Cold calling is still one of the key tools in the armoury when it comes to outbound marketing. It typically works well where an organisation can clearly identify its target market and where the proposition is tailored and compelling. Below are our top 10 tips for things to avoid when doing outbound calling and how to ensure that they don’t impede your success.
1. Don’t be Ill-Prepared for Your Calls
42% of sales reps feel they do not have the right information before making a sales call. (Source: Lattice Engines/CSO Insights).
The above suggests that telemarketers have some way to go in terms of provision of information from a telemarketing call. “Fail to Plan and plan to fail” is a well-used expression and it definitely applies to telemarketing. A telemarketer that just trusts to luck is likely to fail. A good cold caller knows the target market, has knowledge on challenges facing buyers and how their products or services alleviate those challenges. They plan the call opening and understand the outcome they want from the call. Telemarketing success is as much down to planning as it is to the process and the skills of the caller.
2. Don’t Sound like a Telemarketer
It’s the kiss of death at the start of an outbound telemarketing campaign. Success will definitely elude you if you come across like a scripted tele-person. The tell-tale signs are easy to spot. “How are you today” or “I’m calling from The ACME Company and the reason for my call today Mr Smith is that I’d like to introduce my products to you and…” There are lots more. The best telemarketers are relaxed, professional and engaging. They don’t sound scripted and they come across as someone with whom prospects might want to do business.
3. Don’t Blow the Opening 10 Seconds
The opening line and those opening few seconds are critical. How long does it take to create an impression? It doesn’t matter really since we all know it is very fast. Don’t waste your crucial opening gambit spewing out a long list of your services. The prospect isn’t interested and certainly won’t bite on that kind of intro.
4. Don’t Sell if You Want to Sell
None of us like to be sold to. We like to choose to buy. Hence, an overly salesy approach is doomed to failure. It’s about the customer not you or your products and services. I heard an intro the other day where a caller started with “the reason for my call is that we’re looking to increase our market share in your sector…” Suffice it to say, that salesman didn’t achieve his goal. If you want to sell, concentrate more on being liked and being interested and interesting.
5. Don’t be Timid or Vague
Not every cold caller has the gift of the gab or the experienced and confidence to make successful calls. There are lots of relatively inexperienced and less confident telemarketers out there. That’s especially true where the organisation makes calls in house or where they cannot afford to employ experienced callers. As a consequence, some telemarketers come across as nervous and vague. It’s essential to sound confident even sometimes when you aren’t. Think about it logically. If you were the PA to the CEO of Shell, would you be inclined to put through nervous and timid callers? Much of telemarketingis about belief and perceived confidence and seniority. So work on your confidence and get rid of that shy inhibited person inside.
6. Don’t Tout your Wares to the Gatekeeper
The Gatekeeper stands between you and the person who makes decisions and holds the budget to purchase your products and services. He or she has all the power to say NO but little or no power to say YES i.e. to authorise a purchase. Therefore, take great care when speaking to the gatekeeper. The goal of the call is hopefully to achieve a firm outcome (sale, trial, demo, appointment, quote etc). Given that the gatekeeper is a screen or filter, you need to take great care not to divulge information, the basis upon which they will decide to block you. They can make all kind of incorrect assumptions that result in no conversation with your buyer. Wouldn’t it be a shame if this was exactly the time that the decision-maker had decided to go out to tender for your services but hadn’t informed his or her PA yet? So, focus on your goal to have a conversation with the decision-maker and go round or through the gatekeeper.
7. Don’t Talk so Much. Listen more!
Two ears and one mouth they say. We should use them in the same proportion. The problem with most cold callers is that they like to talk. They need to get everything out on the table and feel that the buyer wants to know everything so that they can decide what they want to purchase. But it doesn’t work like this. Effective telemarketing techniques start with the ability to listen as a consequence of building rapport and then asking intelligent questions. It should be a dialogue not a monologue. Telemarketers should leave their decision-makers wanting more. And, after all, one important goal of telemarketing calls is to set up sales meetings. If you talk too much on the phone, the buyer may well feel that the face to face meeting is unnecessary. So, hone your listening skills and ask good questions that are relevant to the buyer.
8. Don’t Fail at Objection Handling
Sales objections are part of the job. Too often sales people jump on objections and try to answer and break them down as soon as they arrive. The caller deals with the objection by reinforcing their sales pitch with more stuff about which the buyer isn’t interested. Poor call openings often lead to early objections which are precursors to the client getting rid of the cold caller. This isn’t good telemarketing technique. Assuming that the caller has managed to build rapport, I favour good questions as a means to break down the barriers to sale. Objection handling is about listening, understanding and clarification and only then it’s about putting forward an alternate approach or viewpoint. It is not about me against you. It should be about both sides finding a path to work together. It isn’t easy as some objections are entrenched (e.g. we’re under contract for 2 years…) but the caller must try to qualify and clarify since it is possible, in the above scenario, that some purchases might be made outside of the contract and it may be that some services aren’t included in the contract…. So, work on your objection handling techniques and use the above to generate opportunities to meet and discuss how objections can be overcome.
9. Don’t Fail to Ask for Your Goal
I heard a call a few months ago where the caller said “Hello Mr Smith. My name is Mary and I’m calling from ACME Company. I’m calling to see if you’ve received our catalogue”
The prospect said that he couldn’t remember but that he’d heard of ACME. The response from the telemarketer surprised me. She said “oh okay. That’s good. Well you know where we are if you need us. Thanks a lot. Bye”
It was obvious that the caller was inexperienced but also she had no focus on the outcome. What was the objective of the call? An appointment for a sales manager to call? A demo? A quote? To identify what projects are coming in the near future?
It is absolutely essential to be clear about the objective for the call and to be confident in delivering the outcome you want. In the above example, how do you think the purchaser now feels about that organisation?
10. Don’t Give up Too Soon
If only every cold call resulted in a sale. It would be nice but pretty unlikely. Two interesting statistics make the point more eloquently than I could ever do.
- More than a quarter of all B2B sales cycles take seven months or more to close. (Source: Harvard University and Gallup)
- 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance. (Source: MarketingSherpa)
It is absolutely essential to work the process. Too many telemarketers give up after one or two calls. However, it’s often the sixth or seventh call that delivers the sale, quote or face to face meeting. So, don’t commit the cardinal sin in telemarketing and give up too soon. Make the process work for you and follow it through to the end.
There are many Tips for Telemarketing Success that focus on sales techniques. However, much of the failure to achieve comes from self-inflicted wounds. If you’d like better telemarketing results, avoid the pitfalls about and you’ll deliver much better outcomes from your cold calling.
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