Call Guide Opening – Best Practices

Teleprospectors are the vital link between Marketing and Sales; they are responsible for transforming Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) into Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). Teleprospectors work with your prospects through the qualification process until they are ready to be handed over to your sales team. Therefore, it is important that their engagement methods, messaging, and targeting is spot on. To ensure this, your company’s marketing and sales experts should provide Teleprospectors with sales tools to help them effectively navigate the lead qualification process. One such tool is a call guide or script.

A call guide or script is used to meet the following objectives:

  • Provide a quick introduction of your company to prospect (30-second commercial)
  • Give prospect insights into issues you have solved for your clients (select 1 great client story)
  • Uncover prospect pain/need and additional qualifiers
  • Determine if prospect is ready now or within your company’s established timeframe (typically under 6-months)
  • Generate a first meeting or demo (either on the phone, web or in-person)
  • Generate a Sales Qualified Lead

The script will have an opening statement, as well as the qualification questions that you want answered.  The opening of the call guide is very important.  Literally, in 30-60 seconds, the Teleprospector has to share who they are representing and why they are calling.

Call Guide Opening

The Call Guide Opening has the following basic parts: the 30-second commercial, a customer story, and segue into qualification questions. Here’s an example of each of the sections:

30-second Commercial:  SOMAmetrics is a sales and marketing consulting practice and we help our clients accelerate growth.

Customer Story:  In 2011, we assisted a $50 million dollar Tech company, which had lost half of its revenue and customers. The CEO brought us in to implement our Sales and Marketing Best Practices and as a result, 2012 revenues increased by 57%. The client has been working with us for over 18 months and we expect 2013 revenues to increase by an additional 35-40%.

Segue into Qualifying Questions:  Perhaps your company has similar challenges? Is now a good time to ask you a few brief questions, to get an understanding of how we might work together? (If no, get a date/time).

Create distinct call guides and openings for each of your Targets (CXO, VP/Director, and Manager). The Teleprospector will have fewer than 60-seconds to engage the prospect. Consequently, the messaging needs to be spot on to keep prospects interested and to give your Reps the opportunity to share more information about your product or service.

Sales Management: Bad Management – Performance Improvement Plans

There are two sides to everything: Ying and Yang, Good and Evil, Black and White, Summer and Winter. Similarly, Sales Management has fun, and not so fun parts. It can be rewarding but also includes making tough decisions. The fun part of Sales Management is working with your team and watching them excel. However, when it comes to dealing with constant lack of performance, you as the manager need to implement change. What are you supposed to do if a team member does not live up to the required standards? Should you fire them? Should you ignore under-performers? I think the answer to this question is pretty straight forward: support your team, in good times and in bad times. In good times and bad, do what is best for THEM.

 

Performance Improvement Plans – Why I Hate Them

In my 20 plus years managing Inside Sales and Teleprospecting teams, I have had to put a handful of people on what is known in the industry as a PIP, a Performance Improvement Plan. In my opinion, PIPs don’t live up to their name, as they are not about improving an employee’s performance.  Rather, a PIP is a process document used to prove that the Manager has tried to help the employee, over a period of 30-90 days.  The documentation is a paper trail that is used to protect the company from legal action.

I have read many blogs that call PIPs evil.  I agree because they suck the humanity out of the Sales Manager (who really isn’t trying to help an employee improve) and the employee who is being humiliated throughout the process.  They also impact the rest of the team, bringing morale down and taking everyone’s focus away from what is important. I, personally, have never seen a PIP work.  The reason is that PIPs are not about helping a struggling employee improve performance.  Instead, they are a clear indication that they are about to be terminated.

I understand that PIPs are necessary to protect companies from future legal actions.  I know that some employees are not going to work out, no matter how great the interview process or background checks.  Still, I disapprove of PIPs and for several reasons:

  1. They are humiliating.  No matter how hard one tries to keep the PIP process confidential, most people on the team know when someone is on a PIP.
  2. PIPs lower morale.  Team members who are not on a PIP have their own opinions about the individual on a PIP.  If they like the individual, Management is the bad guy.   Even if they dislike the person they may sympathize with them because they have to go through the PIP process.  Again, Management is the bad guy. Low trust and respect between Sales management and employees is directly proportional to a lack of motivation and success.
  3. PIPs require Managers to spend time focused on the documentation/paper trail process, giving them less time focusing on managing the team to success.  While the PIP event is in play, the “good” team members are, typically, left to fend for themselves, because the manager is heads down focused on the poor performer for the next 30-90-days.

