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Field Salespeople in constant contact with Virtual Office staff


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Hi everyone;

 

I'm thinking about having my door to door salesmen in constant contact with virtual staff in the Philippines. Every salesperson would be paired with a "virtual buddy" via cell phone speakerphone for their entire 4 hour shift.

 

The goals are:

 

1) To keep the salesperson motivated throughout the day by having a friendly & supportive person always in contact

 

2) To have instant feedback on all calls delivered and discussed.

 

The only time the pair would NOT speak is when the salesperson is talking to a prospect. This makes up a fraction of the salesperson's field time (most people aren't home so there's a lot of "dead time" in between conversations. I believe this to be a bad thing for most people)

 

I'm not an experienced sales manager so I thought I'd ask for some feedback on this plan. The added labor & phone costs are not an issue (if this has any positive effect--I'm working with big margins); I want my guys to be more effective, have more fun on the job, and have less staff turnover.

 

Thanks

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Just to clarify, is the idea to have your field sales people on the phone with a person in an outsourced foreign office (with no real affiliation) every minute they aren't with potential customers? Is this a time-logging endeavor?

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Hi; yes they would be on the phone for the entire shift (but not holding it--the phone would be hidden away in a shirt pocket). I control & train the virtual staff directly.

 

The primary purpose is not time logging--it is to keep them positive, motivated, and constantly improving.

 

Hope that clarifies

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I am with Sprite, I could not imagine anything more annoying, what would they talk about with their "virtual stocker" for almost 4 hours?

 

 

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I'm not the type to stand around at the water cooler either but I'm feeling that most would benefit from having someone there to talk to. As far as I can tell the number #1 killer of motivation is a stream of negative thought patterns that begins to dwell up inside the person.

 

I could also require a more regimented conversation: Feedback after every contact, analysis of hot buttons found/missed, constant script practice, affirmation statements, etc.

 

I know a very successful businessman who killed the competition by training his sales staff more hours than anyone else. The lost time on the floor was made up by the increase to skills, motivation, comraderie. I'm trying to emulate this in a field setting.

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I have been in industrial sales for 25 years now and have worked on straight commission, draw and salaried with bonuses.

I would never consider working under the plan you have just proposed and I believe any salesman worth a damn would object to it as well.

You do not have to watch over a decent salesman as a decent salesman will be self disciplined enough to stay motivated and sell a decent product.

This year I accounted for 33% of my companies annual sales of $46 million dollars, which was double the sales volume of 2011.

If things go well in the next two weeks it looks like I will have booked approximately $22 million dollars in sales for 2013.

Not a bad way to start the new year IMO. Well I better get back to work before someone suggests that I get a cell phone friend to chat at me for the next 4 hours.

 

 

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Is there something in between constant contact and no contact?

 

I was a sales manager (had managers and reps as direct reports).

 

Negatives:

- they get burned out from too much focus - no time to mentally relax

- they feel this is "big brother" trying to log every moment on the job

- if they are driving while talking - any liability if they have an accident due to having training conversation?

 

Positives:

- training

- increased productivity (assuming their motivation and attitude improves)

- potentially less turnover (assuming this works)

 

How about a training initiative that requires them to call in a minimum of X minutes each day in between their calls. If their shift is 4 hours - figure out how much average dead time they have and then figure out a reasonable percentage to be spent on training. Their training call can take place in more than one phone call if their sales calls are close together - but they must spend a total of X minutes each day on a training phone call in between sales calls. If they want to spend MORE time on training they have the option to do so. Make sure your buddies keep all the conversation structured and positive and about business.

 

I would absolutely structure the nature of the call. If totally unstructured the "buddy" could be reinforcing complaining, negative attitude, etc. Make it a specific conversation around debriefing the sales call (although your feedback is only from the rep's perspective since they are the only one witnessing their call). Train the "buddies" to approach the training from "How can I help you to be more productive and successful and make more money and be happier and more satisfied (or whatever the appropriate motivation would be).

 

Not sure how many sales people you have but you might consider a pilot program for a month or two. Choose your best, worst and middle performing reps. Ask them for feedback. What did they like, what could be better, etc? Also look at their performance. Did it improve? Might be a way to dip your toe in the water without having the entire thing backfire.

