Read any sales book and they’ll all say the same thing.
If you want to make sales, you have to pick up the phone.
There’s a big problem, though. Many employees on the front lines — whether sales development representatives (SDRs), business development representatives (BDRs), or receptionists — have difficulty doing so.
Blame it on generational preference, a lack of tools or technology, or a lack of time, but the fact remains that many businesses don’t call prospects or customers on the phone as much as they should (or sometimes even at all!).
And it’s hitting them where it hurts the most: revenue.
This article will dive deep into the art of outbound calling. We’ll talk through why it’s important, where to source good contact information, and the steps necessary to develop effective outbound calling campaigns for businesses of all sizes.
More importantly, we’ll review Smith.ai’s latest solution — Outreach Campaigns — and how you can outsource outbound calls to help your business engage with more leads while driving better results.
Unless you’re brand new to sales, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the term “cold calling.” But what about “warm calling” and even “hot calling?”
It’s important to know the differences between these terms so you can deploy the right strategies for your business to generate the best bottom-line results.
Cold calling is when a sales rep dials a potential customer to try and influence them to buy a product or service, and that prospect is neither ready for that call nor knows who the dialer is ahead of time.
Unfortunately, cold calling has picked up an insanely bad reputation over the years. That’s because it’s a sales technique that’s been used (and abused) for decades.
Despite its reputation, cold calling is a reliable outbound tactic and continues to remain effective. That’s why it’s the ace up the sleeves of the most successful salespeople.
The catch is that cold calling needs to be done with strategy, process, and consistency.
Warm calling involves the same type of outreach. It still requires a forward-facing employee to pick up the phone and dial a prospect.
The difference — and it’s a big difference — is that the person on the receiving end already has familiarity with you or your company. That familiarity can come in many forms: an initial email, text, or social DM, a pre-established LinkedIn connection, a targeted advertising campaign, attendance at a brand-sponsored event, or a visit to your website.
Though the call may still be unexpected, that prior familiarity can make a world of difference in encouraging that prospect to stay on the line and move the conversation forward.
The numbers paint a truer picture of the difference between cold and warm calling...
A well-known statistic in the sales world is that cold calls typically result in a 2% conversation rate — where the conversion is usually defined as an appointment booked. So for every 100 dials made, two will move forward with a scheduled meeting.
On the other hand, warm calls can range widely in their conversion rates - depending on the type of work done ahead of time to establish familiarity. But some stats suggest those conversation rates can be as much as 20-30%, making it at least 10x more effective than cold calling!
There’s also a difference between warm calling and hot calling.
“Hot calling” as dialing a prospect who is ready to buy. The best example is a prospect that reaches out for more information (through a form fill, for instance). Though it may seem like a no-brainer, these leads require a call-back - and a quick one at that!
There are other types of outbound calling that a business should consider too.
Customer service representatives or receptionists often make calls to former or current customers for meeting reminders, payment collection, or product updates. Though these don’t always include a sales message, they still are an important part of any customer/business relationship and can impact client satisfaction and retention rates. Remember, a 2% improvement in customer retention equals the same amount of profit as cutting costs by 10%!
Though many staff members fear picking up the phone and dialing themselves, it remains an essential part of business outreach — primarily a function of the sales team.
And it should be.
The 2% average cold call conversion rate stat is a bit misleading, considering that modifications to your strategy or process could improve the number. Improvements to your call messaging, the number of times you call, how good of a fit the prospect is for your product or service, and of course, if you’ve generated awareness ahead of time, can all lead to better results.
There are three additional techniques that can improve your cold call conversion rates, as noted by Salesforce:
While email, text, or other forms of outreach often come with delayed feedback or response, calling offers an immediate and direct reaction. Whether positive or negative, that reaction can help the sales rep quickly qualify and move the prospect to the next step, or disqualify and move on to the next potential (and more relevant) buyer.
There’s so much clutter today. Forbes suggests consumers see anywhere between 4,000 and 10,000 ads per day, not to mention all the social media interaction we are exposed to — both personally and professionally. With all that noise, calling quickly breaks through and goes directly to the lead.
Personalization is one of the newest and hottest ways to engage and appeal to buyers. Google states that 90% of marketers say personalization leads to business profitability.
Though outbound calling is typically classified as a non-personal tactic, that’s not entirely true. When armed with relevant information about the prospect, callers can carry out a highly personalized conversation and react with realness and authenticity — something pre-built emails, ads, or texts can’t do.
Knowing there’s true business value in cold and warm calling, it can be confusing why businesses don’t focus on it.
Here are a few reasons why companies don’t pick up the phone and call:
Many folks, especially younger generations, have a genuine fear of talking on the phone. Digital natives prefer email, instant messaging, texting, or social DMs. Dubbed telephobia, it’s commonly compared to glossophobia (stage fright), as they are both related to presenting to an audience. In addition, there can be a fear of being criticized, judged, or rejected.
