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Posts Tagged ‘client engagement’

How to Connect and Stay Connected ± Lesson Four

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Client Engagement Series – Lesson Four: Client-Engagement through Client-Focused Recommendations

This is the fourth post in our four-part series, Client Engagement: How to Connect and Stay Connected.

The product recommendation/presentation is supposed to be the part of the sale call that gets the client excited.  We should not have to think about whether or not the client is engaged.  After all, this is all about them, right?

A product offer will be significantly better when we explain how the product is going to specifically benefit this client or how our product is going to solve problems that this client currently experiences.  Easy peasy, right?  It should be.  Here are a few tips to make sure all your product offers hit dead center into client needs, issues and hot buttons.  When they do, your clients will definitely stay engaged and remain interested in buying your product.

A Client-Engaging Product Offer Relies on the Following Three Elements 

Rapport: Clients stay more engaged when we have a strong rapport with them (see Post One in this topic on Being Likeable).  Clients will provide more detailed and honest answers during our Discovery when they like us and are comfortable talking with us.

A Strong Discovery: If we ask great questions and learn a lot about this client, what she is like, what she dislikes, what she hopes to gain from our product, we have the foundation necessary to deliver a great product presentation.  Clients will remain engaged and will closely follow our product offer when we have this thorough understanding of their world.

A Client-Focused Recommendation: This is why the client is speaking with us.  They want to know what we can do for them.  The most client-engaging product offers are going to have the client­s world threaded all through them.

As you are highlighting specific product features, present them as real-world scenarios with the client included in the story.  We call these Function Statements in our sales training.  If, for example, your software will make it much easier for the client to send large files to other businesses, give an example of that feature in use – with this client sending the large file.  The more you know about the types of large files this client sends, the better. 

  •  So then next time you need to send a picture of a new floor plan that is more than 10 megs, all you do is–.  Make it seem easy.  Including specifics like  a picture of a new floor plan makes the situation as real as possible. 

For the best Client Engagement, we recommend a minimum of three tie-backs to your Discovery.   Add words like,  –which you said was important to you.  Begin sentences with phrases like,  Since you mentioned that your current computer takes «way too long­ to send large files, you are going to love our–. The more you can tie back, the more engaged the client will remain. 

Client Engagement is achieved and maintained throughout the call so we can have an active and interested client when we arrive at the product presentation.  Make sure your product recommendations really hit home by tying several of the features back to the client­s real world.  Make it as real as it can be using Function Statements.  Your clients will not only be more engaged, many more of them will say  Yes when you ask them to purchase.

How to Connect and Stay Connected ± Lesson Three

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Client Engagement Series – Lesson Three: Client-Engagement through Great Conversational Skills

This is the third post in our four-part series, Client Engagement: How to Connect and Stay Connected.  In this post we will discuss how to engage your clients with better Conversational Skills.  Having a conversation is something we do naturally all day long.  When we try it on the phones, however, we must mimic the elements that make a great conversation, rather than try to have a pure, genuine conversation.  Why?  Because a true conversation will rarely go in the direction we are hoping it will go.  Conversations do not typically have a planned outcome.

About twice a year, one of our potential clients will start a dialogue with us like the following one.   I­m not really trying to turn my agents into «sales people­.  I really just want them to have a conversation with the client.  Out of that conversation, the client­s needs, issues and hot buttons will come out ± naturally ± not forced.  Although this client is well intended and the request seems pretty reasonable, we believe it is not possible to achieve.  Conversations go wherever they go.  Any conversation that needs to go in a specific direction by the end is not really a conversation.  To some degree, it is contrived and planned.  Although we agree with the spirit of the client­s request, we definitely do not want agents to have a true conversation.  Call handle times will double and sales will go down.  Client Engagement would initially be strong, but each client will quickly see that the conversation is taking more time than planned.  They will start asking when this is going to end and why it is taking so long.

