by Doug Robertson
“Until recently, we’ve been lucky. Because of our brand, we had lots of inbound calls. Today though, that stream is drying up and we have to extract more business from our existing clients. That means we need our sales crew to maximize every interaction – including outbound follow-up calls. But outbound calling is a very different skill set… and we’re anxious. We’re not sure what to do.”- Retail Sales Executive
As a sales training firm, we’re hearing that outbound calling, even cold calling, is becoming more important. And while there are sometimes cultural, operational, or structural factors that make this kind of selling a challenge, often the biggest barrier is skill.
When skill is the issue, training plays a role and there are plenty of excellent training solution providers that can help teach new skills. But beware, not all training solutions are created equally. Only a few solutions build the skills that can truly differentiate your outbound call from those of your competition.
Outbound Calling Skills that Differentiate
If you want your outbound calls to stand out from the rest, here are a few skills that your outbound calling team must know and do:
- Introduce themselves – clearly and slowly – and acknowledge their call was unexpected
- Ask permission to explain why they’re calling
- Immediately position the reason for their call, in terms of its value to their prospect
- Set specific time and outcome expectations and ask for permission to continue the conversation
- Ask two to four open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no”– questions carefully planned and focused on prospects’ specific needs, values, hopes
- Listen closely and actively and play back what they’ve heard using their prospect’s own words
- Position their solution using engaging language
- Ask for the business and when they get it, agree on specific next steps
Bridging the Know/Do Gap
But what if you’ve found a terrific training partner and you’ve developed an outbound calling model that covers all the right skills and you’re still not seeing the right behaviors in your outbound calling team? You may need to bridge the gap between knowing and doing. What can you do?
The answer is Practice. Of course that seems self-evident, but the surprising truth is that business people rarely practice. To effectively bridge the gap between what your outbound calling team knows they should do and what they are able and willing to do requires a specific form of practice: Deliberate Practice.
What is Deliberate Practice?
Deliberate Practice is quite different from anything your team may have experienced. It is characterized by repetitive practice of the skills you want to improve coupled with rigorous skills assessment and specific information feedback and coaching by an expert, followed by additional practice, feedback, coaching: all of which ultimately result in better skills performance.
Here’s how to structure Deliberate Practice:
- Break the outbound calling process down into individual skills
- Repeatedly practice each skill with increasing intensity to build long-term retention
- Simulate reality to increase challenge
- Receive feedback and coaching from a professional to ensure improvement and prevent bad habits from developing
- Measure and track progress over time
If you’d like to find out more about how Practica Learning can help you convert more business by using deliberate practice to improve your outbound calling skills, email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at: Toronto 416-366-6296, Toll-Free 1-866-945-0648.
If you’d like to learn more about deliberate practice, check out the writing of K. Ander Ericsson and especially his book, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. The book summarizes the findings of Ericsson’s 30-year research into the general nature and acquisition of expertise. Other great reads include: Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin and The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth and Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell.