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What are outbound calls? (Strategies for successful calls)

In the modern corporate landscape, there are many ways to reach potential customers, and savvy businesses turn to a diverse portfolio of marketing strategies. Outbound calls are a highly targeted form of marketing, relying on creating a personal connection between a sales agent and someone who may be interested in your products or services. ­­­With this strategy, you can market directly to your target audience instead of having to rely on a third party, like the ever-changing algorithm when advertising on social media, for example.

In this article, we examine outbound calls as a sales and marketing strategy, identify the pros and cons and detail how you can make them work for your company.

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What are outbound calls?

An outbound call is any call that your company makes to an existing or former customer or potential new customer. If the person is in the first category, you may be calling to let them know about new products or services or to make them a special offer. You could also be calling for research purposes, like following up on a sale to see whether they were satisfied with your service. Some outbound calls are even initiated by a customer action, like filling in an online form to request a quote or callback.

Then, there is the cold call. This common type of outbound call is made to a person who doesn’t currently engage with your company and isn’t expecting to be contacted. Cold calling typically requires a dedicated department and workforce, often known as a call centre. Historically, call centres have been located in physical buildings, but technical innovation has enabled them to be fully remote, and many companies have embraced this flexibility. 

What’s the difference between outbound calls and inbound calls?

There are two broad categories of sales calls that an organisation could deal with: inbound and outbound. An inbound call is one that a customer or potential customer makes to your business, and an outbound call is one that your business makes to a customer or potential customer. These two types are handled very differently. Inbound callers are usually calling with a query or problem and are seeking a customer-service agent who is both knowledgeable and has the power to assist them. To cut down on waiting times and streamline staffing requirements, many modern businesses use IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems for inbound calls – an automated service that takes the caller through several options to determine their needs and connect them with the appropriate agent, if necessary. IVRs are also used by some businesses for outbound calls, but this is less common. It’s up to you whether the same department handles both your inbound and outbound calls, and if you do decide to go this route, this is known as a blended call centre. It can be more efficient but also requires more extensive training for staff, who need problem-solving abilities as well as sales skills.

Advantages of outbound calls

When you know how to leverage them effectively, outbound calls can be a positive addition to your marketing portfolio. Let’s look at some of the advantages they offer.

  • They can be more cost effective than some other forms of outbound marketing, with costs primarily going towards staffing (after the initial setup). Establishing a remote call centre and hiring employees based in different countries can also keep costs down.
  • They increase brand awareness. With an outbound call, you typically hold a person’s attention for longer than an ad on a website or an email that may be filtered out of their main inbox automatically. Even if you don’t manage to secure a sale, it’s an opportunity to share information about your products and services directly to someone who may be unfamiliar with them.
  • They give you more control. Unlike traditional or online advertising, outbound calls let you choose exactly which customers you’re going to target. You could even decide to focus exclusively on existing or former customers, maximising your chances of success.
  • It’s easy to monitor progress. By using software designed for outbound calling, you get access to detailed data. This can give you precise insight into metrics like the hang-up rate, conversion rate and which staff members are the most skilled at securing sales.
  • They can answer customer questions in real time, cutting down on misunderstandings or mismatched expectations when customers place an order.
  • They create a personal connection. When you secure a sale through an outbound call, the customer can feel like they are a real person to your company, rather than just an order number. This can help enhance customer loyalty.

Disadvantages of outbound calls 

Every business is different and outbound calls may not be the right strategy for everyone. Here are some things to consider before implementing them at your company. 

  • They can be resource heavy. While other types of marketing can be managed by a single person, a robust outbound call programme requires a team of customer-service agents. You also need various technology solutions to place calls effectively and collect information about them. If you decide that you want a physical call centre, this requires separate office space or an extension of your current setup.
  • They can irritate customers. This is especially true of cold calling, as lots of people dislike receiving unsolicited phone calls and may already be getting many from other companies. This can have a knock-on effect on your company’s reputation – for example, a particularly annoyed customer could decide to leave a negative online review after receiving a cold call at an inopportune moment.
  • They can impact employee satisfaction levels. The high rate of hang-ups from outbound calls as well as the potential of having a customer being rude or abusive over the phone can be demoralising and upsetting for staff. This may require you to invest extra effort in employee wellbeing and mental health for the people working in your call centre.

Related: Six simple steps to create your employee wellness programme

How to set up outbound calling

There are a few steps that you can follow to get started with outbound calls. Here are four key stages to getting your outbound call programme off the ground.

1. Conduct research and set goals

Because setting up a call centre can be time consuming and costly, it’s important to take the time to research whether it’s a good fit for your company. Bring stakeholders on board and decide what you would like to achieve from the programme and how to align these goals with the greater company objectives.

2. Set up your call centre

One of the most important decisions to make is whether to have a physical call centre or an online/remote one. In both cases, you are going to need various technology and software solutions to place calls, store customer information and track results. For online call centres, it’s vital to ensure that employees have a reliable Internet connection and devices that can block background noise.

3. Recruit and train staff

Outbound calls are a very specific sales skill and in-depth training is necessary. Recruiting experienced and gifted call centre agents can give you a head start. You may also need to outsource training materials to a third party, for example, a communications professional or copywriter who can create customer-interaction scripts for your agents to follow.

Related: How to recruit a call centre manager

4. Monitor progress and adjust where necessary

Tracking progress and reevaluating your strategies and approach is a critical part of implementing any new programme. When possible, you can try to get feedback from customers as well as your call centre agents on the ground.

Tips and best practices

Here are some things to keep in mind when making outbound calls part of your marketing strategy.

  • Ensure regulatory compliance. This means adhering to any rules or restrictions regarding outbound calls, like the Do Not Call list, and making sure that your handling of customer data is GDPR compliant.
  • Invest in high-quality CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools and learn how to leverage them to increase your conversion rates.
  • Understand your target market and identify ways to reach them. The more targeted your calls are, the higher the chance of success.
  • Promote active listening. Train your calling team in active listening skills to fully engage with a customer’s responses and concerns. This empowers staff to tailor their pitch and address specific needs.
  • Invest time in building your calling team’s product knowledge. This can give them a much higher chance at securing a sale when a customer indicates interest.

Related: Data protection and HR GDPR for employers

When done well, outbound calls can be a worthwhile addition to your marketing portfolio. Personal interaction is still highly valued in an increasingly automated world, and the insights provided by outbound calling software can help you make adjustments in real time and plan future strategies from an informed perspective.

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