Training the telemarketing trainer

Training the telemarketing trainer

McKee, Judy

“They shoot trainers, don’t they?” That’s a quote from my friend and colleague, Judy Lanier, as she opened a speech on the subject of training. Gosh! I wish I had said that. Being a trainer of telemarketers and customer service representatives can be a wonderful, fulfilling experience, and at times, it can be a real challenge.

At a cocktail party I recently attended, a woman asked me, “What do you do?” I replied, “I’m a telemarketing trainer and a consultant on telemarketing script-writing.” “Oh really,” she said, and continued, “Are you training them not to call during my dinner parties with their absurd surveys and ridiculous offers?”

I took a couple of deep breaths and said, “In my training, I do everything I possibly can to lessen the bad rap telemarketing gets from a few inconsiderate or misguided operators….It’s a shame that a great and growing industry has to suffer because of the image those operators present to people like you. You see, telemarketing involves much more than just calling to houses. It’s the absolute hub of the entire sales world. The world is changing rapidly and although it’s not perfect yet, we’re doing our best to make telemarketing a reputable and honored profession.”

I could see she was losing heart in this conversation, so we drifted on to something less controversial to discuss.

I want to tell all trainers and telemarketers out there that I’m proud to be a telemarketer, and I’m proud to stand up and tell anyone what we’re doing to make it better. I hope you will join me.

This article is written to assist trainers everywhere in the exciting and rewarding job of training telemarketers. You are welcome to take any hints, suggestions or “gems of wisdom” you find here and make them your own in the interest of furthering our great profession.

In my recently published book, Scripwriting For Effective Telemarketing, I point out that it’s rare to find telemarketers with natural ability. So business owners must do the next-best thing. That’s to try to hire people with good traits and abilities that can be molded into a form that will serve their purpose. This means people must be trained to develop special skills that are essential to obtain the kind of performances needed to successfully compete in today’s fast-paced world, and kill the bad rap on telemarketing.

Telephone mastery is a skill that can and must be developed in every person who will come in contact with business prospects, customers or clients.

What do I mean when I say “telephone mastery?”

* It’s knowing what to say and how to say it in a compelling, nonmanipulative way that sounds professional and convincing.

* It’s being able to recognize buying signs and knowing how to react to bring the prospect quickly and surely to the close.

* It’s being able to find the prospect’s “emotional quotient” (why he/she is interested in talking with you, and what’s driving their need or want).

* It’s the ability to sound energetic while being sincere.

* It’s knowing how to use tone, pace and timbre to convey a pleasing, interested and helpful attitude.

* It’s being perceived as a valuable source of accurate, precise product information presented in a consultative way.

* It’s knowing how to listen actively, acknowledge the prospect’s or customer’s response, make an appropriate comment or selling statement, and ask nonintrusive, probing questions.

* It’s being able to determine the prospect’s or customer’s behavioral style, so he/she can be dealt with in the manner that’s comfortable for him or her.

I know you must be thinking, “This sounds long and involved…I wasn’t planning to go to this extent in training telemarketers. Couldn’t I just give them a clever script to read and do just as well?”

The correct answers to your questions are: Yes, No, and Probably Not. It depends on what your telemarketing campaign is intended to achieve, the type of product or service you’re marketing, and the restrictions imposed on what your telemarketers can or can’t say.

Telemarketing scripts are a useful and necessary training tool, but my philosophy is “scripts are better said than read.” Nothing can be more boring than listening to some one read a “pitch” to you over the phone, especially if the energy level is’ low and the script drones on and on.

Scripts that are read verbatim tend to take the personality of the caller out of the picture, and eliminate the possibility of establishing an interactive relationship.

I recommend that telemarketers memorize scripts or call guides as quickly as possible (which gives them confidence), and then let them use their developed skills, as outlined previously, to react to situations as they develop in the conversation. Out of necessity, telemarketing today is dependent on consultative selling. This means finding the prospect’s need and filling it, and it requires conversational skills to do it well.

Since this article is about training the trainer, let’s get on with how you can teach people the necessary skills to be good telemarketers.

There are two major areas that must be considered hen addressing telephone sales/service training. The first area is product knowledge, and I’ll assume that you will hire or select people already knowledgeable about your product or service, or that you will provide call guide information to them that will provide the necessary features, benefits and competitive advantages. The second area is that of communication and selling skills, where most help is needed. With that thought in mind, let’s concentrate on how to develop good communication and selling skills.

Training can be conducted in a group environment or one-on-one. The approach may be somewhat different depending on the size of the groups, but all in all, the basics are generally the same.

