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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe is joined by Dionne Mischler, founder and CEO of Inside Sales by Design. Dionne has been in the sales industry for more than 20 years, and founded her company 5 years ago to help businesses build and scale their inside sales infrastructure. In her discussion with Gabe she shares valuable steps for helping improve inside sales and provides several examples. Her insights are valuable for anyone looking to turn their cost centers into revenue centers. Listen to the full podcast episode below.
Insights on the Art of Conversation
One thing mentioned heavily in the podcast episode with Dionne Mischler is the importance of making interactions with customers, especially when it comes to inside sales. People are lacking in their skills to be conversationalists, but when customer service reps and inside sales teams tap into this ability they will have significant advantages. Dionne states the following about the importance of making it a conversation or the exchanging of ideas:
I call it the art of the conversation because back in the day, before TV, people had salons. … So you would go to — and you would want to go to different salons. In our day we would call them round tables because of who was leading this particular discussion. And so that’s what we want to be known as is a good conversationalist. This person listened, they answered my questions, they asked me good questions in return, they were seeking to understand if I had to use the Covey language.
Training employees to be good conversationalists is one of the first steps in building a strong inside sales team.
How to Make a Conversationalist Out of Your Employee
To help businesses train their reps and teams, Dionne mentions three parts of the process. First, having a precall list is a necessary step. Step two, which is also a part of step one, is imagining different scenarios that could happen on a call. By doing this and mapping out responses, reps will be more confident and create an exceptional experience for the customer. Practice is another important part of building a conversationalist. Dionne mentions practicing the pre call plan several times in the episode. She has companies go through practice situations so they can be ready for the actual calls. She shares an example of this process by saying:
So we have a handout, we give everybody [something called] a conversation tree and we’ll pair people up. But as we’re making calls, we’ve got people writing or capturing it, with whatever tool they have to follow the conversation tree at the end of the day. So it’s really about identifying, what do you think you’re going to get, let’s build up some talk tracks, let’s test and measure, let’s open the call, let’s ask the questions to navigate and bridge. … And then we do follow up. … When you put it together, it’s an excellent experience at the end.
Characteristics of a Positive and Effective Outbound Call
Later in the episode, Dionne starts to talk more and more about the outbound calls and the real purpose of inside sales teams. Some of the principles are the same as the training principles for any other call, but the specific differences make an impact. The first thing is to, again, do pre call planning. To state it clearly she says, “We never, ever, ever, ever wing a call.” Going through the same process above and preparing for different scenarios is a necessary step. Next, we must remember our purpose in reaching out to the customer. Dionne states, “We always have a purpose for the call and the purpose isn’t to get an order, that is a byproduct. The purpose is to call and make sure our customer is aware of whatever the case may be.” Sales reps often have negative thoughts around them but Dionne mentions clearly that the purpose of inside sales teams is to help the customer know of changes and possible benefits they would miss out on otherwise. Making a sale is not the point. Inside sales reps that focus on the correct purpose will see better results and see their cost centers become revenue centers.
Additionally, navigating the call and using bridging statements and pressure tests are characteristics of an effective outbound call. In this section of the podcasts, Dionne uses some examples of actual statements she recommends that will help the call flow, keep the customer happy, and increase the probability of the call fulfilling its purpose. Here are some of the bridge statements and pressure tests she recommends:
So the purpose of my call was to see if you’d be interested in this new service. Here’s why you might be interested in that new service. Other folks are interested because …” So when we think about the navigating piece, it’s also some bridging statements as well. … “So I’m calling because you might find interest because … what do you think of that? Is that something you might find interesting?” So it’s pressure testing and then … “Oh, if you are interested, what do you think about this in your organization?”… “Oh, okay. Well, who else in your organization would want to hear about this?
Lastly, Dionne advocates for the importance of integrity and making the follow up process smooth for both sides. It is important to set clear expectations about the next steps so that there is no confusion. Especially when there are follow up calls and meetings scheduled during the conversation, be courteous and understanding and follow up with the topics and meetings discussed in the call. Dionne gives one final piece of advice stating, “Just again, operate in a mindset of common courtesy and what would you like to have happen.” By planning calls, navigating them well and closing them with courtesy and the appropriate follow up information, cost centers really will become revenue centers.”
