3 Reasons Calling Performance Can Slip

3 Reasons Calling Performance Can Slip

by Colleen McCarty, VP Talent & Organization Development

In July we ran an article entitled “5 Ways to Assess Your New Outbound Caller.” With few exceptions, the main criterion for assessing an experienced caller’s performance is simply this: are quality appointments being booked and held? Assuming you’ve not changed processes or added new offerings that must be learned, chances are that your established callers are booking and holding appointments at a fairly steady pace – but what about those who aren’t? Here are 3 reasons performance can slip from good to mediocre, as well as strategies for getting your sales people’s performance back in the green zone.

#1 - Lack of Feedback -- “Most people appreciate getting a temperature check of how they’re doing at work even if it’s a weekly 10-minute chat. Employees have a higher level of commitment, contentment and confidence when they know where they stand.” (5 Rules For Giving Solid Employee Feedback That Works)

I’m a big believer that not hearing from you can allow your caller to think all is well regardless of whether or not you are happy with their performance. If you think the activities-per-hour metric is low, then say so - you can be nice about it but if your strategy is to hope the problem will fix itself - it won’t. You might think to yourself that they know better, they know what their activity pace should be, but I say your silence is shouting that their current performance is acceptable. The sooner you bring it up the easier the message will be to deliver.

I can’t tell you the number of times poor performers have been referred to me for the “talk” only to ask: “Why didn’t he just say something to me? I could have changed that easily.” At this point I’m struggling to defend the manager all the while making notes in my head about the manager’s own performance.

Just as important as corrective or constructive feedback is the use of positive or reinforcing feedback. Like what you see someone doing? Tell them! It is the best way to get them to do it again. Want better results? Tell the team. This action both rewards the person doing it right and serves as positive instruction for others. “Positive reinforcement is the most powerful motivator.” (Improve Performance Through Feedback and Reinforcement

#2 - Outdated Skills - Sales has always been social, but is your caller or salesperson ignoring the new social media tools? Granted social media can be confusing, but to stay ahead in generating leads we have to use all the tools available to be successful today. According to a recent Pew Internet Report, “Fully 65% of adult internet users now say they use a social networking site like MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn, up from 61% one year ago.” 

The division between personal and business social media is nearly non-existent (Social Media use in the Workforce on the Rise). “As it specifically applies to sales, now more than ever our work is about relationship building and facilitating a buying decision through social selling. But the Catch-22 is balancing our need to achieve these more meaningful relationships without sacrificing sales productivity. For B2B sales professionals, the bar has risen significantly. Thankfully, the tools and methods have kept pace.” (HOW TO: Improve B2B Sales Productivity with Social Media)

In a first interview the other day I was speaking with a candidate that I was very excited about. He had great phone skills, deep industry and business background and was an all around likable guy. Everything was a go until I concluded the interview by suggesting we connect via LinkedIn to which the candidate responded, “I don’t bother with that social stuff.” Thunk. The interview process ended there because, while I’m willing to train and mentor the right person on how best to use social media, I’m not willing to explain why these tools are important today.

#3 – Lost Motivation - “Motivation is the force that makes us do things: this is a result of our individual needs being satisfied (or met) so that we have inspiration to complete the task.” (Motivation in the Workplace)

Assess for yourself the caller’s motivation but don’t stop there - ask them as well. Constantly hitting the phones is hard work - have they simply lost interest in the job? Have they lost faith in the company, the product, or leadership? Try to have an honest conversation balancing your support with a real message of the consequences if business needs are not met. Your interest and encouragement can go a long way to increasing motivation especially if you also find a way to enrich the role (see #2 above - Outdated Skills.)

I remember having a conversation with one of our seasoned sales managers during which she pretty quickly confessed that her heart was just not in the work lately and, while she felt terrible about her deteriorating performance, she wasn't able to improve her level of enthusiasm. At that time I had some other work available, the pay was slightly lower than her more recent project, but happily she was in a position to be able to accept the work that interested her more. This candid conversation turned things around for everyone: her former client received a different, more enthusiastic sales manager; the sales manager got a new project that she found more motivating; and the new client started with an enthusiastic sales staff.

So if you’ve seen the performance in the past but it is missing now, then you’ll want to give some thought to what has changed. Start with giving more feedback, then check skill sets, and finally, assess motivation to bring performance back.

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