Some sales leaders work with their BDRs or SDRs to help overcome this fear through practice, scripting, and role-playing. Though practice might help, forcing employees to do something they don't enjoy can lead to bad morale and poor performance. (Spoiler: You can outsource this to keep your reps happy and do more of what they're good at! Read on.)
Someone unfamiliar with sales may assume that a salesperson’s job consists only of selling. How wrong they would be!
HubSpot notes that on a typical day, only a third of a salesperson’s time is spent selling.
They’re often on the hook for a ton of other sales-related (or even non-related!) tasks.
Their to-do list could include:
With that many responsibilities, it’s hard to find the time to dial those outbound calls!
If so much of a salesperson’s time is spent on creating content or administrative duties (i.e. non-selling tasks), there’s a ton of inefficiency built into the average system.
This leads to higher overhead costs and lower close rates.
One of the best ways to ensure success for a salesperson is to develop a strategy, create a process, and stick to it.
If you’ve ever done Sandler training, you’ve heard that having the right outlook, commitment, and consistency is the best way to make sales, more so than personality, luck, or any sort of sales “tricks.”
An effective sales process usually requires creating a schedule and dividing your time among your most important tasks. Then, carrying out that process day in and day out, week after week, month after month, year after year.
It may sound tiring, and it may sound repetitive, but commitment yields results! And that same level of commitment is what separates the high-performers from the ones who just can’t hack it.
But we’re all humans here (unless ChatGPT is reading this!). Unfortunately, that means that even if you choose to commit to a well-thought-out sales process, it can still be hard to remain on track at all times. No one person can execute a process flawlessly.
There are a number of ways to improve the success of your outbound call campaigns. Each additional touchpoint or optimization can improve your overall response rates — and ultimately lead to more sales opportunities.
Here are 8 steps for building a strategic outbound calling campaign:
What do you hope to accomplish? Mark it down. Use the SMART criteria to set clear expectations with your team. Make them measurable for when you conclude your campaign. Examples of objectives include improving brand awareness, generating more event attendees, or booking more sales discovery meetings.
Your salespeople are in the trenches making direct contact with potential buyers. You must make sure those prospects are relevant. Make sure to build buyer personas and establish an ideal customer profile (ICP), so when you build your call list, you can ensure each contact is a good fit and who you want your sales team to spend time on.
Your lists can come from a number of sources. They can already be in your CRM from years of marketing/sales activity. They can be manually built through prospecting efforts. Or they can come from lead or sales intelligence services - such as Apollo.io, ZoomInfo or Clearbit. No matter where your lists originate — make sure the audience is as targeted as possible and contact information is recent and accurate.
There are a few tools or resources that should be considered before embarking on your outbound calling journey.
When your team calls, what will they say? Create compelling messaging that builds rapport, sparks interest, and looks to accomplish the goal of the call. Focus on asking questions, not rattling off a cliché, elevator sales pitch. Make sure you build room to breathe in the messaging documentation. The call won’t always go according to plan, and your reps need to know how to quickly and comfortably veer from the path.
When will you call? Will you leave a voicemail? When will you follow up? How many calls will you make? Will you send a follow-up text message? Map out all your touchpoints and when they will take place. Add automation where you can. Reports suggest there should be up to five calls to help break through, catch them at a good time, or prove that your product/service is relevant. Sending emails or texts ahead of time can also improve response rates.
Use your CRM to manage your contact database, log who you’ve called, and describe the conversation, including what their reaction is like, and which ones convert to a meeting. These notes are critical for accurate follow-up and follow-through.
Regularly report on your progress to make sure you stay on track to meet your desired objective(s). Sales leaders may want to build dashboards so they can more easily see the progress at a high level across the entirety of the organization and get insight into where support is needed most.
You can’t conduct outbound calling without a lead list.
An excellent lead list should be targeted (e.g. it’s made up of potential customers) and accurate (e.g. the business phone number is current and works).
Lead lists can be built manually or exported from third-party software or services.
You can manually prospect by researching companies that fit your ICP.
Tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator can help you find the right companies and contacts. You may need to lean on other research tools like Hunter.io or Clearbit Connect to help find supplemental emails and phone numbers.
Your CRM can also be a great resource for active or latent leads that need to be re-engaged. And don’t dismiss event or trade show lists that can be negotiated at the cost of sponsorship or exhibitor fees. These types of lists can be made up of highly relevant prospects that are right in the wheelhouse of your products or service.
Sales intelligence tools offer customer data that salespeople can use in their outreach.
