Outbound calling can be a tough job. You need to have the ability to listen to the person at the other end, communicate to them what you need them to know, and handle their concerns and issues with professionalism.
However, outbound callers also need to be strong sales people, with the ability to deal with knock backs and irate customers who object to being cold called.
Stella Jones highlights some of the ways to develop the skills needed for outbound calling.
1. Cold calling
Callers need to plan their call and have a clear call route to follow. If they know the introduction they are going to use and how to make the reason for their call compelling to the customer, they will have more confidence making the call. It is important to get their personality across and make their call stand out from all the other calls that person has received that day.
A good way is to pretend you are having a face-to-face meeting and talk to customers in that friendly relaxed way.
When working on a campaign we ensure that the team have practised their opening lines and key messages thoroughly, so they are relaxed and professional.
2. Knock backs
We train our team to know that they will get knock backs, but they will be surprised at the number of people that they are able to turn around.
If a prospect says they are not interested, our team ensure they don’t ask why, as this reinforces the objection. Repeating the objection has the same results. Instead they ask polite questions to determine why the client said no, to see what they can do to address their concerns.
It is important that your team are trained not to fall at the first hurdle and this often just comes with practice, practice, practice. However, if the person is clearly not interested, the caller also needs to learn to recognise this, deal with the rejection and try not to take things too personally when people say no. Often it can take several attempts to convince the prospect you are worth seeing.
3. Objection handling
A good way to respond when handling appointment objections is to use the objection as a reason for a sales meeting. We recommend the FEEL, FELT, FOUND technique. In the training our callers practise acknowledging the prospect’s objection: “I understand how you feel. Many customers we have today felt that same way. However, after they looked ____ they found ____ to be the case”, and then are shown how to communicate that at the appointment the person will have time to assess their needs and address these concerns, before setting the appointment.
4. Irate customers
When dealing with irate customers, our callers are trained to talk slowly and calmly. Whilst acknowledging what the customer is saying but speaking slowly themselves, agents will often be able to slow down the customer’s speech. By listening and making notes, agents can learn to ensure they cover the points the customer is irate about and then turn it round, with positives. It doesn’t always work, but many people have been turned around in this way before and often if you can turn these people around they are often the customers that will re-sign and stay.
One of the most important areas of outbound training is sales training – simply put, learning to sell the benefits of the product or service, not its features.
In training, the focus should be on discovering an offer that the prospect would find it difficult to say no to and then trying to close the call. It is important to be assertive when closing and ensure that you clarify at the end of the call the appointment time and date before thanking them for their time.
6. Don’t blag it
In training we will often slip in questions that we know that the agent does not know the answer to. It is important that under pressure the agent learns not to blag it, and instead to say that they will find out and get back to the customer – or say that they are not the expert and will either come back with the answer or have the appropriate person call back.
It is better to be honest with customers and manage their expectations, than over-promise something you are not sure about and cause larger problems.
7. Always start each call as if it is your first
Taking the baggage of the previous call with you if it didn’t go well, is likely to make this call go the same way, so make sure it is a fresh start every time. This next call could be your next big customer!
Stella Jones is the founder of B2B Contact Marketing, a multilingual direct marketing company based in North Wales. Through telemarketing, email, SMS and social media campaigns the company drives existing sales, and helps clients to gain new business.
She has been featured in the Daily Post, Daily Express and Management Today and was awarded a Rising Star Award 2009 from Wales Business Insider magazine.