7 Effective Ways to Supercharge Your Outbound Calls Strategy

Richard Conn

While outbound calls may not be the most glamorous channel for promoting your service, there is little doubt about its potential value for your business. In many sectors – and especially in B2B – an outbound call strategy offers the benefits of being scalable, insight-rich and, above all, lucrative. 

A survey by Crunchbase found that 57% of C-level B2B buyers prefer being contacted by phone, with 69% of those buyers having accepted cold calls from new providers. The money follows. Indeed, organizations that don’t cold call experienced 42% less growth than those who do use the tactic.

Perhaps it’s understandable then that 41.2% of sales professionals said that the phone is the most effective sales tool at their disposal. 

The term ‘phone’ covers a wide and varied range of technologies. For businesses reviewing their phone systems, the options can feel dizzying. What is fixed VoiP compared to non-fixed? Such system decisions – and the tools such systems offer – will have implications for your outbound calls strategy.       

Given that, what makes a great outbound call strategy? This article will highlight seven key areas to focus on.

1. Define and plan your strategy at the outset

Strategic campaign planning should start with a consideration of the desired goals. Is the aim to book appointments, close sales, or to gather market information? Once goals are clearly defined, success criteria needs to be pinned down. Knowing this allows for meaningful evaluation of progress once the campaign is up and running.

The chosen goals will probably dictate some of the key performance indicators (KPIs) needed to measure campaign effectiveness. For example, the sales figures achieved, the number of appointments secured, or the number of hot leads generated. 

However, the bigger picture should also be considered. For example, what is the cost of those top-level achievements in terms of capital and resourcing investment? What is the return on investment? What impact is the campaign having on brand awareness and reputation? Measuring performance against headline figures is vital, but those need to be contextualized. 

A range of KPIs can indicate the performance of the campaign and support ongoing evaluation, learning, and refinement. To give a few possible KPI examples:

  • Average handling time: The average duration of outbound calls to clients 
  • Conversion rate: The proportion of calls that result in a conversion, i.e. a sale or an appointment
  • First-call conversion: The proportion of first-calls that result in conversion so that no further follow-up is needed
  • Occupancy rate: The time agents spend actually on calls contacting customers

KPIs can indicate how well a campaign is performing. Of course, the nature of campaigns will vary significantly, so there is not necessarily a hard and fast rule for what these should be. For example, complex B2B software systems will inevitably involve longer handling times and more follow-up than simpler proposals. 

But across numerous campaigns, these KPIs can build sector knowledge, revealing the particularities of outbound call campaigns in that field. Over time, more realistic goals can be set, or a need to invest in new technologies may emerge. Such metrics might suggest the value of adopting a more agile small business cloud PBX phone system, for example.  

It’s also possible to monitor qualitative aspects of a campaign. Based on evaluative monitoring of sales calls, how do leads seem to be responding to the overall proposition? There are even call analytic tools which use AI to assist with this, analyzing client sentiments during calls in real-time.  

So, while evaluating performance against the top-level success criteria is essential, a consideration of other dimensions is also core to a successful strategy. The insight and learning this can yield in the long run is well worth it.

2. Train and incentivize your teams

Building strong teams starts with getting recruitment right. Businesses need to offer the right benefits to entice and retain talent. Yet, building effective teams is not just a high-level recruitment or HR issue. Much can be done at the project or campaign level to nurture team success and morale. 

Getting teams onboard with the outbound call strategy in the first place obviously helps. Goals should be shared and the campaign rationale explained. And teams need the right software, equipment, and resources for the task. For example, using a good IP telephone service will give teams many advantages in business communications, helping to start teams off on the right foot. 

Next, training is crucial. There is certainly value in discrete team training at dedicated times. This allows team members to collaborate, share successful tips, interrogate sales calls, and role play to develop tactics and ideas. 

But it is a mistake to see training solely as a separate activity, divorced from the work itself. Instead, development should be an ongoing habit for teams – an embedded part of the job. Indeed, the idea that learning is a continuous journey – stretching from the training room to the workplace – is well acknowledged in most models of learning.  

And it works – companies with continuous sales training reap as much as 50% higher net sales per employee than those without.

Technology makes effective, on-the-job training easier than ever. Many tools support real-time coaching and feedback during and immediately after calls. Harnessing these features can support individual agents, for instance where they struggle with particular aspects of calls. If difficulties emerge across the entire team, perhaps wider training is needed. 

More generally, valuing and empowering teams means making sure they have suitable tools. Advanced phone systems – such as excellent VoiP – offer agents many tactical advantages. For example, they can get dynamic, real-time advice and guidance (informed by AI conversation intelligence) from some tools as sales conversations evolve.

Finally, incentivizing better performance at both an individual and team level is a useful practice for sales teams. Incentives could be monetary, work-place perks, or experiences. It’s ultimately a case of working out what works best for each particular team or individual.  

3. Optimize your call lists

Cold calling probably has an unfairly bad name, especially in the B2B world. True, complete cold calling – i.e. ringing random contacts with no preparatory qualification of their lead value – is pretty ineffective. But cold calling doesn’t need to be a random, uninformed stab in the dark!   

