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                                                                                          Webster’s Definition

              call (kol) 1. To say in a loud tone. 2. To telephone.  3. A

                  loud utterance.  re luc tant (ri luk’tent)  1. To struggle.

2. Unwilling. 3. Disinclined.

Telemarketing Term

call reluctance call (kol) re luc tant (ri luk’tent)

1. Struggling to make phone calls.

Whether you are a trainer, manager, owner or a telemarketer call reluctance has been an issue we all have dealt with.  Call Reluctance is more prevalent with newly recruited telemarketers and companies who are servicing multiple projects such as third-party service agencies (call centers).  With today’s progressive telemarketing environment and the increased career opportunities this industry has to offer, it is extremely crucial to understand what call reluctance is, why it happens and to provide practical solutions of how to overcome it.

Call Reluctance is a concern for many call centers and yet the definition is simple.  To overcome call reluctance, you first need to identify the source of where it is coming from.  Each year I visit various companies and conduct “call center assessments”.   Many of my assessments have been able to identify two primary weaknesses that need greater attention.  First, there is not enough focus on the three primary fears newly hired telemarketers have when they are prospecting for the first time on any given account. These three fears are:

  1. How do I initially approach the prospect?
  2. What do I say during the course of my presentation?
  3. When the prospect objects or resists me, how do I remain in control of my presentation?

If not properly trained, these fears will continue to affect the agent’s productivity, center experiences high turnover and ultimately the company’s “Bottom Line” spirals down.  However, you can gain greater control of this problem by first identifying the sources of call reluctance, then develop proven techniques to overcome it.

The second weakness is similar to the agent’s three fears but this time the shoe is now on the other foot.  The key to prospecting is the relationship we develop with our prospects.  Part of this relationship is to understand that prospects also have three primary fears that need to be identified and overcome.  The prospect’s three fears also exist in the face-to-face selling arena, but the field sales person has greater control as opposed to the agent who is prospecting over the telephone.

Next I will share with you the three primary fears your prospects have when making outbound calls.


CALL RELUCTANCE (part 2 of 4 parts)

Last month we discussed the first weakness of call reluctance when making outbound calls; your agents fears. Now I will share with you your prospect’s fears.

Professional field sales person spends more than half their career learning how to conduct an effective face-to-face presentation to enable them to overcome their prospect’s fears.  Yet most outbound agents are not provided proper training to help them handle their prospect’s fears effectively.  In many instances, the agent is not even aware of what these fears are when vying for the prospect’s time and commitment.  The major obstacle an agent maybe facing is, “I know these people are going to resist me and I don’t know what I’m going to say to turn it around.”  When the agent is not identifying and overcoming the prospect’s fears, the agent will be faced with more negative encounters, thus building up fear within themselves and ultimately call reluctance sets in.

The prospect’s three primary fears are:

  1. The Approach: “What does this salesperson want from me?”
  2. Pre-Purchase Insecurity: “What if I make a decision and later regret it?”
  3. Post-Purchase Remorse: “What have I done now?”

Through extensive research and testing various ways to overcome call reluctance, I’ve concluded the agent must be provided with training to improve their approach– their phone etiquette.  This approach enables the agent to be more sensitive to and address the prospect’s own fears.  When these two elements are linked together in the agent’s presentation, both agent and prospect are more positive about the encounter and are willingness to participate in the activity.

Most agents are uncomfortable with a “canned” presentation and so are your prospects.  However, scripts are necessary, especially when working with multiple projects, training a newly hired agent and if you want to remain in control during the course of your presentation.  Scripts will also provide more consistency in the overall performance levels of the campaign.  Before training agents on scripting, you need to first sell the benefits of using a script.  Whenever I sell the idea of scripting to my students I share my “road map” story:

“Consider a script similar to a road map.  If you were to travel to an unfamiliar city, would you go without a road map?  Of course not!   If you did, it would take longer for you to arrive at your final destination.  In this same way, so is your presentation; you have a beginning point you need to start from and a final destination where you will stop.  By not having a script or a format to follow or a call guide, your prospect may take you on a detour; a journey where you do not want to go.  If you do not have a map (call guide), it will be difficult to get back on track!  Not using a script gives your prospect greater control of the outcome.  Ultimately the agent is not able to secure the objective of the call.”

The truth is, after thirty minutes of experiencing negative activity with the prospect gaining control, agents lose interest in the project and their self-esteem spirals downward.  Eventually other agents in the call center may be affected too.

Let’s discuss scripts and how to best use them when making outbound calls and overcoming call reluctance.


