Making a successful outbound call is a lot like playing chess.
A lot of rules which you have to – at first – get to know, to – later on – win the game.
To make sure you end up with a trophy in one hand and a bottle of champagne in another, we will go over the basics of making successful outbound calls to help you understand what factors determine whether the call will end up being successful or not.
Okay, long road ahead. Let’s go!
What is an outbound call?
An outbound call is initiated by a call center agent to a customer on behalf of either the call center or the client. Typically, outbound calls are used in telemarketing, sales or fundraising.
Unlike inbound calls, when the potential customer is phoning the call center themselves, outbound calls can be classified as ‘cold calls’ – an agent will reach out to a list of prospective customers and target them to close a sale or achieve another business goal.
Understanding what an outbound call is, brings you a step closer to maximizing your outbound sales calls.
Here’s how you can improve your strategy even more.
1. Specify your goals and KPIs
The effective marketing campaigns are laser-focused and to improve your outbound sales calls, you need to start with a well-defined outbound call strategy. Of course, this can be modified as your business grows or evolves but if you want to reap success with your outbound calls, you need to have a clear idea of what you’re trying to achieve.
Think about the goal of your outbound call: is it to set up an appointment or sell a product/service? Are you surveying or encouraging your prospects to take an action?
Answering these questions will help you define your goals and establish KPIs.
KPIs, or key performance indicators, are an objective way to measure how well your outbound calls strategy is doing. You don’t need to measure every aspect of the campaign, but rather, focus on the most meaningful ones, for instance:
Average handle time
The average handle time is the length of all calls in relation to the total number of calls. If the average handle time is too long, this may mean poor closing skills or an insufficient comprehension of the product/service the agent is trying to sell.
A pretty straightforward KPI, the conversion rate is the number of sales relative to the total number of outbound calls. It essentially measures how efficiently your agents can close a sale – low conversion rates are a sign you might need to improve your outbound calls strategy.
First call close
A high percentage of first call close (number of closes on the first call in respect to the total number of calls) means your agents are doing a fantastic job of selling efficiently, making the most out of their, and your customers’ time.
Occupancy rate measures how much time your agents are spending on calls and how much of the time is spent unavailable. A low occupancy rate means an agent might have trouble completing their after-call work.
2. The truth about scripts
Outbound calling can be stressful and using scripts can take some of the anxiety away.
They’re also good at helping agents retain information and avoid mistakes, and ensure all outbound calls remain consistent.
However, as useful as scripts may be, they might actually be the very reason your outbound call strategy is struggling to bring you the sales you want.
A recent study found that 51% of consumers thought their call experience was tremendously or a lot better when the agent wasn’t reading from a script. Does this mean you need to scrap them off completely?
If you think using a script helps your agent feel more confident and calmer during the calls, try to write them in a way that lets them retain some flexibility. The excellent script provides the agent with something to lean on if they’re struggling but doesn’t make their speech sound unnatural.
3. Engage the prospect
Customers like unscripted calls because they’re more natural and make them feel like they’re valued and appreciated as people, rather than seen as merely sales prospect. This is actually the key ingredient of the successful outbound call: it engages the prospect and grabs their attention at the start of the call.
A good way to start is by bringing up a neutral, but the positive topic. Try not to sound cookie-cutter and, if possible, tailor your script to the prospect’s unique interests and background. Just because outbound calling is essentially cold calling, it doesn’t mean it needs to be cold per se.
With business intelligence software, social media and a myriad of digital resources at your fingertips, you can learn a wealth of information about your prospect before you’ve even made the first call.
Plan and prepare before reaching out to your prospects – probe their social media to understand what sparks their curiosity and what their pain points are, and tailor your outbound call to them.
However, don’t try to pretend like you know everything about your targets – the key to being an effective closer is being genuine and sincere.
Be upfront to earn your prospect’s trust and leave the bluffing out of the conversation.
This also plays into the second point: making your customers feel valued. Make the prospect know that you’re calling for a reason – mention your business or the product/service you’re selling but tie it into their pain points.
