Are You Giving Your Inbound Sales Reps Enough Respect?
To your customers, your inbound reresentatives are your company. To your best customers your inbound reps are their friends! I learned this first hand many years ago when one of my inbound reps got invited to the wedding of one of our customers; someone who lived in another city and had never before met the rep in person. In fact, I was so shocked and impressed by the strength of their relationship that I paid for our rep to attend the wedding.
The point is, in any direct marketing business, “people buy from people” and your inbound reps are pure gold. In far too many cases, they need to be paid more and treated with more respect. Consider these points:
1. We’re all repeat buyers of certain catalog companies. Some of them we love to return to again and again because of the competent and friendly phone reps. Others we avoid! (think Lands’ End vs. Dell). Some have foreign reps whose accents are so heavy that we can’t understand and would rather just avoid having to talk to them.
2. We invest a great deal in hiring, systems training and product training in our reps. It takes a rep six to 12 months to reach peak effectiveness. The cost of turnover is very high. We also spend millions mailing catalogs and need the customer experience and order value to be maximized.
3. A good rep can cement and repair any customer relationship and create a personal bond. Conversely, a bad rep can turn off a customer in a nanosecond.
4. A good rep can do more. A smart, educated, well-trained rep with authority can juggle two tasks at once and answer or resolve 99 percent of all customer requests on the spot.
5. A good rep can also sell more. Take a look at the talk time, orders processed, average order value, median order value, lines per order, units per order, qualitative call reports, etc., of your best reps vs. your marginal reps.
6. A positive customer interaction will improve customer retention. Take a look at your customer retention based on the last rep interaction and note the variance between reps.
7. A good rep can process more than $1 million in orders per year.
8. A good rep can lead your inbound call center team. A bad rep can also lead it — but in the wrong direction.
Here’s what I recommend:
1. Do everything you can to acknowledge your inbound reps and the contribution they make. Make sure their “status” in your organization is where it should be. Try making everyone in your company an inbound rep for a day at lease once per quarter and watch how respect for the job increases.
2. Pay your reps competitively, ideally at the top of your local range. Have a career path for them as they advance in system, product and company knowledge, and become more valuable to you and your customers.
3. Have a performance incentive program for them, ideally based on their up-sell, cross-sell, referral and retention performance.
4. Purposely hire more expensive, college educated, more experienced reps to measure what their performance differential will be. You’ll be surprised what another $10,000 per year in salary will return to you in performance.
5. Manage your rep turnover down to below 10 percent per year. It can be done.
6. Solicit their feedback and input on procedure changes, product development, customer surveys, etc. Your reps will be more effective and committed if they’re involved in your marketing and operational decisions. They’ll also provide valuable input.
I’d be interested in hearing how your company is respecting your inbound sales reps. Please either click on the “submit a comment” option on our Web site or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org — or both.
Terence Jukes is President of B2B Direct Marketing Intelligence, Inc., a strategic consultancy based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that services clients in the U.S., Canada, France, the U.K. and Germany. You can reach him at (954) 566-4451 or www.b2bdmi.com .