The equipment your personnel use is important. Don't let others tell you any different. Like the Sales Representative who looks forward to his or her new car every two years, so the telesales person deserves to enjoy good equipment. Good, practical equipment does make a difference. The Sales representative drives the car every day; it's a tool of the profession. The staff work area, tools and equipment, like the Sales Rep's car, say something about them and the way in which they do their job.
Comfort and professionalism
As the major tool of this trade is the telephone, it is important to give serious thought to comfort, ease of use, practicality and of course, cost. Let us look at some available options to help you become more comfortable, more professional, and more under control.
Headsets (A telephone mouthpiece and earpiece which clip over the head) are available in a range of styles and prices. The price depends upon the degree of sophistication and the quality of the headset. At the time of writing, headsets range in price from thirty pounds up to two-hundred-and-fifty pounds.
Some advantages of using a headset are:
? Hands are free to write, use a keyboard, or turn pages.
? Individuals may feel they can have a more natural conversation.
? The headset often helps personnel to cope with a noisy environment.
? The possibility of Repetitive Strain Injury is reduced.
? Headsets often look and feel more 'professional'. This could improve performance of personnel.
Some headsets have a 'quick release' facility, enabling them to be disconnected from the telephone line in order to leave the desk, simply plugging back in again when reseating. This is advantageous if your personnel need to move around a lot within the work area. Modern headsets are lightweight, easy to wear, and remarkably efficient.
A headset may not be appropriate for the casual telephone user, and there are those who 'just feel right' holding the telephone receiver when making a call. However, a headset may be ideal for your personnel. Telecommunications companies have a range of headsets that are available to purchase over-the-counter or to order. BT has an excellent range in their own shops. If those you order turn out to be inappropriate, you can simply return them, or change for an alternative style or model.
Many modern telephones are equipped with an extra socket for a headset. These allow the headset and handset to be used simultaneously, as a training aid. You can monitor the staff member's handling of the telephone call. If the telephone has a 'secrecy' button, you can also give on-line coaching. (See below).
Some telephone handsets will allow an adapter to be clipped on, which allows the handset to be held comfortably between the shoulder and neck. These are a good alternative to headsets, but may give insufficient freedom of movement.
Features to look for
I would suggest that you consider one or more of these features when deciding upon a telephone for telesales use:
? Clearly visible and easy-to-press buttons. Numbers can be tapped out easily and clearly – why waste valuable time?
? Last number redial facility. This is a very useful function for those customers who are engaged or who want to be called back in a few minutes. If someone forgets to check something – just press the button and he or she is back in touch.
? Headset socket. As detailed above, there are many advantages to a headset.
? Lightweight handset. Heavy handsets may become uncomfortable with prolonged use
? Hands-free facility. If the telephone user does not have a headset, a hands-free facility on the telephone will make some tasks easier, particularly if it is necessary to shuffle papers or write a lot.
Some other useful features
? A volume control. Some people speak very quietly. Asking the person at the other end of the telephone to 'speak up' is not always appropriate. With a volume control this difficulty can be surmounted.
? Dialler display. This shows the number being called.
? A longer, flexible lead between handset and main unit. Short and rigid handset leads are inhibitive to easy movement.
? A 'secrecy' button. It may be necessary to check something with a colleague, and a secrecy button means this can be done without the person at the other end of the line overhearing. It also means that as a manager, you can give coaching whilst your staff are actually on the telephone.
All of these features may not be required for good telephone work. Different equipment suits different people. It is as well to be aware of the many options available, however.
Try these tips
? Observe your department when it's busy. Do any personnel appear uncomfortable with the telephones you have? Try to see why.
? Purchase a headset for your department. Let different members of staff use it. See what they think of it. Do they find it comfortable? Does it increase their activity?
? Buy a telephone with the above features. Let some of your personnel try it out. Use it yourself. Does it make a difference to the way you work?
? If headsets prove popular with your staff, would it be attractive to offer them as incentives for high achievers?
PROJECT TRACKING SOFTWARE AND COMPUTERS
Some areas of the telesales industry require repeated contact to a wide base of people in order to bring about a sale. In these fields, it is vital to be able to keep track of large quantities of information and the numerous telephone calls made. This is where project-tracking software applies.
