Rules to Better Outbound Calls

As you look at the phone and get ready to make the first outbound call on the seemingly endless list in front of you, you're filled with doubt, fear, and anxiety. As you break out in a cold sweat you've just realized why they call it a cold call. But the reluctance and fear that you're feeling can be remedied if you do just follow a few simple things before you start your outbound efforts.​

You control the image that you project to the world. If you are knowledgeable and prepared, you will be more confident and convey a positive self-image. Remember that prospects can benefit from your expertise and knowledge and that you are calling to offer them something useful. Here are some tips and tricks on how to make your outbound efforts more fun and successful. ​

Hold on a second! How would you like to view this content?
Just the title! A brief blurb! Gimme everything!
  1. Calling - Do you have a good introduction?

    The first GOLDEN RULE during your calls which applies from the very second you pick up the phone is ABS - ALWAYS BE SMILING! Whilst this may seem ridiculous you would be surprised how your mood will resonate through the phone. The person on the other end of the phone will know what mood you are in so smile and think of something funny (or fake it till you make it), people are always attracted to other people who are happy and smile.

    When you start calling your prospects with your outbound script, the most important thing to perfect is your introduction. Without a solid introduction, your outbound telemarketing efforts are pointless and you may as well hang up there. A call is no different than meeting someone for the first time and first impressions are the ones which stay in people's minds.

    By nature, most people are often on the defensive when they know it's a sales call and you'll find the first 5 seconds of your conversation is what makes or breaks your outbound efforts. You'll hear millions of reasons why they don't want to speak to you, such as: "I'm busy", "Not interested" or  "I'm having lunch". Though some of these may be true, at times, more often than not a great introduction will draw the right person into the call rather than them looking for excuses to get off the line or just hanging up.

    Introductions should include a quick personal introduction of yourself, your company and the reason for your call, all done with one breath without pause. It is equally important you don't give your prospect a chance to speak until you're ready to ask an open-ended question.​

    Scott: Hi, this is Scott from SSW how are you today? (pause) I'm calling you to introduce SSW Upsizing PRO!

    Bad Example - An introduction with a pause

    Scott: Hi Mr. Smith, this is Scott from SSW calling about some hands-on developer training, is this a convenient time?

    Good Example - An introduction without pause
  2. Do have an outbound script?

    An outbound script forms the foundation of all sales. It is important before you start calling your prospects to have an outbound script memorized. Whilst you will know your script verbatim you should find an equal need to be flexible throughout the conversation and adapt the call to suit each person you call.​​​​

    As a guide, your outbound script should have at least these things:

    • Introduction: introducing yourself, your company and why you are calling
    • Questions that immediately identify the decision maker: E.g. Are you a developer? Are you in IT?
    • How you propose to offer them a solution to their problems and what tool/product they will be utilized to achieve this.
    • General questions you could ask them, ie. Did you happen to catch the Wallabies thrashing of Italy over the weekend?
    • What contact details you need to collect/confirm

    An important point to remember is that you are speaking with another human and people, in general, thrive on communication with other people. However, as humans, we do not like to be bored by someone just plugging another product. So always approach a call like you're talking with one of your mates. Never repeat the script word for word with no interaction like a parrot!

    Have you rehearsed your Outbound script?

    Assume for a minute you're a professional athlete and are preparing for an event at some time in the immediate future. You spend the majority of your time practicing and trying to perfect your shot, jump or speed. Only a fraction of your time is actually spent competing. So why should it be any different in business? This same concept should always be adapted to your outbound script as you're only going to be spending a fraction of the time on the phone and you want to get it right on the day.

    Practice on your script should always be with someone else in your company that has more knowledge of the topic than you. This will give you far greater experience by having to answer questions and deal with stronger objections than what you will more than likely get from your actual call. Remember a professional tennis player does not become number 1 in the world by practicing against mere amateurs; he practices against the best to be the best! DO THE SAME!​

    Read more about Do have an outbound script?
  3. Do you ask open-ended questions?

    ​The goal of any outbound call is to get the person on the other end of the line involved. The way to do this is to employ a knockout combo. If you were a boxer, you'd follow up a jab with a cross hook and an uppercut! (the good ole one-two-three knockout!). If you're a telemarketer you follow the YES ladder up with open-ended questions. Here's how most of your combos should sound:

    For your jab and cross hook combo use questions one, two and three (see Do you build a YES ladder to your outbound script?).

    Here's an example of the kind of question you DON'T want to ask:

    Question: Do you know a lot about .NET?

    Figure: Bad example

    This question is a show stopper! It's too easy for prospects to give a one-word response. If they say no, then you've effectively dug a really deep hole for yourself and it's tough to recover from this position to close the prospect. If they say yes, then that's not too bad but they're probably sick of hearing you speak and are waiting for something to wake them up. If you give your callers a sniff of how to finish the call quickly then like a lion to its prey, they'll pounce - NO NOT INTERESTED!