We believe that what our call center client is looking would be better described as highly-trained agents who can simulate a conversation, one that goes exactly where the agent expects and is controlled by the agent, regardless of who is talking at the time and gives the agent the greatest chance for a sale.  All the while, the client on the phone must believe that he/she is in a true conversation.  That is definitely achievable and it will produce the highest possible number of sales, while additionally improving our Client Engagement.  Clients like to be in these types of dialogues because they are typically brief, enjoyable and client-focused.  In order to simulate a genuine conversation, we need to add a few skills into our typical sales dialogue.

In addition to asking better questions (see the second post in this series), we recommend adding the following three elements to your sales dialogues.

1) Chat Comments

A real conversation includes more than just questions from one person and answers from the other.  If you listen to a few conversations, all of them will include Chat Comments.  Chat Comments are those additional comments made by one person after the other person answers a question.  In our case, the sales agent uses Chat Comments to break up the questions he/she is asking.

  • Agent:  Mary, approximately how much do you plan to spend on this product? 
  • Client:  Oh, no more than about $100.00.  I really don­t even have the budget for that, but I know we must do something quick. 
  • Agent (Chat Comment):  I know what you mean.  A lot of the clients I speak with these days are really trying to stay within a tight budget.  We have two different products I can tell you about that are both under $100.00.

A Chat Comment does several positive things for the dialogue.  It breaks up the question-answer cycle that will quickly start to sound like an interrogation.  It also helps the sales agent relate to the client and put the client at ease (in this case, the agent relates the client­s situation to other clients who have similar budget challenges).  Finally, it gives the agent the chance to make quick statements about his/her product that will build credibility. 

A Chat Comment is one of the easiest ways to improve a structured dialogue and make it sound much more like a real conversation.  In a real conversation, clients will remain much more engaged.

2) Positioning Statements

A Positioning Statement provides the customer with the  Why? behind the question.  Many questions seem almost too invasive when they are asked out of context.   What do you pay right now for this service?  Do I really want to answer this agent?  Why does she need to know that?  Often the client will say,  I really don­t want to talk about that, or will explain that the bills are paid by someone else.

A Positioning Statement is very conversational and a great tool in preventing clients from getting defensive about our questions.  Here are three examples.

  •  Mrs. Jacobs, it really helps me to stay within a client­s budget when I know their pricing expectations, so let me ask you–?
  •  When I know more about my client­s current circumstances, I can build a much better bundle for them, so I­m curious–?
  •  We always like to make sure we solve all of our clients­ issues when they purchase our products, so it would help me to know–?

When a client knows why you are asking for something, they rarely have a problem with it.  This is a great conversational element that is easy to use and extremely valuable.  It will also increase your Client Engagement in every dialogue.

3) Similar Situations

Asking a customer to comment on other clients­ typical situations is another  great conversational tool that can bring out some very useful data about this client.

When clients are considering buying a product from us, it is usually to replace something that no longer works well for them (e.g. an older laptop that is slow, a worn-out sewing machine, a vacuum that has no power left).  If the agent asks the client,  What is your current product like? ± even with a Positioning Statement ± many will become defensive.  Sharing a Similar Situation first often overcomes the client­s hesitation.  Share an issue you know other clients are having with their current product, and then ask the client,  What­s been your experience?  Here is an example.

 A lot of the clients I speak with tell me their current computer tends to really slow down on them, especially when they open more than one program at the same time.  What­s been your experience with that?

By letting them know that these issues are common among customers, many more will open up and admit that they experience the same things.  Once they do, you have your opportunity to stress how much better your product will be.  

One caution when using Similar Situations.  During your Similar Situation, never mention a specific company, like Delta, HP, Bank of America, etc.  Clients will often become even more defensive when you do.   I hear that a lot of the Dell computers tend to–.  It is never smart to bash your competitors.  Stay focused on the issue and leave the competitor out of the statement.  If the client complains about a specific company, thank them for the information, but we still do not recommend saying,  I hear that a lot about them.

