In the first of this 2-part series, Stuart Pearce shares the secrets of outbound calling success.
Approach outbound calling in a professional and prepared way
This may sound silly, but far too many people make a half-hearted attempt at outbound calling and then wonder why it doesn’t work.
As with anything else, if you approach it in a professional and prepared way you stand a much better chance of success.
The key to this is understanding your reasons for outbound calling and establishing the end result you’re aiming for.
- If it’s straight sales… Ask yourself how many you will need to make it successful and financially viable.
- If it’s appointments… Ask what the closing rate of the people attending the appointments is (because that will dictate how many you need at the front end to establish a viable operation).
- If you’re outbound calling for collections or similar… Ask what your process is and what success looks like for you.
Outbound calling can suffer from a bad reputation at the best of times. So the more professional you act, the quicker you will be able to overcome any fears – and the better your success rate.
Do your research and know why you’re calling
I’m sure we can all agree there’s nothing worse than getting a call from someone asking for “The Proprietor” or something similar. It just screams cold call and immediately puts people on the defensive, which all of a sudden makes your job so much more difficult.
With so much social media at our fingertips, gone are the days when you had excuses. It’s relatively easy to find out who someone is by taking a quick scan over LinkedIn or Twitter.
It’s about making a professional approach to a professional business person. You have to remember, if you’re making outbound sales calls then you are not the only one. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s true, any business will get several calls a week, if not a day! With people offering them everything from water coolers to business rates and everything in between.
What you need to do is prepare properly for the call, know who you’re calling and what you want to achieve from the call.
Always measure what you do… and act on it!
KPIs (key performance indicators) or targets are basically there to help you measure your team’s performance. But you have to know how to read them, what they mean and how to act on the results in order for the exercise to be worthwhile.
For example, keeping them up to date is massively important, as there’s no point in having them if you don’t keep them up to date and act on them. You should also use the results to plan for the future.
Understand why your agents aren’t selling
If you have one or two people in the team not performing at the same level as the rest, it is important to address the root cause of the problem.
Here are some key examples:
- An agent who is making a lot of sales but has a high cancellation rate is likely to be ‘bending the truth’ when selling. This is not good for you or your customers.
- An agent could simply be lazy and not working at the same level as the rest.
- An agent could be spending too long talking on the phone. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you should cross-reference your KPIs as well as listen in on some calls to clarify.
- An agent could be struggling with their product knowledge or the delivery of the pitch and therefore failing to engage the customer and make a sale.
Be prepared to keep going
As I already mentioned, outbound dialling is hard work. You have to be prepared to keep going even if you keep getting a negative response – remember every no brings you closer to a yes!
I’ve been involved in several discussions over the years as to whether outbound calling (especially in the sales function) is “just a numbers game” or if there’s a more scientific approach.
My own thoughts are that it’s more likely a mixture of the two. Yes, you have to be prepared to make lots of calls (especially with sales), but if you plan properly and utilise the right skill set then your chances of success will increase.
Reward your agents and they will want to do well
We all like to get presents for a job well done and when we do we work harder!
As a basic rule of thumb, you’ll get the best results when your targets are obtainable. If the team do not feel that the incentive you’ve set is obtainable, they are likely to switch off their enthusiasm and this will defeat the whole point of an incentive.
Sales people by their very nature generally want to be the best and win the prize – it’s why they’re in the job! You can, of course, use this to your advantage when setting up your incentive programme. When you set it up, try and appeal to the majority. It will give you a far better effect if everyone wants to win. You should also find out what your team likes and use that as an incentive (within reason, obviously), but make sure you don’t make it too easy for them!
For the best results you should use a combination of short-, mid- and long-term programmes.
- The long-term programmes tend to refer to bonus schemes and the commission the team will earn.
- Mid-term programmes can be weekly or monthly, and can be really beneficial if you know that it may be a slow month (holiday season or similar).
- Short-term programmes are the daily or on-the-spot prize type of incentive.
I have personally had fantastic success with on-the-spot incentives (at very little cost) along with the mid-/long-term programmes.
Taking the time to organise them properly will have a massive effect on the team, their results and, of course, the business’s bottom line.
With thanks to Stuart Pearce, Director at Pearce Barber