B2B outbound lead generation campaigns are designed to initiate conversations with key company decision-makers by engaging them in high-level discussions about their challenges, and then positioning your solution to address such pain points.
But in order to get to a place where a decision-maker will divulge information, they need to believe that you are genuine and trustworthy. Prospects, whether they are contacted on the phone or over social media channels, are suspicious by nature. They are on guard to protect themselves against fraud, or the pesky sales rep looking to force-feed them pitches about useless products. No-one wants to waste their time, and this auto-defense mechanism is a natural response to the fact that prospects have been over-solicited for years. In fact, I am 100% certain that everyone can relate to one or more of the following situations:
- Being interrupted at work by a call that turned out to be utterly useless
- Answering the phone because it was a number you didn’t recognize (thinking it was important) only to get stuck having to listen to the caller’s incredibly uninteresting speech for five minutes before politely saying no and hanging up
- Picking up the phone and immediately recognizing the sounds of a call center in the background then hanging the phone back up again before the person can even introduce themselves
- Hearing a pitch that sounds as if the caller is reading a script word for word
I always say that you could be selling gold at half market value but people will still tell you no because they just don’t want to buy anything. Why most telemarketing efforts fail to hit their mark is that the person doing the outreach actually believes they are there to sell something, when in fact, that could not be farther from the truth. They show up with an energy that they are there to get from the prospect, instead of showing up to give. For the majority of B2B outreach campaigns, and particularly those designed for software vendors targeting other ISVs or end-user accounts, the sales-cycle of the product itself is very long. What that means is that there is no way a prospect would ever buy such a solution over the phone under any circumstance. And if that is the case, why would the telemarketer take the approach of trying to “sell” it in the first place?
What puts people off about telemarketing is that they have the impression that it provides little to no value. It is a shame that this is the general feeling people have because when it’s done properly, it can be a highly effective way of engaging prospects in a dialogue. So what are some techniques to make phone outreach more successful to improve your results? Here are five tips to get you started:
Tip 1: Get Passionate About Your Subject
Have you ever spoken to someone who was so passionate about the topic they were talking about that their entire face lite up? Were you then sucked into the conversation because they were so interesting to listen to? It’s no wonder that we are attracted to talk to people like that — their passion is contagious. And when you’re the one talking, how much easier is it to speak about something that you love? Most telemarketers don’t take the time to really understand the product they represent. They don’t see how they can get passionate about it, so they forego the joy of understanding how the product improves people’s lives. They may memorize a value proposition that someone handed to them, but they don’t integrate that into their blueprint and use it as a guiding force for each conversation. My tip here for someone who doesn’t know how to create that spark where none currently exists is to float up to the why. You may not fully understand how a product works, and that’s ok. But do you understand why it was developed in the first place? What need is this product looking to fill? How will it make people’s lives better? Why is it important? When you better understand your prospect and know what your product will bring to that person, it becomes easier to find value in educating your audience about it. Again, no B2B telemarketer will sell a complex business solution to a prospect over the phone; the goal is to generate an interest so that the prospect wants to learn more and will go further in the discussion over-time. That will only come if you are genuinely interested in the topic yourself.
Tip 2: Stop Talking and Start Listening
In addition to being uninteresting, another mistake that many telemarketers make is that they don’t stop talking. They have their speech and they want to get through it at all costs. Have you ever met someone at a party who won’t stop talking about themselves? I have too. And what do you do in those circumstances? Find a way to get out of the conversation as quickly and painlessly as possible. When telemarketers can stop talking and start listening, everything about the conversation changes. Many telemarketers are scared of silence on the phone. They have a profound fear of failure and worry constantly that the prospect is going to hang up on them if the flow of their speech stops. However, silence is not the problem. The problem is that when a telemarketer is so worried about where the conversation is going, they miss out on important cues from the prospect. Prospects will often give out important pieces of information when they appear at first to be saying no. “We already use x,y,z solution,” or “We don’t have a need for that,” or “We are not looking for something new at this time.” Instead of ignoring what the prospect says, or getting stuck and not knowing how to respond, you can use these cues to your advantage. One of the issues is that telemarketers have been trained to give scripted rebuttals or to counter-argue, but the conversation is not supposed to be an argument in the first place. Counter-arguing implies that you are trying to convince your audience of something, but again, if you do that, you are missing the point. It is not a case that needs to be won, and if you spend your time trying to be persuasive instead of using it as an opportunity to discover something new, you are missing out on an important learning experience. By getting curious and asking additional questions (and implementing Tip 3 below), you should be able to dig deeper and get even more information from the prospect to serve you moving forward.
Tip 3: Mirror Your Prospect So They Feel Heard
Mirroring is a proven communication technique because it uses neuro-linguistic programming to trigger brain functions in a positive way. Let’s take the above example as a case in point. If a prospect says, “We don’t need your product because we are using x,y,z solution,” and you only say in response, “You are using x,y,z solution?” that will prompt the prospect to go deeper. It is likely that they will say something along the lines of, “Yes, we implemented a solution five years ago and it’s working just fine.” Then if you say, “You implemented a solution 5 years ago and it’s working just fine?” They will likely reply, “Well it is getting a bit old and some users are not thrilled about it, but we hadn’t planned on replacing it this year.” The point is that if you take out word for word an exact piece of the sentence a prospect said, not only are they sure to give you more detail, but they will also feel heard. At some point in the conversation, they will start to open up a bit more and that’s when you can move on to the call-to-action you were looking to secure in the first place. And if you don’t believe me, try it and see what happens!
Tip 4: Ask Better Quality Questions
Very often, the way a question is constructed will frame the response that is given. If you ask a low-quality question, you will get a poor response; on the contrary, if you ask a high-quality question, you will get a better quality response. When you are skilled and effective as a telemarketer, you learn how to ask one or two open-ended probing questions that go to the heart of the subject matter as it relates to the prospect and then ask follow-up questions on the fly based on the information the prospect gives you. The conversation will flow naturally, and you won’t need to do much of the talking at all. In fact, the conversation will become relaxed and easy. So when you are preparing for your next call, revise your questions in such a way that you inspire the prospect to talk about themselves, their challenges, and what keeps them up at night.
Tip 5: Practice Makes Perfect
In order to develop your communication skills, it’s important to practice. Practice in front of the mirror. Practice with your friends on a Zoom call. Practice with your spouse. Visualization techniques are a great way for you to prepare because you will see yourself being successful and train your brain to believe it is possible. Practice speaking slowly and clearly, taking out filler words (like, um, actually, you know …) that don’t add value to the conversation. Practice delivering your value proposition in different ways so that you don’t sound scripted. Think of each call as another opportunity to practice, and learn from them so that you can improve your delivery over time. Another fantastic thing to practice is listening. Have a conversation with a friend and make a concerted effort not to interrupt. In fact, make the conversation all about the other person and take yourself out of it entirely. Listen carefully and attentively, ask questions to dig deeper, and don’t bring the subject back to yourself at all. Note down how you felt when you do these exercises so that you can recreate those feelings when you begin your outreach.
By having confidence in your ability to engage prospects in a dialogue because what you represent has true value for your audience (and has absolutely nothing to do with you), you will be able to come to the conversation with a positive energy that will help you establish trust with the person on the other end of the line. Showing up to give instead of to get will change the tone and direction of the call. And don’t forget to show appreciation by thanking the prospect for their time when it’s time to say goodbye!