Know What Your Sales Reps Say on the Phone

A reader writes, "One day I called my company's Sales department and pretended to be a prospect.  (I'm the company president.)  The rep taking my call sounded so disinterested. I was astonished. She did little to engage me, asking only a few perfunctory questions. I requested some information and gave her my friend's email address. My friend told me she never received anything. I get madder and madder the more I think about this. What do I do?"

Inspect what you expect. Never is that more applicable than being aware of how sales reps conduct themselves on the phone with potential new customers.

All Reps

Before doing anything, get a feel for how the entire sales staff handles inbound customer inquiries. Do they all seem bored? Are some better than others at relating to the caller and moving the conversation forward? Do they send the requested information?

As for the rep in question, ask a friend or colleague to call them at least two more times. Try to determine whether they were having an off day or always treat potential new customers this way.


Many organizations invest significant resources in generating inbound leads, so your sales staff should deal with incoming calls professionally and effectively. To support that effort, the Sales department should put a procedure in place for speaking with, sending information to, and following up with potential customers.
This should include a mandatory:

  • List of qualifying questions such as "How did you hear about our company?" or "What prompted your interest in that particular product?"
  • Methodology for logging the call and their action (for example, sending information or a sample)
  • Time-frame in which to follow-up with the caller

Do you have the ability to listen to the calls your reps take /  make? Does anyone in your organization audit the sales staff's efforts in this area? When? How often? This is a regular practice in retail, where "secret shoppers" assess how they are treated.

Solving the Problem

If a formal procedure existed previously and has fallen by the wayside, make sure it becomes common practice again. Review it with all the reps. Spend extra time with any recently hired salespeople.

When no process exists, meet with the reps and discuss the situation. Without naming names, tell them about your experience when you called in. Open up a dialogue about best practices for dealing with potential customers calling in to the company. Come up with a list of useful questions to ask. Determine a procedure for sending information and following-up. Track progress.

A Great Idea

My friend and colleague Chris Mullins, The Phone Sales Doctor, suggests letting sales staff members place mystery calls to one another. She says, "Let them experience first hand how other reps handle calls. This will get them involved in the process and keep sales top of mind."

Chris adds, "Record your reps phone calls on an ongoing basis. Make no secret of what you're doing. Tell your team you're recording calls to help them improve their book of business as well as to confirm customer needs and wants. Always be sure to check the laws for recording calls in your state."

The Offending Rep

After investigating this situation further, you may find that your reps generally handle incoming prospect calls well and follow company sales procedures. The problem occurs with this particular sales rep.

Speak to her candidly about what you and others have experienced. She'll likely hotly deny any charges, so come armed with the facts. Provide dates and times. Mention sales information that was never received. Tell her that she must follow the stated sales procedures going forward.

Mishandling the incoming calls of potential paying customers costs your company money. Most reps would be only too happy to receive such calls, viewing them as potential closable sales. After a period of time, if this salesperson won't rise to the occasion, consider whether or not she should be part of your organization going forward.