Hanging on the telephone

Recently I was helping a friend set up his new call-centre business selling alarm systems: He has a larger-than-life character and his approach to selling is old-school; brash but likeable. It seems that whilst that tack may work at senior level, phone sales-forces now have to employ a range of more subtle psychological tactics to get a proverbial foot in the door.

The most successful member of the team is a softly spoken man who is so sweet sounding that, in the midst of a stressful day, you can imagine it would be rather nice to receive a call and have a calming chat with him, and, since the objective of the telephone team is purely to get an appointment for a home visit (where the harder sell takes place) it would, supposing the rest of the salesmen to be just like him, be quite difficult to refuse.
The team leader is also a charming chap who opens with the line ‘I do hope I’m not disturbing you or interrupting your day am I?’ It’s generally in our polite nature to unwittingly negate this and provide him with his inroad where he endearingly strikes with a self-deprecating manner, a jolly laugh and an apparently sincere desire to ensure your home, all the people, contents and even pets inside are safe.

The Asian man who has assumed an English pseudonym to increase his chances of people talking to him has bizarrely yet likeably chosen not a standard Chris, Steve or Jim but the name of a Shakespearean warrior. It seems this is a deliberately more memorable option and also has the benefit of acting as a conversation starter.

The systems do seem to be a genuinely good deal with excellent safety aspects that would be extremely useful in any household, however it is the finely developed script that uses carefully selected language to reference a safety awareness campaign, current legislation, up to date knowledge of other systems available and even contains a cheeky joke to end on that is the masterclass in sophisticated direct sales techniques.

I’m fairly selective and proactive about my significant purchases and therefore generally feel justified in curtly dismissing cold-callers although, at times, I do wonder if I should make more of an effort. It was therefore some comfort to experience the verbal wrigglers from a different perspective – such feeble on the spot escape attempts as ‘I’ve got an alarm system already’, ‘I don’t have any money’, ‘It’s not my house’, are met with expertly crafted possible solutions thanks to the ‘objections’ crib sheet.

As the majority of calls I receive seem to start with them in the midst of a conversation with a colleague or, even worse, a robotic voice telling me that the call may be recorded prior to any kind of introduction whatsoever, followed by an immediate plough into a non-flexible script, continued incorrect use of my name in spite of several corrections, mostly conducted in a shouty or difficult to hear voice, I figure my response will remain largely unchanged, however, I’m sure all involved would find it a more pleasurable and mutually respectful experience if they employed the good humour, politeness and dexterously intelligent tactics of the team I met yesterday and possibly sales might even increase which, I’m not so naive to understand, is what it’s really all about!

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