    Then your knockout is going to be something like:

    Question: So where do you see yourself fitting in with the move towards .NET for the next few years?

    Figure: Good example

    This question is great because of the following reasons:

    • Stays on the topic.
    • It's likely the prospect has thought about this.
    • The answer is likely to give you some good points to feed off or identify what doesn't interest them.
    • The question can't be answered with a quick yes or no and the prospect must think about how they really feel/think. This increases their involvement and investment into the conversation bringing you a step closer to a sale.
  4. Do you build a YES ladder to your outbound script?

    A good way to avoid the nasty dial tone midway through your introduction is to ask them questions which they will answer "YES" to. This is known in marketing as establishing a YES Ladder. The theory is when prospects become so used to saying 'yes' to you, that when you eventually close on them to make a sale, they have been put in such a positive mind frame and use to answering YES to the sale. Another good benefit of a YES ladder is to provide you with a chance to screen your prospects and identify the dead leads and get feedback.​

    So after you've done your introduction here's an example how your conversation should develop. Let's say we're trying to sell some developer training:

    Question 1: Jane, have you considered any extra IT training since starting your job? (those that answer no, you're not likely to be targeting)
    Prospect: Yes

    Question 2: So you'd be interested in increasing your technical programming skills then?
    Prospect: Yes

    Question 3: Great! We're holding unique hands-on developer training sessions which may benefit you greatly. Is this of interest?
    Prospect: OOH YES!
    Scott: (I'll have what she's having!) Fantastic! The courses on offer include our SSW Tech Breakfast etc...

    After the prospect has said yes to you three times it's going to be hard for them to decline when you ask them if they would like to find out some more information thus making it hard for them to give you an excuse to get off the phone.​

  5. Do you call enough people?

    All sales are a numbers game. Outbound calling is a game of attitude and numbers. If you call enough people and have a positive attitude (ABS); you have a higher probability of success. Outbound calling is also an acquired skill. You acquire it by practicing and being prepared. The only way to get better at it is to make more of them and practice, practice, practice. So when you're starting your outbound calls you need to swallow that lump in your throat and fire away. Along the way, you'll feel disenchanted and rejected but sooner or later it will start to click and as you become more confident, you become a better telemarketer.​

  6. Do you change cold calls into warm calls?

    Sometimes if your cold calling isn't working, no matter how much you try or how great your list is, you might need to convert your cold calls into warm calls. In a nutshell, a warm call is a cold call where the prospect has exposure to your company or what you're trying to sell.

    Convert cold calls into warm calls by sending prospects an email out. This is what we call a pre-call strategy. This often helps as it allows your prospects a chance to decide if it does or doesn't interest them.

    Always assume that they have got it and read it and are interested. Try to resist questions like :

    "Did you get my email?"

    Figure: Bad example - You never want them to say no to you. See the YES ladder​​ for more details

    Make sure you've already sent them some form of direct marketing, then your introduction should sound like:

    "I sent you a fax the other day regarding our training you are interested in"

    Figure: Good example - a warm call


  7. Do you have the right attitude?

    Don't you hate people that have a negative spin on everything you do? Those people with a negative attitude are exactly the kind of people that we all try to avoid. So why would it be any different to people on the phone? If you're starting your sales efforts with a negative attitude then you're already behind the eight ball. Having a positive attitude makes a huge difference to your approach and the way you come across to your prospects.​

    Before any SSW sales staff make any telemarketing calls, as a company standard, the salesperson is to note down 3 reasons why the people they are calling are going to want to buy from us.

    For example, if you're selling SSW Tech Breakfast here are some typical affirmation statements:

      • I've read evaluation forms of people that have attended our events and I know that people will benefit significantly from attending
      • I've investigated our competitors and I know we're offering a much better deal
      • Even if it wasn't a good event I'm a great sales person and I can sell ice to Eskimos!
  8. Do you know how to write a follow-up email after an outbound call?

    When sending a standardized follow-up email after an out-bound call, you should always try to tailor your email to each client.

    If you don't then the client will ignore your email.

    These are the 5 things that you should include in your follow-up email:


    1. ​Record what was said in the conversation including:
      • the projects they are working on
      • their priorities​
      • the technologies they are interested in
    2. When you will call them back
    3. Other relevant answers to questions in the script you are using.
    4. A little footer, with a clear division to the 'spam'/'canned' text
    5. Indent the spam text


    ​All this information is important as it gives the next salesperson who speaks to this person a good background on your interaction with them.

    To Marlon,

    As per our conversation, I look forward to seeing you at the SharePoint 101 workshop.

    Feel free to contact me for more information.

