For some people, the mere thought of speaking on a phone with another human being is enough to break them out in a sweat. They mumble incoherently, their mouth runs dry, basic words suddenly seem to elude them. Memory becomes foggy, a panic attack is incoming…they’d pretty much do just about anything to get off the phone.
Or even better, they choose not to pick up the call in the first place! The answering machine, that supportive robotic machine can tend to its (or is it their?) business. These sort of folk would prefer to lounge comfortably on a cushy sofa, perhaps sipping on a lemon soda (or a beer) while in the background, the answering machine goes off:
“Hello! You have reached (insert generic name used in blog posts such as this)- Unfortunately, I cannot take your call right now, but I would like to return it as soon as I can. So please leave a message after the beep.” BEEP!
Salespeople and their managers definitely do not (and more importantly, should not!) belong to this category. Yet sometimes, even they can have an off day. Maybe the day’s outbound calls didn’t go as expected or certain goals weren’t met.
For this purpose, we’ve compiled a list of handy outbound and cold calling tips that you as a salesperson or manager can use to improve upon your calls.
Tip 1: Define your Objectives and Goals
Since the FIFA World Cup is currently going on, let’s consider the sport of football (or soccer, if you wish): A group of players from two teams chasing a football and trying to kick it into the opposition’s goal. Obviously, the aim is to score more goals than your opponent to win.
Now, imagine that there were no goalposts at either end. What would be the purpose of the sport then? There would simply be no goal (pun alert!) for playing the game anymore.
In a way, this is similar to outbound or cold calling. When salespersons or managers make calls, the purpose of making the call should be crystal clear. Not foggy, not distorted, but well-defined.
You may be calling to sell your product, or to speak to a client. But if you’re unsure about what you’re trying to get out of the call or what your targets are, the recipient will be confused, and quite possibly, annoyed as well.
So remember to keep the goalposts intact, and in clear line of sight.
Tip 2: Know Whom and When to call
When you write that essay for your homework, or when you have to give a presentation or make a speech, you (usually) do your research on the topic. I mean, you don’t want to make any mistakes which may make you look bad or cost you, right? No one wants that.
This can apply to outbound and cold calling as well. Before you call someone, you’re obliged to do your research on prospective clients. By research I mean, knowing whom to call and when to call them.
For the former, collect as much information as you can concerning the demographics of your potential contacts. Age, location, profession, gender, etc are some areas that should be looked into. Further segment this to match your needs.
As to knowing when to call them, use the data you’ve collected about them to figure it out. Avoid peak hours such as Monday mornings, or during lunchtimes, when the chances of the prospective client picking up are less.
Of course, there’s no foolproof way of getting your client to convert (or pick up, for that matter), but answering the basic questions of whom and when ought to make things a little easier.
Tip 3: Have a script, but be prepared to deviate
Having a script before your eyes helps you remember the main points which you need to put forth before the contact. But definitely do not stick to the script, word for word, for two important reasons:
- Your call or sales pitch will sound phony because you’re likely to rattle it off to make sure you don’t miss a point or a word
- There’s a good chance that you’d have to deviate from it if or when the recipient asks you a question whose answer isn’t there in the script. Or if you’re interrupted when talking, making you lose your flow and your “positioning” on the script page
All good outbound or cold callers need to be well prepared to answer any unexpected curve balls which may come their way, and convincingly. For this, they need to know the product being pitched, perfectly.
Think of it this way: the script is simply there to remind you of your priorities or to help you with your opening. Take a page from actors such as Robert Niro with his famous “You talkin’ to me?!” from Taxi Driver or Jack Nicholson’s “Heeeeere’s Johnny!” from The Shining; both dialogues were unscripted and extremely memorable.
Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive
Channel the inner Oscar winner within you and don’t be afraid to veer off script!
Pro tip: This article shows how you can fundraise like a pro with our cold calling scripts.
Tip 4: Measure performance (and incentivize too!)
