If you work in sales, chances are you’ve spent time in a call center. You might be there now, working the lines in the busy swirl of it all, sitting smack in the middle of lots of other reps using the tools of the trade—phone, computer, headset. Call centers are loud and busy, with overlapping conversations and the constant sound of hands galloping over keyboards.
Selling in a call center requires the particular skill of tuning out the sounds around you. Coworkers are overhearing your sales calls, and try as you might, you can’t help hearing theirs. But tuning in to others is not necessarily a bad thing when you’re new to sales: Novices can learn a lot from eavesdropping on their more experienced neighbors. Then again, they can pick up worst practices if their sales neighbor is engaging in repeated poor selling habits, and they’ll run the risk of adopting those same bad habits.
If you’re on the call center frontlines, here are some survival tips:
One Size Does Not Fit All
Your teammate might have success working in their personal sales style, but that doesn’t mean those same practices will translate well to you. Think of it this way: there are best practices, guidelines, and sales processes you should absolutely follow, but remember that there are no “one-size-fits-all templates” for making a sale; no plug-and-play, cookie cutter way of doing things. This is in part because no two customers are alike, and in part because no two sales reps are alike. When you do just as your neighbor does, you could end up flubbing the sale while they’re acing theirs.
There’s nothing wrong with getting tips from the sales folks working alongside you, as long as you take those tips and integrate them into your own selling style, giving them your personal spin.
Sell It Your Way
Also, don’t get stuck in a script rut. The most effective salespeople keep the pitch fresh. So rather than repeat what might have worked once—or worked for your sales neighbor—take a fresh, unique approach to each customer. Your words will likely sound monotonous and fall flat if you trot them out verbatim for every John and Jane customer. Creating a script or launching off point for the conversation is great, just be sure you don’t sound like all you’re doing is reading from a script. The customer will be able to hear that.
Just as you should cultivate good listening skills when it comes to clients, if you’re going to eavesdrop on your fellow sales-mates, listen to the key words and phrases they use. And listen to the way they listen. How are they building rapport? Which words and phrases ring effective to you? Make note of how they’re driving an open, trust-inducing dialogue with the customer—getting them to open up so that they, the sales rep, can determine customer needs and issues, pain points and roadblocks.
After you’ve collected different best practices and techniques from colleagues, take those learnings and use them in role playing exercises. Or use them at home as you practice in front of the mirror. However you go about it, when you’re trying out your selling method, combine different elements to make it sound natural and convincing, not monotonous and scripted.
Pass It On
Remember when you were new to sales and needed peer guidance? Well, just as you once gained a lot of insights from more experienced sales reps, make yourself available as a mentor now. Keep your ear out, listening to the sales approaches of your less-experienced colleagues. Sales is a tough profession to get right. It can be especially difficult, disheartening, and frustrating for those brand new to sales. If you hear someone struggling on a call, give them advice, and create an open-cube policy—letting them know that you’re happy to answer questions and share tips.
Like we said, sales is hard, and selling from a call center can be even tougher. Every call is an important call, but the work of selling in that environment can become tedious, and the monotony can be uninspiring and make the whole enterprise seem thankless. But rather than cave in to cynicism, keep an open mind about each and every call, because you could get a foothold with the next one. Be prepared with your fresh outlook, even if it’s the end of the day and you’ve been faced with lots of rejection. Just like that, you might find yourself on the phone with a customer who’s ready to hear your presentation and be forthcoming with crucial information about their needs and what sort of solution they’re after. That’s gold, and you’ve got to be ready with the right skills to mine it.
So no matter what time of day it is, or what day of the week, and no matter how many no’s you’ve been pelted with, make it your goal to treat every call like it’s the first one of the day. Keep your words fresh and your optimism up.