These folks have not directly expressed interest in your product or service (yet), but the sophistication of the software allows you to narrow your list down, based on important targeting parameters. For instance, if you know your ICP, you may search for IT directors, who have been employed for at least five years, who work in the state of Michigan, and whose company employs less than 500 people. By adding those filters, you can narrow down your list to only relevant contacts.
On top of that, some software comes with intent signals. That means you can also add a layer of targeting for those who may have expressed recent interest in the industry, product, or service you are selling.
It relies on third-party ad network data and/or online user behavior to identify the intent (and establish how much and how recent the intent is). You can export the data from those filtered features, or enrich it with another tool, and begin to make your calls thereafter.
Popular sales intelligence tools on the marketplace include ZoomInfo Sales OS, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Apollo.io, and D&B Hoovers.
These types of tools would enable cold calling.
Lead intelligence is typically associated with reverse IP tools that allow you to identify businesses that have visited your website. It provides an extra layer of intel into your sales and marketing efforts, and the list of businesses on your site can be gathered, filtered, and exported for sales use.
Lead intelligence offers an extra layer of data that anonymous tracking tools like Google Analytics cannot (or will not) provide. This includes firmographics like industry, employee count, company value, and more. It also includes on-site behavior like time on site, number of pages, and which pages were visited.
By refining that list based on the level and type of interest, those businesses can be contacted by phone. This helps support them in their buying decision and could potentially quicken their purchase decision.
These types of tools would enable warm calling.
Outreach campaigns and outbound calling can be a major opportunity for your business to start engaging with more leads and help generate more sales opportunities.
Knowing that there could be factors preventing you from doing this in-house, it’s important to consider outsourcing through a third-party partner.
If only 1/3 of a salesperson’s time is spent on selling, that’s 66% of time wasted on administrative tasks. It’s important to alleviate as many of those responsibilities as possible. Cold and warm calling is a huge time suck on the team’s overall workload and productivity. Outsourcing frees them up to do what they do best: sell.
We have outreach campaign representatives that work 24/7 and can make dials any time of the day or night, depending on your outreach campaign strategy and pre-arranged call cadence. We’ll make your calls (up to five on any campaign), conduct your email and text follow-up, record your calls, and more.
The average salary of an SDR employee is just north of $50,000/year. That’s not including overhead and benefits, or the costs involved in recruiting, training, and equipment. Compare that to a ready-to-go outsourced outbound calling team, and the cost savings are incredible.
With easy-to-calculate pricing, it’s easy to prove ROI based on your average value per sale. Pricing for Smith.ai’s outreach campaigns starts at $12/contact, with a 200-contact minimum, and a $750/campaign setup fee. The program includes everything you need for our business development representatives to begin calling your cold or warm leads and opening up new sales opportunities for your team.
You’ve probably heard every excuse in the book as to why your sales team isn’t calling prospects or logging their notes in your CRM. By using an outsourced service, you can rest assured that all the work gets done — completely and accurately — and all strategic processes are followed to a T.
We flawlessly stick to the campaign plan. Our AI-enhanced callers are trained and empowered to follow the sales messaging and answer the most commonly asked questions. And we integrate with your CRM to make sure you have access and transparency into all call notes.
Salespeople and sales leaders wouldn’t be doing their jobs properly if they didn’t track progress with reports. This insight also holds team members accountable and helps to optimize campaigns. An outsourced partner should be transparent with progress and results, so you feel totally in tune with campaign performance.
Our business development representatives log all call notes and meetings into our system and we provide immediate real-time analytics. Your dashboard gives you full transparency into our work and progress. From here, you’ll be able to see how far along the campaign is, which calls were made, and key data from every call including the time of the call, actions taken (such as meeting scheduled), audio recording, and full call transcription.
Smith.ai is proud to offer outreach campaigns as part of our suite of customer engagement solutions.
We pair our well-staffed human resources with the power of our AI software.
Our outreach campaigns make it easy for businesses to seamlessly add business development services to their team — without the headache or cost of recruiting, onboarding, and paying full-time staff members.
Recognized by Clutch as a top sales outsourcing provider for businesses in 2023, our outreach campaigns provide businesses with time-savings, cost-savings, and high-quality results.
Some recent clients that have benefited from our outreach campaigns include legal, home services, HVAC, finance, digital marketing, and veterinarians. It’s a great fit for any business size looking to engage with customers or leads and who doesn't have the bandwidth, resources, or processes in place to do so in-house.
Campaigns can also be set up for Smith.ai to call back hot or inbound leads. The amount of time it takes to respond greatly impacts your ability to close the deal. Chili Piper suggests you’re 21x more likely to qualify a lead if you respond in under 30 minutes. So callbacks can be a great addition to any outreach campaign!
Outreach campaigns were born out of internal sales and service departments needing to scale quickly yet continue offering the same level of support that customers demand.
