No one’s selling any more.

Historically, consumers have been bombarded with sales pitches and aggressive sales tactics to try and get our business (think door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesmen that won’t leave your house until you buy). In the call centre sales game it’s been much the same. However, what we’re finding lately through our call centre benchmarking is a disconcerting trend. Most staff we are calling make big assumptions about what we want, then give us disconnected details around their product features resulting in information overload. Yet here’s the real kicker. After such confused service, the majority are not even bothering to ask for our business.

So at what point did not seeking our business become common practice?

After looking at company websites, gathering information about what’s available, then picking up the phone to seek clarification to help make our buying decision, what has been our experience?

Half the time we struggle to find someone to speak to at all because of poor menu design, terrible ‘speech recognition’ systems that don’t recognise speech (?!?) and lengthy queue delays. When we do speak with someone, most of the time we get a verbal brochure which is no different to what we just read online. The few questions we get asked relate to product preferences, as if we’ve already made up our minds.

At Five Degrees we do a lot of mystery shopping to benchmark inbound sales call centres across big industries (banks/telcos/insurance etc.). We represent prospective customers who are hot leads with high value. We’re close to making a decision but first we need some help. We pick up the phone crossing our fingers, hoping to get answered by someone who is just going to make it easy for us to buy.

It is a rare and surprising thing when we are engaged in a real conversation which lets us talk about what we want to achieve and why we’re interested in their organisation. We want clear solutions that make sense, not a walking talking brochure. How is it that we are surprised when call centre staff proactively ask for our business? If you don’t ask, you don’t get – this is Sales101.

The insights from our call centre benchmarking consistently reveal the vast majority of companies fail to sell. Call centre sales is about how you differentiate your channel from that of your website and leverage the benefit of human contact to provide solutions and close the deal. At least on a website customers can control the information they choose to absorb. With the call centre we are completely beholden to the choices of the sales consultant in terms of what information we get – and critically, how it’s delivered.

Understand this. When prospects bother to pick up the phone and ring your call centre, they want to buy from you. So let them.

Our big companies are letting huge opportunities and dollars slip through their fingers each and every day. A lack of sales competency and leadership is to blame.