Measuring and Rewarding Reps for Telephone Selling

Apr 14, 2010 7:48 PM  By

Creating a successful selling or upselling program is a matter of putting the right people on the phones, training them properly, and creating policies and incentives to make them successful.

In the first two parts of our three-part series, we looked at Preparing Your Phone Reps for Selling Success and Targeted Training and Coaching for Telephone Selling. Now we’ll focus on measuring and rewarding your reps.

The type of reward system and the way it’s administered is the third critical ingredient in a successful selling program.

Those call centers whose sole purpose is to make outbound sales calls typically have a simpler, more direct policy on the call process and on incentives. Policies are generally not so well defined for inbound call centers, especially those that serve primarily as service or support centers.

Each organization must make a policy decision on the degree to which upselling will be attempted and how it will be rewarded. First, will agents be expected to attempt the upsell on every call? Or will they be able to select the callers that appear to be good upsell candidates?

Some organizations force the upsell on every call and obviously maximize their potential incremental revenue. But in some cases, this upsell is done at the risk of damaging the service component of the call and the overall customer relationship.

For example, I recently placed a catalog order, and being in a bit of a hurry, I told the agent taking my order that the one item was all I wished to order. This catalog always offers a few upsell items, and generally I don’t mind hearing about the specials, but on this occasion, I was ready to simply finish up my order and move on.

Even after saying I did not wish to order anything else or hear about specials, the agent proceeded through the upsell script anyway. When I expressed my displeasure about the offer, the agent explained that she “was forced to offer the additional items” on every single call.

Clearly, this was a case where the agent should have had the flexibility to go with the flow of the call. Doing so would have done more to solidify the relationship so the customer will be back for another order in the future.

While it’s understandable that organizations want staff to upsell if reps are available and the queue is under control, it should not be forced on every call.

Some organizations would argue that unless it’s forced, some reps simply won’t do it. The reasons they won’t voluntarily do it in most cases, are that they are personality types that are afraid of rejection, and/or they haven’t been properly trained on how to do it.

If you hire and train properly, you should have a workforce that’s willing and able to upsell. Then you can leave the decision in the agents’ hands about when it’s appropriate to upsell or not.

With respect to incentives, one of the most common questions is whether to compensate for “making the offer” vs. “making the sale.” While the first will certainly increase the number of attempts, these attempts might be poorly timed or delivered. A better policy is to reward the actual sales results, or at least a combination or ratio of the two.

You may have measures that evaluate the ratio of offers to sales or simply the ratio of sales to the number of calls handled. Another possibility is to look at sales per signed-on minute to evaluate staff productivity.

Penny Reynolds is a cofounder/senior partner of The Call Center School, a company specializing in the professional development of call center personnel from frontline agents to call center executives.