 

How to Avoid PIPs

I have used two distinct methods for avoiding PIPs.  The first one is a GOSPA Plan.  The second one is a recruiter.

GOSPA Planning

When employees are given the opportunity to develop their own success plans (see my blog on GOSPA Planning: Goals, Objectives, Strategies, Plans, and Activities) and understand the metrics and consequences for not meeting the metrics, PIPs can be avoided.

For example, say a Teleprospector has the following metrics to meet each month:

–          Make a minimum of 800 dials/month

–          Have 20 Key Conversations with decision makers

–          Build a Teleprospecting lead pipeline of a  minimum of 24 potential leads

–          Generate 8 qualified leads to pass to Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)

–          Receive sales approval on at least 6 of these SQLs for addition to their Sales Funnel

The Teleprospector is required to build a quarterly GOSPA Plan, which outlines how they will achieve the above metrics.  The manager’s job is to review the GOSPA plan, ensure that it is a viable plan, and to review with the employee what will happen if the metrics are not met each week/month/quarter.  Working with the Rep, the manager should discuss the consequences for low performance.  Assume that the Rep under-performs on his metrics by 20% for a period of 4 weeks.  It should be understood that the manager will take specific action to help the employee improve, such as sitting in on calls or providing coaching on the specific issues.  If improvement doesn’t happen within a 90-day period, termination may be the next step.  The manager manages all employees to this standard.  Everyone is aware of the actions and consequences for not meeting the Goals that the employee outlined in his GOSPA.  The required “HR/termination” documentation is an offshoot of this process.  No PIP is required.

If sales management holds weekly individual meetings to review performance and achievement-to-date against plan, everyone will know where they are, each and every week.  This information is documented as a standard course of managing the team members.  The manager’s goal is to quickly identify issues and to really work to help an employee improve, if they are falling behind their stated metrics.  When a GOSPA  Plan is in place, the employee should be going to their manager if they are having problems, because they developed the plan and know what they are accomplishing or not.  In essence, it is their plan and they are responsible for working to the plan as they outlined in their plan.

Recruiter to the Rescue

Many years ago, I was asked to turn-around a call center that was under-performing.  The team of eight was struggling to meet the demands of the job.  I quickly implemented my Best Practices and was able to get the team moving in the right direction.  This took about 6 weeks.  Once the team understood what they needed to do and had additional training, they began to generate quality SQLs for the sales team.

Unfortunately, one of the team members was having a difficult time picking up the phone to make calls.  The bad news for him was that Teleprospecting is a phone job.  While he was very confident about the technology and solution offering, he hated making phone calls.  He was the most technical person on the team.  I could see that he would make a great customer service rep for some company.  I didn’t know how he got hired, but he was a good person and I wasn’t going to humiliate him by putting him on a PIP.

I asked his manager if he knew of any recruiters who might have customer service positions available.  The manager got back to me within a few days with a few recruiter names.  We called them and asked them to anonymously recruit our team member out of our company.

Within two weeks, our lack-luster team member was in my office.  He handed me his letter of resignation, stating: “This is a much better job for me.  I like talking to customers; I just don’t like initiating phone calls”.

By utilizing a recruiter to “remove” this person out of this “wrong-for-him” job, I saved our company time, money and kept morale from sinking.  It was the most compassionate way to manage this situation.  The team member will never know how his manager and I helped to get him the job that was a better fit for him.  We did it without humiliating him or impacting team morale.

PIPs are never about performance improvement.  If you must put someone on a PIP, do so as a last resort.  My best advice is to manage performance, every week based on a plan like GOSPA, that your team is responsible for building.  Or use recruiters to move people out of mismatched positions into more suitable positions at a different company.  Use compassion when helping people.  Your compassion will help you and your team in the long run.

More Sales Management Insights:

Sales Management: Setting up Task Force Teams to Get Team Buy-In for Great Results

task force teams

Overview: Learn an effective method for managing your sales team through the development and implementation of task force teams. 

