At CEDIA EXPO last month, many of us were complaining about the devastating effects of the slumping new home construction market. To paraphrase Sam Runcos CEDIA Banquet toast, we are all feeling sorry for ourselves instead of getting off our butts and doing something about it.
Want a plan of attack? Id like to offer one for free that will help you make millions. From offering a free pair of outdoor speakers to past clients to adding a room for free, the key is to get your foot back on your prewire clients property and upsell them. The most effective way to contact past clients is through a phone bank room or a boiler room, and heres how you do it.
Organization and Operation
A boiler room is sound dampened with adequate lighting, a bank of phones with headsets, networked computers (or paper files), comfortable chairs, and flat tabletops. Inside this room a number of people (from a temp agency or your own staff) will make calls from a database accessed on computers.
During the calls, a script will be followed and the appropriate actions and appointments will be made. This is the quickest way to update records, schedule sales or service appointments, or collect on unpaid invoices.
Typically your outbound calls will result in returned calls, so this should be anticipated. All boiler room callers should use a common and gender-neutral name such as Jordan or Shannon that needs to be determined by the boiler room manager. This will allow the receptionist to route incoming returned calls to the boiler room for management.
Provide the caller name, script, company phone number, e-mail and fax numbers to the callers before getting started. Those that get design/installation appointments booked are to be celebrated.
Take time to explain exactly what you want from the callers, and explain your business. Let the callers know how important they are to you, and treat them like members of your company from the moment you meet them.
Selection of calling staff should include an actual calling test where they are asked to make a sample call following a script to an in-house trainer. The callers need to be friendly, happy, and direct. You are trying to help past clients complete their needs for entertainment throughout their home. Once the calls begin, pay direct rewards to the good performers and 86 the bad ones immediately.
Initial calls are typically more effective if a free product is offered with no strings attached. These products are rarely ever installed, however, because a sales person will be sent to the client meeting to review other upgrade options, system offerings, or opportunities.
Work with your major vendors to see what sorts of deals they can arrange for free products. SpeakerCraft, for instance, has the capability to create and offer a fairly inexpensive pair of speakers as an initial offering, and we are willing to supply these speakers at a super low cost if this plan is intended to be followed. We do this for our dealers as a loss leader to help them get their foot in the door. We trust that they will be capable of upselling their clients into more products, from networking their iPods with MODE to designing and selling them whole-house audio, an outdoor music system, or a new home theater.
The Sales Pitch
Calls should be made to targets following your written script. Additionally, once in the home, the sales person should follow the discovery process that you provide for them.
Acquiring Phone Numbers
If client files are not available electronically, then hire another temporary employee and have them enter the contact data either in a CRM database or a spreadsheet. If you do not have electronic files for your customers, then building an Excel database will allow for future import and manipulation of files as well as current use.
A temporary staffing service enables you to pull in a larger crew of specialized personnel to initiate more calls. These hourly temps will require a brief orientation (see sidebar) regarding your company culture, scripts to be used, rehearsals of call scripts, and details of the work that is to be completed.
Direct supervision and monitoring of this work will ensure quality of interaction and completeness of work being done. Its a good idea to station an on-the-floor quality control supervisor to look over shoulders, celebrate appointment victories, and to keep the team excited. Train the hell out of these people as they represent you and your company; dont just hand them a list and expect great results. Consider investing several hours of training and role playing.
If using existing staff, then training on all aspects of company culture is not required, but additional training on telephone call-outs is typically needed. Existing staff will tend to want to engage in a more lengthy conversation about the details of the system instead of selling either follow-on service or additional products. Additionally, this will usually cost more in hourly wages because of the existing wage base of your employees. Call training and direct supervision of calls is required to make sure that the caller stays on track and continues to work through the list.
Customer visits are best completed by your own staff, because they understand the sales process and are trained to walk a customer through the discovery process.
Your actual costs will vary based on existing phone service and capacity, existing usable computers and desks and the length of time required to complete the work. Hiring temps is cheap and the output enormous if you are organized and really care enough to supervise properly.
The bulk of the cost will come from the goods that you give away. Just imagine your customer sitting at home in her 11-month-old house that is now worth five percent less than what she paid for it. Her phone rings, and a pleasant-sounding voice offers to have someone come out and install free speakers that come with her pre-wired home. After the value is explained, she is asked to be home at an appointed time to meet with the installation consultant where they will talk about other options, from iPods to home theater. Chances are that your customer will show interest. In fact, we have dealers taking this approach now, and are making money and having fun turning dead prewires into serious installs.
You choose your attitude, your desire, and level of commitment to be successful. Maybe this approach is not your style and makes you uncomfortable to even consider. Or, maybe you want to give it a try but still have questions. Drop me a note if you want to learn more, and I will do my best to help you survive and to grow.
Jeremy Burkhardt (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president of SpeakerCraft, an audio products manufacturer in Riverside, California.