A sharp, well-targeted call list makes a huge difference. Start by identifying the characteristics of a strong lead. An outbound call strategy can then focus its efforts via a call list using that profile segment

Harnessing big data is powerful here. Many tools support the collection and organization of lead information, e.g customer relationship management (CRM) systems. But remember that the process of list optimization doesn’t have to involve advanced tools. Call list optimization can simply be an agent researching a company’s performance or exploring their website, or using LinkedIn sales navigator.

For each potential lead, ask: in what way does that lead have a good ‘fit’ with the offer? 

Doing this has two advantages. First, it is a means of qualifying the lead, sense-checking that it is worth nurturing. Secondly, it’s preparation for the call itself. Whether agents do research for themselves or utilize pertinent points collated for them, careful tightening and elaboration of the call list allows communication to be tailored for each contact.   

This personalization isn’t merely a short-term tactic to secure sales. It’s about finding customers that best fit the campaign’s offer, then demonstrating its benefits to those leads. It’s about delivering value. By approaching those who’ll find your services most advantageous, you’re offering good service from the get-go. 

And that service can even begin before the first call – once a call list has been established, it is possible to warm up your leads beforehand. For example, LinkedIn adverts could be set up for key contacts, preparing the ground and generating interest for a subsequent call. 

Optimizing a call list is an important step. It gives your team the opportunity to conduct preliminary research, personalize their messaging, and really coordinate their efforts to the best effect.

4. Craft and refine scripts that work for your teams

After defining the strategy, preparing teams, and optimizing the call list, it’s time to commence the call campaign itself. This is where a call script is needed to direct and shape those conversations.  

Whether tighter scripts are needed depends on the confidence and skill levels of your teams, as well as the complexity of the conversations. It’s a good idea to involve your agents in the scripting process and provide opportunities for training.

Then, monitor how that script is performing once the campaign begins. Keep consulting agents for their feedback. Call monitoring can also help establish strengths and weaknesses. And thanks to tremendous strides in AI and MLOps implementation, many tools can offer real-time sentiment analysis to help identify pain points in your campaign.  

Which bits of the script are working less well? Are the difficulties due to the script itself or how it’s being used? Which other approaches could agents try out to move beyond those problems? Make tweaks to your script and process if necessary. 

Scripts should support agents while allowing room for personalization to address specific needs of each lead. Remember, the best script is one that works well both for your teams and customers!

5. Remember the art of sales

Conducting a successful call with a customer involves good instincts and intuition – there is a craft to it. Most fundamentally, this is about hiring strong teams in the first place, embedding a positive and healthy ethos, and nurturing skills and talent through effective and ongoing training. 

To pick out a few key phone sales techniques

  • Engage customers early in the conversation
  • Make them feel valued and their individual needs understood
  • Avoid unrealistic promises, or ones the customer does not believe
  • Respect the customer’s time
  • Set-up supportive next steps

Building trust is crucial. The customer needs to know that they are talking to someone who both understands their needs and can offer something useful. Strike a natural, confident, and friendly tone. Research and preparation before the call to understand the customer’s situation will pay dividends. 

Listening to the customer and responding meaningfully is crucial. However interested they are, potential customers want a genuine conversation, and will tire of a never-ending sales pitch.  

6. Develop a next-steps strategy

In an ideal world, one call is all it would take to secure that sale. And sometimes that ends up being the case.

However, multiple calls are likely to be necessary, especially when your product or service is more complex and expensive (especially in the B2B world). Often, you’ll need to build a relationship with the customer over time. Indeed, 80% of sales require five follow-up calls after the meeting – yet 44% of sales reps give up after just one follow-up.

Trying to rush things can be counterproductive. There is a danger of overwhelming the contact with details, features and statistics. For many propositions a slower, more organic introduction to the product or service and how it can support the customer is more appropriate.   

Persistence pays off. The team culture should encourage positivity and patience. It’s fine to play a longer game if it brings results. If the customer needs more time to understand how it works, that price quote software can wait for them. Carefully nurturing good leads can help you develop deep and sustainable customer relationships.

So, what should happen after the initial call? It’s crucial to think about the customer’s overall journey. What information will the customer require next? That might necessitate a call-back to explore particular features. 

Leads might be sign-posted to other useful content about the proposition. But how effective are those sources? For example, after a call, leads may try to find the business’s website. But how easy is it to discover? Have you got a successful SEO and content clusters strategy in place?     

An outbound call strategy needs to make intelligent links to the broader customer journey and perhaps trigger refinements elsewhere: sustainable results don’t come from a single set of phone-calls.  

7. Monitor and refine the strategy in real-time

Although planning at the start is crucial, that plan is not set in stone. Measuring the KPIs suggested above should provide a basic picture of how the campaign is going. Which aspects are working and which are not? 

An outbound call sales campaign can be fantastically insightful and context-rich. Sales teams can get instant feedback on their sales strategy. 

Agents should share their first-hand experiences of barriers. Calls can also be monitored by supervisors, and AI can provide further insights. Sometimes small, even trivial issues may crop up: perhaps customers hate the on-hold music, in which case you can make background music royalty free as an easy fix.  

And keep learning!

However amazing your strategy seems at the outset, it can still likely be improved. Fortunately, outbound call campaigns can provide tangible metrics for evaluating progress. Such instant feedback offers a fantastic opportunity to reflect and refine the approach. Use it! 

Richard Conn

Richard Conn is the Senior Director for Demand Generation at 8x8, a leading communication platform with integrated contact center, hosted ip phone system provider, video, and chat functionality.

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