In the current climate, all teams need to focus on costs and efficiency – but none more so than telesales teams. So, what are the classic mistakes and unnecessary costs in telesales departments and telesales systems?
The reality is that Telesales is an expensive exercise… recruiting, managing and employing people is expensive! There’s no getting away from it. They are expensive but necessary – so it’s critical that we make the most of this expensive resource, and maximise their productivity. Later in this series we will look at the issues involved in replacing telesales activity with online and automated eCommerce (arguably an unstoppable trend), but for now, let’s assume that you can’t or don’t want to move all of your sales to online ordering and want to keep at least some element of your telesales.
So, how can we maximise the cost-effectiveness of our telesales activities…
- Call the right people at the right time – or put another way, not wasting your resources in calling the wrong customers at the wrong time.
- Fast and focussed order entry screens – as processes go, entering orders (and multiple order lines) is one of the most repetitive processes in many businesses. So, why is it that most businesses use a generic accounting system screen to enter their orders? If I had a pound for every time a client told me they write orders on a pad and enter them afterwards – because it’s too slow to do while their customer is on the phone… utter madness… with the right interface you ought to be able to enter the order faster than the customer can speak…
- Accurate order entry – what does it really cost to ship the wrong product? How much does it cost to deal with a customer complaint; send a replacement product; book a return; annoy or even lose the customer? Too much!
- Integrated Credit Card Processing – credit card payments are becoming more and more popular in B2B telesales. If only because customers like collecting their points! However, most businesses aren’t really sure they like taking credit card’s over the phone – there are card-data compliance issues, traditional terminals attract monthly rental costs and can only be used by one person at a time, and typically require staff to get out of their seats… but if you haven’t seen a modern internet-based credit card payment system, fully integrated to your telesales system and your accounts receipts… then think again!
- Pushing for more Credit Card Payments – once it is fast, easy and secure to take Credit Card Payments (see above) then why wouldn’t you do more of it? If you only make say £100 – £300 margin on a sale, how much of that profit is simply flittered away if you have to chase the payment with a couple of calls and an email or two and have your cash tied up for 30-60 days? In many cases, I would argue the order wasn’t worth taking! Customers will often surprise you and react positively to requests for payment by credit card, you get the money almost instantly and you don’t spend any of it on credit control.
- Automated order acknowledgement emails – If you print or fax order acknowledgements or even manually email them then it’s costing you unnecessarily. If you don’t send them you are missing a chance to catch a mistake and increasing the costs involved in shipping the wrong goods.
- Telephony Integration – it’s only a small time saving each time… but how many times do all the staff in your organisation make and outbound call by rekeying a phone number from the screen to a telephone keypad? How often do they miss-dial, and start again (no backspace on a telephone keypad!)? How many times do they receive an incoming call and then manually search a computer system to find the customer’s details?
- Avoid over-selling your stock. Over selling the stock you have is remarkably easy to do without the right systems in place – especially if telesales teams don’t have a fast enough interface and are forced to write orders on paper before keying them into your system. This allows two members of staff to sell the same item, promise it to the customer and only find out that it has been sold twice sometime later on. Letting customers down is doubly costly – it takes time to call back and deal with the issue – and persistent failures will undermine customer service and customer confidence.
- Avoid under-selling your stock. If you allocate stock to orders on a first-come, first-served basis you might be unwittingly under-selling stock and telling customers you don’t have any when you do! Once you have a lot of customers, stock and orders, the maths to get this right can be complex (i.e. ideal for a computer). But, essentially, if Customer A wants your last 5 widgets but doesn’t need them for two weeks you will probably allocate the stock and reserve it anyway. Customer B then calls in wanting 3 on Friday then the answer will most likely be “no sorry we have just sold our last 5”. However, if on your accounts system there is already a purchase order for another 40, arriving Thursday, it would be possible to fulfil both. Clearly this is very complex with many products, many sales orders and many purchase orders (especially with overseas shipments taking weeks to arrive) – but this sort of complex predictive stock calculation is quite achievable with modern systems. Most people just ignore this issue or simply don’t know it can be done.
- Telesales within CRM and integrated to the Accounts System. This is obvious to some and less so to others. But… while it has been traditional to do so, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever for your telesales team to be logged into your accounts system. An accounts system is by definition designed for accountants – not sales people. The interface isn’t fast or friendly. The functionality and data is dry and impersonal – not focussed around the customer or sales process. The data is often restrictive (not enough contacts, phone no’s and email addresses). Whereas a CRM is designed specifically for Sales people, holds useful relationship information, unlimited contact details etc… if only there was a CRM system that integrated with your accounts and provided a really fast and automated telesales function…
If you are interested to know more about some of the issues in this best-practice list then look out for some of our forthcoming best practice emails where we will pick up on some of the biggest of these issues.
But… why wait? Contact ProspectSoft today and find out how we have helped hundreds of businesses, just like yours, to improve their telesales, marketing and field sales efficiency.
Call us today on 01494 486 300.
About the author: Andrew Ardron is the Managing Director of ProspectSoft. Read more from this author