Targeted Training and Coaching for Telephone Selling

Mar 30, 2010 10:29 PM  By

A successful telephone-selling program involves several steps. As we discussed in the first article (Preparing Your Phone Reps for Selling Success), the first step is a careful screening and profiling of candidates to see who is most likely to be successful and happy in a sales role.

Once you’ve identified the right people for the job, the next step is to equip them with the knowledge and skills to make the sale. Your sales training program should include a variety of components in order to prepare frontline reps to persuade customers to say “yes!”

In addition to the obvious training about the products or services to be sold, it’s also important to include these components in your telephone sales training:

1) Create a sales mindset. You can’t begin a sales training program if there is lingering fear and reluctance about the sales process. Every sales training program should begin with open discussion about people’s fears and reasons they don’t want to sell.

The critical thing to point out here is how selling–if done properly–is simply an extension of service and not cramming a product down the customer’s throat. You’ll want to get all the roadblocks identified and work through those so everyone begins the sales training with a strong belief that the service-to-sales interaction is a worthwhile process that will benefit the customer as well as them.

2) Communicate focus on the customer. No service-to-sales initiative is going to be effective unless there is truly a focus on the customer. Training will need to focus on listening skills and the discovery process so agents will be able to effectively identify and offer the products that fit the customer’s needs, demonstrating an extension of service rather than just selling an item.

3) Organize a sample kit. A third element of the training program will be to help agents identify what products should be offered in an upselling or cross-selling opportunity. They need to learn how to listen effectively to position a customer-specific offer, as well as be aware of what universal offers may be appropriate.

4) Outline the sales process. Every call needs a road map, and most sales calls have four distinct steps: engagement, discovery, presentation, and commitment.

The vast majority of time in most sales training programs will be devoted to the essentials and techniques for each of these steps. Knowing what to do and what to say at each phase, and what the desired outcome is at every stage, are critical factors in each individual’s sales success.

The types of training mentioned above can be delivered in a variety of ways. More e-learning options exist in which students can proceed through a prescribed sales training course at their own pace.

But given the degree of practice that’s needed to get all the skills and steps right, instructor-led training with a knowledgeable facilitator will typically yield better and longer-term results. And to maximize the impact of the sales training program, you’ll want to follow up with frequent side-by-side coaching to fine-tune the newly learned skills even further.

This need for side-by-side coaching brings us to another critical part of the sales training program. Many call centers devote time to getting customer service reps trained to do sales training, but don’t complete the training with the critical component of training their supervisors to be “sales coaches” as well as call center supervisors.

It’s likely that many of these supervisors were promoted from customer service positions and may not ever have received sales training themselves, let alone how to coach others in doing it.

So it’s critical that these supervisors receive the same sales training as the frontline staff and have some time to practice the selling steps. They need training in how to “coach for a sale,” rather than “evaluate a call,” in helping their team members get better at the sales process.

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