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Sometimes There’s No Answer For Unreasonable Demands

, , , , | Working | February 10, 2022

I once worked for a call center that had rather stiff and unfair upsell goals. As I later found out, they made them even higher than the client we were working for actually demanded in the hopes to get more money for more sales.

The problem was that the client we worked for was an Internet provider who hadn’t expanded or upgraded their network for a very long time. Actually, they’d even sold several areas of their network to other providers, so it was really hard to even get one customer on the line where upsell was even possible, and the few we got often had their reasons why they didn’t expand their services already or were not eligible for an upgrade for reasons like bad payment habits or stuff like that.

To make it even harder, we were a service hotline where people would call when their Internet didn’t work. Upsells in that environment are a very delicate affair that have to be handled carefully or the customer will be rightfully pissed.

Still, our manager, who had no more knowledge about proper sales techniques than a footstool, and her boss, who knew a lot about outbound sales but had no idea about upsells in an inbound setting, were convinced that if people would just offer more, the sales would go up.

I am a certified sales trainer. My own numbers have always been high in other settings because I know how to identify possible customers and how to find the perfect contracts for them. Also, I could talk quite convincingly without being pushy and made proper callbacks when customers wanted time to think stuff over.

Management then wanted me to demonstrate that it was possible to upsell 30% of all callers in one day by doing it myself. I showed them my marketing analysis from the previous three days. Our best team —- which I had just trained for sales and where everyone was really doing their best — had managed to get a 5% upsell rate. From the whole lot of customer accounts, our system had only flagged 10% as ready for an upgrade, which means better service was available to them if they wanted it. I had personally checked all customers that weren’t upgraded on those days and found out that if I subtracted all those blocked from all upsells, only 8% of the callers could have been upsold, and the team managed to get 5 % of them to get new contracts. That was an excellent rate!

This meant that 30% was absolutely impossible! There weren’t even enough customers to sell to!

Still, my management demanded that I try it, and I told there was them no way in h***. They were still convinced it was doable, so our boss and my manager decided they’d do it themselves. They took an eight-hour shift and announced that they’d prove to the whole company that it was possible to get a 30% upsell rate in only one day, not even realizing that time wasn’t a factor in this.

Neither of them even made one. Single. Sale.

I later made an analysis of their callers’ accounts. They could have gotten a maximum of 2% of those who could have an upgrade would have taken it. Every other account was either non-eligible or it wasn’t technically possible.

I let the sales team do callbacks to the 2% and they made some sales. The customers who took the deals said they didn’t like the people who they’d talked to before; they were too pushy.

I quit shortly after that when management started calling people who couldn’t make the goal into the office to berate them for their “laziness”.

I’m all in for sales. I believe it’s okay to make offers to adult people, telling them their options and letting them decide if they want to buy or not. And if the product is good, I don’t mind pushing it a little.

But in the end, however good you are, it’s the customers who decide, and no salesman can magically make a sale that’s literally not there.

I was friends with one guy from the clients and they told me they separated from the company when suddenly customers complained about getting contract verifications for contracts they’ve never agreed to. The center had to close after that.

I still don’t know if those two sleazy bosses upsold people who didn’t consent or if they pressured their employees into desperation so they did it to get peace. I’m just glad I could leave in time and feel very sorry for those who couldn’t leave and were desperate for the job.

I’m a sales manager again. But at least we sell to customers who actually call to order stuff and not people who initially called to get something repaired that didn’t work.

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