    Figure: Bad Example - The next time you call you will NOT 'remember' any details of the client and have to start COLD again


    To Marlon,

    As per our conversation, you are currently using Team Foundation Server 2008 to manage small development projects and source control.

    If you are looking to upgrade to TFS 2010, we have a special offer. We will:
    1. Migrate your old version to the new version
    2. Give you a Scrum master for the first 2-week print FREE of charge

    The Scrum master will be involved in all the meetings, daily Scrum and ensure that the burn down is happening as it should be. Additional to this, we will have a TFS MVP and Microsoft Regional Director overseer the project from SSW, ultimately any problems which arise, we will have access to immediate solutions.

    I will contact you in 1 month and we will discuss how things are going and your thoughts on our offer.
    I have also included information on our seminars below just in case anyone was interested.

    Feel free to contact me for more information.

    Good Example: the next time you call you will be able to 'remember' plenty of details

  9. Do you maintain control of the call?

    You should know how to jab (YES ladder​), then cross hook (open-ended question​), it's time to learn how to stay focused in the ring. When we talk about maintaining focus, we're really talking about controlling the conversation. When the conversation is getting a bit off track or the prospect is telling you more information than you need to know, the best way to get the conversation back on track is to ask them a question that is related to the topic to which they are likely to answer "Yes".

    For example, if I'm on the phone trying to sell a training event, and the conversation started sounding like this:

    Scott: I think I've got just what you're after for advanced IT training.
    Prospect: Really? That reminds me of a time when this other sales person who was trying to sell me tickets to crackpot training events held in an abandoned warehouse. He was the rudest person I'd ever spoken to and he had this funny accent... Blah Blah.

    When this happens, ask a general question that you know they're going to say "Yes" to like this...

    Question: So you'd agree that in today's tough market you've got to stay up to date with today's technological advancements? (No self-respecting developer that wants to keep his job would answer no to this question)
    Prospect: Yes of course.
    Scott: Well let me show you how you can keep up to date with technology.​

    See how this tactic forces the prospect to get back on to the topic and think about what you're offering them. So beyond the YES ladder, you should always have a few more questions up your sleeve.  ​

  10. Do you measure the success of your outbound efforts?

    At the end of the day, when all the people on your prospect list have been called and you're just about ready to throw in the towel, there's still one more task to complete. You need to remember that an outbound campaign is just like any other business campaign - it needs to show an ROI (Return on Investment). Management needs to be made aware of its success or its failures.​​


    For example, at SSW every time a Tech Breakfast call is made, it is logged in our database as one of either 5 states: 

    • Interested
    • Not Interested
    • N/A (Engaged call back)
    • Not Contactable 
    • Sale

    We run a query at the end of the day to find out how many people were:

    • Emailed the invitation
    • Called (attempted and successful)
    • Sold
    • Hot leads (Interested)
    • Dead leads (Not Interested & Not Contactable)

    These details are then emailed to the manager for review on a weekly basis.​​

  11. Do you target the right people?

    We all get sales calls from time to time whether we like it or not. The ones I hate most are the ones where the product/service on offer has no interest to me. It goes without saying then that the success of your cold calling will depend on the prospect list you are using. Ensure the people you're calling are likely to be interested in what you have to offer: Don't call pensioners offering them tickets to the next Eminem concert. Spend extra time on targeting your prospect list.​

    ​​For example, when we try to market our training events we take into consideration:

    • Geographic spread: There's no point in calling people in another state for a half-day training event.
    • Position/Title: In most databases, you'll probably have information on the prospect's job title. This is often a good reference point as you will know if you are speaking with a decision maker or not. Assume you're a sales professional for Ferrari: you wouldn't make any sales if you were to speak with CEO secretaries rather than speaking with the CEO directly!
    • Interests: Some databases hold information about their interests or hobbies. This is a great way of building instant rapport with the person as you have a way of relating to that person. Even if you aren't interested in Rugby, for example, the five minutes you spend on the web researching last weekends results and whose been named in the Wallabies for the upcoming test could end up paying dividends, as the person on the other end of the phone will immediately identify with you.

    Using our own SQL Servers we run queries which are able to identify people from our database that:

    • Are developers (positions such as DBAs, web developers, programmers etc) in the IT industry
    • Have registered themselves as interested in a particular topic (through our website or an answer on one of our evaluation surveys)
    • Live in the right geographic area E.g. NSW​​
  12. Do you use your own database to find prospects?

    At SSW we don't believe in picking up the white pages and calling everyone in the book to make a sale. We believe in a more focused approach; we query our own SQL Servers for the prospects we're after. We also frown on buying lists because there's nothing worse than buying databases that have already been used and abused by the people before you. If you've got a business then you should always have a database to capture business and client information which can be queried against.​