CALL RELUCTANCE (part 3 of 4 parts)

Last month we discussed your prospect’s fears and the importance of using a script. The following will give you tips on how to build an effective script.

Using scripts is a format to follow by, it’s not meant to say it verbatim which makes one sound like a robot.  However, newly trained agents are not very good ad-libbing in the first few days or even weeks of their prospecting efforts.  Therefore, you need to train agents how to read from a script and include branching off capabilities for common prospect responses.  Nonetheless, this effort is only half the battle in overcoming call reluctance.

Once you have decided to incorporate scripts into your call center environment, you need to design your scripts to overcome the prospect’s fears when being approached.  By doing so, this will overcome the TSR’s fears due to the positive encounter they will experience during their prospecting activity.  Remember, if the TSR has been able to identify the source of their call reluctance and has the right tools to overcome them before they occur, you made progress in developing a method to overcome call reluctance altogether.

Let’s take the first fear your prospect has, “The Approach.”  The first 30 seconds of the presentation needs to overcome this fear, or you may lose the opportunity to continue your presentation altogether.  You must tell the prospect; Who you are, the company you represent, how you acquired their name, you must respect their time and give them the purpose of your call.  Think about it, if you were the prospect, would you want to know this information?  So does your prospects.  Many prospects will interrupt a agent’s presentation and ask, “How did you get my name?”, “What’s this all about?” or, during the middle of your presentation they may say, “I’m busy now!” but often that’s not what they really mean, they are just trying to blow you off the call.

Keep in mind that the verbiage is very precise within the first 20 seconds of the presentation. You don’t want to give up your control by saying, “May I speak with Mr. Johnson please?”, “My name is Susan Smith”, “Can I take a moment of your time?”, “Would you have an interest in….?”.  The agent will project greater control of their presentation by saying, “I need to speak with Mr. Johnson please. (say “please” as if you are making a statement not a question), “This is Susan Smith”,  “Thank you for taking my call.”, “How important would ……be to you.”  Be sure to ask questions using proper voice inflection that ends your sentence as a statement not as a question. Which brings me to my next point.

Other ways in which the agent gives up their control is by going high with their voice inflection at the end of every sentence.  For example, “My name is Susan Smith?”, “I’m with XYZ Company?”  Instead you should always lower your voice inflection like musical notes going down a scale.

Proper voice projection increases the level of confidence in the agent’s voice and prospects will feel more comfortable when they believe the agent knows what they are doing.

To finish this 4-part series we will disucss the second and third fears of your prospects.


CALL RELUCTANCE (part 4 of 4 parts)

Last month we discussed the first fear of your prospect and ways to overcome it. This final 4-part series concludes with your prospect’s second and third fears and how to overcome it.

The second fear is called, “The Pre-Purchase Insecurity”.  This is where you will probe to qualify your prospects, establish their wants and create the need for your offering.  Ideally you want to use open ended questions and carefully create your questions to draw out your prospects wants and needs. The more you know what makes your prospect a happy customer the stronger your presentation will be to fulfill it.

Once you have asked the right questions, you need to go to your selling step and fulfill their needs. An effective selling step has 4 key elements to it, the first is “what it is?” (even if it an appointment you need to sell that), the second is “what it does” this is the education part of your offering. The third element is “what good the prospect gains from it” and finally the fourth is “money or time made or saved” from your offering.  Once you have completed a strong selling step, you need to get the prospect’s reaction by encouraging a positive response.  Finally, you need to “Trial Close” this is to summarize the benefits and ask for a commitment.

The third and final fear is, “Post Purchase Remorse”.  By first having all the essential elements in your presentation up through the “close”, will decrease this third fear from surfacing.  However, there is one more element that needs to take place, giving you greater assurance that this fear doesn’t surface after you end the call.  You need to “Post Close”.  Many agents are trained to hurry up, close quickly, get off the telephone and move on to the next call before the prospect changes their mind.  Because the post close was not a part of their presentation, once the call has ended, prospects begin to talk themselves out of their commitment.  Not post-closing is a major contributor why many companies experience cancellations with an average of 20-30% and as high as 60%!

By properly addressing your prospect’s 3 fears takes approximately 3-5 minutes to conduct a full-blown presentation when selling or making appointments.  But the length of presentation greatly depends on your specific prospecting activity and how long each prospect takes to respond to your questions and if they have objections.  By incorporating these scripting elements into your presentation, you have the tools that give you greater control of your presentation.

As you study, design and practice using these elements and implement them into your outbound campaigns, your agents will conquer their call reluctance and experience more positive results while increasing their production. Moreover, your prospects will also be impressed!

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