By Claire Coffman, Trainer
Teaching the different skills required for outbound and inbound telemarketing training programs is more important than ever before. The one size fits all or blanket training approach doesn’t work.
For most people, the words “training” and “teaching” are synonymous. Having been both a teacher in a school system and a corporate trainer, I can tell you that there are also many differences while there are similarities. In any case of leading instruction, the most important thing to remember is that you are training people, not disembodied voices. Instructors need a bit of finesse to get their learners to understand the taught content.
Teaching/training anyone anything requires a sturdy knowledge base on the instructor’s part, a willingness to learn on the student’s part, and a well-structured instruction guide. If any of these components are missing, learning can’t happen. At least not without increased frustration for everyone involved.
As different as the job descriptions for inbound and outbound telemarketing are, the training required to perform these jobs is just as diverse. Inbound telemarketing agents need to be trained in customer service areas and cultivating relationships with new and existing customers.
One item to take note on when referring to outbound and inbound telemarketing training programs is this: Inbound telemarketing training is typically seen as “less strenuous” than outbound training, primarily because most people calling into a company’s service center are already customers.
Outbound telemarketing agents need to be trained in all of the above and how to reach sales quotas, which adds to the stress of calling customers when it may not be a convenient time for them to talk. Outbound telemarketing agents also need to be more prepared for the “no” than an inbound telemarketing agent will.
When training for outbound and inbound telemarketing, the critical focus is to develop sales through service. Customer service is developed through connecting with people—treating every caller as a human with a name instead of an account number and possible dollar signs. That means showing empathy, recording and understanding customer complaints, and positive remarks, and creating a generally positive experience for the customer.
For inbound telemarketing training:
- Inform the agents about the company—the company’s history, their product, their expectations.
- Teach the agents how to use the company’s technology—for remote workers, including how to access any remote desktops, how to use their dialers, how to use any programs the company uses to keep track of customer accounts.
- Have a session on customer service and what the company expects from their agents—some companies have specific ways of speaking to customers that they need to learn to meet those expectations. Agents need to learn and practice company-specific speech and practice that speech outside of their usual speaking way.
- Practice, practice, practice—there’s a quote that I love to use: “don’t practice until you get it right; practice until you cannot get it wrong.” Build up the confidence of your agents. An agent with no or low confidence in their ability to navigate a call, customer, or company system will always need help. You can never practice too much. Role-play with your agents, let them listen to recorded or live calls of other agents in the same role, use quizzes and/or games to help the information stick in their brains.
- Listen—this is a crucial tip. You cannot be a good instructor if you are not listening to your learners. Note not just the words the agents use when expressing concern or asking a question; you also need to note the tone and stress levels of an agent’s voice. Being a good listener is half of a trainer’s job. We cannot expect others to learn from us if we do not practice what we preach. As instructor’s when we listen, we also learn. We learn what concepts stump our learners; we learn what concepts build confidence. Training is not a one-way street. We must make constant adjustments to make sure our agents are grasping the information. If some training technique isn’t working, try a different approach. Everyone learns differently, and instructors need to learn to adapt.
- SMILE! Teach your agents the importance of smiling, even if no one is looking at them. Customers can hear a smile through a phone line. It also helps an agent sound engaged and confident.
For outbound telemarketing training:
- Practice set scripts to help your agents sound like they aren’t robo-reading. Nothing will lose a listener’s interest more than an agent that sounds like Ben Stein reading a script.
- Practice with your agents how they should react to hearing “no” and the sound of a phone hanging up. Rebuttal/objection guides and scripts are excellent for this.
- When cold calling, if a person hears a telemarketer on the phone, they tend to hang up without even listening to the offer.
- When outbound agents call existing customers to check-in, offer deals, or update information, they are slightly more likely to keep a customer on the phone. Outbound agents need thick skin and practice how not to take hearing “no” personally.
- Everything that is included in the inbound telemarketing training tips.
Teachers have an innate ability to switch between teaching a concept to provide support effortlessly, sometimes in the same breath. We have to. We must be able to quickly process when a learner is frustrated and how to alleviate that frustration. No one learns when they are frustrated.
Teachers, trainers, or anyone in any instruction position must mix in a little compassion in their subject matter. By understanding that everyone learns differently, treating learners with compassion, and exercising patience during every step of the learning process, we can cut back on the time it takes to train agents on new material and cut back on attrition rates.
Confident agents who know that they will be heard when they ask for help tend to stay in their position more often than agents who don’t feel supported in their learning journey. So when you’re looking for tips on outbound and inbound telemarketing training programs, remember to refer back to this article!
Claire Coffman is the corporate trainer for Quality Contact Solutions. After teaching for 15 years, Claire decided to take her love of sharing knowledge to the corporate world to help improve customer relations. Claire enjoys a good challenge, is highly competitive, especially against herself, and constantly strives to be better than the day before. Claire can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 516-656-4103.