During our formative years spent in school and college (yes, those years!), we had to write tests and exams, answer quizzes, give presentations, and finish projects.
Although most of us (if not all), hated these, they were an essential way of measuring how much we as students had learned and retained; how we could apply the knowledge gained during the time spent in a classroom.
These tests and quizzes were (and are) a way of measuring our performance, identifying weak spots, and building on our strengths.
Similarly, for outbound and cold calling, it is important that all the calls made are being assessed in some way. Common KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) for outbound calls would be:
- Conversion rate: The effectiveness of the agent in converting prospective clients and making a sale.
- Handling time: The average time they spend on a call, including the wait or the holding times. This measures how efficiently time is being spent; if a salesperson spends a long time on a call with no concrete output, it’s a clear waste of time.
Factoring KPI’s like this into the equation will improve your calls and ultimately benefit your business.
When agents perform well, as a manager, be sure to provide incentives. Going back to the school narrative, it always felt nice to get a monetary benefit for doing well in class, didn’t it?
Outbound calls too would improve too if good performance merits incentive, be it financial or not.
Tip 5: Be smart, use different dialers (and also schedule follow-ups!)
As a business, the type of clients you have can vary, and more so if your company caters to different segments. The outbound calls that you make would then be different according to whom you are talking to.
Which is why you have to be smart in choosing the type of software that you use while calling:
- If the prospects are potentially important targets, adequate research on each one of them is required. For this, you’d use the preview dialer. It helps you take your time while researching your client, and once you’re ready, you can click to call them.
- If you have been in contact with the clients for a while and a rapport has been established, use the power dialer. You don’t need to do any research on them as you already know them. Just click and call your way through your caller list.
- If your aim is to reach as many prospective clients as you can in a short amount of time, the predictive dialer comes in handy. Only answered calls get connected to salespersons without wasting any time on dropped calls or answering machines.
These dialers come with several advantages such as having the option to set local presence, allowing integrations with CRM’s like NationBuilder and giving detailed reports of call center campaigns, just to name a few.
And most importantly, always schedule a follow up with the client. By doing so, you’re making sure to walk away with something concrete from the cold call. Don’t just say you’ll get back to them; set a date and time, which tells your prospect that you’re serious about business and have specifically blocked time for the purpose.
Even if it seems like you will be rejected, try scheduling one. Who knows, they might even say yes and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It’s always better to ask, politely.
After you’ve done this, immediately send an email to confirm the appointment.
Tip 6: Practice and be prepared
It goes without saying that during an outbound call, it is extremely important for you to be polite and respectful. After all, you’re asking someone to spend their valuable time listening to what you have to say.
For this, you need to make your recipient feel valued, by being polite yet direct.
No point in beating around the bush!
A useful tip to keep in mind is to maintain your body language as though that person were right in front of you. It improves the way you communicate and feel, which then transmits over the phone; it can even make or break a deal.
In spite of following these steps, there usually will be that one person who is rude to you or rejects you outright. You need to prepare for this sort of eventuality and maintain your poise. Develop a thick skin, it’ll be good for you! But don’t be complacent; introspect and figure out where you went wrong and how you can respond to these situations.
I have a friend who, in college, used to only prepare from notes that our teachers provided. He never bothered to read textbooks to gain a broader understanding of a subject. However, he used to ace tests because the questions were asked mainly from those notes. This format was then changed for a bunch of exams. Suddenly, the questions printed didn’t test our memory, but our understanding of the subject and its application.
As expected, he didn’t do too well.
What you can learn from this is that you need to be fully prepared before making that call. Make a list of any potential concerns or objections recipients might have, and figure out how you would respond to them. Mock calls can be useful for practice; you can simulate an angry, inquisitive, rude, or attentive client to work your way through the conversation.
As noted author, Augustine “Og” Mandino said: “Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.“
So follow the above points to simplify your outbound and cold calling experience, and above all, be patient!Tags: business, Outbound calling, Tips