By Richard Lawrence-Allen
One question that seems to keep popping up these days is whether or not outbound sales calling is still as relevant as it used to be. In a digital age where fewer and fewer people actually speak to each other, one may assume that outbound calling couldn’t possibly enjoy the success that it once had. However, despite assumptions, facts and figures don’t lie. Outbound calling still has a huge success rate, both in retaining previous costumers and obtaining new ones, remaining one of the best methods of commercial advertising.
While digital marketing may be quick and low-cost, the success rate of this kind of advertising is overall fairly low in comparison to speaking to actual human beings. The issue with digital marketing is that it is easy for a customer to ignore or delete mail-outs without ever taking note of the email contents. This means that even if they would have been interested in taking up an offer, they won’t have seen it and so won’t make a purchase. This is especially true as more and more businesses take to digital marketing and flood customer inboxes with daily offers that will largely go unread.
Outbound sales calls don’t suffer this kind of upfront dismissal quite as readily and have the benefit of immediacy, allowing a customer to ask questions and enquire further person-to-person. Rather than letting questions or concerns go unanswered and products left on warehouse shelves, on a phone call a customer can ask questions as and when they think of them and get their answers right away.
The benefits of outbound calls are clear, but how do we make sure that an outbound campaign is a true success? There are many different things that will help with the success of an outbound campaign, but the first thing to do it to determine your goals. Setting goals and KPI (Key Performance Indicator) targets means that you will be able to focus your campaign and better equip yourself for judging its success when launching comparable marketing strategies in the future.
There are many different KPIs that you can focus on, and which ones you choose will depend on your overall goals, whether they are looking long-term customer retention, immediately generated revenue, feedback accumulation, and so on. Two of our favourite KPIs to look at here are RSVP though are a combination of both SPH (sales per hour) and conversion (the percentage of people who purchase in comparison to those that say no). These KPIs are useful as they can give a good idea of the levels of productivity within the call team and are also clear and understandable statistics that each agent can track personally to ensure that their individual work is meeting expectations. A high SPH with a low conversion rate can, for example, indicate that an agent is not spending enough time talking to each customer, listening to concerns and objection handling. Conversely, a high conversation rate against a low SPH can show that an agent might be spending too long on each call, waffling and not keeping their information concise. Looking at these KPIs and listening to call recordings can clarify if there is indeed an issue that needs addressing.
Making sure agents are mindful of a customer’s time is always important with an outbound call. Many customers will be busy, and won’t have more than a few minutes to talk at most, so it is vital to use their time effectively. This maximises the agent’s time use, and also means the customer is more likely to stick it out through the entirely of the call. It is important to keep information clear and thorough, but also concise. There is no need to explain the same thing to a customer more than once, unless they request clarification. If the information was presented in a clear manner to begin with, this should be a rare occurrence. An agent should also avoid using any industry jargon that a customer is unlikely to understand without explanation; this takes up more of the customer’s time than is needed and may seem elitist at best and deceptive at worst. Due to historic indiscretions from other contact centres in the past and telephone fraud schemes customers can at times be wary at first with outbound sales calls. However a good agent will be able to allay any concerns in this regard without issue; clarity and honesty are keys to this.
In a world where we as a society are being marketed to all the time, it is increasingly easy for people to tune out offers they receive. As already discussed, the immediacy of a phone call reduces this somewhat, but telesales are not a new initiative in any way shape or form, so there is still somewhat of an automatic resistance to these calls. That is why it is so important to engage a customer straight away on a sales call and establish a rapport as quickly as possible. An agent may have only up to 10 to 20 seconds (at most) to win a customer over when the call begins before they decide whether to reject the idea of the sales call or request more information and continue the conversation. The best ways to do this is for an agent to identify the key parts of the call and explain them briefly in their opening pitch, rather than overwhelming a customer with too much detail that can be given later. They should explain the reason for the call at that specific moment in time (e.g. a limited time offer) and why it may appeal to that specific individual.
Scripts can be provided to agents to help facilitate a good opening pitch, however, the rigid use of scripts should be discouraged. Here at RSVP, we do provide staff with scripts that they can use if they wish, however, we typically ask for these to be used as mere guidelines rather than as word-for-word documents to be recited (unless involving a verbatim statement needed for legal purposes). This is because a ‘one-size fits all’ approach is not the most effective way to achieve a sale. A good agent will be able establish a rapport with a customer quickly using active listening and identify how best to interact and communicate their offer to that customer specifically. We are lucky at RSVP as actors are particularly adept at these skills!
Finally, the most important thing to think about when running an outbound sales campaign is maintaining call quality throughout the duration of the campaign with consistent coaching. Listening to a collection of calls from each agent and providing relative feedback is essential. Oftentimes it isn’t the things that someone is saying on the phone that is the problem if an agent is struggling to meet their targets, but rather the way in which they are saying it. An agent’s tone of voice, their pace of speaking, willingness to establish a friendly rapport and even their body language can all contribute to the success or failure of a sales call. Body language is typically overlooked when offering feedback to agents as agents are not seen by customers, however, body language and posture will have a massive effect on an agent’s tone. Sustaining a positive mental attitude through regular feedback sessions will help with call quality consistency. Not all people called will buy of course but an agent may still become disheartened at a day of poor conversions. Nevertheless, that agent needs to be reassured that one negative day doesn’t need to affect the rest of their time on that campaign. Coaching here will not only improve an agent’s approach but will also help to bolster their confidence.
Feedback needn’t always be things that need to be improved upon of course, and should also praise the positive; this keeps morale high still, rewards a job well done and helps to promote continuation of good work. Other reward incentives such as extra gifts and prizes for those that show the best KPIs on top of their commission will also help to motivate staff to keep their call quality high. An outbound campaign is a team effort for all agents and management combined!
Follow these tips and your next outbound campaign is sure to be a roaring success!