To learn more about Inside Sales by Design, Dionne Mischler and inside sales infrastructure, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
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Full Episode Transcript:
The Art of the Conversation with Dionne Mischler
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:10)
Alright welcome everybody. We’re excited to talk about this idea of taking a cost center and turning it into a revenue center on the post sales side of the house. I think this is going to be a fun conversation. Dionne Mischler and I go way back, not too far back. When did we first chat and when was that? That was — it’s got to be three years, right? Three years ago?
Dionne Mischler: (00:35)
Yeah. Yeah. Three to five, something like that. Yeah.
Gabe Larsen: (00:39)
But she has become even more of a rock star since then. She runs an organization called Inside Sales by Design. She is the CEO and founder of that. And she’ll talk about that more in just a minute, but really has helped people focus on, in that space, becoming their best selves in this remote environment. And as the world continues to change some of these trends of; how do you take this idea from a sales perspective and translate that to a customer service or a customer success perspective, just becoming so needed and so applicable that as Dionne and I were talking we thought, we out to — this is probably the time to do that. Let’s jump into that. So I’m excited to dive into that talk track, but before we do, tell us just a little bit more about yourself and kind of what you do at Inside Sales by Design.
Dionne Mischler: (01:25)
Absolutely. Thank you for having me first and foremost Gabe. I really appreciate it and super excited to talk about this topic. We’re seeing this as a huge trend that is gaining the appropriate momentum. So a little bit more about my background. I am still self-identifying as a Midwesterner born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, right? I’m lucky to live in Southern California now and, been in sales and tech for the last 20 some odd years at this point; built and scaled a bunch of different inside sales teams. We’re in our fifth year at Inside Sales by Design and we work with organizations to stand up the right way hopefully and help them build their inside sales infrastructures, is what we call it, to stand up their teams. So we’ve been super fortunate with that and very lucky.
Gabe Larsen: (02:10)
I love it. I love it. Yeah. Right. It’s been a long journey, sales so long, but I’m excited to have you join us in this customer service customer success world. So let’s dive into it. Big picture, I just love that statement, “How do you turn your cost center into a revenue center?” Thoughts on that, that idea, the trend, is that the right thing to do? Give me your quick response.
Dionne Mischler: (02:35)
Yeah, absolutely. So I was talking with a colleague of mine and he says, we live in an experience economy at this point, right? And here’s my bold prediction, right? If you, as an organization are not investing in your customer success team, turning that corner from an order taker, ticket taker, cost center to profit center, your company is going to die and wither in the dust at the end of the day. So the time is now to take those appropriate steps and train your people at the end of the day. So the big picture is this is an excellent opportunity to interact with your customers in a proactive, thoughtful way that leads your customers going, “Wow. That was a really great interaction.” Because a lot of customers aren’t used to getting that at this point.
Gabe Larsen: (03:20)
Yeah, no, I think that word right is becoming more and more powerful. It’s that experience, right? Especially as the times change, right? We’re obviously in interesting times with all that is going on and a lot of the chatter I’ve heard between colleagues and friends is we’ve got to maintain and if not, if possible, grow our current customer base, right? How do we do that in a way that is structured and valuable and viable. And this idea of proactive outreach, this idea of managing the experience, this idea of not just answering their questions, but giving them even more than they want, I think can be a real game changer. So as you think about this, and I want to get into the tactics in just a few minutes, but how do you think organizations should start thinking about this idea? Obviously it’s important. Where do you kind of start down this journey if you want to go do it?
