Archive | December 2011

Got Resolutions? What’s your resolve to make them a reality? (Part 3 of 3)

10-9-8-7-6-5...have you started planning for 2012?

WOW! Can you believe it? The year of 2011 is nearly in the books. We will be welcoming in 2012 and with it all our hopes, dreams, and prayers. Regardless of how you will remember 2011, you have the opportunity to make 2012 your best year ever. The great axiom of life “To have more than you’ve got, become more than you are” must start with a plan to achieve your personal growth.

In the first post of this series, we asked you to consider these three questions:

1. What are my strengths?

2. How might I better utilize my strengths toward achieving my goals in 2012?

3. Am I willing to complete goal planning to achieve my goals?

In the second post of the series, we discussed creating your vision and setting behaviorally focused goals using the S.M.A.R.T. goal planning system. Today we will discuss several critical components of goal planning:

  • Recognizing Rewards
  • Understanding Consequences
  • Using Affirmations
  • Identifying Obstacles
  • Creating Solutions
  • Preparing Action Steps
  • Delegating
  • Setting Deadlines

Understanding these eight critical components to goal planning will help you appropriately work toward the behaviorally focused goals to achieve your vision. If you fail to understand each component, then it could be a roadblock to achieving your vision. So, let’s get started.

Once you have your vision in mind, identified the behavioral steps necessary to achieve the vision, and applied the S.M.A.R.T.  goal planning system, you are ready to begin writing down your goals.

Recognizing Rewards – We recommend you begin writing by listing the rewards you expect your vision to provide. Try to make the list as comprehensive as possible. Keep in mind, you can always add to the list as you recognize additional rewards through the process. These rewards will serve as motivators to keep you focused on the behavior change (goal) you are working towards. If you have completed your ADVanced Insights Profile, then you are aware of the Values (aesthetic, economic, individualistic, political, altruist, regulatory, and theoretical) which motivate you the most. As you recognize rewards, review your Values to make sure they are aligned with the rewards. If the rewards are not aligned, then you may not be motivated to complete the behavior change.

Understanding Consequences – Along with the rewards you recognize, you should also understand the consequences of failing to achieving the behavior change or goal. Accurately assessing the consequences and writing down these consequences will also prove to be motivators for you. Often, this step is skipped by people because they don’t want to hold themselves accountable. These are the people who are most likely doomed to fail. The consequences will still occur if you fail to meet the behavior change you are seeking. So, “buckle up” and write them down.

Using Affirmations – Affirmations are often a misunderstood component of goal planning. Yet, affirmations can be critical to helping you recognize success in behavior changes. The definition of Affirmation we are referring to here is “A positive statement or judgment, something declared to be true.” The key words here are “positive statement.” As you begin your journey to achieving your vision through the goal planning process, you need to recall positive statements about yourself. Make a list. Write them down on your goal planning sheet. As you review your goal planning sheets in the future, these affirmations will stand out as bold, truthful, and positive statements about your abilities. Again, if you have completed the ADVanced Insights Profile, then you already have an accurate measurement of your natural talents. Additionally, the profile will help you identify affirmations.

Identifying Obstacles – You will have, with little doubt, already thought about several reasons why you might not be able to accomplish your vision. It’s human nature for us to think negatively about something we want to achieve. You’ve been conditioned to do it. Some people have been more conditioned to think negatively more than others. If you have been subject to hearing people say “That’s too hard for you” or “You’ll never be able to accomplish that” or “You’re not smart enough, or pretty enough, or athletic enough”, then you understand identifying obstacles. Obstacles are simply anything which is standing in your way of accomplishing the behavior change you seek.

Creating Solutions – Whatever obstacles you have identified, there are solutions to overcome those obstacles. Similarly to the process of identifying the steps of behavior change necessary to achieve your vision, you may need to ask for help to create solutions. Again, don’t be afraid to seek the advice of a family member, friend, mentor, supervisor, teacher, coach, or someone who has achieved the accomplishment in your vision.

Preparing Action Steps – As you create solutions to overcome the obstacles, you will develop action steps to make the solutions happen. This list of action steps will be your guide to help you achieve the behavior change. Don’t underestimate the importance of preparing these action steps. Like creating solutions, preparing the action steps is a critical component to achieving your behavior change.

