How I Crossed the Line

Recognize the need to leverage the skills of employees outside of your scope to reach a common goal, to learn outside of the classroom. Break down those silos and learn from one another!

Being a sales trainer can be challenging, to say the least. Many sales representatives feel they have nothing new to learn. “I pitch, therefore, I am.” Hay is for pitching, not selling. Knowledge is power, and knowledge is what gets you sales. A winning personality and integrity doesn’t hurt either. As a trainer, I’m all about the customer experience, and that includes getting to know your customers on a deeper level. It’s not about getting extremely personal, but what motivates them and how the products and services you can provide will fit into their lifestyle.

My role as sales trainer focused on those selling over the phone, aka, telesales. Years ago in my company, they called it telemarketing. We all know how people feel about that word, so telesales we became! Within the company I work for, Telesales is not the only channel that provides this service. We also have a Retail channel that provides the same service, except they are face to face, so no need to rebrand there. Most customers like walking into a store and having that human experience. They can touch, feel, and experience all at the same time. Retail and Telesales have always had somewhat of a rivalry. Does the word, “commission,” resonate with anyone?

Field Trip for New Hires

I had other ideas. After all, I am a trainer and I can’t help but think outside the box. Let me back up a second, I am in the wireless business. So the importance of having hands-on experience with the accessories we sell is paramount. On the other side of town, our Retail representatives have plenty of hands-on experience, and because of this, they have more knowledge and sell more accessories. Accessory sales equal revenue! This has always been a pain point for our Telesales folks and not just the newly hired employees but our embedded base, as well.

Being the innovative, seasoned trainer I am (shameless plug), I proposed that our newly hired employees, while in training, take a field trip to a retail store. This was my first attempt at crossing the line, the imaginary line that is drawn when it comes to sharing across channels. My next step was to work with one of my curriculum developers to come up with a planned activity. Lastly, I e-mailed the store manager to make sure he was OK with a visit from the enemy (kidding) and off we went! To my surprise, there was no “over-the-phone”/“face-to-face” rivalry. The store representatives were welcoming and helpful. The Telesales representatives were inquisitive and attentive. It was a match made in heaven! Everyone learned something and shared ideas.

Fast forward to new hire graduation day. Nervous yet eager, they hit the sales floor and moved into their “transition” stage. The first week is like your first day of high school, lots of getting to know you and setting expectations and learning about the promotions that are proven to better serve our customers while at the same time blowing out sales numbers (or, like in high school, how to earn an A). After about two weeks, some steady numbers start pulling into the station and their accessory sales were higher than new hire classes that came before them! Who knew?

Seasoned Employees Benefit, Too

This brought me to my second attempt at crossing the line. If this could work so well with newly hired employees, why can’t it work with our embedded base representatives? So it was off to the director’s office to plead my case. Surprisingly, it didn’t take much pleading—as soon as a sales director hears the words, “revenue” and “increase,” in the same sentence, he or she is on board!

It’s a little tougher to get seasoned salespeople on board because many feel they have nothing new to learn and prying them away from those phones is like ripping their commission dollars out of their hands. Using my trainer “magic,” I was able to get everyone to buy in, so off we went to the store.

Not only did everyone learn something, they walked away with some new accessories of their own. They actually gave their business and a commission to Retail sales reps! The feedback was all positive: They liked being able to talk to the store reps and hear how they handled customer inquiries; reps in the store use the same methods they do to recommend insurance and accessories to customers and you have to be knowledgeable about our products and services in order to successfully position them to customers. Definitely some a-ha moments in my book!

Now for the results! Drum roll, please… The embedded based representatives’ revenue increased after their visits to the retail store! One team increased their accessory revenue by $18.72 and another team increased their accessory revenue by $39.49. Not huge numbers, yet a step in the right direction.

Break Down Those Silos

The moral of the story is: Don’t be afraid to cross that line between channels. Break down those silos and learn from one another. The bottom line for employees is that it will build confidence, as well as their knowledge base. As a member of the Learning and Development organization, I recognize the need to leverage the skills of employees outside of my scope to reach a common goal, to learn outside of the classroom. I’m proud to say that a visit to a retail store is now part of our National New Hire program for Telesales employees.

What types of lines will you cross?

Alaine Carrello is a senior trainer in Learning and Development at Verizon. She has been with Verizon Wireless for 22 years and has held many positions. Carrello has been in the Learning and Development organization since 2010 and recently graduated Summa Cum Laude from Bellevue University with a Bachelor’s degree in Adult Education.



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