Dionne Mischler: (04:10)
Yeah, absolutely. So any idea of this magnitude, we’re talking about huge change management in an organization, right? So we definitely need an executive sponsor. We need somebody that is behind it. We need somebody that can paint the picture, call out the vision and care enough about their people and their team to be able to do it and do it well. Secondarily is going to be a frontline leader that can execute on that vision and just keep driving it home. And then I think thirdly, is if you’ve got the expertise internally to make this turn by all means, do it. If you’ve got training, enablement, whatever the case may be, we’re going to definitely want to utilize all of those things. But I think too, the biggest hurdle sometimes with our customer success teams. Right? And so for us on a side note is as much as we’ve been standing up inside sales teams, weather and inside sales is an umbrella statement, right? So people ask me all the time, “So, inside sales, what is that?” And I was like, SDR BDR, Inside Sales AE, Inside Sales Account Manager, take your pick.
Gabe Larsen: (05:17)
Yeah. I like that concept. We were talking pre recording here about this remote environment which we’ve all now been forced into, but that’s, I think kind of been the fundamental stock of an inside sales is anybody that’s operating in a remote conversation format is almost falling into that category. Right?
Dionne Mischler: (05:38)
Absolutely. And on a very other interesting note right now we have all of our outside sales folks are becoming inside sales. But what we’re finding is the more we started working with organizations and because we build frameworks and because we focus on the fundamentals and we focus on training teams to have a conversation, and we were getting tapped by the organization and other leaders in the organization to provide some of that training, for lack of better term, and some of that knowledge to other departments as well.
Gabe Larsen: (06:10)
And that’s kind of where you started to get your foray into this part of the world. So I love that big picture, you know, the executive sponsor you’re right. A lot of change management, but I want to click on this idea of this training and enablement because when it comes to it, yeah. I think always, leaders, we want some of that brass tacks. What does it actually mean? And this is where you guys are specialized, doing so much training on the sales side of coaching people on that idea of a conversation. So maybe let’s go there. How do you think about this idea? And maybe start again a little higher level, but the art of a conversation, you talk about that. What is that and why do you start there?
Dionne Mischler: (06:44)
Yeah. And that’s a good, good question. Gabe, with all of that I’m actually working with an organization to write a book on prospecting– or an ebook on prospecting cause it’s shorter. But one of the chapters in there is about conversation, right? And what is conversation? It is an exchange of ideas between two folks, right? And what is the purpose of conversation is to enable communication, which is the sharing of ideas back and forth. Right? So whenever we start engaging with folks, we always, always, always focus on mindset, right? Because there’s this inherent, “I never thought I wanted to be in sales or I’m in customer success or account management so I don’t do sales.” Let me tell you something. Anytime we engage with somebody we are selling, right. If your kid comes to you for something and you say, no, what is their first reaction to try to sell you on something? My kids do it all the time. Right? So wherever you are, right. A lot of our interactions every day are about persuading and getting something, not in a nefarious way, but it’s just how we are.
Gabe Larsen: (07:49)
But it’s funny because as I hear you say that it’s right. It’s like, we’ve kind of put sales in a box and sometimes we’re using this experience management, but really at the fundamental core of that, that is a desire to increase lifetime value of a customer to provide enough loyalty that they recommend you and advocacy that they buy more from you. And so all of those things kind of root themselves in sales, but sales has a little bit of a negative connotation.
Dionne Mischler: (08:17)
One hundred percent. Now if we say the resilient part, being told no, having to overcome objections like that. That definitely is a little bit different. Right? But what we’re talking about here is more about the experience, right? So in reading the go giver, sell more, they call out that the root word of sale is sala, which means to serve, right? So, double-check, go to dictionary.com There’s some validity in that and so I think the more we approach talking with people from a thoughtful serving perspective, what can we give versus what can we get? Our, our head is in a different spot. Right? And if we know, because as humans, if we’re calling in someplace, I mean, to be perfectly frank, I expect anytime I have to call somewhere, I expect it to be a bad experience.
Gabe Larsen: (09:14)
This data — we were on with Matt Dixon, the old Challenger Sale, also wrote The Effortless Experience. So he’s also playing on both sides of the fence there, but yeah, he was like, truthfully, anytime there is an engagement with somebody, he’s like, we basically find that people are, they become less satisfied. So yeah. You’re actually correct. I think I needed to back that.