Delegating – It may be and often is necessary to have others help you in achieving your goal. Again, use your natural talents as much as possible and seek to manage around the areas you need help. The ADVanced Insights Profile will be an excellent guide to help you recognize those natural talents and identify the areas to delegate. Many people view delegation as a weakness. In fact, delegation makes you stronger if you are delegating the appropriate tasks.

Setting Deadlines – Every behavior change or goal MUST have a deadline. Yes, you may need to renegotiate the deadline from time to time, but as the S.M.A.R.T. goal system indicates, your goals MUST be time bound. Procrastination or fear of completing a task is often the cause of failing to achieve the behavior change and vision. Waiting until the last second creates stress, anxiety, and often results in mistakes. Set deadlines and seek to accomplish tasks without creating the undue consequences associated with procrastination.

We hope you will apply these processes to achieving your vision for 2012. It all starts with you recognizing your natural talents and making the decision to put those talents to work. If you are interested in learning more about your natural talents, then complete the ADVanced Insights Profile at:

http://rac.innermetrix.com/vo/req.php?id=cd11fcc1

You will receive a comprehensive look at your natural talents, including why you are motivated to use them and how you prefer to use them. If you are interested in more information about planning your success in 2012, then please visit us at www.inspiredperformancesolutions.com or contact us at Dave.Gregory@inspiredperformancesolutions.com or Lee.Pemberton@inspiredperformancesolutions.com. Your success in 2012 will be directly proportional to the value you create in the planning process.

Happy New Year!

 

 

Got resolutions? What’s your resolve to make them a reality? (Part 2 of 3)

Here's to making 2012 a year of planning

Benjamin Franklin is often credited with the quote “If you fail to prepare, then you prepare to fail.” Others have adapted that saying to the more common “Fail to plan and you plan to fail.”

The most common reason people fail when making New Year Resolutions, they have failed to prepare themselves to make the necessary behavioral changes to accomplish the resolution.  So, as we have recommended, FORGET the New Year Resolutions! Instead, focus on creating a plan to accomplish your goals in 2012.

The goal planning process begins with your vision. What is it that you want to accomplish? How do you see yourself differently based upon this accomplishment? What will achieving this accomplishment feel like? Once you have this vision in your mind, you are ready for the next step.

This next step is often the most difficult part of preparing your plan. In order to achieve your vision, you must determine the behavioral changes which will be necessary to achieve your vision. Many people end their planning at this point. Either they simply don’t know what behaviors to change or they begin to identify possible obstacles and choose to end their planning.

If you find yourself in the first group where you don’t know what behaviors to change, then you need some help to identify the behaviors. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You have many resources available to you. Consider a family member, friend, mentor, supervisor, teacher, coach, or someone who has achieved the accomplishment in your vision. Often, the act of sharing your vision with someone else will help motivate you to achieve your vision.

When you have determined the behavioral changes necessary to achieve your vision, then you are ready to apply the S.M.A.R.T. system to these behaviorally focused goals. That’s right the behavior changes should become your goals. As you accomplish the series of behavior changes, you are progressing towards your vision. The S.M.A.R.T. acronym is:

  • Specific – Your behavior changes or goals should be as specific as possible.
  • Measurable – You must have a method to measure the behavior change. Self-assessment, using someone to observe you, or predetermining the appropriate metrics to measure your behavior changes is a necessary step to achieving your vision.
  • Attainable – The goal must be attainable. If you have successfully identified the behavior changes and you are using these behavior changes as the road map to your vision, then each step should be attainable. If you find the behavior change you have identified is not attainable, then you have likely missed a critical step in the behavior changes.
  • Realistic – Once again, because you should be focused on a series of behavior changes, your vision should be realistically achievable. Often goals are not achievable because they are not behaviorally focused. If your vision is to climb Mount Everest and you’ve never walked for more than 5 miles, then you obviously need to set a series of behaviorally focused goals to make vision a reality.
  • Time Bound – Each goal or behavior change should include a time measurement. How long will it take to accomplish the behavior change.

As you set your behaviorally focused goals, you will want to consider the rewards, consequences, affirmations, possible obstacles, possible solutions, action steps, and who might need to be consulted to help you achieve your goals. Our NEXT Blog in this series will address HOW you consider those items. Check back with us on Friday for Part 3 of 3.

In the meantime, visit us at www.inspiredperformancesolutions.com, for more information.