Make sure not to overplay it, though. The key to successful outbound calling is under-promising and over-delivering. Whip the prospect’ enthusiasm but don’t get tempted to oversell your products’ features just to close the sale.
4. Analyze & Optimize
We’ve already highlighted how knowing your prospects and knowing your business is critical to running a successful outbound calling campaign.
Other ways to maximize your agents’ productivity is through penetration reports: they give you a clear view of the dialer performance, as well as the dialer infrastructure and can help you find trends in your sales, and sort your data in the most effective way.
5. Spread out
Outbound calls are generally associated with one type of contact but spreading out and incorporating other channels can improve them even further.
Engage your prospects by email or SMS – send a text message prior to the call to ‘warm up’ a customer and make them more likely to pick up and listen. Professional writers like those at WoWGrade can help you create appealing email and SMS templates to reach more customers. Use your research and do your homework to create more personalized messages that will enhance your chances of closing the sale over the phone.
6. Be natural
Outbound calling is as much science, as it is art.
Coaching and training your agents is the key to closing sales effectively. Train your agents to speak slowly and clearly as the nervousness often makes even unscripted speeches sound unnatural and forced.
A neat trick is dropping your arm to your side which creates pressure on the diaphragm and helps you become more conscious of how quickly you’re talking. A more natural speed sounds more sincere and sincerity builds trust – in the outbound calling business, trust translates into more sales.
7. Get past the gate-keeper
Do you get shot down the minute you get through?
Company receptionists are taught to avoid putting marketing calls through to their managers and refuse to give you any information over the phone. Handle the ‘gatekeeper’ by being smart about when and how you make your outbound calls.
Try to call before the company is officially open or half an hour after they close for the day. Most receptionists keep the official working hours but managers and directors will often be in the office earlier and later.
8. Don’t trash your competition
We don’t need to say this but refrain from bad-mouthing your competition during the outbound call.
Not only is this extremely unprofessional but it also destroys the prospect’s trust in your brand, too. This is due to a psychological phenomenon known as spontaneous trait transference – whenever you say something bad about someone else, your audience subconsciously sees those same traits in you.
Instead of focusing on why your competitor’s product is worse than yours, talk about what makes your option great. Even if the prospect brings up your competition, remain polite and courteous and say ‘no comment’.
9. Less is more
Another neat trick to improve your outbound calling strategy is by simplifying options. When presented with multiple options, most people struggle to make a choice.
Simplify the process and make it easier for your prospects to rationalize, select and affirm their decision by offering them only as much information as it’s absolutely necessary.
Focus on a handful of features instead of listing all of them, for instance – the latter may overwhelm your prospect and have them shut you down before you’ve even finished.
10. Empower, engage, entice
Last but certainly not least, the easiest way to maximize the productivity of your outbound calling strategy is to empower your customers.
Nobody likes to feel persuaded or tricked to do something but people love discovering stuff that makes them feel good or solutions that directly address their problems. As more and more businesses shift towards a subscription-based model, building long-lasting relationships with your clients is of the essence.
Force-feeding or wrangling a prospect into closing a sale can not only cost you the sale but persuade the customer to never do any business with you. Give your prospects space, flexibility and the power to make a decision whenever and however they wish to.
Ask for their feedback and give them at least some control in the problem-solving process but make sure you direct the conversation towards your proposition.
A good way to do so is, again, by knowing who you’re talking to.
Outbound sales calls are successful when a customer feels valued and also sees your solution as the right one for their problems, pain points, and values. Make them feel important and make sure to identify their core values and the brands they associate with – show that you’ve done your homework and that you care about them, and any prospect will happily convert into a loyal customer.
Outbound calling doesn’t have to be scary or anxiety-provoking. When done right, it can be an immensely profitable revenue stream but the key to the effective outbound calls is information.
Use the tips and tricks above to keep yourself calm, confident and steady or coach your agents to guide the prospect in the right direction without using a script.
Be natural, positive and appreciate your customers to make your outbound calling strategy a roaring success.