 

Be careful when you introduce this (whether as pilot or full roll-out) to explain this is for their benefit in several ways (more training, better production, more sales = more money to them, etc). I've made some assumptions that the better they sell the more they make. If not - maybe throw some type of commission structure into the pot as an incentive to buy into your idea.

 

They are YOUR employees so all the incentive they SHOULD need is a paycheck but we all know it doesn't work that way. Not sure if it's universal - but we did studies on what motivates sales people and money wasn't #1. It was about feeling respected, feeling an important and valued member of the team, etc. If I remember right (it's been many years) - money came in third.

 

For me - being required to be on the phone every minute I'm not in a call would cause me to quit if I had any other option. If the phone calls were for specific training to make me a better rep and didn't take up every spare minute of my shift I'd be willing to give it a try.

 

Good luck!

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Cake, just wanted to say thanks for the guidance--your response was just what I was hoping for :)

 

Redlambo; you sound like a damn fine salesman! The guys I employ are the "$12/hr crowd" if you know what I mean. Turnover is high, and their task is primarily prospecting which IMO is tougher and less intrinsically rewarding than the rest of the sale. Depending on the situation, when we get a lead they'll call me to try to commit the prospect or secure an appointment themselves.

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Cake, just wanted to say thanks for the guidance--your response was just what I was hoping for :)

 

Redlambo; you sound like a damn fine salesman! The guys I employ are the "$12/hr crowd" if you know what I mean. Turnover is high, and their task is primarily prospecting which IMO is tougher and less intrinsically rewarding than the rest of the sale. Depending on the situation, when we get a lead they'll call me to try to commit the prospect or secure an appointment themselves.

 

Regardless of the level of salesperson, that is not an approach I would take (I have been in sales for the better part of a decade), and have goals of roughly $12 million annually.

 

Best way to retain good sales people, and keep them motivated is reward for sales (money, recognition, or some sort of benefit). That is regardless of the level of salesperson. They also need to sell a product THEY believe in to be succesful. If you don't do a good job on selling them as to why their client base needs this product and at the price YOU set, then they will likely lose interest as well.

 

Summary-

1)Dont do what you were thinking of doing

2)Create an incentive plan

3)Create a training/selling tool for team

4)Impliment and adjust (fire those who arent selling, and who arent on board with what you are trying to do as they will spoil the bunch)

 

Pretty simple

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I have been in industrial sales for 25 years now and have worked on straight commission, draw and salaried with bonuses.

I would never consider working under the plan you have just proposed and I believe any salesman worth a damn would object to it as well.

You do not have to watch over a decent salesman as a decent salesman will be self disciplined enough to stay motivated and sell a decent product.

This year I accounted for 33% of my companies annual sales of $46 million dollars, which was double the sales volume of 2011.

If things go well in the next two weeks it looks like I will have booked approximately $22 million dollars in sales for 2013.

Not a bad way to start the new year IMO. Well I better get back to work before someone suggests that I get a cell phone friend to chat at me for the next 4 hours.

:iamwithstupid:

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Hey pock, it all sounds good and we actually do that right now (training, performance incentives, adjustments). This plan is meant as an evolution of the current model.

 

If I can't find or train qualified people overseas then I can keep everything in house and either listen to multiple lines myself or hire a sales manager who's strong in coaching. The main question I have is "Will direct monitoring and timely encouragement & feedback improve performance?" My hunch for door to door sales is "Yes" due to the draining nature of the job, but we'll see.

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I would never consider working under the plan you have just proposed and I believe any salesman worth a damn would object to it as well.

You do not have to watch over a decent salesman as a decent salesman will be self disciplined enough to stay motivated and sell a decent product.

I agree with you but it may be "old school" thinking. I know of several major corporations (Fortune 500, Fortune 100) that are going the route of telematics in all company vehicles.

 

Talk about "big brother"! It monitors everything under the sun and it quite intrusive in some cases - literally telling the driver they are traveling at an unsafe speed or driving aggressively. There are just as many monitoring "devices/reports" for sales activity. With some, you must log your call immediately after making the call with weekly reports to managers who then debrief and take training opportunities to increase productivity based on results.

 

It seems many larger companies are going the route of looking over the shoulder of anyone with a fleet vehicle or working remotely (as in outside sales).

 

It would be interesting to get input from folks less than 10 years out of college. It seems many don't value privacy nearly as much as "older" generations (like me) and since they've grown up with social media they may not care as deeply about having their every move followed.