 

Got resolutions? What’s your resolve to make them a reality? (Part 1 of 3)

New Year's Eve Parties are almost here

Well, we almost have another year in the books. Where did the last one go? How did you GROW in the last 360+ days?

Did you accomplish all you wanted? Did you make your numbers? Did you achieve your goals?

As we approach the New Year, you will undoubtedly hear about New Year resolutions and maybe someone will ask you about yours. My recommendation, don’t bother making any New Year resolutions! They never pan out anyway. Get rid of them now.

Resolutions are nothing more than talk show filler.

New Year’s resolutions are a way of telling yourself that there’s something you want to achieve. So, why is it then that so many resolutions are never achieved?

Planning. Or I should say lack of planning is why most resolutions are never achieved. The person is not serious enough to make it happen. Most resolutions are like a wish. The person is really hoping the wish comes true without having to do anything.

Guess what? Hopes, wishes, and resolutions all fall into the same category, failure.

Here are three hard questions you need to ask yourself as you begin to plan for 2012:

1. What are my strengths?

2. How might I better utilize my strengths toward achieving my goals in 2012?

3. Am I willing to complete goal planning to achieve my goals?

Taking these three steps is critical to achieving success, regardless of the goal. For example, if your goal is “lose weight” or better yet “lose 20 pounds”, maybe you should look to the factors creating this need:

• I eat the wrong foods
• I eat on the run
• I eat too much fast food
• I eat late at night
• My diet has too much soda or chips
• I eat too much food at one sitting
• I eat all day long
• I never exercise

These are obstacles to achieving your goal. How will you overcome these obstacles? What strengths or natural talents might you use to help you achieve these goals? Then, you must create a written plan to overcome the obstacles.

If you are interested in learning more about your strengths, then complete the ADVanced Insights Profile at:

http://rac.innermetrix.com/vo/req.php?id=cd11fcc1

You will receive a comprehensive look at your natural talents, including why you are motivated to use them and how you prefer to use them.

Then, check back later this week for Part 2 of 3 about creating written Goal Planning Worksheets.

Contact Center Superstar – Top 3 Tips for Closing More Sales

A top sales person who implemented these tips

One of the questions we often hear from our contact center clients is “How can we get our agents to close more sales?” Whether you are measuring revenue per call, revenue per hour, or total revenue, the objective of increasing these metrics is often the focus of contact center managers and leaders. Unfortunately, many contact center managers simply tell their agents they need to improve the metric without providing any behaviorally focused ideas. Contact Centers’ most successful sales people use special strategies for closing sales. Top sellers are bold, confident and consistently establish TRUST with customers.

In today’s post, we provide the Top 3 Tips to Close More Sales.

The Tips

No. 1: Treat closing like orange-juice concentrate – don’t water it down.

Do you make a habit of telling customers about every discount they can possibly receive in your initial pitch for a product?

Example: “Guess what, you qualify for a free, <your product here>. And you can get free shipping and free technical support, plus free this or that. Would you like to sign up for <your product here> today?”

If that sounds like something you‘d say to a customer, then you could benefit from an approach that top sellers use. First, they don’t “dilute” the closing pitch by presenting all of the discounts that customers might receive right off the bat. Rather, they position the product and then listen to customers’ objections. In response to those objections, top sellers bring up the appropriate special offers and discounts one-by-one. This approach gives you something else to close with if the customer objects. And it makes customers feel like they are getting the best possible deal…not just a “standard’ offer that anyone can get. See the example of an “undiluted” closing below.

Example: “Great, based upon what you’ve told me, it sounds like you need <add personalized benefit> and I recommend you add <your product here> for just $___. (Pause) This would allow you to attain <add second personalized benefit>. How does that sound?”

If the customer objects for financial reasons, then you can fall back on explaining the cost saving benefits of your product such as free shipping or free technical support. The key is not to bombard customers with ALL the pricing and discount information at once.

 

 No. 2: Listen carefully to build TRUST.

After you ask for a sale, let the customer respond.  If the customer needs a moment to think, let them. Don’t interrupt their train of thought. As the customer is expressing their thoughts and concerns, listen very carefully. Careful listening will not only put you in the best position to overcome the customer’s objections, it maintains the trust you built throughout the contact. Customers buy from people they trust.

 No. 3: Classify objections by clarifying and then respond.