Managing people has been, and always will be, a widely discussed topic. Managing Sales Teams is no exception. Should management be a top-down approach, where the manager implements their Best Practices no matter what? Or should management take a bottom-up approach, where employees participate in the decision-making process and are allowed to influence goal-setting and change workflows to the best of their knowledge? What is the best way to improve performance and productivity?

Setting Up Task Force Teams for Sales

Over the past 15 years, I have been asked to turn-around over 50 Inside Sales and Teleprospecting organizations.  The method that I used to win over the hearts and minds of each team was Task Force Teams.

After the first week or so in the role, I created task force teams regarding specific issues and concerns that I uncovered during interviews with each team member. I created task force teams on topics such as Key Performance Indicators (the metrics used to manage the team), Commission Rates, Quotas, CRM, Contracts, and other issues deemed important. I asked that team members join one or more of the task forces to resolve the outstanding issues. I also informed them that some of the issues, like commissions and quotas, will need Executive-level sign off and that some issues may not be resolved exactly as we would like. My teams knew that once our recommendations were approved, we would be held accountable for achieving our numbers for the plans we outlined.

I limited participation to 5-7 team members for each of the task force teams. I managed the task forces as follows:

  • I started with a brainstorm session or two which helped us get all ideas on the board for later review
  • The ideas review is the next step. During this phase, the task force reviews and eliminates any ideas that are not viable or are less likely to be approved by Senior Management
  • Task force recommendations are captured in a power-point deck and reviewed by the team prior to the presentation to the manager
  • Each Task Force Leader presents the approved recommendations to the entire team. It is understood that the approved task force recommendations are to be adhered to by the entire team. In most cases, there have been a 95% or more agreement rate about the recommendations as outlined by the various task force teams

Task Force Teams – Case Study

One of the organizations that I turned-around was the Inside Sales team for a company that had lost half of its clients and had not seen any new customer sales since the recession. The Inside Sales team had not hit their revenue targets in many years.

During the assessment of the organization, I found that the sales team had no metrics that they were measured against and held to. For example, Sales Reps didn’t have quotas. The sales funnel was full of opportunities; however, 80% of these were no longer feasible because there was no sales methodology in place to effectively manage deals through the sales funnel. To complex the issues, team members made fewer than 10 dials per day each. I knew we had to get that number up because this was a phone job and the only opportunity to get more prospects was by calling them. I realized that my Sales Management experience was needed to get this team to achieve their goals and increase revenue.

Working with the task force teams, we decided on a sales methodology and a set of metrics that the team agreed would help them achieve their newly assigned quotas. Everyone agreed to the minimum metrics and worked towards them as a team. At the end of the first year, revenue had increased by 57% and revenue from new prospects had increased by 80%.

However, I don’t always agree with task force recommendations. If their recommendations are way off the mark (from my experience), I work with the team to get their ideas to align with what I know will work. No matter what, the caveat is that if we don’t see improvement within 90-days, we will need to regroup and come up with a better process or set of metrics. This becomes a continuous improvement process in which experimentation is essential. Similarly, Sales Management is not a stagnant process. As the manager of a team you need to be flexible and listen to the suggestions of your employees. Sales Management is about working with your employees and it’s really good when task force members can work together to analyze how their recommendations are working or not. I recommend that these teams review their recommendations and results at the end of each quarter.

Increase Productivity

Many studies have been undertaken on the subject of Sales Management and employee involvement in the decision making process. Most research agrees that participation has positive effects on performance and thus productivity. For example, C. A. L. Pearson conducted an experiment involving two groups of workers: a group where employees were included in goal setting and a control group that executed traditional work procedures. The results indicated not only that those “who were engaged in participative goal setting reported […] greater job satisfaction”, but that “goal setting and performance were positively related.”[1] Similarly, another paper found that “empowered employees largely improve performance by finding innovative ways of correcting errors in service delivery and redesigning work processes.”[2] These findings are in line with my own experience, and show that if you get the buy-ins from your employees, you will see an increase in performance, productivity, and eventually revenues.

Rather than telling the team what to do, I give my teams the ability to determine their destiny. When teams are given the opportunity to provide their input on specific aspects of the job, the manager has their “buy-in,” and team members are more likely to work toward the “team” assigned goals. Why wouldn’t they? It’s their plans and their ideas and therefore their responsibility to make them work. This process has worked for me and has helped my teams greatly improve their performance.