Try These Conversational Elements Today

Because we all use these elements away from the phones, they will be easy to start using on your sales calls.  We recommend starting with Chat Comments and then moving into the other two from there.  Within a week, you should master all three of them.  Practice makes perfect and the good news is that very little practice will be needed.

Once you develop these skills, you will find that your clients stay more relaxed and open up more.  Client Engagement will be easier to achieve and maintain and your sales should go up as a result.

How to Connect and Stay Connected ± Lesson Two

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Client Engagement Series – Lesson Two: Client-Engagement by Asking Great Questions

This is the second post in our four-part series, Client Engagement: How to Connect and Stay Connected.

If you have read any of our blog posts, you know that we value the skill of Discovery – asking questions.  Whether we are working with an Inbound or an Outbound center, asking the right questions ± in the right way ± is almost always the skill that agents develop and master last.  Most agents never really master questioning, but many use it effectively enough to make more sales.

In this post, we are looking at how our Discovery impacts Client Engagement.  Used well, questioning can lock a customer­s attention in like very few other skills.  As always, we will discuss these ideas in terms of selling and sales success.

On the surface, it would seem that any question will foster Client Engagement, but it is not so simple.  Badly delivered, mechanical questions will achieve the opposite; client disengagement.  Take a typical, poorly-conducted call.  Right from the beginning, the agent­s questions are likely to be very stiff, closed-ended and unnatural.  The agent will not show the interest needed to capture the client­s attention.  The questions will not be delivered in a way that encourage the client to answer.  Clients will quickly become bored and try to terminate the call or start to take over.

Two Tips for great Client Engagement

Here are two easy ways to improve your Client Engagement.

  1. Ask More than Merely the Required Questions: If you have worked in call center sales for a while, you have definitely heard this from your supervisor.   Don­t just ask the basic questions.  Get the client involved with more in-depth questions.  We agree.  Many sales agents will try to rush through the Discovery portion of the call as quickly as possible because they believe it pushes the client away.  Consequently, these agents ask fewer questions, most of which are going to be very basic.   How many are you interested in?   How much do you need?   What color?  What size?  These questions are fine, but they are not engaging.  Engaging questions dig deeper.   What will you be using it for?   What has been your experience with this type of product so far?   What are some of your priorities in making this purchase?  There are dozens more.  Better questions will engage the client.  Questions that focus on their world, their use of the product, their current methods of living life without your product (especially if your product is a solution to life­s little messes ± learn about their messes and tell them how much your product does to solve those messes).
  2. Sound Curious (even Fascinated) When You Ask Your Questions: Whether you are listening to a radio program, a professionally recorded voice mail message, an audio book or anything else recorded but not visual, your ears have to do all the work to interpret the message.  It would make sense that agents have to sound great when they speak with clients.  When asking questions, it is paramount to Client Engagement.  At a minimum, the agent must seem curious.   Let me ask you, what are some of the–. 

Sounding curious and interested means you must vary your voice tones.  There is no way to demonstrate it in this post, but it is easy to illustrate.  First, read the question below in a monotone voice ± a single pitch and tempo.

  •   What would you say will be the primary purposes for this device?

Boring, huh?  Great (okay, not great).  Now read it again ± really speak it ± and this time, vary your voice tones, beginning higher, dropping in the middle, and then coming up again at the end.

Much better, right?  Now read it one more time, but this time, add a simple positioning phrase to the beginning like,  You know, I­m curious–.

Now that sounds the best.   When we sound curious and interested, clients respond well.  They like to know they are the center of our world when they are on calls with us.  If we do this well while also asking better questions, our Client Engagement score will really improve and our clients will open up and provide great answers.

When selling, an engaged client is a lot more likely to buy.  Our ability to capture their attention and keep it through the Discovery is no easy task, but we can improve our chances by asking better questions and showing interest in the client as we ask the questions.  Even if they do not buy, their experience on the phone with us will be significantly improved for next time.