When a customer objects to a closing question, the agent must be able to identify the type of objection to fully understand the “WHY” behind the customer’s objection. All objections may be broken down into one of three categories:

  1. Misunderstanding – In these objections, the customer doesn’t understand the solution the agent is recommending. Often, this is caused by the agent leaving out details of the proposed solution or providing too much information for the customer to process.
  2. Doubt – When the customer lacks trust in the agent or doesn’t believe the product or service will meet their needs, the customer creates objections based upon doubt.
  3. Drawback – These are the most difficult objections to overcome. Drawback objections are based upon real or perceived fact in the customer’s mind. In these cases, the customer believes their current solution is more valuable than the one presented by the agent.

In order to overcome objections successfully, agents must classify them and then use the appropriate technique to overcome the objection. Here are the appropriate techniques for each type of objection:

  1. Misunderstanding – Clarify the information by focusing on the personalized benefits for the customer. Whether the customer has received too little or too much information, the focus on the personalized benefits of the solution will allow the customer to fully understand why they should agree to the solution.
  2. Doubt – Proof is required to overcome doubt objections. The most effective proof is third-party proof. When a customer lacks trust or belief in the solution or agent, providing third-party evidence to support the recommended solution will often sway the customer to accept the agent and the solution.
  3. Drawback – When the customer believes an alternative solution provides more value than the solution recommended, the agent is faced with a challenging value proposition. The agent must outweigh the alternative solution by identifying more value with their proposed solution. Drawback objections will not be successful navigated until the scale of value tips towards the proposed solution.

 

While there are certainly many more behaviorally focused ideas to help your contact center achieve more sales, these three tips have proven successful when appropriate implemented. If you have other ideas which have successfully increased your teams’ revenue, then please share them by commenting or send me an e-mail at dave.gregory@inspiredperformancesolutions.com.

The 10 Commandments for Call Center Managers and Leaders

  1. Take time to be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is contagious. Do everything with enthusiasm. You will find it an inspiration to your whole call center.
  2. Take time to plan. Plan your work in an orderly way and you will find work goes more smoothly – not only for you, but for all your agents.
  3. Take time to listen. You will not learn while you are talking. Listen and acquire knowledge. Listen and become popular with your fellow managers, agents, and customers. By listening, you let people know you are interested in them, their ideas, and their problems.
  4. Take time to praise. Go out of your way to compliment your agents and peers for an outstanding job. This is the spirit that makes people want to succeed by making them want to try harder.
  5. Take time to say thank you. Make it a habit to say thank you to everyone: to customers and fellow workers whenever they do something for you. Everyone appreciates it, and you will find it does something for you, too.
  6. Take time to smile. Smile when you’re giving instructions or explaining an operation – smile when you talk to people. It is the best known way to win friends and cooperation.
  7. Take time to explain. In talking to others about their work, be specific, be clear, say just what you mean, and give the reason why. We all do our best when we understand what is expected of us.
  8. Take time to give orders cheerfully. Everyone who works has to take or give orders. But we all respond better when they are given cheerfully.
  9. Take time to do it now. Don’t put things off. The longer you do so, the more difficult the job becomes. Let people know they can depend on you to get things done.
  10. Take time to think. You will find this the shortest, surest way to success. It avoids many costly mistakes. Think and you will find your work more interesting and less tiring.

 

 

 

Are you the type of call center agent or leader people hope you’ll be?

Who are You?

Are you the type of call center agent or leader people want to talk to? There’s an easy way to answer that question. How many of your contacts are loyal customers or loyal employees?

Take a look at these characters and their characteristics. Then take a look in the mirror. As you read these characteristics, I’m certain you’ll find a few to identify with.

Be careful. It’s not just a matter of having good agent or leader characteristics, it’s a matter of mastering them.

You can’t just say, “Yeah, that’s me.” Rather you say, “How good am I at them?” That’s the real test of who you are, and what your skill level is.

Here are the characters and characteristics of good and great contact center agents and leaders:

Building a foundation for short-term success, and long-term wealth, Mr. Relationship understands that sometimes you have to sacrifice short-term gains in order to build for the future. He doesn’t focus on quota. He focuses on “best.” Every manager wants this agent on his or her team. With Mr. Relationship, there are always fewer complaints from customers, and more reorders. He creates loyal customers. He cares about the customer without judging the customer’s ability to purchase a product.

