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Phone sales techniques: Keeping customers on the line

Many outbound call center agents struggle with keeping customers on the phone. Donna Fluss explains some phone sales techniques in this expert Q&A.

I work for an outbound call center that calls people with debt and presents them with the opportunity to refinance....

My problem is, as soon as I get the customer on the phone and begin explaining our process, they hang up. What can I do to get them to stay on the line?

There are a lot of consumers who do not want their dinner or family time disturbed by a telemarketing or sales call – even if the service or product being offered is very beneficial. Customers are particularly frustrated when they have signed up for the Do Not Call (DNC) list and believe that this means they will never be called again, although they may have filled out a form that gives a business permission to contact them. Another point to consider is that your first call to a customer may, in fact, be the third or fourth telemarketing call they have received about their debt issues.

While you may have to adhere to specific company guidelines, here are some techniques to help you increase your chances of keeping the customer on the line until, at the very least, you have had an opportunity to explain what you are offering.

Speak clearly and professionally – Introduce yourself at the beginning of the call, state the name of the company that you are calling for, and the purpose of the call. For example, let the customer know that you'd like to provide information about how the company's debt refinance programs can be of benefit to them.

Be courteous – Before delving into your script and asking the customer a lot of personal questions up-front, ask the customer if this is a good time for them to spend five minutes or so reviewing your program's features. If it's not a good time, ask when it would be more convenient. Always thank the customer for their time.

Know your products and services – If the customer is willing to listen to what you have to offer, they certainly don't want to hear it recited verbatim from a script. Develop a thorough understanding of the programs that you are selling so that you can communicate the information clearly and confidently. This will go a long way in helping to establish credibility for you and your company.

Conduct a side-by-side with an outstanding performer – Ask your supervisor to allow you to sit with a highly successful call center agent. Listen carefully to how the agent manages his or her calls and the methods that they use to keep the customer interested and achieve successful close rates. Incorporate these techniques into your own call management repertoire.

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