Estimated reading time: 9 minutes.
The ultimate guide to planning, conducting and tracking your outbound sales calls.
After the call
Once you’ve hung up the phone, you need a process in place to keep track of where you are in the pipeline and what to do next.
Right after the call, check the notes you took and make sure they’re accurate.
Send a quick email to summarise the main points you’ve agreed and focus on the next steps. Give a 2-3 point todo list for your client and list anything that you’ll follow up with.
Use a template email to make this easy and fill in the blanks.
Here’s a quick example –
The most important part of your post-call workflow is to define the next steps.
If you’re making a lot of prospecting calls, you might not have time to follow up immediately or as a sales development rep, your role ends at qualifying leads. It’s important to check your notes in real time before moving onto the next call so that you (or somebody else) can access the information later.
Make sure you update the call information in your CRM and define the next steps. We designed OnePageCRM to focus on the Next Action steps to make this even easier.
Make a note of where the client is in the buying process. They might be window shopping right now and be ready to buy in the new tax year when the budgets are replenished, or when a contract cycle ends. You need to know when to follow up. It could be 3 or 12 months from now and you want to be front-of-mind when that time comes.
Tracking and improving performance
Sales can be an expensive process with very profitable results. You need to understand your metrics so you can set KPIs that you can easily track and improve on.
“What gets measured gets managed.” — Peter Drucker
How many calls should I be making?
According to Funnel Clarity, the top 5% of performers secure 6.7 scheduled meetings per week on average. Instead of results, they focus relentlessly on the inputs they can control:
- An average of 603.9 dials (calls placed) per week (120.8 per day)
- An average of 57 new contacts added to the call list per week (11.4 per day)
- At least 81.6% of active contacts have direct lines in the contact record
- At least 95.4% of active contacts have pre-call in the contact record
What conversion rate should I expect?
The lazy answer is… It depends.
It depends on the leads, the value proposition, and the sales team.
The age and source of the leads dictates the contact rate and pitch rate. A fresh inbound lead who just contacted you through a web form is waiting for your call. A generic list of your local chamber of commerce members will be less responsive.
Pricing is complex and the value proposition is different for every product and customer. A bootstrapped indie developer will weigh up the difference between your $97 and $297 price points. An enterprise buyer probably won’t even look at software with a ticket price less than their $5k-a-month coffee budget because they just don’t see the value. It’s all relative, but you should understand the value proposition and optimise your pricing strategy so you know how much you can invest in cold calling for your customer acquisition.
An experienced salesperson or a well-trained and knowledgeable sales-person with a well-planned and proven process will produce better results than somebody just winging it.
But, as I said, it depends is a lazy answer. You need a more specific benchmark.
Connor James Blake estimates average conversion rates for 100 customers called:
Again, that is the average. A well-managed campaign closes a hell of a lot more than that.
How to improve sales call performance?
Use the top of your funnel to pre-qualify leads
Your lead magnets and content upgrades have a specific job to do and it’s not just to collect as many email addresses as you can. Use your opt-in process to qualify your inbound leads based on specific features of your product. Segment inbound leads based on buyer intent and where they are at in the buyer cycle.
Nurture leads before calling
Use retargeting campaigns and email drip sequences to educate your leads and to monitor their level of engagement. Reserve your outbound sales calls only for those who are actually interested in solving a problem. If they downloaded your white paper then never opened another email, they might not have the problem your product solves.
Have the right people in place and get them up to speed
Invest in educating and training your sales development reps.
CFO – “What if we invest in our sales team and then they leave?”
CEO – “What if we don’t and they stay?”
It pays to get your sales reps up to speed quickly. Companies with an onboard ramp of 3 months or less achieve 29% higher performance than those who onboard slowly.
Use a CRM
A CRM can deliver a ROI of $8.71 for every dollar spent, a 56% increase from $5.60 in the previous year.
Respond to inbound enquiries within 5 minutes
Only 7% of companies tested replied within 5 minute so this is low-hanging fruit. There’s a 10x drop off in lead qualification when you wait longer than 5 minutes to respond (hbr, Insidesales)
Work towards shorter sales calls
Work expands to fill the amount of time you give it – Parkinson’s law.
