5 Challenges of Selling to Consumers Over the Phone

Howard Schulman

When call center agents conduct outbound or inbound phone sales, they will inevitably run into several challenges. While phone sales have been an effective way to earn new business over the years, the phone sales environment is definitely full of obstacles. These challenges impact the customer experience, agent satisfaction and, of course, business results.

It’s not a secret that phone sales is difficult, just start typing into Google “telesales is” and you get shocking auto suggestions.

While some who face the challenges see it as “Soul destroying” or “hard” or even “dead,” it is clear that phone sales can also be “important” and “good” for business.

Here are key overlooked challenges that your sales teams encounter and that impact your team and bottom line

1. Sales Are Visual, Calls Are Not.

Teach Your Teams to Visualize Sales

One concern that many telesales managers have for their teams is that agents are not engaging enough with the customer on the call. Websites and retail locations have the advantage of being able to show the customer the product and allow the customer to interact with the product in some way.

When training your agents, it’s important to keep in mind that a phone-based sales team is limited to audio. The agent may not have the caller’s full attention during the entire call, especially if they catch the customer on their cell phone. Callers can be distracted, multi-tasking, or may be upset or coming to the call with their own agenda. Customers want to be able to visualize a product and how it fits into their life.
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It has been said that the key to sales is painting word pictures, and that the sales agent is the artist. If your sales team describes the product or service with little to no creativity, the customer will likely pick up on their lack of enthusiasm and be less likely to buy.

Managers should look for technology that can help support the agent by providing a way to send product visualizations. However, be careful not to send customers to websites or Google; they can get lost in the online journey or go to competitors website.

2. Customers Need Familiar Structure.

Sales Processes Can Be Complex – Help Walk Customers Through the Order Process

When a customer goes into a store, they have the ability to ask questions as their items are being rung up by a cashier or sales team member. If the customer is ordering online, the shopping cart guides them through the process of ordering, step by step.

Ordering products or services over the phone can be difficult and confusing, and it is the agent’s responsibility to guide the customer through the ordering process in an efficient and accurate manner. Is the customer aware of exactly what the agent is selling? Have all compliance obligations been met?

Remember that a phone-based sales agent is helping a customer “try on” the product or service. While there is no fitting room, or counter for the customer to walk up to. It is important to set the customer’s expectations before the ordering process begins.

Ask your sales agents to find out what the customer is expecting and let your agents know that they must be completely honest and thorough in explaining even the basic terms of the purchase before it happens. Providing accurate and carefully spelled out terms before the transaction has occurred will help to avoid misunderstandings and minimize refund requests.

Here too, technology can help guide the customer through the last mile of their customer journey by providing an instant cart to the customers mobile phone without having to send the customer to a website. Here the customer can fully see and understand what they are buying, ask any questions, and approve any terms and conditions to close the sale.

3. Ordering Over the Phone Isn’t Dead, It’s Just Unfamiliar

As technology has permeated our consumer lives, customers are more used to ordering products or services online. While some customers may prefer to go into a store to order a product, especially if they want customized options, many prefer the ‘anywhere, anytime’ convenience of phone or internet ordering. Ordering by phone is still a convenient way for customers to order items – just consider complex, households cell phone plans or non-standard sized shoes or clothing.

Customers make decisions about completing purchases based on their perception of the process. For example, in a physical store, customer often make a decisions about their based on how long the line at the checkout is – to ensure its not more than the time they’ve carved out in their busy days. On the phone, they may be concerned, as they have other things to do. They will want to know if the order can be accomplished quickly on the call. One of the best solutions to this is to make sure that your agents understand that they need to engage in active listening.

Remind your agents not to approach the call in a pushy or rude manner, but to listen to what the customer is asking for, so that they can provide the most appropriate solution in the shortest amount of time.

4. Closing The Deal And Payment Can Be A Hassle.

Simplify the Payment and Closing Process

Another obstacle your agents might face is closing the sale and taking payment over the phone. Giving out credit card information over the phone may feel antiquated to both the customer and the agent. The easier you make the process for the Customer to provide payment, the better.

This part of the call also has some compliance obstacles, particularly PCI-DSS, that must be overcome while still maintaining optimal customer experience.

As a business leader, making sure that your staff is trained on all of the steps required to process the payment is imperative. Additionally, if the agent needs to send the customer documents to sign, stop and start call recording if payment info is shared, have terms and conditions accepted, be sure there is technology in place that enables the smooth digital handling of these procedures while the customer is on the phone.

5. Handling Customer Concerns and Uncertainty

Finally, remember that customers ordering over the phone may have more doubts. If your sales agents are not approaching the call with enthusiasm, if the ordering and payment process is complicated and time-consuming, these factors will cause the customer to be skeptical, hesitant, or even remorseful – even after a sale. Your agents must gain customer confidence from the start and maintain it throughout the phone call.

Guiding your agents to take ownership of the phone conversation and communicate enthusiastically and listen attentively will enable your sales team to close more sales and earn more loyal customers.

Focusing on these challenges and implementing these strategies with your outbound telesales team will ensure that you are able to assist more customers through the sales process in a more efficient and purposeful manner. Solutions exist to help agents guide a customer through the call from beginning to close.

These solutions play a key role in improving closure rates, reducing returns and boosting customer experience. With solutions that guide a customer through “cart” completion, document collection, obtaining signature and agreement, payment processing and much more, it is clear that technology can empower phone sales teams on their “important” and “good” mission.

telesales conversion rates

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