How to Connect and Stay Connected ± Lesson One

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

In both sales and service, client engagement is often the difference between a successful call and an unsuccessful call ± from the client­s perspective.  This series of lessons will focus on client engagement from a selling perspective.

What does it mean to engage the client?  It means to come together, to join up, to lock in as a single unit.  An engaged client is one who is listening.  Engaged clients are much more likely to share pertinent details that will make our sales efforts more fruitful (and more client-friendly).

In this series, I will walk you through five pillars of client engagement, five ways to make sure your client is on the phone, focused and participating.  Our five fundamentals of Client Engagement are listed below.  This will also be the order of our series.

  1. Client-Engagement through Relational Skills (Being Likeable)
  2. Client-Engagement by Asking the Right Questions
  3. Client-Engagement through Great Conversational Skills
  4. Client-Focused Recommendations

Client-Engagement through Relational Skills (Being Likeable)

Our first method of engaging clients can be the easiest – or the hardest, depending on the agent.  Relational skills are those that help us sound likeable.  Being likeable is one of the best ways to keep a client listening and engaged.

Let­s look at the typical phone call.  These days, unfortunately, most clients are expecting a pretty low-energy agent to greet them in a scripted way.  Some clients are already setting up for battle if they are upset by some aspect of the product.  No one wants a poor call, but most clients have come to expect one, at least on an unconscious level.  When they hear the mechanical greeting, they are not surprised.  My guess is that the most common, immediate thought by clients is,  Here we go again.  At that point, clients will usually go into control mode and try to steer the call, usually making things worse for everyone involved.

Here is the silver lining.  Agents who start calls with a friendly, light approach, can instantly disarm their attackers.  Clients will very often calm down, take a breath, relax, all because the agent sounds friendly and, therefore, competent. Yes, I said,  competent.  The characteristic of  friendly spills over in good ways to other characteristics.   This agent cares.   This agent must have my best interests at heart.   This agent must be good (competent) at what he/she does.

Start your calls with a light, friendly approach.  Careful not to overdo it.  Being too friendly will sound creepy.  Clients will assume you have had extensive training on trying to be friendly, rather than being happy that you are friendly.

If the client is confused, by all means apologize for the confusion and stress you are going to help clear things up, but then get back to friendly, cheerful.

If the client is upset, absolutely go into Empathy mode, apologizing and stressing that you will take care of them as quickly and effectively as possible.  As soon as you hear the client start to calm down, get back to mildly cheerful.  After another minute, if the client is fully calm, get back to friendly.

Likeability and Engagement

Client Engagement is the goal.  How does being likeable contribute to client engagement?  When clients like the agent they are speaking with, they listen more closely and stay involved.  They also open up more.  If they are shopping for a product, they are much more likely to share feelings and emotions to the friendly agent they would not offer to others.   Well, honestly, I know I want this product.  I­m just not convinced my husband is going to appreciate my buying it without his being involved.  Wow.  That was a golden nugget.  The client told the agent exactly what is at stake if the purchase is made.  This statement gave the agent the direct route to the client­s mindset.  Most effective agents can easily handle this concern before it becomes a true customer objection later on the call.

Clients who are engaged are more forgiving.  If clients like the agent and continue to feel appreciated by the friendly communication, they will not sound so upset when a product or a size is out of stock.  Even if they are disappointed, they will continue to treat the agent respectfully because they like the agent.   Wow, that is a disappointment.  I really wanted that size table cloth, and it was such a good price.  Okay, well, you know what, let­s do this instead–.  Clients remain human – and humane – all because the agent worked hard to engage them with a friendly approach.

Client Engagement is easy when agents and supervisors maintain it as a goal, as a top priority.  Starting and remaining likeable and easy to talk with is one of the simplest ways to achieve strong Client Engagement.  It may not always net you a sale, but if a sale is possible, you have a much better chance of making it if you capture the client­s heart along the way.