Applying Seven Basic
Management Truths to
the Phonathon

         Albert D. Melfo
         Copyright 2008

Applying Seven Basic Management Truths to the Phonathon
                             Phonathon management is an art. While...
education. I have run shifts to sell season orchestra tickets, musical subscriptions,
                           and live ...
(For example, it’s much easier for my son to learn a foreign language than it would
                          be for me.) ...
middle of downtown Pittsburgh – it was a great space for the work we needed
                          to do (and it was do...
Do it. Set expectations and stick to them. Set your goals higher than you need
                            to be. Stretch....
and burn. If you can answer these questions in the affirmative, admit to your
                           callers that it w...
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Applying Seven Basic Management Truths to the Phonathon


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A whitepaper on the topic of effectively managing and motivating telemarketing staff, written for Academic Impressions.

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Applying Seven Basic Management Truths to the Phonathon

  1. 1. Applying Seven Basic Management Truths to the Phonathon Albert D. Melfo Copyright 2008
  2. 2. Applying Seven Basic Management Truths to the Phonathon Phonathon management is an art. While good management in all work situations is vital to the success of that organization, the phonathon requires that those same management skills be applied immediately and intensely. In most higher ed phonathons, your employees are students, working part- time for you and juggling classwork and other activities. Your face time with your employees is short, and the time that they are productively working (on the phones) is even shorter. The phonathon is unique because in few other situations does a small management mistake directly lose you dollars. Problems in management rise quickly to the surface and show in the bottom line, The phonathon is whereas in other situations, management problems can go undiscovered or unique because can take a much longer period to be discovered. Being able to internalize the in few other following management truths and put them into practice is essential to optimal phonathon management. situations does a small management #1 – Successful employees succeed for different reasons. mistake directly lose you dollars. We all know successful people. Some succeed because they are driven to achieve, to be at the top of their class. Some do it for the money. Some do it for recognition. Some do it because they’re afraid to fail. Some do it without knowing how they do it. Some do it for their own personal satisfaction. Others do it for their managers. 2 Successful managers establish real relationships with their employees. This relationship lets a manager engage in an ongoing dialogue with their employees. The dialogue gives the manager a window into their employees’ personalities. As you get to know your employees, you begin to understand what motivates them and what is important to them. You don’t need this information to manage, but you will be more effective – and so will your employees – if you take the time to learn what makes them tick. In the process, your employees learn that you are interested in them more than just as members of your staff. They play a critical role in your success, just as you play a critical role in theirs. Letting employees know that you are interested in their success reinforces your credibility as a manager, and it builds trust. When an employee trusts that you want them to succeed, they will actively seek your guidance and direction. When you provide them with information and tools that contribute to their success, you reinforce your role as a resource to them – which they value much more than your role as their supervisor. #2 – In order to succeed, you must find out what motivates your staff and work with it. As managers, we work with many different individuals and different groups of individuals. Each has its own distinct personality. I have run shifts to raise money for regional theaters, for visual arts organizations, and for higher Applying Seven Basic Management Truths to the Phonathon Albert D. Melfo, Copyright 2008
  3. 3. education. I have run shifts to sell season orchestra tickets, musical subscriptions, and live theater packages. I have run shifts to sell discount travel packages to the masses. The point isn’t that I’ve run a lot of shifts, but that they’ve all been different. They have been different teams and they have had different group energies. Different individuals have different personalities, and different personalities Experienced have different energies. Whenever you manage a group of employees, you managers take a juggle a number of different energy types. It is important that managers balance keen interest in the individual energies of their staffs to achieve the right group energy. The effectiveness of your group hinges on your willingness to accept this balancing the energy of the act as part of your management role. Experienced managers take a keen interest groups that they in the energy of the groups that they manage because they accept that ultimately manage because they are responsible for setting the tone for the group. they accept that ultimately they Managing the energy of a group can be tricky, because group energy shifts. This is particularly relevant to phone centers, given the nature of part-time student are responsible for employees and the corresponding turnover – a phone center is a group with setting the tone for constantly changing parts. As a group changes, you will need to adjust your the group. approach to managing the group’s energy. Just as you have to adjust how you motivate individuals, you will have to adjust how you motivate your groups. Think about your hiring decisions. Ask yourself if you are always hiring the same type of caller. Group energy begins with the people you choose to add to the group. 