Monday, June 30, 2014

Back In The Day....

Back In The Day of Paper Lists 

By Elizabeth Dehn 
Also Published on LinkedIn

            When I first got a job working for Aria Communications, my life was filled with demands. My need for some spending money is what drew me to the position, and that I could ‘walk to work.’ I was a junior in highschool, and attending SCSU post-secondary via the PSEO program. Aria offered flexibility and evening hours, which were the only ones I had available to give.
            Prior to that I had also worked at Discovery Zone (a play center for children that is no longer open.) Losing the job at Discovery Zone was tough to swallow, especially getting the call on April fool’s day (April 1st) notifying me that they would be closing the location. I actually thought my manager was ‘just kidding’ and hung up on her. She called back and that is when I found out it was for real. As sad as I was, I would not be who I am today without Aria Communications. So, when I reflect on these events I see that they were ‘meant to be.’ As a young girl and pre-teen, I had helped my mother with her entrepreneurial ventures, answering phones and doing secretarial-type tasks. Looking back I am sure that experience helped me pass the phone interview.
            Aria Communications was an organization that did fundraising, sales, and direct mailings to a variety of prospects for varied clients. We worked for universities, hospitals, AAA, public radio & tv, and many more. As a telepro, it was my job to interrupt dinner and convince former students, patients & the like to donate to the ‘cause’ or ‘renew’ a membership. Many of the people who started with me did not last long. All my friends would ask, “Doesn’t everyone hang up on you? I couldn’t handle that.”
Aria offered flexible hours and a decent hourly rate, but the job was very taxing. Going into each call with a smile is a difficult task sometimes, especially between 6:30-7:30pm CST!
Despite the pushback on the phones and the treatment that I received from some of the people I called, I stuck with it. I would usually have at least one great call per shift, sometimes even more. I chose to focus on that instead. Another reason I stayed with this organization so long was the great leadership. I had mentors and managers that made sure to pick me up on the ‘down’ days with jokes, stories, or even empathy. 
They regularly secretly monitored us and we got to hear our calls. My managers back then Kim and Laurie made sure I knew what it was going to take to perfect my phone persona. Thanks! The goal of the evaluations was to ensure that we were meeting the expected call standards. Back in the day it was 10 yeses/nos per hour. The additional benefits of these exercises was feedback and reflection. It has shaped who I am today.

 I knew that for every 'no' or 'not interested' or even 'get a real job' I received, I got one step closer to the 'yes.' I just had to keep smiling and dialing. 

  It felt awesome to raise money for ‘great’ causes even if the method wasn’t broadly accepted. Some of the ‘high-donor’ lists were considered ‘cake.’ Most of the donors would be ‘renewing’ their gift and eager to hear how the ‘mission’ was going.
            We had paper lists. We had phones with real buttons and a handset. We did have ‘headsets’ but they were low-tech to say the least. Calling into residences at their dinner hour or on Saturday morning was not for everyone. I can remember my main goal being to get a word in edgewise and/or attempt to get through to those who were evasive to say the least. I was already a cultured young lady, living all over the US by the time I landed in St. Cloud, MN. I would attempt to get them talking about the weather or anything, just as long as they didn’t hang up on me immediately. I would work out my own individualized pitch relating to the campaign I was working on. I tried to bring what we now call ‘calls to action’ to each and every call.
       My point is that even all those years ago (more than 15) social selling was the way to go. By connecting to my prospects, I increased my conversion and got more people to donate (percentage-wise) than anyone else on most projects I called.

            Soon after my adventure @ Aria Communications, I decided that I wanted to leave St. Cloud, MN and move to Duluth, MN. There was also an Aria location there, so I was able to transfer and have a job waiting for me in my new city of residence. During this time Aria had decided to implement automatic dialers as a way to increase contacts. That transition was difficult on so many levels. In my personal opinion, this was not a great choice. The automatic dialers had to transfer calls to us waiting and that meant that there was a ‘delay’ that prospects and telepros would have to navigate and mitigate. Most people caught on quickly and when they didn’t hear someone right away, they hung up right away. This greatly diminished the effectiveness of our projects until they got the kinks worked out.
            In the summer of 1998, I decided to move even further away and went across the country to Seattle, WA. There I had many jobs related to the service industry and one more phone work position working @ Time Life. I sold box sets of CDs, Videotapes, and DVDs. The view from their office was the highlight of working that job, looking out at the Olympic range each morning took my breath away.
            So, despite how the process of reaching people has changed, the game is still a social one. I know that people responded to me because of my curiosity and blatant pleas for some conversation and/or interaction.
            Back in the day of paper lists, my main objective was to get them talking. I would ask various questions until I could finally go in and make my ‘pitch.’
            Now in the days of varied platforms and iron-clad gatekeepers, the objective has not changed very much. I still ask questions until I get them talking. Now I don’t even have to be the one to ‘pitch’ and get the credit card number or call back to ensure fulfillment by mail. By Mail!
            I was always interested, and never focused on being ‘interesting.’ It is amazing to me how the tools have morphed in almost twenty years but the main concept is steadfast. In order for your ‘mission’ to be successful, you have to become interested in who you are trying to recruit or enlist. The weird part about this ridiculously long story about prospecting techniques and tools is that originally, I didn’t realize what I was doing.
By getting interested in the people I contacted, I was positioning myself to bring success to my project. For me, it was easy to talk to them about anything BUT the purpose of my call and I would notoriously have low contacts per hour. Go figure. Knowing what I do now, I would suggest every person who is working in an industry where they have to contact others in a B2B or B2C environment get a list of questions together. Make sure they are open ended and you have more to follow up with if necessary. Get them talking. Amazing things will happen.

Please share with me your stories about how the industry you are in has changed in the last decade or two. As always, thanks for reading. I welcome all comments, suggestions and requests. My contact information is public on LinkedIn for a reason.
Special thank you to those who are asking about my next article. You know who you are and you know what you did. How can I ever repay you? That kind of fuel is priceless. I cherish each and every one of my supporters. What do you want to read about next? 

Elizabeth Dehn

Photo Credits: 
Angry Guy on Phone:
Old Phones:
Pink Ringing Phone:

No comments:

Post a Comment