Telemarketing: The Impossible Tradeoff

One of my Brazilian colleagues, Roberto Silva (not his real name), was a frequent traveler to the U.S. on business and for pleasure. He had a daughter at an American university and he visited her whenever he could. He also liked buying things at specialist outlets and, a few years back, had bought some trousers (which became his favorites) from Lands’ End.

Call center agentOne of my Brazilian colleagues, Roberto Silva (not his real name), was a frequent traveler to the U.S. on business and for pleasure. He had a daughter at an American university and he visited her whenever he could. He also liked buying things at specialist outlets and, a few years back, had bought some trousers (which became his favorites) from Lands’ End.

With his wife reminding him regularly that these favorite trousers were wearing out, he decided to buy some new ones on his next trip. From his New York hotel, he telephoned Lands’ End and introduced himself to the cheery telephonist who welcomed him back to Lands’ End. A moment later, she asked him about his daughter, how she was doing and if she had graduated from college? Stunned, he asked how she knew about his daughter and she said that the last time he had called, he had mentioned that as the reason for his visit. What could she do to help him?

She asked how he liked the trousers he had bought before. He replied that if they still had them in stock, he’d order two more pair. “Can we ship them to the same hotel you stayed at last time? We can have them to you by tomorrow evening,” she said. Of course he purchased them and some other items and when he told me the story he said emphatically: “I’ll never buy trousers like these anywhere else. There are warm, friendly people who work there, not a telephone bullpen staffed by bored and underpaid, out-of-work actors. These people obviously enjoy talking to customers and seem in no hurry to get you off the phone and you don’t have to listen to endless menu options and punch in some numbers to get someone to talk to you.”

Perhaps that’s a rather long way around to introduce the “impossible tradeoff,” the obvious cost-saving of having an automated system interact with the customer up to or beyond the point where he or she either needs or demands to talk with a human being, vs. a totally human interface which may be less efficient in terms of costs, but is more likely to have customers become “advocates,” as my friend Roberto had. Can you imagine someone saying how happy they were only having to make four menu options instead of 10?

Banks and credit card companies seem to be in competition with mobile phone operators to win some prize for making it difficult to talk with anyone (and making you wait the longest time if you want to). Internet sellers are often even worse, hiding their telephone numbers in the most secluded nooks of their websites. The recent United Airlines disaster of dragging a passenger off of a flight to free up some oversold seats is a horrible example of how a focus on efficiency (in this case, maximum passenger loads created by intentional over-booking) can undermine customer loyalty. After that incident, it will take a long time before anyone is ever “loyal” to United again.

The ultimate question is one of relative value. And despite all of the big data in the world, there really is no way of gauging accurately the relative value of the tradeoff. How strongly the customer feels about the transaction must be an important if unquantifiable (soft) data point.

The bean-counters will assure you of the obvious saving; machines are, in the long run, cheaper than people. They work 24/7, they don’t demand raises and they don’t need pregnancy leave. Then they will argue that customers are better-served, get to speak to the right knowledgeable person faster than explaining their problem over and over again — or better, have it dealt with without human intervention. Not so for my friend Roberto, who will counter that his loyalty and the loyalty of many like-minded customers will more than make up for the savings in long-term revenue and insulation against “efficient” competition.

So where do you draw the bottom line?

It’s always a tradeoff compromise (the best solution or the worst). But I would opt for an automated answer which, first, thanked the caller for calling and second, offered a choice of:

  1. Immediately talking to a warm, friendly and knowledgeable human, or
  2. Hearing a short menu, which may speed you to the answer you are looking for.

Unfortunately, a “right” answer is impossible.

 

Endit …

What Is Social Selling and Where Do I Start?

Don’t let the hype about B-to-B social selling deceive you. Buyers have not reinvented the buying process. It has simply become a non-linear one. What is new are the sexy tools. However, using LinkedIn, Google+, blogging and YouTube effectively when prospecting isn’t sexy. It’s just a better process. Is social selling a revolution? No, it’s merely a chance for sales prospecting EVO-lution.

Don’t let the hype about B-to-B social selling deceive you. Buyers have not reinvented the buying process. It has simply become a non-linear one. What is new are the sexy tools. However, using LinkedIn, Google+, blogging and YouTube effectively when prospecting isn’t sexy. It’s just a better process.

Is social selling a revolution? No, it’s merely a chance for sales prospecting EVO-lution.

So let’s roll up our sleeves and discover: What is social selling and how are sellers generating more leads, faster? What is the process your sales team should be applying?

Social Selling Is a System
Let’s grip the wheel, firmly. Revolutions bring about change that make things easier or better. Has social media made your life easier lately? Are you getting more leads and closing them faster?

I rest my case!

Effective social selling is a system. Systems are not sexy.

A system is a repeatable process with a predictable outcome. Input goes in, certain things happen and out pops a result.

