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An age-old saying in the world of sales: “People buy from people they trust.” Helping build that trust in the company is the call centre representative’s primary duty, since they connect the company to its customers.

“People at the contact centre are the true voice of the customer,” says Sangeeta Bhatnagar, chair at Greater Toronto Area Contact Centre Association (GTACC). “They hear it. They’re the biggest impact on the customer’s experience, so they’re critical.”

She says there is no strict entry-level academic requirement; high-school education, however, does help. People usually enter this field from different backgrounds and with myriad experiences in life. Sometimes, it’s even a person’s second career.

“You could come right out of university and grow right into this. There is nothing specific, but you do need to have very strong communication skills.”

Bhatnagar says she began her journey in the field the way everyone does, working on the floor making outbound and inbound sales calls. Now she is principal at SB Global, her own recruitment company. Her secret to making progress in the field: take initiative.

“Do more than just your job,” she says. “See what other jobs you can do within the centre, see how you can help your supervisor and boss and get involved.”

If you have a great attitude and you’re articulate, you can move into becoming a team leader, a trainer, a quality assurance manager, a workforce manager and then from there you can move on to higher management positions, director, and even VP.

According to Bhatnagar, sales opportunities always exist. In both inbound and outbound calls, there is always an opportunity to upsell or cross-sell. It’s crucial for a rep to be an active empathic listener, take notes, and outline the needs of the customer to be able to close a sale successfully.

“Listen, do not be pushy, empathize and ask good questions, and don’t steamroll over the customer. Key is can you listen, can you problem solve, can you multitask, and do you have empathy?”

Sales strategies learned while at a call centre can easily be translated into skills you can use in retail positions. Where in a call centre you are within the confines of a building and have no face-to-face interaction with a client, in retail, the added advantage is to play off the client’s reactions and facial expressions to help close a sale.

Among the many sales-related resources shared on the GTACC website are seven essential tips by Mike Aoki for becoming an effective salesperson. Bhatnagar’s experience working at call centres has been nothing short of an exciting journey from making simple sales calls to starting her own company.

“It’s amazing. There is such a rush, and usually people who have been in a contact centre for a while miss it when they leave. If you have the right attitude and you’re willing to learn, the sky is the limit. There is an endless number of jobs that you can take.”

Photo: Fuse/Thinkstock