Using project-tracking software
Project tracking software is often found within the Construction Industry, where major building projects can involve ten to twenty different companies and hundreds of people. Records of names, dates, and progress have to be kept as it becomes vital to know who is involved in the project, who needs to be spoken to, and what their telephone, 'fax, mobile, and email details are. Keeping to strict deadlines with calls is vital using such a system. There may be only one day in a month when you will be able to speak to key people, and these important calls cannot be missed. Such telephone sales activity is known as 'Project Tracking', or 'Project Co-ordination' and requires extensive telephone work to a wide range of people. These include Architects, Project Engineers, Designers, Planners, Surveyors, and Estimators.
Managers find this type of software extremely useful. It allows them to see exactly what calls have been made, to whom and by whom. Good project-tracking software will also allow a Manager to key in a salesperson's name and find out how their call rate compares to others, what effect the calls are having upon overall sales, and any of a wide permutation of factors which allows him or her to be fully informed.
Project Co-ordinators and Managers will normally utilise specially designed computer software programmes in order to keep accurate records. These records would cover progress made, who has been contacted and by whom, the names of key figures who make decisions, etc. The sales basics are the same, but the use of the computer and software programme adds an additional element. The project co-ordinator will have the PC available, entering in important dates and information on a daily basis. Software for project tracking will also allow entry of other information such as what was discussed, important dates, personal views, and when the next telephone call should be. It would also allow cross-reference to other projects. On an appropriate day in the future, the computer will notify the Project Co-ordinator that a return telephone call is due. Utilising such a system it should be possible to keep track of a very large number of different projects. The software does the work, but the scheduled telephone work still has to be done, and all new information has to be entered into the system.
Many companies also use this system as an aid to follow up literature on specific dates, say, eight to ten days after it has been sent. Managers, as detailed above, find it an invaluable tool both for day-to-day management and for use in predicting sales forecasts.
Advantages of Project tracking systems
? Ease of tracking many different contacts in a wide base of businesses.
? One person is able to keep track of, and co-ordinate complex activity.
? Sales can be monitored and managed by the salesperson and executives.
? Record keeping is precise and records are available.
? Vast amounts of information, easily accessible, can be called upon to focus sales activity.
? Set up and running properly, executives can keep a 'finger on the pulse' of a wide range of projects, sales activity and the effectiveness of sales campaigns.
Disadvantages of Project tracking systems
? Problems can arise if the information is not entered into the system, or entered in incorrectly.
? When the system goes down, so does a high percentage of sales activity.
? Such systems cost money, in capital outlay, in training, and in maintenance.
OTHER USEFUL TOOLS
There are many other tools which may help to make telephone sales life more comfortable, more ordered, and more manageable. Whilst some of these may not be relevant to your particular needs, they are all useful tools.
Residential and Business telephone directories on CD
Telephone directories are now available on CD to save time and money. If your company utilises Computer systems as sales tools, this simple and versatile extra can be invaluable. With millions of names, addresses and telephone numbers of potential residential and business customers, it is something worth thinking about. Of course, this depends upon the size and scope of your business calling.
Increasing your comfort with office equipment
? Use of footrests. Footrests are becoming more and more common in the workplace. They are available in a range of heights, styles and materials. A footrest can make all the difference to the level of personnel comfort and can therefore add to sales activity.
? Employ proper seating. There is no end of office seating stores. Good seating costs little and can make a tremendous difference to the quality of work. Good seating means that personnel are more comfortable, more relaxed and more in control.
? Sitting at a desk or work surface of the correct height, with enough room to write with ease can make a difference to the productivity of staff.
? Acoustic dividers between desks can create a calmer work environment where staff can be more relaxed and feel more able to communicate one-to-one with their clients. They would also allow you to work with staff on a one-to-one basis for training purposes.
Remember that it's important to have the right equipment for the job. Good equipment costs money of course, but properly equipped personnel can also carry out a far more effective job.
Stephen Kaye is the author of 'Make Telesales Work'