Training Aids: I recommend using visual aids in the form of vue-graphs or slides to the greatest extent possible because they tend to stimulate interaction, hold the trainee’s interest, and act as a pacer for the trainer to keep the training moving. I insist on trainees taking notes. The act of writing down major points in the trainee’s own words enhances retention and understanding. If possible, provide a trainee’s workbook for this activity and encourage note-taking in the form of interesting comments, thoughts, ideas or “gems of wisdom.” Don’t be afraid to say, “Write that down.”

Design The Training To Be Interactive: Use lots of questions, answers and skills in the form of role-playing to make the training lively and fun. Avoid lecturing and talking down. Keep the atmosphere light, but at the same time, serious.

Introduce Yourself And The Training: State the purpose of the training, and what’s expected to be accomplished. Se the stage by telling the trainees how long the training will last, and how it’s going to be accomplished.

Get A “Buy-In” From The Trainees: This means give them a reason to “really want the training.” This is the most important contributing factor to a really successful effort. It makes all the difference between trainees just “showing up” and resenting or resisting your every comment and active, eager participation where they will be anxious to get on the phone and use what they are taught. Getting a “buy-in” involves making it clear to the trainees what’s in it for them. Make it clear that when the company prospers through their excellent work, they will prosper. Explain the thrill of making something happen because they learned a new technique in communicating. Tell them of the joy of achievement through learning excellent skills that they can use in every facet of their lives, not only in this job, but with their spouse, children or significant others. If you, as the trainer, show you are excited about the training and you perceive its value, and can convince the trainees it’s going to benefit them, your job is half done.

Perform “Attitude Adjustments Apprehension and fear of the phone can completely destroy the telemarketers’ effectiveness. Another major obstacle to success is a negative attitude about telesales or sales work in general. People who will be selling or serving by phone must be convinced that selling is an honorable, necessary profession, and that if no one sells anything, nothing happens. Businesses can only survive by making their products or services known and understood through the efforts of their sales staff. Consultative selling provides a needed and wanted service to all types of consumers and businesses worldwide.

Explain what an important and necessary job selling really is…that it can be exciting and rewarding to become a member of such a profession. Tell them to expect rejection, obstacles and objections. Explain that learning the techniques and methods that follow in the training will enable them to “handle” objections effectively and comfortably. Explain that selling requires the development of skills gained through training and experience just like any other profession, and that it will be exciting to experience the growth and collect the rewards.

Begin With Basics: Telemarketers will always be more successful if they project a pleasant tone. Tone can convey impatience, disdain, boredom, sarcasm, or indifference, which will immediately be perceived by the prospect or customer. I often say in my training, “One should never make the client feel wrong or stupid.” To be effective, the tone should be energetic, but not falsely enthusiastic. It will go far toward developing a “love-me, trust-me feeling” in the first 20 seconds of the call.

Other basics to develop are the sound of the voice and its pace…meaning pleasant and not too fast or too slow. I suggest you encourage trainees to tape-record themselves speaking and listen for opportunities for self-correction.

Develop Conversational Skills: A conversation is defined as an oral exchange of information or ideas. What a concept…especially when it’s related to selling! Notice it’s not a one-sided recitation of features, benefits and advantages. It requires asking questions, listening to responses, making suggestions or recommendations, and asking more questions. In selling, it’s finding the need and filling it. It’s a process that I’ve been training salespeople for years, and believe me, it works, and it works well. I have observed that during a conversation, the person asking the questions controls the path of the conversation, and can lead it wherever he or she wants to go with it. This is a tremendous advantage for the telemarketer so it’s a skill well worth developing.

Monitoring And Coaching

Don’t let your monitoring activities take on the stigma of the “phone police.” Use monitoring for training support and quality maintenance. Kindly point out areas for improvement using examples or asking telemarketers for ways they feel they could have done the call more effectively. Make the telemarketers feel you are there to help rather than criticize them.

Effective training requires preparation, dedication and commitment. If you, as the owner, manager or designated trainer, do not have the time or inclination to do the training task well, the results you achieve will reflect it. If you do not have a dedicated on-site training staff, consider using a qualified training firm that will customize a training program to meet your specific requirements. All respectable training firms will be happy to provide you with a proposal that specifies statement of work, recommended training content, rates, terms and conditions, and a time line for accomplishing the proposed tasks.

All trainers take note! We have a unique opportunity to make a dramatic difference in the way telemarketing is presented now and the way in which it will be perceived in years to come. Let’s go for it!

Judy McKee is the founder and owner of McKee Motivation, a sales and telemarketing training company, located in Escondido, California.

Copyright Technology Marketing Corporation May 1995

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