Mrs. Humble (an endangered species of the contact center agent or leader) gets the job done, sticks at it till she wins, customers and employees love her, she loves to serve. She gets the order, makes a fat commission, brags to no one, and is grateful for her job. Cut her veins — she bleeds the company’s colors — but always has the customer’s or employees’ best interest at heart.

You don’t have to wonder if Mrs. I’m Successful is successful or not. She’ll tell you herself. She’ll tell you by the clothes she wears. She’ll tell you by the car she drives. She’ll tell you by the names she drops, and the vacations she takes. Yes, there has to be some achievement behind the process. But you have to ask yourself, “At what price?” Unfortunately, Mrs. I’m Successful, is often viewed by customers or employees as fake, phony, or fraud. Eventually, the parade she is leading becomes old, overused, and boring.

In order to become successful, in order to build relationships, in order to become a superstar, there has to be a foundation of consistency. Mr. Consistent can morph into any one of those. Customers love consistency, because they know they can rely on and depend on the agent or leader to meet or exceed their needs. I believe consistency to be one of the best qualities a successful agent or leader can possess. And that consistency can be learned — you just have to practice everyday. Mr. Consistent is the agent or leader who shows up everyday, straps on the work gloves, and goes to work. They may need to be reminded to take a break or their lunch, but you will always know where to find them.

Ms. Hustle doesn’t have all the skill in the world. But she loves to serve, returns phone calls in an instant, is the master of new technology, and customers love the woman because she gets the job done fast. Ms. Hustle is loyal to company and customers alike. She doesn’t sell by the book, but she always sells by the rules. She may be moving like she has her hair on fire, but she is getting the job done. You might think she talks too fast, jumps to quickly, or seems erratic, but at the end of day, she delivers results.

Better than Mrs. Successful, Mr. Superstar has managed to build relationships over an extended period of time and derives incredible income from having fun with customers and employees. He smiles, all the time. He laughs with customers and seems to be having the time of his life because he is. Mr. Superstar will get a call from a customer telling him that a competitor has come in the door and was promptly asked to leave. Mr. Superstar is both a consultant and a trusted advisor. He has established relationships and has gone beyond his own success to help customers build their business — so he can earn more of his. You may not like every characteristic of Mr. Superstar, and he has a bit of an ego — but it’s because he’s doing things the right way. I’ll throw this challenge at you: If you feel Mr. Superstar is a bit arrogant, you may be confusing his arrogance with his self-confidence. And, you may be confusing his ego — with your envy.


Mr. Gregory.
I don’t claim to be a perfect contact center agent or leader. I do claim to be the best contact center agent and leader I know. I tend to take a higher risk-oriented position when it comes to talking with customers and employees or creating a buying atmosphere with either. Does it work all the time? Grab a handful of reality, Sparky, nothing works all the time. But mine does work most of the time. And there’s an added bonus. I’m having a blast at it. I’m doing what I love. And I’m earning a good living helping customers, agents, and contact center leaders. I look forward to helping you.

Great contact center agents or leaders are not born or made. They evolve over time based on their dedication to excellence and their willingness to serve. Two traits of successful contact center agents and leaders, self-awareness and authenticity. Self-Awareness means you are aware of your natural talents or who you are. Authenticity means you consistently use your natural talents to achieve your goals. If you are not sure about who you are or how you might use your natural talents, then you should complete the ADVanced Insights Profile at this link:

 http://rac.innermetrix.com/vo/req.php?id=cd11fcc1

I will send you the FREE sections of the profile report and some ideas to get you started on your pursuit of excellence.

Referrals: The Secret to Building a Sustainable Business (Part 3 of 3)

When you tell contact center leaders and agents that building relationships are the key to developing a personal and professional network, they often smile and acknowledge the concept without fully appreciating it. Often, they believe that building referrals through relationships with customers is counter intuitive to their business model. Let me review this notion a bit deeper.

If you are working in a customer service inbound contact center, then you may believe your job is to handle customers’ inquiries efficiently and send them on their way feeling satisfied. After all, the customer was contacting you about a problem and you hopefully solved it. Furthermore, if the customer ends the contact feeling satisfied, then you have moved the customer from frustration to satisfaction. You may think “Job well done.” Why would you need to ask for referrals? Consider the following perspective:

Imagine you’re standing in a large room full of people, and I ask everyone to pull out their key rings. Visualize everyone holding up the keys to their dream house, their office and the car that they’ve always wanted to own and as I ask everyone to show them to the room.