Our outreach campaigns are custom to the needs of each client — from the objective to the messaging strategy, to the size of the list, to the cadence of the calls. It puts the client in the driver’s seat without them actually needing to execute the work.
We’ll work with you to set up the program, identify your objective, develop a call messaging document, build out your dashboard, and sync with your systems.
Then, provide us with your lead lists, and we’ll take it from there! Lists can be sent to us manually in the form of a .csv file, or can be automatically passed via API integration or Zapier.
Smith.ai’s outbound business development team makes up to five calls per contact. The program includes five popular add-ons at no additional cost: CRM integration, email and text message follow-up, third-party intake, direct appointment booking, and business call ID.
Our intelligent software guides our representatives toward your campaign objective with AI-driven workflows, whether that's booking meetings, promoting a special offer, collecting payment, or registering prospects for an event.
The service includes a real-time analytics dashboard to monitor progress and results. Business owners and operators can see how many prospects were called, reached, and actions taken. Through our call recording feature, clients have the ability to listen to calls to monitor progress or work with us on improving call messaging.
Smith.ia focuses on qualifying, engaging, and converting your leads through outbound calling to progress them through your funnel and open up sales opportunities. We encourage you to identify your audience beforehand and use tools/partners to generate high-quality, accurate lead lists to provide us for calling.
One of the ways we stand out from competitors is our proven call strategy.
We expect our clients to come prepared with research done ahead of time on their prospects — knowing what makes an ideal customer and having a relevant, accurate lead list ready to go.
Smith.ai’s setup helps both our teams go through the necessary steps to ensure your campaign reaches its full potential. We provide the technology, talent, and testing to ensure you are set up for long-term success.
Our team is fast, flexible, and laser-focused on getting you up and running as smoothly as possible.
Before your campaign begins, you’ll work with our solutions architect to integrate Smith.ai with your current systems. Whether sending campaign information into your marketing system or funneling leads directly to Smith.ai for immediate outbound calls, we’ll make the process as easy as possible. We’ll also develop outreach messaging and cadence based on your target objections with our expert copywriters. Plus, we build FAQs and rebuttals into our AI-driven agent tools so they’re prepared for every conversation. Throughout the entire process, you have a dedicated account manager that keeps you up-to-date with the progress of your campaigns with frequent check-ins.
We then work through your lead list focusing on our proven process:
Reaching leads is the first step to turning potential customers into paying clients. This can save time and resources that would otherwise be spent on tracking down leads, placing calls, leaving voicemails, and sending follow-up messages. Reaching leads helps businesses focus their efforts on the most promising opportunities, increasing the chances of closing deals and generating revenue. After reaching a lead, Smith.ai agents can then engage with that lead.
Our outreach campaigns can help reach buyers during outreach, even when multiple attempts and touches are required.
Engaging leads is important because it helps establish trust and build relationships. When a business engages with a lead, it shows that it understands the lead’s pain points, is interested in their needs, and is willing to invest time and resources to provide the right solution. By providing valuable information, answering questions, and addressing concerns, a business can build a positive rapport with the prospect, and prevent them from falling out of the funnel.
Our outreach campaigns, and the messaging we use, help to engage with prospects and keep them warm until they’re purchase-ready.
Converting leads is important because it is the ultimate goal of the sales process. Without converting leads into potential customers, a business has no chance of generating revenue. Converting leads also helps to increase customer lifetime value and customer loyalty. Once an opportunity does turn into a customer, the business can continue to engage and provide value, which can lead to repeat business and positive word-of-mouth referrals.
Our outreach campaigns work to convert prospects based on your campaign objective, which could include: securing payment, event sign-up, or setting an appointment for an account executive to close the deal.
There’s no doubt about it: Cold calling, warm calling, and even hot calling should play a critical role in any business strategy that’s looking to generate more sales opportunities.
To build a program that’s cost-effective while continually driving results, it’s important to set a clear objective, generate accurate and relevant lead lists, and develop a plan that’s realistic to follow.
By using the right tools and sticking to the process, you can make more dials, have more meaningful conversions, and book more appointments that lead to sales opportunities.
Smith.ai’s outreach campaigns seamlessly integrate into any business’s sales process, and our business development representatives can be on the phone calling on your behalf in just a day or two.
Through our AI software and our proven process, we work to qualify, engage and convert prospects to support your business and turn our calls into more sales opportunities.
Generating more sales opportunities isn't easy, but utilizing outsourced sales technology, talent, and resources can help keep prospects moving down the sales funnel.
Take lead engagement and management off your plate with help from Smith.ai. Our agents’ outreach capabilities follow custom AI-driven workflows to set your outreach efforts up for success. Send us your leads, and we'll take care of the rest.
Book a consultation today to learn how Smith.ai's Outreach Campaigns can maximize your outreach efforts and your ROI potential.