The goal for many business-to-business suppliers is to create a consistent customer experience – mobile, online, inside the service or product factory, and on the phone. Critically, the messaging, pricing and information delivered must be consistent. The telephone sales rep in the modern era must ask customers what the most appropriate touch-points are, and customize the selling organization’s delivery of touch-points in conjunction with their marketing department.
The telephone rep is both a communication and sales channel. As the primary customer-facing individual from the selling organization, the telephone rep establishes the appropriate communication mechanisms, and builds the relationship – probing for the customer’s business opportunities and strategies which would otherwise be opaque to the selling organization. The telephone sales rep is a consultant, understanding the customer’s business to the extent necessary to recommend the appropriate products and services, while also diagnosing and assuring any customer services issues are resolved.
Because the telephone sales rep occupies this critical boundary position between the customer and the selling organization, they have communication responsibilities both directions – to the customer and back to the organization. Some of the organizational communication requirements are routine – checking the “Do Not Mail” box in the customer relationship management system (CRM); assuring all the contact information including email and mobile number are correct; helping the customer set up their links to the selling organization’s information systems; answering questions via chat. Others are more complex; communicating nuanced service requirements, smoothing over invoicing disputes, or going to bat for a customer who needs quick credit approval.
The telephone sales rep also still closes business of course, navigating the buying committee, matching needs to benefits, cross- and up-selling, and translating the obscure technical specifications of the selling organization to the customer’s language. Perhaps most importantly, the telephone salesperson addresses risk – both indirectly and directly. As customer information gathering becomes more digital, and attention spans decrease, customers need assurance they have interpreted information correctly and are making good decisions. After all, they are not only managing the digital information coming from the selling organization, but from competitors and a myriad of other suppliers. The telephone salesperson, because he or she is familiar with the organization, and has asked enough questions to understand the customer’s opportunities and strategies, is a trusted resource and sounding board. This relationship reduces risk indirectly. The salesperson address risk directly by probing during the sales cycle, and adding steps into the sales process designed to address elements of risk.
Today, many business-to-business orders are placed online. Historically, one of the primary functions of telephone sales was to take orders, but today, the primary function of telephone sales is to build relationships. To create a human bond between organizations, and position the selling organization for future business – a far more difficult role.