Working on the phone might not be much fun, but it’s even harder to manage a group of telemarketers. Typically, team leaders have no prior management experience, and their first 90 days are rather ‘make or break’. So, what do you need and what can you do to stay in the saddle and build a committed and effective telesales team?

You worked phone sales only recently. You worked in one of the largest call centres in Poland, mostly on sales campaigns for a telecommunications operator. However, you didn’t really enjoy the work, you have bigger ambitions and you want to change, so you decided to try your hand as a team leader. Your results, commitment, and ambition are appreciated, which is why you were offered a promotion to the managerial position. The euphoria you felt after the decision was announced has given a way to fear: ‘How can I handle it? I have no idea about management. Will I be able to build an effective team? Will they accept me as a leader? Will they listen to me?’.

It’s said that a year in a call centre is like five years in another industry, because the change dynamics - and the amount of confrontation with failure each day - is incomparably greater than in other sectors. Supermarket checkout assistants, delivery drivers, waiters - no one is exposed to even 25% of the insults and invective a telephone consultant faces each day. When deciding to join a call centre, you need to be aware that it’s not work for everyone. On the other hand, if you succeed, you’ll be able to handle anything.

A typical career in a call centre begins with making between 70 and 120 calls a day, working on one or several projects at the same time. When you acquire the necessary experience, when you have better communication skills, and when you learn to negotiate with the client and prove that you’re able to achieve goals, the next step is usually to become a manager or coach.

The problem

These functions require different competencies. It’s much more difficult to be a manager, because call centre managers usually don’t have previous experience in management, have no idea how to manage people, to set goals, to account for their performance, to plan their work, to guide the team on a daily basis, and to organize everything. So, what should you do in your first weeks in the new position, not only not to stay in the proverbial saddle, but also to build a strong and effective telesales team?

The solution

The biggest problem in the first phase of team building is definitely the fact that just a moment ago, the new supervisor worked alongside his subordinates, at the same desk, in the same room, and in the same position. They did everything they’d now frown upon: during a cigarette break, they’d complain about their manager, during difficult moments, they’d blame the database, or they’d simply have bad days when they got nothing done, when they had no courage to act. For these reasons, when you get a promotion, your subordinates still treat you like before, like when you were equal to them in the company hierarchy. They may try to undermine your authority and see how far they can go before you react firmly. For this reason, at the very beginning it’s most important to establish the hierarchy and rules that will apply in your team, and then to announce them to employees, which is called the ‘exposé’.

The exposé should be well prepared as it’s the cornerstone on which team strength will be built in the following months. You must clearly communicate the rules that you expect everyone to follow, so every team member is aware of their rights and responsibilities.

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