More on Sales Management:

More Sales Management Insights:


[1] C. L. A. Pearson, “Participative Goal Setting as a Strategy for Improving Performance and Job Satisfaction” (1987), Human Relations Journal, Volume 40 (8), pp 473-488 <http://hum.sagepub.com/content/40/8/473.abstract>

[2] S. Fernandez and T. Moldogaziev, “Using Employee Empowerment to Encourage Innovative Behavior in the Public Sector” (2013), Journal of Administration Research and Theory, Volume 23 (1), pp 155-187 <http://jpart.oxfordjournals.org/content/23/1/155.abstract>

Sales Management: Love Thy Employee

I believe that all people should be treated with respect.  People who believe they are respected, appreciated and valued tend to be happy people.  From my experience, employees who believe that they are respected, appreciated and valued are productive and motivated.  I believe that it is the job of every manager to respect, appreciate and value their employees. This is what good Sales Management is all about.

When I was the Director of Inside Sales for a large educational software company, I managed a team of 18 Inside Sales Reps and 2 Telemarketers.  Many of my team members were at their desks by 5:30 AM Pacific, because they had Eastern territories.  I made it a point to walk around their area at 5:45 AM and then again at 7:30 AM, when the rest of the team was at their desks.  I did this ritual every day to offer encouragement, answer questions and to let everyone know that I appreciate them.  Sometimes I would bring in bagels or donuts and offer these to the team.  After a few weeks in my new position, the team began to expect my daily walk-throughs.  They were ready with their feedback or progress updates.  If someone was down, I would offer encouragement or provide insights on how they might solve a particular problem.

Every quarter, the CEO of this company made it a point to come to our offices and do “call-challenges” with the team.  He would sit with each Rep and make calls to their prospects using his opening statement.  Then the team member would do the same, using their opening statement or script.  He would provide feedback and encouragement throughout the process of making these calls.  The goal was to see who was able to move the prospect to the next level.  (The CEO never mentioned to prospects that he was the CEO, which would have given him an unfair advantage).  The team welcomed his visits and the CEO got a kick out of seeing how each team member handled their prospects.  He admitted to me, after these events, that he learned some new tricks.  He let the team know that he was impressed by their focus and effort.

The VP of Sales, at the same company, would often ask me what the team needed from him to boost morale and to make them feel appreciated.  He would drop by the office as well, providing feedback and congratulating the team when we met our monthly and quarterly objectives.

I saw how important it was to the team to have the Executives visit, and provide their insights and feedback.  I decided to ask other Executives from Marketing/ Finance/Legal /Product Management to visit us to discuss campaigns or to address issues on contracts or commissions and to hear about new product functionality.  The team loved having the opportunity to meet with the Executives.  These meetings gave them the sense that they were valued and respected.

This team was named region of the year for achieving 114% of quota.  Our success was due to many factors.  However, I believe one important factor was that this team felt the “love” from the company’s Senior Executive team.

My opinion is not only supported by my own experiences, but by many human resource studies. After my research, I can conclude that an overwhelming percentage of literature confirms that respect at the workplace generates not only a more productive working environment, but helps the organization meet its goals. For example, Daniel J. Koys concludes from his literature review that “organizational commitment is positively related to the perception that HRM activities are motivated by (a) management’s desire to show respect for the individual and (b) management’s desire to attract/retain employees”. [1] Similarly, a study of Total Quality Management argues that “Empowerment and teamwork significantly enhance job involvement, job satisfaction, career satisfaction, and organizational commitment.”[2] Commitment and a feeling of belonging create a positive working environment, and if an employee feels like his/her work is appreciated and valued, he/she is more willing to go the extra mile for the company’s well-being.

Create a culture of appreciation.  Ask senior executives and mid-level managers to take part in this process.  Morale will be high and your teams will, by feeling the “love”, be more productive and engaged at work.

 


[1] D. J. Koys, “Human resource management and a culture of Respect: Effects on employees’ organizational commitment” (1988), Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, Volume 1 (1), pp 57-68. < http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01385453>

[2] N. Karia and M. Asaari, “The effects of total quality management practices on employees’ work-related attitudes” (2006), The TQM Magazine, Volume 18 (1), pp. 30-43
< http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=1537485&show=abstract>