3 Your best opportunity to influence the energy balance of any given group is during the hiring process. When you are hiring new callers and assessing their qualifications, keep in touch with what your group energy is. The first question you try to answer when you are recruiting new staff, of course, is whether or not they are capable of performing the job. The second question should be, “What will they bring to my group?” For example, if your group has become complacent, you need to offset that energy. To do so, you may need to step out of your comfort zone and begin to add callers who you typically have not hired in the past (assuming, of course, that you believe they will be able to do the job). You could, for instance, hire a few applicants who come across to you as being more salesy than your typical hires. Maybe you typically look for applicants who are active in student or Greek organizations, and you really like the energy, but as a whole you are having attendance problems. Maybe your callers are just too busy; experiment by hiring some less outgoing students. Remember: You will train everyone you hire, and much of what you train callers to do is to be more outgoing – at least on the phones. Your best opportunity to influence the attitudes that your callers have is during their initial training. Minds are most accepting of ideas when the ideas are new. Applying Seven Basic Management Truths to the Phonathon Albert D. Melfo, Copyright 2008
  4. 4. (For example, it’s much easier for my son to learn a foreign language than it would be for me.) Training isn’t much more than programming for humans. Give trainees good information, and provide them with a solid foundation of your program and your expectations for them, and you can essentially prevent most serious performance and behavioral problems from developing. Quite often, trainees – fresh out of training – out-perform veteran callers. The reason for this is simple – they haven’t developed any bad habits yet, and they haven’t forgotten any of the basics. #3 – Fun is good, and success is fun. Give trainees Ideally, you work in the development field because you enjoy it. With regard to good information, the phone center environment, specifically, given the nature of the work that you and provide do, if you didn’t enjoy it, you likely would not continue to do it, because you would eventually be selected out of the business. To do this work well, you truly have to them with a solid enjoy managing, with all of the challenges that it involves. foundation of your program and your The first phone center shifts I ever ran were to raise money for the Pittsburgh expectations for Public Theater. I managed a group of 12 people, who at that time were paid them, and you can $5/hour plus nominal bonuses. The vibe of this group was the theater – the excitement of live, off-Broadway productions, and the care and quality that went essentially prevent into the productions. The energy of this group was enhanced by our location – we most serious called from the theater’s administrative offices in the basement. The theater’s 4 performance performance space was directly above us and, as we worked, we could hear the and behavioral applause, laughter, and cheers of the audience while plays were performed. This problems from group was successful because they loved the theater; some of them were struggling actors/actresses or avid fans of live theater. They put that energy into their work, developing. into their calls. We were hired to raise $75,000 in 8 weeks. Instead, based on our early success, the campaign was extended to 13 weeks, and we raised $125,000, a record for the theater. The client was happy, and we had fun. When I sold subscriptions to the Civic Light Opera’s performance season, my co- manager and I had our phone center on one entire floor of a building smack in the Academic Impressions Our mission is to provide high-quality, leading-edge professional development opportunities for higher education administrators. We aim to share best practices in all areas of college and university administration with an emphasis on applied topics that cross traditional departmental boundaries. Because our only product is professional development in both online and in-person settings, we are able to emphasize learning outcomes above all other considerations. The premium we place on focused, interactive formats and environments ensures that every attendee gets face-to-face access to the leading practitioners and thinkers we recruit as speakers, reinforcing structured learning with valuable professional networking Applying Seven Basic Management Truths to the Phonathon Albert D. Melfo, Copyright 2008
  5. 5. middle of downtown Pittsburgh – it was a great space for the work we needed to do (and it was donated by a generous friend of the CLO’s executive director at the time). We ran a morning shift and an evening shift, and managed about 35 callers. In a subscription campaign, your objective is to help the box office sell out scheduled performances. For the CLO, this included actually assigning seats to individuals as they purchased them over the phone. The walls of our office were covered with blow-ups of the actual seating charts for Benedum Center, where the CLO performs. As the sales campaign progressed, you could watch the seating charts filling up, steadily becoming covered by our color-coded system that recorded whether the subscribers had purchased the whole season, or the first or second half, etc. While our callers were on the phones with subscribers, we assigned the seats, writing the names of the happy owners of As a manager, the new seats directly onto the charts. This group was successful because they you determine loved what they were doing. They wanted to sell out that hall, and they did it, what the group selling up to 12 seats at a time – entire rows – during a single phone call. energy of your shift #4 – If your employees fail, you fail. & #5 – If your employees succeed, you will be through succeed. your effective management of As a manager, you determine what the group energy of your shift will be individual caller through your effective management of individual caller energy. If you don’t learn energy. how to do this, you will not stay in management. 