How to Train Your Answering Service Sales Rep

So you’ve hired a sales rep for your telephone answering service. Now just sit back and watch the sales roll in, right? Not so fast. Though hiring the right person and forming the right sales compensation plan are essential elements of salesperson success, sales training is key.

Training is also where most telephone answering services struggle. Without proper training your new hire with such promise becomes little more than an overpaid order taker. That is, he or she waits for the phone to ring and then fills out the paperwork when someone wants to sign up for service. Sadly, too many salespeople end up in this mode, under-producing and highly frustrated.

What they need is training. Here are some training options to consider:

Wing It: On-the-job training is the most common approach in the answering service industry, and it’s also the least effective. It may look something like this: day 1: HR onboarding; day 2: observe agents working; day 3: review sales paperwork; day 4: unveil sales tools and resources; day 5: start selling – with the instruction to “ask me if you have any questions.” Only an accomplished salesperson with experience selling an intangible service has much hope of thriving with this type of training. Most people fail, even those who shouldn’t.

Sales Manager: Ideally the new sales rep’s manager should conduct the bulk of the training. But too often the manager lacks the time and ability to train salespeople, so this isn’t the answer.

Job Shadowing: Assuming you already have a successful salesperson on staff, the new hire can follow this senior staffer around. Hopefully some good skills will rub off on the newbie, who will learn to duplicate the other person’s success. This can work with the right individuals, but often the production of the senior member falters during the job-shadowing phase, as he or she becomes less productive: income falls and unhappiness grows. The sales expert wraps up this assignment as soon as possible in order to restore lost commissions. The new hire is shortchanged.

Sales Mentor: Hiring a person to guide and direct the new salesperson (or an existing one who is ineffective) is another approach. The mentor will combine in-person meetings, phone calls, and emails to encourage, support, and evaluate the new hire. Initially their interaction is frequent and decreases over time. The ideal person has a proven record in answering service sales, training, and mentoring. These folks are hard to find but worth their fee if they can produce.

Formal Sales Training: While generic sales training abounds, it has its limits when it comes to selling an intangible service. Sales training specific to answering services is harder to find and may not produce sustainable outcomes.

There is no ideal way to train sales reps. Often a combination of these options is used, with varying degrees of success. Other times answering services stop trying to hire a salesperson and become content with an order taker who will merely fill out the paperwork when someone calls.

An alternative consideration is to outsource the sales and marketing function to a company that specializes in it.

Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center and telephone answering service industry. Contact Janet at or call 800-901-7706.

Peter Lyle DeHaan  is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan and a longtime member of the TAS industry.