By Megan Hottman, Brand Evangelist, Quality Contact Solutions
I’m sure we can share at least one experience (or dozens!) where we’ve felt like the person on the other end of the phone just wasn’t listening to what we were saying. For me personally, I find it to be one of the most annoying and frustrating experiences when receiving an outbound telemarketing call. It’s not just that the person on the other end isn’t listening, the fact is, I automatically go into a spiral of assumptions…to name a few: “this person doesn’t understand what I’m saying” or “this person should take a nap they sound tired”.
I’m the girl who not just answers telemarketing calls but welcomes them. With the majority of my career being in sales and engaging with outbound telemarketing companies, I’m curious to know what people are saying, how they are saying it and if things from my perspective have changed. Sadly, I think they have changed. The noticeable difference to me is that people just aren’t listening. They hear what I am saying but they aren’t truly and intently LISTENING to what I am saying.
I believe active listening is an art. Art takes practice and repetition; it’s rare someone is going to get it right the first time. The most famous and skilled artists didn’t nail it the first, second or even third time. This is what I’m suggesting when it comes to active listening in outbound telemarketing. It won’t be perfected with the agents the first, second or third time, it’s going to take repetition, revision and more practice.
When it comes to applying active listening in outbound telemarketing, I believe there are five fundamentals:
- Be present
- Ask questions
Active listening in outbound telemarketing requires you to be present
This can be hard to do; trust me I know. When you’re on your 27th outbound call of the day, you’re worried about what you’re going to have for dinner or if the next phone call you place will be answered, and if it’s answered, how will they react to your call? I get it. The ability to focus on each individual customer requires you to be present every second and not trying to multi-task. We simply cannot do two things well at once. Your concentration must be on the conversation; not texting or chatting with your neighbor.
In an outbound telemarketing environment, it is perfectly acceptable to take notes and jot down key points/words that you can address with the customer when the conversation pauses or at the appropriate time. This helps to not miss any relevant information being shared as well as reassures the customer you are listening to them.
Active listening in outbound telemarketing requires you to ask questions
As an active listener it’s critical to understand what’s being said. An easy way to do that is by asking questions. Asking questions requires active listening. You are gaining information and perspective while listening and asking questions. Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions. As an example, it’s great to paraphrase back certain points to ensure understanding on your end or to clarify any relevant information that may be missed in discussion. Especially in outbound telemarketing, this helps the customer feel important and that they are being heard and understood since they cannot see your facial expressions or cues. Don’t be shy! Your customers will appreciate you taking the time to clarify.
Active listening in outbound telemarketing requires you to evaluate, understand and relate
Experienced outbound telemarketing agents understand that the goal of the call is to actively listen from the time the conversation begins in order to gain an understanding of what the prospect and or customer is saying/experiencing. Customers need that relatable human touch and being able to have a real, authentic conversation is what keeps them engaged. Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. Be sure to listen without judgement or mentally criticizing what you’re being told.
Genuine listening is truly rare these days. I advocate that we apply active listening skills from what we learn in outbound telemarketing into our personal lives. Not only does it help build relationships, it helps ensure understanding of others, assists in solving problems and helps in conflict resolution.
Let’s all agree to take the time to really hear what’s being said by intently listening, asking relevant questions and understanding and relating to whom we are speaking with. It truly benefits everyone.
Megan Hottman is a Brand Evangelist for Quality Contact Solutions. You can reach Megan at https://www.linkedin.com/in/meganehottman/