Dionne Mischler: (09:37)
Yeah. And so nobody’s really done themselves any favors, right? So some — which is unfortunate, right? So now we were taking this broad brush approach. But I’ve got to tell ya, I’ve had more positive experiences calling into places lately than I’ve had not positive experiences. So I think there’s this shift, and I would also say that as we are engaging organizations, I’m seeing across the spectrum of generations and whether it’s an SDR team AE team or on the customer success side, we’re seeing a lot of folks really embracing and digging in going, “tell me how to do this better.” So if you’re that executive going, we’ve got to make this turn first off, you’re right because if you don’t, you’re going to be left in the dust and secondarily is, your people are probably starving for help and really want to do good work. So enable them, empower them to do that good work. And it starts with the mindset and then it starts with, however you want to train them to have a conversation.
Gabe Larsen: (10:50)
I love that. I think that’s right. You’re right. And that’s kind of a shift that I think a lot of organizations are starting to go for and they’re going to need to as times continue to change. So let’s click into this conversation concept because I do think it’s a nice kind of simple structure. Doesn’t matter whether you’re a sales support, service support to kind of go through that. So walk us maybe through that and how you start to think about coaching organizations to manage that; that art of the conversation.
Dionne Mischler: (11:15)
Yeah. And so we do, I call it the art of the conversation because back in the day before TV people had salons. It’s true. So you would go to, and you would want to go to different salons in our day, we would call them round tables, right because of who was leading this particular discussion. And so that’s what we want to be known as is a good conversationalist. This person listened, they answered my questions, they asked me good questions in return, they were seeking to understand, if I had to use the Covey language. So I think when we teach the art of conversation, we start with the mindset, we lay the contextual groundwork and then we go into the five steps of pre call planning. We go into, open the call, navigate, close, and then follow up. On this particular side, if we’re looking at customer service and folks who are fielding inbound, what we might want to consider doing is think about the different scenarios you have coming at you.
Gabe Larsen: (12:15)
Yep. And for that pre call. So kind of for step one, right. You kind of think about —
Dionne Mischler: (12:22)
Yeah. And so from an inbound perspective your spectrums might be a little bit bigger. Really try to figure out your different scenarios that would be coming at your team and also measure it. And then as you have these different scenarios, work with your team on different talk tracks, right? So we have a handout, we give everybody that’s a conversation tree and we’ll pair people up. But as we’re making calls, we’ve got people writing or capturing it, with whatever tool they have to follow the conversation tree at the end of the day. So it’s really about identifying, what do you think you’re going to get, let’s build up some talk tracks, let’s test and measure, let’s open the call, let’s ask the questions to navigate and bridge. We use bridging statements quite a bit. And then we close the call and we’re quick about that. And then we do follow up. And so if we do those five things really well, when you put it together, it’s an excellent experience at the end.
Gabe Larsen: (13:24)
Yeah. You tied it back into experience. I love that. So I like the idea on the pre call because let’s go through each of these just shortly so I can make sure I understand it. So on the pre call I liked the idea, sometimes if you get an inbound, a lot of these service and success reps are starting to go outbound. What is kind of the key principle in that pre call planning if you’re going outbound.
Dionne Mischler: (13:43)
Yeah. So when we —
Gabe Larsen: (13:45)
When you’re being proactive. We say not really outbound, but more proactive outreach if you’re customer service.
Dionne Mischler: (13:49)
Yeah, yeah. So first off, yes, that should be happening. Everybody needs a phone call, an outbound something to make them feel good. A girlfriend, a colleague of mine calls that, “Everybody wants to be the unique snowflake.” So, I think when we, again, we teach this, we have a couple of key concepts that we work with folks on is one; we always do pre call planning. We never, ever, ever, ever wing a call there’s no, no, no, no, no, no. We always have a purpose for the call and the purpose isn’t to get an order, that is a byproduct. The purpose is to call and make sure our customer is aware of whatever the case may be.
