Outsource Solutions: Telemarketing
Effective Rep Selection
The success of outbound telemarketing always has depended on the skills of the teleservices representative (TSR) placing the calls. With the do-not-call list hanging over direct marketers’ heads, now more than ever strong TSRs are vital to outbound programs.
To ensure your program gets quality representation, teleservices experts advise you to pay close attention to the following aspects of your call center’s hiring, training and monitoring practices when conducting an RFP process.
• What percentage of TSR applicants does the agency hire? If it hires 85 percent of the candidates who walk through the door, it probably is not focused on quality versus quantity, says Deborah Pearlman, CEO of DKP & Associates Inc., a telesales consulting firm in Skokie, Ill.
• What’s the agency’s retention rate? You don’t want a number here, says Liz Kislik, president of Liz Kislik Associates, a Rockville, N.Y.-based telemarketing consultancy. Instead, she explains, look for details on the turnover patterns that tell you whether your program will be assigned the newer reps, how often hiring costs might be passed on to you and the agency’s ability to retain top talent.
• What testing is conducted? Depending on the variety of programs they handle for clients, agencies should at the very least conduct a phone interview to verify phone skills and a reading assessment, says Pearlman.
Kislik notes that a personality test is necessary to gauge whether the applicant has the right balance of moxie and perspective to handle difficult outbound calling situations. More complex sales programs require custom testing, she adds, such as assessing math skills or technical knowledge.
• How long are reps trained in the classroom, and what is covered? Not only should TSRs learn call technology and product details, but also sales skills. Pearlman finds that call centers that don’t generate strong results usually have spent little time on teaching reps sales techniques.
• What kind of ongoing training do TSRs receive? Follow-up training often consists of teaching reps how to cross-sell, says Pearlman, and doesn’t include sharpening sales skills in the areas of rapport, listening, probing and closing—but it should.
Find out if the agency schedules an incubation period where TSRs work in small groups or are mentored by fellow TSRs to solidify their skills, says Kislik.
• Are reps tested before being placed on the floor? TSRs should pass product knowledge tests before starting work on a call program, says Pearlman. Testing also should involve live scenario training, such as role playing and simulated live calls, says Kislik. The best training uses practice calls based on real-life sales situations, not a supervisor’s idea of what happens in typical sales situations.
• What is the ratio of supervisors to reps? Make sure the count includes only first-line supervisors—not the entire management team, says Pearlman. The ideal situation is to have supervisors on the floor monitoring and coaching reps regularly.
• What monitoring should I do? Pearlman advises marketers to monitor calls at least monthly, if not weekly, to verify that call quality is at the desired level.