Now here’s my question: Would you hand over your keys to that dream car to a perfect stranger? What about those to your office or home? Of course not!

Now instead of a key to a car or a home, imagine you have a key that opens the door to an important relationship with a customer that another person would like to connect with. Let’s say you hold the key to this relationship, but you don’t know the person who’s asking for it. Would you give it to them? Of course not! Why? Because when you give a referral, you give away a piece of your reputation. If it’s a good referral, it helps your reputation; if it’s a bad referral, it hurts. Intuitively, you’ll only hand over the keys to someone you know and trust.

What I love about this metaphor is how it works on two levels. First, you’re not going to hand over the keys to a relationship until you trust a person. But more important, others don’t even know what keys you actually have until you trust them enough to tell them.

It’s not just you; nobody is willing to hand over the keys to important relationships until they know and trust the person asking. When you have resolved a customer’s issue and they are feeling good about the relationship, is there a better time to talk about referrals? Wait, you are a customer service agent and not expected to ask for referrals. What would you do with a referral anyway? You handle inbound calls, right? Only partially correct, what you are missing is the need to build a sustainable business.

Building a sustainable business in our current economic environment requires everyone to be thinking about resolving customer problems. When you are asking for a referral, the proper question is “Mr. or Mrs. Customer, now that we have resolved your concern, who else do you know that we might be able to help?” There are a couple of key components to this question. First, you must use the word “we” versus “I”. You are acting on behalf of your business. Therefore, “we” is most appropriate and also psychologically implies you are part of a team. Second, you must start by reconfirming the customer’s concern was resolved. If the customer doesn’t feel their need was handled, they will let you know. This reaffirmation is critical, because if you believed the issue was resolved and the customer didn’t feel that way, then the customer could have ended the contact feeling MORE frustrated than when the contact began. You certainly would not have completed your job in that case. Third, you must phrase the referral request with your intention to “help” the customer’s referral.

Let’s review, when you ask for referrals, you gain the following benefits:

  1. Affirmation that the customer’s issue was resolved
  2. An opportunity to confirm the customer trusts you and your company
  3. An opportunity to help other people

Building a sustainable business requires everyone on your team to be working together to achieve all the goals of the organization. If you are concerned about your business’ sustainability, reach out to me at:

Dave.Gregory@inspiredperformancesolutions.com

 

Referrals: The Secret to Building a Sustainable Business (Part 2 of 3)

Build Referrals through Existing Customers

Asking customers for feedback during these uncertain economic times can help to maintain strong, trust-based relationships with your customers.

Using a well-structured feedback tool to understand what your customers need in a relationship helps you to do two things. First, it can help identify opportunities to add value to the customer relationship, as well as, build stronger referral relationships with centers of influence. Leverage customer feedback in two ways – reinforcing existing relationships and attracting new strategic partners.

Three Tips to Reinforce Existing Relationships:

  1. Demonstrate your value – If you receive high satisfaction ratings from your customers, share this with your centers of influence.
  2. Provide reciprocal referrals – If you learn that the customer is dissatisfied with other providers or professionals, it’s an opportunity to approach the customer with a referral to one of your centers of influence who can better meet the customer’s needs.
  3. Partner on customer feedback to identify mutual referrals – Many providers or sales professionals partner with an allied provider or sales professional when gathering client feedback. While each survey is confidential and geared toward their individual businesses, both look for opportunities for the other.

Three Tips to Attract New Referral Sources:

  1. Find new centers of influence – When a customer indicates a high level of satisfaction with another trusted advisor, that advisor may be someone with whom you can network to develop a mutually beneficial referral relationship, with the permission of the customer.
  2. Contact the newly identified professional to introduce yourself and share highlights of the customer’s positive comments. Discuss each other’s goals and determine if a fit exists.
  3. Share the results of your customer feedback study and determine how you might work together.

In these trying economic times, maintaining and expanding your business is extremely challenging. Using customer feedback can be a key part of an advisor’s strategy for building and nurturing relationships with centers of influence.

Many call center employees fail to take advantage of the opportunities referrals provide. Our next post will address the common reasons why this is prevalent and several ideas to overcome these challenges. Check back on Monday for more information. Until then, we hope you identify at least 3 new referral opportunities today.

