Calling sales leads could be an outdated tactic. But I don’t think that the problem is that outbound calling doesn’t work – it’s that it’s usually done so poorly. When OBC doen’t work, there’s no shortage of finger pointing: a sales rep thinks management is clueless about the effort it takes to set appointments; his manager thinks the sales rep isn’t making enough calls; they both think that the lead list from marketing is poorly segmented or out of date.
Instead of the blame game, come to terms with the fundamental changes in the marketplace. Outbound calling isn’t going away, but the process needs a reboot from old-school thinking where the caller:
- Assumes that outbound calling is still just a numbers game
- Uses the call to “sell” rather than “solve”
- Ignores where a lead is in his buying cycle and just sells, sells, sells
- Believes there is a “golden ratio” of no’s to yes’s that guides call results.
- Thinks technique replaces research about a lead, her industry, or her needs
- Goes on to the next call without learning from the last one
The art and skill in calling is to approach it as a repeatable business process, regardless of the outcome.
- Determine where the buyer is in her buying cycle and let that guide the conversation
- Ask questions and build upon the answers
- Focus on your buyer’s needs, and not your need to sell them something
- Target prospects who have raised their hand
- Know who you’re calling: if not the person, then the persona
- Treat outbound calling like any other business process
Each call needs to follow a process, whether you get a knee-jerk “not interested” reaction or can engage a caller who has genuine interest. Not every call will end in an appointment – but each call offers the chance to improve.
If your lead turns out to be a poor fit, use that knowledge to refine your buyer persona. When you share that intel with your marketing department . When you follow a sales call process, every step is an opportunity to learn more about your market.
You may have experienced that leads or prospect sometimes do a pretty lousy job of self-diagnosis. This feedback is gold to Marketing. They can focus content and calls-to-action based on those perceived issues. Once marketing has their attention you have the chance to reframe the issue for them during your outbound call.
Sales doesn’t always know what a better lead is, they just know they want them. Marketing hasn’t traditionally been viewed as a partner in outbound calling but they have a role to play. Sales and marketing can form an alliance to improve sales results from outbound calling efforts.
What else have you seen work at your company?