Keeping your call to a maximum of 15 minutes keeps it focused and pithy. And it’s just the right timeframe to deliver the core message before your prospect gets distracted and checks out.
Chris Anderson, curator of TED keeps talks to 18 minutes because
… it is long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention. It turns out that this length also works incredibly well online. It’s the length of a coffee break. So, you watch a great talk, and forward the link to two or three people. It can go viral, very easily. The 18-minute length also works much like the way Twitter forces people to be disciplined in what they write. By forcing speakers who are used to going on for 45 minutes to bring it down to 18, you get them to really think about what they want to say. What is the key point they want to communicate? It has a clarifying effect. It brings discipline.
The 15-minute call means that you can fit more calls into your day. It also means that each one is more focused and effective so you see an exponential improvement.
Timeblock your schedule
Block of your diary and do your prospecting calls first thing. You’ll be at your sharpest early in the day and you can focus on making calls without being distracted.
Keep track of the calls you make and the outcome for each call. Use a spreadsheet or CRM to keep notes on each client and the next actions you need to take to follow up. Use your CRM to dictate your workflows each week and each day and take the time to step back and analyse your data as a whole.
Are there any new patterns in the data? What’s the optimal time to get a response? Are lots of clients experiencing a similar problem you hadn’t thought of? Are there any keywords and pain-points you’d missed before? Are you tracking the right KPIs? Use this information to experiment with different strategies for your outbound campaigns. It’s an evolving process.
Integrate your inbound and outbound strategies
Don’t think of your inbound marketing and outbound sales as different silos. Instead, think about how they
complement each other, and create smarter ways to integrate them into your overall growth strategy. For example,
- Use a low-resistance inbound calls-to-action in your sales call to reduce friction and encourage micro-commitments. Instead of selling, offer to send a pdf report and request their email address.
- Use your calls to uncover new problems and use the customer’s’ own language in your sales pages, user personas, email sequences, and product brochures.
- Use your inbound strategies, like content marketing to filter and pre-qualify you clients. Segment your lead nurturing campaigns accordingly for each type of customer.
What to do if you hate making sales calls?
How do you get over the anxiety of cold calling? Connor James Blake has a counter-intuitive way of flipping the call by removing the pressure to perform.
“Pick a day next week, and spend the first half of the day purposing sabotaging every phone call.
Speak reaaaalllllyyyyy slowly during the first call
St-stutt-stutter your way through the second call
Talk really quietly during the third call
I know, it sounds crazy. But it will totally change the atmosphere of the room, and it will transform the way you see failure and cold calling. Once you can laugh at your own failures, pick up the phone and start selling for real.”
If you’re an introvert, like James, you might find it easier to communicate in text rather than speaking. But a lot of introverts actually thrive in one-on-one situations and once you pick up the phone and start that conversation, you’re in your element.
In fact, many people drift in between introversion and extroversion, so don’t let a Myers Briggs test you did when you were 17 define you forever. The archetype salesperson is the bullish alpha who is gregarious and outgoing. But it turns out that ambiverts outperform extroverts because they are more inclined to listen and reflect than an extrovert, who can be perceived as too excited. It pays to embrace your inner introvert.
There are lots of valid reasons for procrastinating before making a cold call. Steve Smith suggests reframing it. What makes a call cold:
- Your target doesn’t know you.
- Your target hasn’t been referred to you.
- Your target doesn’t recognize your brand.
- Your target doesn’t believe in what you sell.
- Your target doesn’t expect your call.
- Your target doesn’t buy from your competition.
- Your target doesn’t need what you sell.
- Your target doesn’t work for a prospect.
- Your target doesn’t know a prospect.
- Your target isn’t a prospect.
The key is to make some of these statements false. That’ll give you the confidence to have a conversation around those points.
The Bottom Line
Do enjoy yourself, and relax. It’s just a game. Don’t ever, ever, feel like a bad sales day will ruin your career, or your mentality – it’s just a bad day. Boost your morale often, and forgive and encourage yourself often. Try and find a mentor/coach who understands how to work in a way that makes you excited about your next customer, not nervous 🙂
Bottom line – develop your strategy. Follow your process, track your metrics and course-correct as you go.