The Importance of Checking Your Givens

I couldn’t wait for success, so I went ahead without it. Jonathan Winters

Several years ago I was hired to help a medium-sized telecom reduce their tremendously high call center “abandon” rates (callers who hang up before they’re connected to a sales representative). They were conducting a direct mail campaign that invited prospects to dial their toll-free number to learn more, or sign up for local and / or long distance phone service.

And although they were pleased with the overall response rate (i.e. the total calls into the center) 12% of the callers hung up before speaking with anyone and another 5% hung up just after being connected to a consultant! Since this situation was seriously affecting their sales rates, they wanted it fixed yesterday.

Company executives were sure of two things… the letter copy and their sales consultants were at the heart of the problem. They surmised that interested folks were initially interested and picked up the phone to find out more. Then, while on-hold, waiting to speak to a representative, they reread the letter, found it lacking, so hung up. I was asked to come up with the “magic” words… the ones that would keep those prospects interested.

Moreover, I was asked to re-script and / or retrain their sales consultants, since it was clear that they must be saying something wrong if so many people simply hung up after speaking with them for less than 30 seconds!

However, after many years of experience, I knew I first had to verify their “givens” – the root causes of the problem. So, I did something very simple… I phoned their call center to find out exactly what their prospects were experiencing.

Picture this…

  • My call was answered by a VRU (Voice Response Unit) and …
  • Before I was ever afforded the option to speak to a real, live human being I had to enter in my telephone number AND respond to an additional 22 prompts.
  • Then, I was placed in a queue to wait.
  • Even worse, after remaining on-hold for over five minutes my call was answered by a very nice representative who asked me four of the same questions – like my phone number and zip code – that I had already entered into their system.

No wonder people were hanging up!

So How Did We Fix The Problem?

  • We simply changed the scripting and call flow so callers were efficiently directed to a live service representative after two or three prompts.
  • What’s more, the technology used to achieve this improvement was sitting in their system ready to work… they just weren’t using it!

This “seemingly small” – even obvious – solution resulted in a 35% decrease in abandoned calls; a 25% increase in sales in less than one week, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional revenues.

But why didn’t these very intelligent people figure this out themselves?

The answer is profoundly simple – they were blinded by their own “truths” and never challenged their “givens…”

This undemanding analogy, points to a profound reality: when you fail to check the validity of your truths you substantially increase the odds that the outcome you desire will be jeopardized.

It is also a reminder about how powerful misunderstandings can be, and if you’re truly interested in growing and maintaining a successful business you must be willing to:

  • Candidly assess your own strengths, weaknesses, skills, and knowledge… brilliant marketers are not born, they are made. Marketing is a teachable skill that starts in your brain. You can choose to be your best, mediocre or worst self.
  • Actively seek objective and open feedback and suggestions from customers, employees, family, friends, and even your competitors.
  • Conduct objective research and use it to help make more informed decisions.
  • Challenge your own beliefs and police yourself… Make sure that your truths are just that. For example, just because you believe that people in Cincinnati need / want your widget and will pay you $35 each doesn’t mean it’s true.
  • Get a coach… the vast majority of highly successful people mentors who ask them tough questions, push them to be their best and help keep the promises they made to themselves and others. (Guess what Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey and Lance Armstrong all have in common?).
  • Get “undiscussables” out on the table… I’ve noticed that very few gurus spend much time here. Yes, a mindset that allows you to believe in success, picture your dreams and have a positive attitude is important, but not enough.

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Mary Eule Scarborough, an unassailable marketing expert and thought leader, helps businesses of all sizes get and keep more profitable customers. She is also:

  • A former Fortune 500 marketing executive, …
  • The founder of two successful small businesses, …
  • An award-winning speaker, …
  • A Certified Guerrilla Marketing coach, and …
  • Co-author of three books (to-date): “The Procrastinator’s Guide to Marketing“, (Entrepreneur Press, November, 2007), “Mastering Online Marketing” (Entrepreneur Press, January, 2008), and “Guerrilla Marketing On The Internet” (Entrepreneur Press, July, 2008).
  • Qualified with a BA in Journalism / English from the University of Maryland, and …
  • Qualified with a Masters degree in marketing from The Johns Hopkins University.

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