Emotional Nutrition

Everyone knows a good balanced diet is required for strenuous physical activity. What is required to keep a business-to-business telephone salesperson from burning out? Emotional nutrition.

Telephone salespeople must invest a great deal of “emotional labor.” Emotional labor is defined as expressing the desired emotion during a customer interaction. Think of the telephone sales job, the typical connection rate in business-to-business is about 20% — about one out of five times the telephone salesperson can get a decision maker on the phone. This means 80% of the time the representative must emotionally gear themselves up — only to be disappointed. On the other 20% of the calls, where the representative gets someone on the line, they need to invest substantial emotional energy just to generate enough interest to continue the call, much less deal with objections, present the product or service, or ask for the sale. All the time they’re doing this, they’re sitting in a cubicle or some other stationary setting, with a lack of new visual clues.

Consider burnout. Often clients worry about it, or have actual problems with telephone sales representative burnout. Won’t a telephone salesperson get burned out quickly and need to move on they ask? Burnout has less to do with overwork than powerlessness — working hard and being surrounded by circumstances that are incongruent — that don’t make sense. If the telephone salesperson doesn’t have the right positioning, doesn’t have the right call outlines, doesn’t have a good, clean database to call, doesn’t get lead support, and has customers that don’t get what they are promised, they will burn out. Now, some of this is part of the job of course. No manager can write call outlines that cover the depth and breadth of the typical database. Not every customer will be 100% satisfied. But burnout is an accumulation of a thousand cuts over time. I know telephone sales representatives who have over 25 years on the job. What’s not to like? They’re out of the cold, and they’re home on time every night. They’re not caught like the poor field sales guy miles away from home at the end of the day. Why should they burn out? Burnout is usually a problem of getting the management right.

So, what’s a manager to do? First, get the basics right – proper call outlines, good database, correct positioning and make sure the backend is delivering products and services that meet customer requirements. Second, lavish a little attention on your minions. Slap on a headset with a “Y” cord and listen to some calls. Find three things the representative is doing right, and no more than three things where improvement could help. At sales meetings, praise big sales, and hold a contest that everyone can win – their personal best month. Buy pizza for lunch once in a while, do silly contests, and walk around with $ 20 bills in your pocket to hand out when you hear a good call, or for the person who lands the next sale. Don’t be a stranger. And while you’re at it, get your boss to stop by a few times a quarter too. With this emotional feeding frenzy you’ve generated, your team will be happy and sassy, and ready to emotionally labor again.