Tailored Tactics: The Key to Crushing the Sales Performance Gap in the Contact Center

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Businesses are quickly learning that effective sales performance in revenue-generating contact centers relies on the closing abilities of their top-performing sales professionals. Excelling in sales requires a balance of skills that top performers have mastered. Research conducted by Cresta found that there’s a 59% performance gap between average and top salespeople in transactional sales environments – with the gap soaring to 200% in complex sales environments. These findings clearly demonstrate a growing disparity between top and average performers, which can result in significant financial ramifications for any business.

Contact center leaders are looking for ways to raise the performance of average sales agents to match that of top performers, thereby bridging the performance gap that may be impeding their sales success. Of course, this is easier said than done — so where to start? Organizations need to consider the inextricable correlations between agent experience and their performance — and ultimately, the business outcomes.

Satisfied employees seal the deal on sales success

In the midst of an uncertain economy, businesses are under mounting pressure to achieve more with reduced resources, while also grappling with rising employee turnover. Over 50% of contact center leaders say employee turnover is one of their top challenges – and unhappy agents often underperform, negatively impacting the organization. Conversely, happy agents perform better and when they feel adequately supported, report higher levels of fulfillment and job satisfaction. Placing a premium on agent happiness is crucial for achieving peak performance. Maintaining satisfaction is not a concern exclusive to the average performer; it’s equally important to acknowledge the heightened pressure on top performers to set the standard. 

In 2022, Cresta published its first landmark report on the Sales Performance Gap revealing a staggering disconnect between top and bottom performers. The report examined over 340,000 conversations and found that organizations can miss out on up to 48% of potential revenue, leaving contact center leaders with the challenge of fostering agent adherence without adding stress. Otherwise, they may face a substantial and expensive sales performance gap.

Supercharge sales performance with winning behaviors and new tech

Additional findings from the first study revealed that salespeople who adhere to a script produce 26% higher revenue per conversation and achieve 21% better conversion rates compared to their colleagues. However, agents regard the use of scripts as a top stressor — one that may even push them to leave their roles. Similarly, it was reported that agents who feel their supervisor has them under a constant microscope are more likely to leave. In this case, an alternative approach may be to build a user-friendly playbook.

Cresta’s 2023 sales performance report examined over 6 million conversations and found that rather than looking exclusively at the behaviors performed by the top agents, organizations should take a closer look at the outcomes that can come as a result of these behaviors, the metrics used to evaluate top performers, and the context of their achievements. This allows for the creation of a more concrete and repeatable playbook that doesn’t require agents to adhere to a rigid script. This playbook is constructed around winning behaviors and outcomes which allows for a dynamic flow that empowers agents to apply their unique style. Thus, alleviating the pressure associated with following a script.

The AI Factor and 3-Step Approach

With the frenzied pace of generative AI developments, it’s worth exploring how organizations that utilize contact centers for selling can unlock this technology for growth potential. The following are three key elements that should be leveraged in the process:

  1. Discovering winning sales behaviors
  2. Getting visibility and measuring impact
  3. Real-time guided selling & coaching

Certain generative AI-powered tools can enhance the effectiveness of agent coaching and make it possible to share the best behaviors and practices of top performers across average agents and teams. These tools can prompt agents in real-time to not only perform winning behaviors but to also track if those behaviors were performed. Incorporating dynamic coaching in real-time can play a huge role in driving contact center success. Real-time coaching offers live guidance to agents, simultaneously allowing managers to examine and analyze their progress and determine opportunities for more customized coaching. The outcome is a boost in agent performance and improved customer experience.

Unpacking real-world results

Now that we’ve established how these customized strategies can generate reliable outcomes, let’s examine some of the results from real customers. 

A top five consumer bank in the US wanted to increase promises-to-pay in highly delinquent collection claims. By using generative AI, they developed protocols to guide their collectors in the negotiation and collections process with customers. However, they frequently observed that collectors were not adhering to the playbook when interacting with clients. Over the span of 90 days, agents who were prompted with a “negotiate payment” hint, were encouraged to ask cardholders “How close can you come?” Those agents received promises to pay 30% more frequently than agents assuming the cardholder could pay the full amount. By embracing this clue, they also fostered a culture of empathy and client relationship-building, leading to overall favorable business implications.

These findings were consistent with one of the largest telecommunications companies in the US. That company found that agents who followed prompts to “assume the sale” delivered average conversion rates nearly 5% higher than those who did not adopt the behavior. Similarly, a Fortune 500 insurance company wanted to capitalize on missed income due to unsold plan premiums. Through personalized insights, this company determined that agents who adhered to upsell hints and asked key discovery questions sold significantly more than agents who didn’t. Conversations performing key discovery questions achieved an 80-200% higher annualized new business premium.

Takeaway

It’s important not to leave this disparity unaddressed, as taking no action could lead to increased employee turnover, negative customer interactions and ultimately hurt revenue. To effectively close the sales performance gap and drive winning outcomes for the business, contact center leaders must adopt a truly comprehensive perspective of what’s working and what’s not. These findings clearly demonstrate that there is no one-size-fits-all guidance that applies to every contact center in every industry. Following business-specific approaches such as developing a concrete playbook and employing generative AI tools can effectively shift agent behavior, thus delivering maximized revenue generation, better conversion rates, and altogether happier agents.

To learn more about the findings, visit the report here.

Scott Kolman
Scott Kolman is the CMO at Cresta, where he oversees the overall positioning, promotion, and branding of Cresta’s real-time intelligence platform for the contact center. Scott has an extensive background in the marketing and promotion of SaaS and enterprise software, and is a recognized professional with expertise in cloud contact center, customer experience, and customer service. Prior to joining Cresta, Scott held leadership positions at Five9, Genesys, Synchronoss Technologies, SpeechCycle, Amdocs, Lucent Technologies and Octel Communications.

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