Transform the Contact Center From a Boiler Room to a Shark Tank for Your Sales Staff


Share on LinkedIn

When your sales prospects come through the contact center, you have to be aggressive. After all, for the professional, sales is a sport. There is a clock that limits the number of leads you can handle and presentations you can make in a day. There is competition because performance determines who gets the compensation prize. There is a limited sales and marketing budget from which to staff your sales reps and provide them with quality leads. And of course, there is strategy and technology that can be leveraged to provide a competitive advantage relative to other companies in your space. This perspective is not just for those in the big leagues. As in any sport, you can always study and apply what you learn from the pros to achieve exceptional performance.

Here is a winning game plan that has been successfully deployed by one of our clients, a large Midwest database marketing services provider that runs up to 400 different campaigns simultaneously, including Super Bowl ads, to generate inquiries. The company had a fast-paced contact center, with the typical challenges of tight staffing and escalating call volumes. Executives wanted to be able to track and measure performance on a real-time basis and to use that knowledge to create an environment of teamwork and friendly competition among the sales team.

By implementing an integrated, closed-loop strategy and solution, they revolutionized the way the sales staff do business by changing the often impersonal, transactional business model into an interactive, personal sales interaction. This benefits both the customer and the working environment for the team of inside sales reps. Perhaps the best part is that the caller is unaware of any “background noise” that is taking place to optimize the effectiveness of the interaction.

Today, a team of 30 professionals can accomplish what it took 65 people to do a year ago.

The system works before an agent even picks up the phone or touches the keyboard by automatically assigning leads.

A prospective customer who calls into the center in response to an ad or commercial hears an operator greeting and is presented with a simple two-option menu. At the same time, all the information needed to process the call is captured in eight seconds, including the marketing campaign and offer the person is calling about. The operator greeting takes up five seconds, and the remaining time is used to query the caller’s record from the CRM database. If the system finds a matching record, it identifies the assigned sales rep, routes the call to that person and automatically displays the caller’s record on the agent’s screen. If no record exists, one is created and assigned to a sales rep in a call queue.

Informed interaction

At this point, the marketing department’s requirements have been met without hindering sales performance or the customer experience. And the automation keeps the sales reps in a feeding frenzy as they are waiting for a new lead, empowering them with historical customer data to support an informed interaction.

Although the reps may be acting like sharks, the system gives customers a feeling completely opposite that of “prey.” Callers no longer have to remember their reps’ names or spend time explaining why they are calling or going over their purchase history to get effectively served.

For employees, the improvements are equally dramatic. The enhanced customer intelligence makes it easier for inside sales reps to align their presentations with the correct offer for their customers at the right time. The marketing team also benefits from better insight into campaign response rates, history and results. With this improved tracking, marketing can identify the factors that drive response rates, be it a direct mail, television or email campaign.

A visual element completed the contact center’s transformation. The company mounted large plasma, flat-screen monitors on the walls to show dynamic charts and dashboards, including a scrolling ticker that refreshed automatically, providing real-time statistics and updates. The old focus centered on call hold times. The real-time sales scoreboards gave all the agents a way to see how they and their teams were doing, creating a sort of lead “feeding frenzy” in the energized, efficient shark tank.

The “in your face” performance score boards that publicly broadcast results drove salespeople to make more calls and kept them on their toes. But more importantly, customers benefited because their calls were handled more quickly, with higher quality, informed interactions. Today, a team of 30 professionals can accomplish what it took 65 people to do a year ago. Call center processes are now tied together from front to back for the entire customer lifecycle. Every lead can be tracked and marketing campaign ROI calculated, enabling marketing dollars to be spent optimally.

As with any sport, you have to stay up on advances in the game to compete successfully and win. Investments in sales effectiveness and productivity that have measurable results are the winning strategy for driving returns for your sales agents in the contact center.


  1. Kevin

    I hear this kind of sales pitch all the time. Be more aggressive on the phone. Up-sell, cross-sell, just sell! We have all been the victims of this kind of short-sighted approach to selling.

    A 2006 study published in the McKinsey Quarterly confirms what should be common sense to anyone who has been on the end of such calls. Aggressive selling has a big downside. Customers like to buy. They hate to be sold to. They particularly hate aggresseive selling. In the McKinsey study of financial services customers, only 22% of customers who received a large sum of money would use a bank who engaged in aggressive selling methods as their main bank, as against 47% who would use a bank that didn’t engage in such methods.

    I wonder if telemarketers will ever understand. Or even if they want to.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

  2. What a depressing old-fashioned attitude to customers. So, are the sales agents’ – sorry, the ‘sharks’ – commissions and bonuses also related to customer retention? If those customers sold to during the feeding frenzy don’t turn into long-term profit generators but are just hit and run sales, is the bonus or commission made on that sale withdrawn or curtailed? Does the sales agent have any responsibility for the ongoing customer satisfaction of the particular customers they sell to? And are they rewarded on that? Sport has two opponents. One is the winner and the other the loser. Describing sales as a sport is the tedious old approach to sales that sees customers as the opponents and a sale as a victory – usually over a ‘mug’, which is an attitude that tends to accompany that mindset. If sales is a sport, every time you make a sale, the customer is, by your own definition, a loser.

    Phil Dourado

  3. Whilst I agree with monitoring an call center to ensure that performance is being maintained, I question if the approach outlined actually produces as positive customer experience. I believe that many customers would make the initial purchase and then become a statistic rather than a continuing customer. Customers today have choice..and lots of it, so being the food in a feeding frenzy is not the way to go.


  4. Phil’s observation about creating an “I win You Lose” environment is particularly troubling to me as well. Using kinder terms like “sport” begs the issue about whether the developers of this system or the sharks themselves would recognize whether an activity, script, or process crosses an ethical line in a sales campaign.

    The statement that signals how close the Shark Tank is to that ethical precipice, “Although the reps may be acting like sharks, the system gives customers a feeling completely opposite that of “prey.” represents a significant danger.

    In this environment, where is the true boundary between sales and deception?


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here