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Transform Your Center By Celebrating Sales!

In many call centers,  Sales is a dirty word.  We­ll call the agents «product specialists,­ not sales people. Telephone associates dread the idea that they are selling anything to callers. Claims are made that all callers hate to hear cross-sell attempts and these attempts  blow up in our faces, every time we try. If you ask just a few people you will hear all the reasons why selling is a bad idea.

The good news is that those comments represent only half the story. Sales centers are usually much more lively than service-only centers. Telephone associates can make more money. When revenue is positive, the call center can spend more on its employees and facilities. Best of all is that customers are more educated about ways to enhance their lives through increased use of your product line. Everyone wins. No one loses. Let­s never apologize for selling.

Recently, I was delivering a training course to a group of supervisors in a service-to-sales call center. We were discussing how to coach the agents to increase their cross-sell dialogues with customers. One supervisor told me,  I was trying to coach a couple of my agents last week, but they keep saying things like, «I wasn­t hired originally to do any selling, and I­m just not into that. Unfortunately, I hear these comments from supervisors far too often.

Fortunately, these agent comments are incorrect on a number of levels. Most centers have been encouraging selling for years, if not specifically requiring it. In this particular center, anyone who had been hired in the last four years knew that the job required some selling. Anyone who had been there for more than four years has known that selling is part of the role ± for at least four years!

Couldn­t you just leave these three or four agents alone and focus on your other thirteen or fourteen?  Never! Selling is too positive for the center to let some go without giving it a real effort. When a few agents are allowed to avoid selling, for any reason, the issue becomes a cancer. These resistant associates rarely keep their opinions to themselves. Often, they try to bring others around to their mindset, poisoning the minds of others on the team. The worst part is that they miss out on a job which is more fun than service alone.

Here are five things you can do immediately to overcome these common challenges. Remember. You have the control. Agents like this will often come around if you keep working with them. If not, you lose nothing when they leave.

1) Immediately Eliminate Negative Phrases and Vocabulary.

Tomorrow, go into your center and pull your resistant team members together. Set a new tone by sharing the following thoughts with them.  Listen, we have worked very hard at changing into a call center that sells, and the organization is continuing down this path because it has been very successful. Since we know that selling additional products to our customers is great for customers and for our organization (and something you can be proud of), it is time for everyone to get on board. Today is the day. Going back on the phones and doing what you have always done is not an option. We are a sales organization and have been one for years. It is time to take phrases like  I wasn­t hired to sell, or  Pushing products only gets customers mad, out of your vocabulary. Not only are statements like these counterproductive, they are also false. I will no longer validate them by listening to them. From now on, we are all going to be selling. And the best part is that if you make the effort, you will have more fun and more satisfaction than servicing alone can ever bring you. This may sound harsh, but is it better to have two or three employees that linger, never experiencing any job enjoyment? Once they turn the corner they will have a lot more job enjoyment.

2) Make the  Concept of Selling More Prominent on You Team.

Take a look at some of the more successful sales teams. You will notice that they make selling very prominent ± very visible. You will see more banners, more inspirational posters, more visible stack rankings and more sales contests. Take a look at your area. What can you do to increase the prominence of sales for your team? Make sales more visible, so much so that no one will be able to think selling is not part of the job. If they hate selling so much, being in this environment will make them physically sick, and they will go away voluntarily. The rest of the team will welcome it and their sales will increase even more. Some supervisors will make selling a little more prominent every time they hear a complaint about it. Resistance is futile!

3) Celebrate Sales.

When someone on your team makes a sale, make it a public celebration. High fives all around! Ring a bell if it helps. Do not be afraid to make noise. Sales centers should not resemble public libraries. They need to be a little loud. Once in a while, it is better to apologize to a customer for a little noise. Just tell them,  We have a lot of fun working here. Celebrate great sales attempts, even if they did not result in a sale. Your associates will be more encouraged to try again. Start every day by stating your purpose – to be the best sales team on the floor. Check in with agents about their results and what they need to do to blow away quota for that day. Goal-Setting. Follow-up. Sales. Celebrate!

4) Spread Your Best Agents Around.

Reward your top agents with a little time off the phones each week to coach some of the lower performers. Allow some of these lower performers to observe the top agents. If you do this, make sure you give them an assignment to track the specific things top telephone associates say or do. There is no point in just requiring a resistant agent to watch a much better performer without this. It will only intimidate them.

5) More Floor-Coaching.

In general, supervisors need to spend more time coaching sales skills and less time problem-solving or being away from the floor. Your average daily sales coaching time should increase monthly. If you are only doing fifteen minutes per day right now (be honest with yourself), make it a half-hour. Next week, make it forty-five minutes. For resistant agents, let them know that every day they hold back from selling will bring more side-by-side time from you. This is not a punitive action since floor-coaching is a true gift. It is the very best thing you can do with your time in the call center. Eventually, this will wear down most agents and they will come around. After that, the sky is the limit.

The bottom line is this. Resistant agents must finally see that their resistance is futile. You will no longer tolerate negative vocabulary, complaints that sales is bad or that low performance is allowed to go unchallenged. Some of these agents just go away on their own, but many end up surprising you, turning into great performers who also welcome the chance to coach others. And who better to do this than the agent that used to think sales was something to be ashamed of? They will do a great job of turning your future resistors around quickly.

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