Your call center receives hundreds, perhaps thousands, of calls each day. But how many of those calls are converted into sales? Most incoming calls are for service questions or simple product inquiries (“What are your rates today?”). Sales conversion rates for 1st call inquiries range from only 1% to industry leading 40%. What differentiates industry leaders? While some differences can be attributed to the cost and complexity of different products, the key variable is the skill of the inbound representative.
Why is so much business left on the table during the inbound call? Some organizations staff their inbound centers with order takers who do not have the skills to convert the tire kickers into sales or appointments. That in itself is an area that will have to change as organizations look to meet their 1st Call Close objectives. So if an organization recognizes that each and every inquiry, whether phone or email, is gold, then they must implement the steps to take that gold to the bank!
Those steps include technology, employee skill set, sales tools, and sales process. Here’s a short checklist:
- Do you have the right people? If the objective of the call is to obtain a sale or an appointment, the employee handling the call must be a proactive sales person versus an order taker. Have you conducted sales assessments on key staff? Do you have regular sales training and coaching programs? Do you have a plan to reassign veteran employees who don’t have that skill set to more service oriented areas?
- Do you provide sales oriented scripts? Inbound call center employees must have the script tools to guide the call to a proactive close for the sale…and failing that, the skills to set a proactive next contact date and time. The technology must allow the scheduling of next contact and the prompt cycling back of the lead on that callback date.
- Do you have the right technology? Can your system send email and snail mail communications before the next scheduled phone call? In some cases it may require 9 “touches” to close a sale…one inbound inquiry and several outbound calls mixed with traditional print mail and email.
- Do you use a SWAT team of closers for a follow-up calls? Finally, the organization needs to decide if the same rep makes the callback, or if a special SWAT team of good outbound closers makes the follow-up call. The decision is dependent upon the length of the initial inbound call and the relationship built in that first call. If the inquiry call is a long call requiring the rep to build rapport and develop a relationship, it’s better if the initial rep makes the outbound call. But that rep must be equally proficient in that outbound environment as they are in an inbound selling situation. Not all reps can wear both an inbound AND outbound hat. If the first call is fast and not an opportunity to build a strong relationship with the initial rep, it might be better to create a separate outbound team to handle all the follow-up calls.
- Do you use a “1st Call Close” management process to identify best practices and improve conversion rates? Management needs to put in place a weekly review process to review both successes and closing failures so that best practices can be continually migrated to all call representatives.
Not every consumer can make a decision on their first call/inquiry to a company. But if stronger sales orientated employees are staff inbound lines, the conversion rates will increase. And if each inbound inquiry is managed through a process of touches that include outbound contacts, emails, and paper mail, the conversion of inquiries will increase substantially. The key is to integrate outbound telemarketing follow-up into the sales process so that every inbound inquiry has the highest potential to close.