Gabe Larsen: (14:30)
Yeah. X, Y, and Z. Yeah. Or update them on something or maybe even in this case, maybe we, — again I don’t think it’s unheard of that you start to see people kind of doing something that is more quote unquote sales related. Let’s let them know about a new product that we’re trying to get them to understand.
Dionne Mischler: (14:44)
Yeah, absolutely. “I was thinking about you the other day or this came up in conversation. So the reason for my call …” so we have some opening, we have Madlib fill-ins basically for folks. So we always say, when you’re doing your pre call planning, what are the things that you need to know going into this call? What is the purpose of the call? And then what is your opening? And then how are you segwaying into the meat of the call at the end of the day? And it’s always two sentences, ask a question.
Gabe Larsen: (15:14)
Just in general, you’re saying it’s two sentences and ask a question or just in these first three steps?
Dionne Mischler: (15:23)
Yeah. So it might be, “Hi, this is Dionne with Inside Sales by Design. The reason for my call is we wanted to let you know, we put a lot of our curriculum online. I know I caught you at a bad time. Do you have 30 seconds to schedule something for tomorrow?”
Gabe Larsen: (15:35)
Right. Right. Got it. So you knock it out and then you follow it up with a question. And then as you kind of move past that pre call and open call, I like that kind of example. That’s always helpful to hear something tangible. Then you move into that step three, which was navigate the call. As the conversation starts to move on, how do you get there and how do you manage that appropriately? And again, you’ve got proactive and reactive situations.
Dionne Mischler: (15:58)
Yeah. So there’s a couple of things. So here you’re outbound calling, people aren’t expecting our call. We need to be mindful of that. So are we truly going to go into a call? Are we going to try to schedule some more time? It’s again, choose your own adventure.
Gabe Larsen: (16:10)
Yeah, that makes sense.
Dionne Mischler: (16:11)
So the key is to, as we’ve identified our scenarios, is to practice our talk tracks until we get them right. We want to listen to ourselves, record roleplay, all that good stuff. So as we are in our live calls, we can pressure test our assumptions for the purpose of the call, right? Listening in a call, active listening in a call and being able to respond is hard. That’s why we want to keep practicing our lines at the end of the day. And so as we’re going through and navigating, we want to have some standard questions, right? “So the purpose of my call was to see if you’d be interested in this new service. Here’s why you might be interested in that new service. Other folks are interested because … right?” So when we think about the navigating piece, it’s also some bridging statements as well. There is some of those navigating and those bridging, right? “So I’m calling because you might find interest because … what do you think of that? Is that something you might find interesting?” So it’s pressure testing and then to — what you were saying before, you can dive a little bit deeper and “Oh, if you are interested, what do you think about this in your organization?”
Gabe Larsen: (17:17)
Yeah. So you do try to, I like the word pressure test, so you push them a little bit, but you’re kind of asking some probing questions. Might get into a good dialogue, may not. You go through a couple of different items there and hopefully something sticks or the conversation starts to get a little more meaty. Is there, in that portion, do you try to be thoughtful on timing as well? I mean, if they start to really get into it and they’re responding with kind of meaty or longer answers, do you try to stop that at some point? Or do you just, if that conversation needs to go, you just take it where it goes in that particular time frame, that particular chunk of the call sequence?
Dionne Mischler: (17:55)
Absolutely. I would say stay with it as long as possible. Again, pressure testing as you go. Right? Not saying trials are close because sometimes people need to talk. Right? So be that person. But definitely pressure test. If somebody is really excited about it, go, “Oh, okay. Well, who else in your organization would want to hear about this?” In our line of work, you just never know what’s going on in an organization. So let them talk. And then if the goal of the call, the purpose of the call was to schedule next steps, schedule a demo, whatever the case may be to again, further confirm that this is a good offering for that company because we’re here to serve. Then great, we’ve achieved our purpose.
Gabe Larsen: (18:40)
I see. I see. And then how do you kind of bring that to close? And then I like that kind of close and add value part. How do you bring that to be?
