I recently faced a problem creating a thought provoking exercise for a sales training workshop. The delegates were members of the finance team of a global exhibition company.

The primary purpose of the course was to allow the attendees to step into the shoes of members of the sales team for a day and understand their mind-set and the daily pressures they face. The goal of the training was to make for better business partnering between sales and finance.

As the new business division of the company’s sales team spend a considerable amount of time prospecting for new clients by means of telemarketing, I was anxious for the finance team to experience some of the difficulties of making ‘cold’ lead generation calls.

Because it was not going to be possible for attendees to make a live call to a ‘real’ prospect, how would it be possible to give them a flavour of the telemarketing experience?

In order to overcome that hurdle, here is a summary of the exercise I set:

1. The delegates were divided into teams of four containing two pairs

2. In each pair, one person would be nominated to make a call and one to receive it

3. Those nominated to make the call were tasked with writing a short introduction to themselves and the services of their organisation – taking no longer than 30 seconds to read aloud

4. The two nominated callers would then call the mobile phones of the receivers and leave a voicemail message taken from their written introduction. (This would be done on the basis that in a ‘real life’ situation, the recipient of the call was unable to take the call, and a message – comprising the short introduction – would be left.)

5. The receivers would then listen to the voicemail messages

6. The group would then discuss their findings – for the callers, the difficulties they experienced; for the receivers, an appraisal of the calls including their structure and content

As an exercise, this worked well despite the fact that the callers did not have to engage in a real conversation. It made them think about a number of issues including:

• How they described themselves, their organisation and their value in a few words

• Their tone of voice and the nature of words they chose to use

• How they built rapport, even in a short space of time

This exercise cannot take the place of making a live call to a prospect to whom you have not previously spoken. However, it is a gentle, less pressurised way of introducing delegates to the world of telemarketing without the fears that sometimes accompany it.

And as an addendum since this was written – thank you Andrew Sachs for all the laughter you gave. RIP. 

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