For almost twenty years, Jim Domanski, the president of Teleconcepts Consulting, has helped business-to-business telesales reps, teleprospectors, trainers, coaches and others use the telephone more successfully to sell their products. Jim has written four best-selling books, including “The Telesales Coach,” and runs the website TeleSalesMaster.com.
In this interview, Jim explains how to establish and manage a business-to-business (B2B) telesales team.
Question: Jim, let’s talk about telesales. What do we need to know about business to business telesales?
Jim Domanski: Telesales is a timely topic. According to the Harvard Business Review, on Top Sales Trends for 2013, b2b telephone selling is replacing field sales-thanks in part to the integration of e-mail, internet and telephone communications. I think a large part of that is due to the lousy economic downturn we all experienced over the last few years, when everyone jumped on the telesales bandwagon – the telephone is cheap and fast, and everyone has been desperately looking for sales.
The good news is that some companies found that they could sell more complex products by phone-they got results.
The bad news is that many-maybe most-companies implemented terrible programs… relentless, telemarketing campaigns conducted by reps with little or no training on how to be effective on the phone.
The buying market responded as you might expect:
Being bombarded by poor calls by every vendor in every industry, buyers started to hide behind voice mail and call display so contact rates are down – about 20% now vs. 25- 30%)
They’ve also responded with cynicism and skepticism
When you do reach a decision maker they are tougher to sell to
Sales cycles are longer because buyers have more choices and because they are reluctant to make a mistake
So, in summary, to quote Charles Dickens
It’s the best of times (for tele-sales) and it’s the worst of times for telesales
If you implement a GOOD, well planned program supported by GOOD technology the opportunities are endless
If you don’t, you get the table scraps.
Question: Can you tell me some more about your consulting practice. Who do you typically work with? What types of companies, or what environments?
Jim Domanski: I Have worked with range of companies from Fortune 500 to medium and small sized companies. I’ve worked across all industries, including, pharmaceuticals, finance, insurance, banking, high tech… virtually any type of distributor or wholesaler and few manufacturers thrown in. All are B2B outbound telephone selling programs.
I also work with field sales organizations seeking to use the phone to generate leads or set appointments.
Question: And I understand you generally operate on a three-prong basis? What are those three angles?
Jim Domanski: That’s right, it breaks down like this:
a. Start-ups – companies who are implementing a telephone sales program from scratch (there are fewer and fewer of those since most companies have jumped on board).
b. Existing – conduct audits and reviews of existing programs seeking ways to improve effectiveness and profitability.
a. Provide customized training to clients who want their reps to be more successful when they do reach a decision maker
i. Make them better
ii. Make them smarter
iii. Improve sales and profitability
a. Coach individuals (financial advisors, recruiters, etc.)
b. Coach sales managers on how to coach.
Question: Now, I know one of your favorite topics is the marriage of technology and quality results. Tell me more about that.
Jim Domanski: I love any technology that produces quality results. Results for the sake of results can kill the goose that laid the golden egg. For example, if you use a predictive dialer to reach more decision makers, but you unleash a poorly trained rep with a lousy offer, you’ll eventually alienate prospects. Connect rates will diminish and you won’t make as much.
But! If you use technology to support productivity and effectiveness you have a winning combination. For instance, let’s say you combine a predictive dialer with call recording so that you can monitor and evaluate the calls the reps make. If you take those recorded calls and combine it with an effective coaching program, you have a rep who can convert more inquiries into sales and appointments. This means that your conversion rate is higher. It means prospects are more satisfied. It means results.
That’s the marriage I like: quantity and quality, the art of selling with the science of technology.
Question: What should be measured? Adherence to scripts? Bottom line results? Tell me more about what the right metrics are?
Jim Domanski: Sure. Here’s what should be measured:
I couldn’t give a fig about dials, except as a measure of activity.
If a rep is responsible for generate $5K in results per day and does it in 41 calls, I am happy.
If takes 81 calls to do that, then they do it.
If you focus on results, then your orientation goes from numbers to quality, to making your reps better on the phone. Better at selling… better sales results.
From a call quality perspective, every call must begin with standards or standard operating procedure. In some cases, it could be a script.
If your rep is going to speaking to 25-30 decision makers about the same offer why in heaven’s name would you change the opener?
But a good consultative sales call also needs “flexible structure.” That’s an oxymoron, I know, but it means the structure to operate within boundaries, but the flexibility to deal with specific prospects.
For example, take objections handling. Instead of a scripted routine response, you should have a process to determine if that objection is real or false, and then respond accordingly.
Question: What should senior management be looking at? If managers should be doing more on coaching, how should the managers be managed?
Jim Domanski: After 20 years of consulting and training there is only one thing that will improve sales results-coaching.
The fact of the matter is, most telesales reps are not good at selling, they’re just OK. Sure, they get trained, but at the end of the day, all of us forget things, dilute processes, skip key parts. We’re inconsistent, we get complacent.
So, what this really means is that managers need to spend less time managing, working on projects, goofing around with spreadsheets, and more time in the trenches, with their reps, relentlessly selling better.