 

I agree - I would object to working under the plan first proposed, but it (or similar oversight) may be the wave of the future.

 

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I agree with you but it may be "old school" thinking. I know of several major corporations (Fortune 500, Fortune 100) that are going the route of telematics in all company vehicles.

 

Talk about "big brother"! It monitors everything under the sun and it quite intrusive in some cases - literally telling the driver they are traveling at an unsafe speed or driving aggressively. There are just as many monitoring "devices/reports" for sales activity. With some, you must log your call immediately after making the call with weekly reports to managers who then debrief and take training opportunities to increase productivity based on results.

 

It seems many larger companies are going the route of looking over the shoulder of anyone with a fleet vehicle or working remotely (as in outside sales).

 

It would be interesting to get input from folks less than 10 years out of college. It seems many don't value privacy nearly as much as "older" generations (like me) and since they've grown up with social media they may not care as deeply about having their every move followed.

 

I agree - I would object to working under the plan first proposed, but it (or similar oversight) may be the wave of the future.

 

And as companies implement these kind of controls which only attracts the worst workers the companies who are more flexible will snap up the talent who want a place to work that respects them and their ability to work and provide service or generate sales. I just tripled my business the last 3 years and am on target for another 30 percent increase in the next 12 months for exactly this reason. Treat your people like morons who need constant supervision and pressure and you will end up with the bottom of the barrel employees and more managers needed just to monitor the people left.

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And as companies implement these kind of controls which only attracts the worst workers the companies who are more flexible will snap up the talent who want a place to work that respects them and their ability to work and provide service or generate sales. I just tripled my business the last 3 years and am on target for another 30 percent increase in the next 12 months for exactly this reason. Treat your people like morons who need constant supervision and pressure and you will end up with the bottom of the barrel employees and more managers needed just to monitor the people left.

:iamwithstupid:

 

The product I sell is fantastic, the financial incentive is good enough, and my salary is good. However-if my Director micromanaged me in the slightest way, I would be GONE. There are too many places out there that are willing to hire me as I have always been at 94% (missed 100%-1 year due to something out of my control-was my only year under 100%)-144% of my annual sales goals, and on top of that my salary has tripled in the last 7 years-not including my increases in bonus.

 

If you want to RETAIN good sales people-less supervision, more succesful initial training and oversight, and increase their pay the longer the stay with you and the more they produce. It will likely (without undersanding the business model) cost you FAR more to keep hiring/retraining salespeople than to pay to retain the great ones.

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I agree 100% about how micromanaging is a dis-incentive.

 

I agree that good people will be gone if they have an option to go someplace where their every move isn't monitored.

 

I'm just reporting a trend I'm seeing as much as I hate it. Some of it is driven by managing costs (if your fleet drivers are force to drive the speed limit or within 5 mph - you will see increased mpg, lower insurance rates, a likely reduction in accidents, etc all which translate to more $ for the bottom line.

 

Personally - driving a company car was always considered a benefit, just like having the freedom to work remotely without someone looking over your shoulder. I know someone (a top performer) who recently declined their company vehicle because of the monitoring. This person has nothing to hide but objects to "Big Brother" watching every move - especially when they are a top performer.

It'll be interesting to see if the "extreme" monitoring of employees backfires or if it's the future of management.

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I agree 100% about how micromanaging is a dis-incentive.

 

I agree that good people will be gone if they have an option to go someplace where their every move isn't monitored.

 

I'm just reporting a trend I'm seeing as much as I hate it.

 

Ever notice that successful companies that last and grow even through ups and downs dont follow trends? Every new management style that comes along , goes away and only makes consultants rich. in the 80's we were all supposed to follow the japanese way...hows that going? It's not a big secret, hire good people, treat them well and pay them well,let them have as much flexibility in their work / life balance as possible and they will over perform. And quickly get rid of anyone who goes against that culture.

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I always run my business with one thought. You pay peanuts, you get monkeys. If thats what you are referring to with the '$12 an hour crowd' you may want to hire a trainer, rather than manager.

 

Best

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I'll chime in on behalf of the " social media generation" in response to Cake's comments about privacy...