Social Prospecting: New but not Complex
The prospecting piece of social selling is mostly about:

  1. Getting buyers to respond and qualify faster, more often, and
  2. Turning response into dialogue that leads to a sale—faster, more easily

If anything is new about this process it’s the role direct response marketing techniques play. For example, social media copywriting is catching on.

The process today’s best social sellers are using generates leads faster by helping customers:

  • believe there is a better way (via short-form social content)
  • realize they just found part of it (using longer-form content) and
  • act—taking a first step toward what they want (giving you a lead)

Engagement and Trust Are not the Goals
Will you agree with me that engagement is not your sellers’ goal? Engagement is the beginning of a process. It’s a chance for front line reps and dealers to create response—and deeper conversation about a transaction.

If not, engagement is a chronic waste of your reps’ and dealers’ time.

I know “experts” insist that being trusted is a strategy. But it’s not.

It is the output of a successful prospecting strategy!

Increased trust is a sign your sellers are applying the process effectively. It’s not a goal!

As a small B-to-B business owner myself, I know what gets you paid. It’s not engagement. It’s not your image or personal brand.

You or your boss measures performance based on leads.

So let’s keep your social prospecting approach practical: Attention, engagement and a simple, repeatable way to create response more often. These are the components of an effective social selling system.

Why You Don’t Need a Social Selling Strategy

“What’s your social selling strategy?” I hear it all the time.
“You need one,” the experts insist.

But I say no, in most cases. Here’s why: Listen to what the experts say. Pay attention to what they say goes into a social selling strategy. Hint: It’s nothing new!

Yet we keep hearing “experts” claim listening is a new idea—or how we must get trusted to earn the sale.

So I give you permission to fire your social selling consultant or sales person if this is the best they can do.

What’s Your Telephone Strategy?
Not convinced? Consider how we don’t have B-to-B telephone strategies for prospecting. We have systems, approaches to applying the tool effectively. What defines our success in tele-prospecting?

Listening to customers? Nope. That’s the entry fee.

Trust? Nope. That’s the outcome we desire.

Success when dialing-for-dollars is based on if your system works—or not.

“You didn’t need a telephone strategy when the telephone was invented,” says sales productivity coach Philippe le Baron of LB4G Consulting.

“You learned how to use the new tool … to reach out to people you could never have dreamed of reaching … and get a face-to-face meeting with the ones who qualified.”

Today, tele-prospecting success has little to do with phone technology. It has everything to do with your telephone speaking technique—your conversational system.

Just the same, you don’t need a social media strategy today. You need a practical, repeatable process to increase sellers’ effectiveness (productivity) and make their output more predictable … using social media platforms.

Systems work for you. You don’t work for systems!

So don’t let gurus trick you into feeling like a laggard. Don’t let me catch you throwing money at sales trainers claiming buyers are fundamentally revolutionizing the way they buy. Focus on ways to:

  1. Get buyers to respond and qualify faster, more often, and
  2. Turn response into dialogue that leads to a sale—faster, more easily

Good luck. Let me know how I can help!

Most Twitter Users Follow Brands

A new report from Edison Research’s Arbitron/Edison Internet and Multimedia Series, Twitter Usage In America: 2010, contains all sorts of interesting Twitter facts. It presents three years of tracking data from a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,753 Americans conducted in February 2010.

A new report from Edison Research’s Arbitron/Edison Internet and Multimedia Series, Twitter Usage In America: 2010, contains all sorts of interesting Twitter facts. It presents three years of tracking data from a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,753 Americans conducted in February 2010.

A key finding for marketers: Fifty-one percent of Twitter users said they follow at least one brand on a social network, according to the report. That number drops to just 16 percent for users of all social networks.

What’s more, 42 percent of Twitter users said they use the tool to learn about products or services, and 41 percent said they use it to provide opinions about them. Twenty-eight percent said they use Twitter to look for sales or discounts, 21 percent use it to purchase products or services, and 19 percent use it to seek customer support.

Here are some other key findings from the report:

  • Awareness of Twitter has exploded from 5 percent of Americans age 12 and over in 2008 to 87 pecent in 2010. By comparison, Facebook’s awareness is 88 percent.
  • Despite near equal awareness, Twitter trails Facebook significantly in usage: 7 percent of Americans (17 million people) actively use Twitter, while 41 percent maintain a profile page on Facebook.
  • Nearly two-thirds of active Twitter users access social networking sites using a mobile phone.
  • Blacks make up nearly one-quarter of the U.S. Twitter population, twice their share of the total population of the country. In contrast, whites make up more than 69 percent of internet users, but about one-half of Twitter users.

The report said that high usage in the black community could be related to the mobile nature of Twitter. While many users update their status with a PC, mobile devices are a major conduit of microblog posts. Research shows that blacks and Hispanics are both more likely than whites to use the mobile web, especially among younger users.

Pretty interesing stuff. Were you surprised by any of these findings? If so, please leave a comment below.