Do you need experience to be good at outbound telesales?

Graduates are often plunged into the deep end and recruited for outbound telesales roles. Why? Because, you can often recruit ‘keen and bright’ at a good price. But is this enough? Without a good induction and training programme, almost certainly not – we are talking as a rule here, there are always exceptions.

But let’s assume that you have a fantastic, induction, on-boarding and training programme, will a graduate or anyone with very limited work experience succeed in a telesales role?

It depends to a certain extent on the role.  In some telesales roles, you can make up for a lack of experience, and the poor conversion rates that inexperience often brings, by making a high volume of calls; i.e., playing the numbers the game.  This has a better chance of working in B2C environments, particularly if it’s a simple sales message such as “we are cheaper”.

Make enough calls and a percentage will probably convert.

No great skill required; just tenacity, resilience and being audible on the telephone.  Scripts are often used with some success in these circumstances.  You can guess likely objections in advance and train telemarketing sales reps. to handle most of them.  There will be disparity between your best and worst performers, caused mainly by level of activity, and a good performer can become bad almost overnight.  Once boredom sets in, which it inevitably does for the majority, performance drops off.

Attrition rates are typically very high in these types of roles.

A B2B environment is different.

Scripts are less useful in a B2B environment because it’s all about engagement.  You need to quickly engage with the prospect and respond to what they have to say rather than sticking to a script.  This is hard for someone with little experience to do.  It’s not necessarily previous telesales experience that’s important but general business experience.

I would rather employ someone who had worked in retail for 2 years selling sofas than hire someone with 2 months telesales experience if the role I was recruiting for was a telesales role selling to retailers.  Selling to Enterprise clients is trickier still.  Just navigating your way around a corporate giant is hard enough for someone who understands how big corporates work, and almost impossible task for someone who doesn’t.

I did a role play call last week with a graduate and potential employee… 

They came across as confident and asked good questions (all pre-scripted) but when it came down to real engagement, i.e., understanding how my business works and the key challenges, they just couldn’t do it.  They didn’t get as far as matching their solution to my needs due to a lack of engagement which I believe is down to a lack of general business experience or business savvy.

Can people be trained to get enough business savvy to do the job?

I expect they could but it would be a massive time investment and the time to results would be slow – too slow for most impatient organisations that are looking for quick returns.

A great attitude, work ethic, tenacity and resilience; all on my want list for someone in a telesales role.  However, for B2B outbound telesales, not enough on their own in my view.

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