Dionne Mischler: (18:47)
Yeah. So to go back real quick too, when we kick this off with folks, we always talk about tone and being confident and even if the words coming out of your mouth are jumbled, if you sound confident, you’re going to go a lot further than somebody who doesn’t, right? So own it and get after it right to quote a few folks there. And so when we close on it, and if we’re calling to schedule a meeting or talk about a new product or whatever the case may be, a new line of service for folks, it’s a matter of saying, “Well, it sounds like this might be a really good fit. Here’s what’s going to happen next. You’re going to get an email for me. Do you have a calendar available? I’ll send you an email with additional information. I’ll send you a calendar invite for a time that works for everybody. Please feel free to forward it. And then from there, I’ll connect with you on LinkedIn as well. Thank you so much. Have a nice day.”
Gabe Larsen: (19:37)
Got it, got it. So you kind of direct that next step. And then do you leave it at that? Or what’s that, that final thing that follow up that you mentioned something else that you kind of put a cherry on top?
Dionne Mischler: (19:48)
Absolutely. So integrity is everything, right? So what we want to be able to do in this process again, is about the experience, right? These folks aren’t expecting our calls. They are triple booked, they’re busy. They may be quarantined in a house with four or five kids at this point. Everybody’s working from home.
Gabe Larsen: (20:09)
We are, as we’ve seen. We’re all going through it.
Dionne Mischler: (20:12)
You know what I mean? So a lot of people are grateful and expect us as the salesperson that is calling for them to do the homework. So when we close something, when we close out the call, and we say, “You know what, Gabe, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me.” We want to be empathetic. We want to acknowledge and we want to have courtesy. Right? “So thank you for taking the time. I know I caught you in the middle of a thousand things. Here’s what you can expect to happen next. You’re going to get an email from me with some additional information. You’re also going to get a calendar request for the time we’ve agreed to talk next and I’m going to connect with you on LinkedIn.
Gabe Larsen: (20:51)
Love it. Yeah.
Dionne Mischler: (20:54)
Then the followup is to do those things, right. And then definitely confirm the meeting and all that good stuff. Just again, operate in a mindset of common courtesy and what would you like to have happen.
Gabe Larsen: (21:09)
No, I think that’s powerful and I like kind of the simple, basic structure. Well, that’s a fun talk track. I appreciate your time today Dionne. We hit a couple of different things, but in summary, to summarize, you think about revenue center, cost center, how would you kind of leave the audiences with some of these ideas?
Dionne Mischler: (21:26)
Yeah, absolutely. So I would just say I would not use the word just, I would say absolutely get your people the training they need and want to make this turn. At the end of the day, I’ve taken a lot of our content from Inside Sales by Design and I put it up online on a teachable platform. And so the art of conversation is something we teach with our clients. It’s online for folks right now and just given the state of affairs right now, it’s free for everybody right now for the next 30 days. So the end of April. So if you’re looking for some help or a way to start this, I sent it to my clients. They’re doing watch parties at this point and going through their talk tracks right now. So which is great, right?
Gabe Larsen: (22:13)
You’ve got to take what you can right? There’s so many different things changing as the world continues to evolve. Well, really appreciate you taking the time. If someone wants to get in contact with you or learn a little bit more, it sounds like what we’ll potentially see if we can’t get a link maybe to the course, LinkedIn is best, email, any concepts on connections there.
Dionne Mischler: (22:31)
Yeah, absolutely. So definitely connect with me on LinkedIn and then all my contact info is in there as well. Or I think my cell phone number is in the summary.
Gabe Larsen: (22:40)
You’re one of those, you’re one of the cell phones in the summary. You’ve got to be bold if you’re doing that.
Dionne Mischler: (22:45)
Yeah. And I think there’s a link to my calendar in there too. So yeah.
Gabe Larsen: (22:49)
I appreciate it. That’ll be awesome. So we’ll make sure we get a couple of links in there for that. So Dionne, really appreciate you taking the time. A fun talk track for the audience hope you have a fantastic rest of your day.
Dionne : (22:59)
You too. Thank you Gabe.
Exit Voice: (23:04)
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