Skills erosion isn’t just a nightmare for the unemployed. It happens to everyone in the labor force, even active telemarketers. Whether you’re a telemarketer yourself or you’re handling a team of reps, the way down the learning curve is more slippery than you think.

It gets worse when it comes to inbound telemarketing. Inbound telemarketers typically wear more hats than their outbound counterparts. We’re talking about roles like processing inquiries, handling complaints, solving problems, information recording, and up-selling/cross-selling. That’s not just a lot to learn. That’s a lot to retain. So keep these skills from rusting, here’s what you should be doing:

Don't let your team get as rusty as these tools! (Image by Biser Todorov)

1. Coach with metrics in mind. At his presentation during the Inside Sales Virtual Summit, InsightSquared CEO Fred Shilmover shared three best practices for sales analytics that included ‘coaching with metrics’. Numbers don’t lie. That’s why you should use metrics not only to measure but also to enhance performance. Drill down on rep-level data (service level, productivity, quality, etc.) and compare these to some benchmark (team-level) analytics when addressing weaknesses and strengths.

2. Schedule regular refreshers. Inbound telemarketers need to master plenty of processes for their jobs. But not all of these wind up practiced in everyday situations. These skill sets are the ones in most danger of erosion. If you can’t use them every day, at least set aside some time for you to practice them. You don’t expect a fire everyday just to have a fire drill.

3. Motivate them the right way. Gallup estimates that only 3 in 10 U.S. employees are actually engaged in their jobs. So, there’s a strong chance a few of your reps feel disconnected right now. To motivate your team, high performance should be part of culture, says Hoopla’s Mike Smalls. In a Sales Insider article, Smalls points out motivation isn’t only a matter of incentives or rewards but about ‘competition’ and ‘recognition’ as well. Let reps engage in friendly rivalry and be sure to recognize top performers.

4. Make sure they’re on the same page. There’s always room for surprise in inbound telemarketing. Once in a while, a new situation might arise that’s not on the manual or hasn’t been introduced during training. When that happens, nobody should be left behind on what’s happening. This can help them familiarize with unfamiliar processes and update the entire team in case it should happen again.

5. Be careful about specialization. Net-net, specialization is a good thing. But it’s not without its tradeoffs. Over-specialization in one skill area or telemarketing technique comes at the loss of proficiency in another which you might also need. There’s actually a whole science behind this, but a good rule of thumb would be to follow the ideas in number 2.

There’s no place for complacency in telemarketing. In this business, you’re only as good as your last call. So, make sure you and your reps are always firing on all cylinders.