entirety.
The telesales people of smart companies will be committed, connected and in control of their role in driving the sales effort across the entire value chain both now and over the long term and everyone will benefit, especially their customers.
Remember, everybody lives by selling something.
Sue Barrett is a sales expert, business speaker, adviser, sales facilitator and entrepreneur and founded Barrett Consulting to provide expert sales consulting, sales training, sales coaching and assessments. Her business Barrett P/L partners with its clients to improve their sales operations.