Referrals: The Secret to Building a Sustainable Business (Part 1 of 3)

ASK for Referrals

During times of economic uncertainty, sustaining your business may be challenging. Weather you are an agent in a large call center operation or a small business owner, you are likely seeking ways to create new business or retain the customers you currently serve. Referrals for new business are very valuable.

The first step is to understand why people might refer others to you. It’s probably not because you have a slick brochure or a funny advertisement. It’s not because you send them Christmas cards every year. People refer others because they find what you do to be valuable and believe your services can enhance the lives of others they know. In other words, people refer those that they know, like, and trust will complete the task at hand.

With that in mind, here are some strategies to develop referral relationships.

  1. Target specific people. Look at where your current business and referrals are coming from. Now, what characteristics do those people have in common? Maybe they’re all from the same industry or do a certain type of work. Those are the people you want to focus on.
  2. Uncover why they refer you. Once you have uncovered a group of people with specific characteristics, ask them why they choose you as their preferred provider. What benefits do you offer them that are above and beyond what others are offering? This is important because you need to be able to differentiate yourself from other businesses or sales people. Simply focusing on how long you have been doing it, where you went to school or which company you work for is not enough. You have to uncover a particular problem they have and why they choose to refer others to you rather than your competitors.
  3. Meet people. Yes, it’s obvious, but people refer those whom they have met and like. How many times have you given a referral to someone you have only heard about or received a letter from? Now, think about who you do give referrals to – you have probably met them, like them, and know they can get the job done. You are reasonably comfortable that if you refer your family, friends, or clients to them, you won’t be embarrassed by shoddy service.

How To Meet People

  1. Make a list of people you’d like to meet. Chances are that you already know of a few companies that you’d like to work with. Make a folder for each and start collecting any information you find about the person or company.
  2. Ask colleagues to introduce you. Take note of any of your colleagues who may know people within the company and ask if they might introduce you. Keep your eyes open for anyone you might meet – do they have contacts you could use?
  3. Use Social Media. Update your profile on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media site you frequent. Use your connections to help you connect with the people you want to meet. Choose web conferences, trade events, and other outings where you are likely to meet people that have clients who could refer your services.
  4. Hold seminars or speaking engagements. One of the best ways to demonstrate your credibility by speaking about a topic your target audience is concerned about. Invite the people you’d like to get to know to attend.

Advice for Getting Referrals

  1. Don’t talk about yourself. When you finally are introduced to someone, talk about their business, not what you can do for them. Always keep the conversation focused on them and learn as much as you can about their interests, motivations, and concerns.
  2. Make it worth their while. Just like you, other people are looking for referrals for their own business. Whenever you meet someone, ask them who would make a good referral for them. Then refer someone. The best way to demonstrate that you care about this person’s well being is to help them first. Give first and without expectation and don’t keep score.
  3. Offer something in return. Is Refer-a-Friend an opportunity for you to gain referrals? How much money might someone earn by making referrals to you? What would the person do with the money they earned by making referrals? Other things might be as simple as a thank you note. Or a special offer to their clients only. Or even a gift certificate to their favorite coffee shop or restaurant.
  4. Keep in touch regularly. Whenever you see an article about that person or their company in the local business paper, call or write them about the article. If you see an article they’d be interested in, send them a copy. It’s important to nurture the relationship even if they haven’t referred anyone to you just yet.

Like any successful marketing system, setting up a referral system will initially take time and effort on your part. Once you incorporate these basic practices on a regular basis, you should start reaping the benefits.

Check back on Friday, Dec 9 for more information about Building a Sustainable Business through Referrals.

Understanding Call Center Productivity: Part 3 of 3

Productive time is time that is focused directly on generating income. So what percentage of the time are you productive?

When you consider your role and what you are paid to do, how much productive time do you really invest in income generation?

Productive time does not simply magically happen; you have to be focused and disciplined and consciously create it! How much of your week last week was spent on maintenance or looking busy or administrative work rather than on generating profitable income?

As a call center leader or agent, you are a business owner, you are the individual charged with the responsibility for generating sales revenue, the most productive thing that you can do at any one time is: Increase the profitable sales revenue generation of the sales team. Even if you are in a support role in a call center, your most productive time is helping those agents actually generate revenue.