 

There's a big distinction you need to make to understand "us," which is that while we may be willing to share more information about our day-to-day lives than generations past, we still want CONTROL over what/how/when we share. Example: voluntary location check-in on Facebook? Sure, sometimes. Automatic check-ins? Never.

 

Along similar lines, since we are more socially connected and have increasing ADD, being micro-managed will quickly conflict with our lifestyles. We don't expect to be allowed to spend all day on Facebook but we expect to be able to reply to that text message from our buddy asking if we want to meet for a beer later without it being a major violation of corporate policy.

 

Of course, I work for myself so this is just general commentary, not firsthand experience :)

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  • 2 weeks later...
I agree with you but it may be "old school" thinking. I know of several major corporations (Fortune 500, Fortune 100) that are going the route of telematics in all company vehicles.

 

Talk about "big brother"! It monitors everything under the sun and it quite intrusive in some cases - literally telling the driver they are traveling at an unsafe speed or driving aggressively. There are just as many monitoring "devices/reports" for sales activity. With some, you must log your call immediately after making the call with weekly reports to managers who then debrief and take training opportunities to increase productivity based on results.

 

It seems many larger companies are going the route of looking over the shoulder of anyone with a fleet vehicle or working remotely (as in outside sales).

 

It would be interesting to get input from folks less than 10 years out of college. It seems many don't value privacy nearly as much as "older" generations (like me) and since they've grown up with social media they may not care as deeply about having their every move followed.

 

I agree - I would object to working under the plan first proposed, but it (or similar oversight) may be the wave of the future.

 

I fit this crowd. At the age of 26, I find these "big brother" methods nightmarish. Yes, with the new technologies we are using now, our every move and, many actions are tracked. However, the catch is: we are wanting it to be tracked for the sake of social entertainment, to even social mobility. Ultimately, the key is social mobility.

 

I can understand tracking fleet drivers, absolutely. If you want to track your sales team, you better do it using the same model Facebook, FourSquare, and Twitter do. In fact, I would suggest: TRAINING YOUR SALES TEAM TO EFFECTIVELY (AND PROFESSIONALLY) USE TOP SOCIAL MEDIA APPS FOR THEIR BUSINESS (to an extent, in a marketable manner engineered by your communications or marketing team).

 

Come up with a way in which your sales team "should be" involved daily, actively in social media, and you can easily track their performance using the features provided by these social networking companies for their business clientele.

 

Why would this work: Because Sales People are the most social and competitive people in your business...period. They get off on effective socializing that goes their way, or highlight's their strengths (or perceived strengths), while at the same time being "publicly" competitive with their peers, and SIMULTANEOUSLY getting new, modern immediate gratification through electronic socializing while at work.

 

It could go like this:

 

@BillofXYZInc: "6 out of 15 Phoenix residents said yes to #XYZ widgets. Mom, told you it was good." (5 retweets)

 

@XYZInc: "Great people like @BillofXYZInc is showing Phoenix the benefits of our #XYZ widgets, have you tried us out? Good job Bill!" (248 views, 11 retweets)

 

Social media is actually a free, or at most cheap, way to both "Tracking" your field staff, and adding a new exciting incentive to their job. Hell, allow them to even reuse their stress with a bad sales day thru a meaningful message.

 

@BillofXYZInc: "#XYZWidgets can solve suspension challenges that our competitors can't. Don't believe me, ask @PastCustomer how he feels."

-----------

 

The "on the phone all the time with a foreign tele-"partner"" sounds irritating and an expense not needed. I would actually be turned off, and would find a way to ignore it. I had a former sales mentor that would just make sure to keep my mind occupied, by giving me entertaining stuff relevant to my job and interests...like youtube videos to watch related to sales, or mp4 to listen to. And, keeping OPEN COMMUNICATION, between sales managers and field staff is key....I would bitch, celebrate, or mention concerns via texts, and the responses always made my work day much better. If they have "dead time" that's driving them away from work, they aren't being social enough, and are going out into the field empty handed, no matter how many marketing material or product samples they have in their briefcase.

 

There are free and/or cheaper ways at improving employee retention or loyalty, and getting them more motivated during bad days or dead time without being complicated or re-inventing the wheel, and failing at making the reinvention a failure.

 

My entire career is about being effective in "motivating" (really, just plain getting all target audiences to do what I need them to do) people. Thank God for Web 2.0, it's made my job a lot easier with every prospect or employee, young and old.

 

 

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