Selling via Call Centers - dummies

By Marina Martin

After you reach scale, selling over the phone (or increasingly, through a website) requires a dedicated call center full of employees who focus on, well — calling customers! Done right, a call center can be a great asset — but done wrong, you can be scaring off most of your potential customers and not even realize it.

In-house versus outsourced call centers

The answer to this question depends mostly on your available resources. If you have the physical space, the money for equipment, the available local workforce, and the related managerial experience — feel free to set up shop inside your organization. If this description just overwhelmed you, then it’s probably best to find an outsourced call center.

Note that outsourced does not have to mean out of the country. There are many large call centers available within the United States.

Effective call center scripts

Providing effective, A/B-tested scripts is exponentially more important when you start to scale your calling efforts. If your company is new, you should literally try out some phone sales and see what sorts of approaches seem to work. (Everyone should have experience directly selling their own product or service, even if their day-to-day responsibilities are not in sales.)

After you have a call center, it’s easier to continue to A/B test scripts. Just remember to try to change only one variable at a time. For example, it’s not valid A/B testing to give Joe one script and Josslyn a different one because the resulting sales differences may be because of Joe and Josslyn and have nothing to do with the scripts themselves.

Most major call centers can work with you on developing script best practices and decision trees that help guide the people answering the phone through your leads’ potential questions. Look for a call center that will dedicate a few employees to your organization instead of spreading your organization’s calls across the whole staff, as this helps individuals gain actual experience with your company and your leads.

Escalation policies

Even if you use a call center for most sales calls, odds are there are some that you want to funnel back internally. For example, you may want to handle sales in excess of $1 million yourself. You may also want to handle angry leads or answer particular questions. (You definitely want to be available to answer questions that your call center’s decision tree doesn’t address!)

An escalation policy helps the call center determine which calls to handle itself and when to pass these calls on to you. When in doubt, err on the side of forwarding calls to yourself.

You can always modify the policy later and be more lenient with the calls that the center is allowed to handle — but you’ll kick yourself for years if you realize you left the call center to handle calls that it wasn’t prepared for.

Quality assurance

As with all things outsourced, it’s important to keep an eye on the quality of the calls being made. This is not to say that the call center employees are necessarily providing bad quality calls, but you have to remember that your company, products, and services are new to them, and they are inherently less prepared to answer questions and close sales than you.

Watching quality by comparing sales numbers between the outside call center and internal sales calls, and by listening in on a random sampling of calls, can help you identify issues or points of confusion and clear them up right away.