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Successful outbound calls are equal parts art and science. That’s because an emotional connection with customers is just as important as having the right data to back up a pitch.
Here are our top tips for creating an outbound calls strategy that sets your team up to hit targets and build meaningful partnerships.
Create a clear strategy for outbound calls
Before your call is answered, you need a plan. This isn’t about setting your course in stone (learning as you go is vital) but instead being as prepared as possible. Here’s how to start.
Tell your team what success looks like
There’s no journey without a destination. Before you kick off an optimized outbound calls strategy, make sure you’ve set clear end goals and communicated them with your team.
Are you after appointments? Looking to smash sales targets? Or simply surveying? And who are you hoping to contact? Answering these questions and more will help you draw up OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) to gun for.
You’ll also want to use this process to inform your campaign’s KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). These data points can provide a snapshot of how your campaign is progressing. Some you might consider include:
Average handle time (length of all calls / total number of calls): The amount of time an agent spends on calls, including hold or transfer time. A long average time might mean agents requiring training on how to close.
Conversion rate (number of sales / total number of calls): This is the basic measure of how efficiently agents are able to secure a sale.
First call close (number of closes on the first call / total number of calls): The hole-in-one of the sales world. A high percentage of first-call closes is a sign of a winning sales strategy.
Occupancy rate (time spent on calls vs. time spent unavailable): A low occupancy rate suggests teams don’t have enough time to focus on connecting with customers. Productivity apps can cut busywork, for example, by automatically transcribing and logging call details.
Provide incentives and training
With record numbers of people changing jobs, you need to ensure you’re building an engaged team that’s attracting great salespeople. Yet while hiring people with the right skills is one part of the puzzle, you also need to nurture talent.
Regular training is key to helping agents hone their craft. Rather than relying on rehearsals, bring that training into real-world scenarios by using tools for live coaching. These tools can allow team leads to listen in, and “whisper” features even let coaches provide real-time support without the customer being alerted.
Once a team’s at peak performance, feed that fire. Shout about wins. Incentivize great work with prizes, healthy competition, and commissions. The goal is to create a positive culture that rewards growth (and makes it fun).
Build better call lists
Quality beats quantity when it comes to your outbound calls strategy. To start, a list full of qualified leads nurtured by marketing efforts can help agents succeed.
That call list should incorporate research on product needs, location, industry, and internal organization. This ensures you’re only hitting relevant prospects. Meanwhile, the added context helps agents build more empathetic connections. Nothing turns a prospect away faster than asking for “the proprietor” and then diving into the sales pitch.
The right tools make logging this information seamless. CRM solutions can integrate straight into your calling system, enabling you to track and rank leads seamlessly and kick calls off with a single click.
“We are getting tremendous feedback from our agents, who are more willingly using Aircall, and therefore our phone-based activity has increased by 30%, and that should naturally be reflected in our sales figures.” — Ambroise Prieur, SumUp Contact Center Administrator
Work collectively on your scripts
The relationship between scripts and sales is complex. While they boost consistency across calls, there’s also the risk that stilted or rehearsed pitches cause sales to slip away.
So how do you thread the needle? The trick is to help agents without tying them down. A good script is a guide to lean on when they’re struggling. A great script creates the opportunity for real connections.
Remember, writing a winning script isn’t a one-person job (even Shakespeare had his collaborators). Get in touch with your agents and let them voice ideas and concerns. Test your drafts and refine the material. The more agents and customers who have informed a script, the stronger it will be.
Engage the prospect during the call
Even with the best preparation, once a customer picks up, everything’s to play for. Here’s a quick checklist that can ensure your outbound calls strategy goes smoothly:
1. Grab the customer’s attention
You have just seven seconds to make a first impression so you need to make it count. Always call the customer by their name. Create space for an open conversation and don’t center it immediately around yourself or your product.
2. Make them feel valued
Demonstrate understanding about their role, their challenges, and their context and that you want to know more. Tie this to specifics about their business so they know you’ve done your homework and aren’t coming at them out of the blue.
3. Respect their time
Remember, your prospect has a day job. Avoid rambling and ask them how much time they have before launching into a succinct pitch.
4. Don’t make promises you can’t keep
It can be tempting to promise the world to rapidly push a sale over the line, but it’s a recipe for future disaster. Trust and clarity over the situation are essential before you start selling.
5. Set a follow-up meeting
80% of sales require five follow-up calls. Strike while the iron is hot and book in your follow-up before hanging up. Most sales are a marathon—not a sprint.
Create a virtuous feedback loop
Every call has value, so make sure you maximize it.
First, you need monitoring, which helps you gauge team performance. This ties back to the early element of the strategy we discussed—your OKRs and KPIs. How are you performing against those initial aims? Where is your strategy struggling and where are you exceeding expectations?
Then, with trends identified, it’s time to apply learnings. For example, if you spot an agent that has great engagement levels but customers are often pulling out of deals, this might signal a lack of familiarity with the product or over-promising. Tailor coaching to those needs as well as your organizational challenges and your strategy and team will improve in harmony.
At the heart of it, a great outbound calls strategy boils down to always learning, nurturing an empowered and motivated team, and ensuring they’re armed with the very best tools for the job.
Discover how Aircall’s cloud-based calling can maximize the value of your outbound calls by trying it for free today.
This article was originally published on April 21, 2017, and has since been updated.