You may well be a critical component of the team, but as a business leader (that’s you Mr. or Mrs. Agent) the most productive thing that you should be doing with your time is to “Increase the Profitable Sales Revenue Generation of the YOUR business.” So let’s discuss you and the number of truly productive hours you put into a day. Do you have an hour of productive time a day? 2 hours? What’s your most conservative estimate at this point? Unless you have really focused on maximizing your productive time before, my best guess would be that you currently work no more than 2 hours of productive time a day. Remember, we are talking about time invested to Increase the Profitable Sales Revenue Generation of YOUR Business only!

So we are not talking here about writing a report that your boss needs for his executive meeting, nor are we talking about reading e-mail, observing another agent, attending training, meeting with other team members, surfing the web, planning a contest, chatting with a friend, handling customer complaints, or anything else which is not 100% focused on increasing the “Profitable Sales Revenue Generation of the YOUR business.”

So as an exercise let’s review all that you do through this window of MOST PRODUCTIVE THING time.

Consider your activities from the last 3 days. Looking at all the time you spent working, how much real time was invested in doing the MOST PRODUCTIVE THING…Increasing the Profitable Sales Revenue Generation of the YOUR business?

You need to be really self-critical in your estimate. Imagine that someone was there with you questioning every little detail. Imagine that someone was scrutinizing everything that you did, through the window of MOST PRODUCTIVE THING! Imagine that whatever you presented, we peeled it back, dug down deep asking you the tough and searching questions, all with a view to checking what you did against the productive measure of “Increasing the Profitable Sales Revenue Generation of YOUR Business.”

So be tough on yourself. Stop what you are doing right now and do this exercise. Let’s see how many truly productive hours you have worked in the last 3 days!

Remember, we are not suggesting all the other things that you had on your plate are not important and should not be done. That’s not what we are looking at here. We are simply looking at your last 3 days of work, as an average, and the amount of time you actually invest in doing the Most Productive thing possible!

By the way, the small number of productive hours that you have come up with is more than likely very indicative of the way you operate most of the time. So, if you have been super critical about where you currently invest your time, you have more than likely concluded that your productive time score is far too low. Looking at that number, is it any wonder that you are behind on your financial goals, when most of your time is spent working on things other than Increasing the Profitable Sales Revenue Generation of YOUR Business?

If your current “Main Thing” score is anything like the average, then you are most likely thinking to yourself, well that’s all very well, but with everything I have to do in a day, just how am I possibly expected to work on my “Main Thing?” There are only so many hours in a day and how am I supposed to get it all done? I am time poor as it is.

The answer lies in Self leadership. Self Leadership can be viewed as the ability to lead yourself by clearly defining what you want from life. Your vision of what success looks like for you and how you intend to get it. This means that for you to accomplish your goals you must mobilize all the resources that you have at your disposal. Your resources include your time, people, budget, talents etc. All of your resources must be put to use PRODUCTIVELY to ensure your best chance of successfully achieving your vision. This is all about maximizing your own output!

Recognizing that for the majority of us, it is very difficult to go from “Saul to Paul” overnight, how do you suddenly change your work life to reflect the call to do the most productive thing? How do you abruptly go from averaging 1 or 2 hours of “main thing- productive time” to 3 or 4 or 5 when you consider all you currently have on your plate?

It’s all very easy to say that you need to invest your time keeping “the main thing the main thing”, but how does one actually move from where one is right now to where it is that you want to be?

How do you move your business from where you are right now to where you want to be?

How do you move your current income state to earning the kind of income you really want?

How do you move your career from where it is now to where you want it to be?

It all starts with Self Leadership. Self Leadership requires you to know what motivates you to create your MOST PRODUCTIVE time. Our Values are those things which motivate us to create behaviors. Jay Niblick, author of What’s Your Genius?, has developed a diagnostic tool to help us determine our motivational values. As an example, here is a snapshot of my Values:

Values Index

The seven motivational values are:

  1. Aesthetic
  2. Economic
  3. Individualistic
  4. Political
  5. Altruist
  6. Regulatory
  7. Theoretical

Each of us are motivated uniquely by these Values. Do you know your motivational values? In order to take the next step in self leadership, you must understand yourself first. Use the link below and receive a FREE ADVanced Insights Profile which will allow you to understand your natural talents, how you are motivated to use them, and how you prefer to use them.

http://rac.innermetrix.com/vo/req.php?id=cd11fcc1

For more information about doing the MOST PRODUCTIVE thing, contact me at Dave.Gregory@inspiredperformancesolutions.com.

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