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  • Writer's pictureSharon Oatway

Why Sales is an Essential Skill for Every Call Center Agent

Updated: May 17, 2023

When I was in high school, I remember my Mom encouraging me to take typing just in case I couldn't get a 'real' job. "You can always get a job typing!" she advised me. Fortunately, I took her advice just as personal computers were becoming ubiquitous in our lives. Great call, Mom!

A few years later, I can envision other mothers suggesting their children get some experience in a call center. "You can always get a job in a call center!" Strong verbal communication skills are foundational to success in business, whether you are working for a bank or running your own dog-walking service.

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Still, more years later, the sage advice I imparted to my own daughter was to “Get some experience in direct sales early in your career!". The reality is that everyone in every job has a need to master the fundamentals of sales -- whether it is selling a product/service directly, influencing others to buy into a new idea, or confidently presenting yourself as the perfect fit for the job of your dreams.

Why did I suggest she get the experience early in her career? After years of successfully selling products, services, and ideas myself, I still find it uncomfortable. I have come to realize that most people do. I'm pretty good at it, and I often teach others how to do it. Yet it still gets my heart racing when I pick up the phone to try to engage with someone I don't know.

A good case in point was my recent experience with a young man who knocked on my door. It is so rare to receive a door-to-door sales call that I was intrigued. He started by saying, “I’m not here to sell you anything. And I'm sure you already have another company which is doing a good job managing your investments. But l was in the neighborhood, and I thought I would introduce myself." Good start. Then he spent the next 5 minutes apologizing for interrupting my day and reinforcing the fact that I most likely already had a good investment manager. No questions to find out if I was happy with my investment advisor -- just a request for my email address so he could follow up. What for?

After years of monitoring and coaching contact center agents in sales and customer service, the most common reason agents don’t meet their sales targets is that… wait for it … they simply don’t ask for the sale! They may spend several minutes offering advice and presenting compelling benefits, but if they don’t ask for the sale, the customer is more than likely going to put off making a decision.

Why do so many of us have such a hard time selling? One reason could be the perception of sales. In Daniel Pink’s book To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, he presents some research that may shed light on this. When asked to identify the first word that came to mind describing "sales" or "selling," the most common answers included “pushy,” “sleazy,” “ugh,” “yuck,” “dishonest,” and “manipulative.” Hmmm…

Whether it is the perception we have of sales ourselves, a fear of rejection or simply that we don’t want to look stupid – we all need to sell. This irrational fear undermines our efforts and minimizes our success. It’s worth thinking about.

Sharon Oatway is the President & Chief Experience Officer at VereQuest and a highly skilled business executive, consultant, author, and speaker.

VEREQUEST is a consulting firm specializing in driving and sustaining the quality of the customer experience in the contact center environment. We help our clients, each a leading organization in N.A., to strive to win the hearts and loyalty of customers through a wide range of proprietary tools and techniques.

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