5 Individual staff performance issues may be one of the most frustrating, repeated challenges that a manager encounters. As managers and supervisors, you know how important it is to maintain a consistent positive environment for your staffs. Good caller morale is a critical factor in consistently strong shift performance. Despite the energy and commitment that you devote to creating and maintaining a positive, productive, and enthusiastic environment – despite training, incentives, one-on-one attention to callers, and your personal commitment to your shifts – you will nonetheless be faced with performance problems. Sometimes even when you do everything in your power to help someone, they fail to improve. Sometimes they even get worse. When all of your efforts seem to fail, it can cause you at times to feel that you just can’t try hard enough. It can make you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. It can make you feel unappreciated by your staff. It can feel like employees are boxing you into having to have the difficult serious talk with them. When you know that you are doing the right thing, but you aren’t experiencing a positive outcome, it is frustrating. #6 – Effective management = success. How? Manage. “Manage” is an active verb. True managers accept that it is their responsibility to address the performance or behavior problems that they identify. Applying Seven Basic Management Truths to the Phonathon Albert D. Melfo, Copyright 2008
  6. 6. Do it. Set expectations and stick to them. Set your goals higher than you need to be. Stretch. Find out what motivates you, and find out what motivates your group. You may find very early that the things that most motivate you don’t quite match what you need to be successful in fundraising. If this is the case, get out of it and give yourself the opportunity to discover what does motivate you. Tap into the energy of your callers by establishing a strong personal rapport with each of them. When you understand your staff and what makes them tick, you will understand the range of energy types that are at your disposal. It’s kind of like conducting an orchestra – you have to know your players and their parts, in addition to the overall score, in order to perform the work. It’s a lot like coaching a team – you have to know your players’ strengths and When you weaknesses in order to devise the plays that will allow them to win games. understand your Manage consciously and with intent. Accept that you are there to manage – when you make decisions and give instructions, you aren’t being bossy – staff and what you’re managing. You combine the energy. You stir the pot. You are the cook, makes them tick, the coach, the teacher. Sometimes you are the cop, sometimes the gardener. you will understand Respond to the needs of your group. Sometimes you will be serious, sometimes the range of energy silly, sometimes nurturing, and sometimes you will be an instigator. You will do types that are at it not because you’re in a certain frame of mind, but because it is what your group needs. Effective management is not much more than being able to assess your disposal. a situation at hand, and respond to whatever the situation requires in order to succeed. 6 #7 – Great shifts generally don’t just happen. They are created by great managers. Your ability to have consistently productive calling sessions is tied to how fully you accept that the final outcome of any shift is a direct result of your involvement. You are the manager. As the manager, you control the balance of energy within the group that you manage, and you direct the group’s energy toward achieving your program objectives. Sure, we all have off shifts – nights when we do everything in our power to keep the energy positive and productive, and our callers do everything in their power to have good calls, but sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. When you have one of these shifts, ask yourself, simply, “did I do everything that I could have done to make this shift work?” Did you monitor shift results frequently and adjust your game plan to offset non-performing calling pools? Did you monitor individual caller performance to determine whether poor results were due to a potentially bad list (no answers, wrong numbers, bad data, etc.), or to an individual caller who was failing to use proper technique? If you noticed some of your top callers failing to achieve the results you want from donors, were you willing to pull them off of those lists? Likewise, were you willing to take a chance on some newer callers who displayed potential, based on strong performance on non- donor lists? These things all matter – even a well-prepared game plan can crash Applying Seven Basic Management Truths to the Phonathon Albert D. Melfo, Copyright 2008
  7. 7. and burn. If you can answer these questions in the affirmative, admit to your callers that it was a rough shift, thank them for hanging in there, reinforce to them your belief that they really gave it their best shot, and chalk it up to experience. Tomorrow will always be a new day. Setting the tone When you give your group what it needs to be successful, you are being a truly effective manager. As the manager, you set the tone when you select your staffs. You set the tone with the decisions you make and the policies you establish, and how you choose to enforce them. You set the tone with your supervisory style and with the way you engage and interact with your If you apply these employees. Your management style is only as effective as the results generated management truths by your group. to your phonathon, If you apply these management truths to your phonathon, you’ll see quick you’ll see quick improvement. Prospective donors will be able to sense the energy and the improvement. control in the phone center when speaking with your callers. Well-managed callers will help set the tone for new callers when turnover is high. In each piece of your phonathon, your management practices will be tested. Whether they are weak or strong, you’ll see their effects in your bottom line almost immediately. 7 Join us for the Phonathon Bootcamp to rethink and rebuild your skills in segmenting, scripting, calling techniques, and recruiting and retaining student callers. Applying Seven Basic Management Truths to the Phonathon Albert D. Melfo, Copyright 2008