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Reinventing Outbound Sales: Filling in the Gaps that Digital Marketing Can’t Fix


How to Save Your Teams from Drowning in Data, Coach Them as Individuals, and Recognise Vulnerable Customers

52% of outbound sellers claim their efforts are “ineffective”, but with a huge 75% of executives willing to make an appointment with a company or attend an event based on cold calls or emails alone, there’s clearly opportunities being missed.

Many organisations are beginning to shy away from outbound sales, whether it’s through their own workforce or outsourcing. Sound like you? If so, you could be missing opportunities beyond just selling – from building better customer relationships to differentiating yourself from competitors.

In our live event, ‘Reinventing Outbound: Sales’, MOJO-CX© CEO & Co-Founder Jimmy Hosang and Senior Solutions Consultant Paul Banks joined forces with Garry Gormely of Fab Outsourced Solutions, and Marianne Withers of The Verity Centre to discuss how contact centres can make the most of these opportunities.

But first, what’s the problem with digital marketing?

Today, a huge number of companies have favoured digital marketing over human contact with their potential customers - it’s supposedly cheaper and easier to execute, but is this really the case? In reality, a focus on cost-reduction over choosing what is best for your customers could be costing you big in the long-run.

The first problem is that we have managed to saturate the market when it comes to digital advertising – consider how many unread emails are in your inbox, or how many adverts you scroll past on social media every day (it’s estimated the typical UK consumer sees over 5,000 digital ads every single day). The huge influx of digital marketing has made today’s much more switched-on consumers almost oblivious to these tactics. In fact, some studies show that up to 93% of display ads are not recalled by consumers.

The second problem is that in most cases it eliminates any human-to-human contact that a potential customer could have. Meaningful relationships are difficult to build without humans, and as such your customers will be more likely to view your product/service as purely transactional. As such, they’re often incentivised to shop based on price, and less likely to remain loyal (and return for business). Humans are social creatures, with 70% of us still preferring to speak to an agent over the phone when things go wrong.

Finally, due to the lack of human-to-human contact in digital marketing, there is a much smaller window for up/cross-selling, and even where there is an opportunity it is mostly reliant on complex algorithms or further digital marketing (think of how you’re emailed promo codes for a phone case after upgrading your mobile contract). This incurs additional time and financial costs and has a lower likelihood of success than if you’ve managed to build rapport with your customers.

This is the true cost of digital marketing beyond the monetary spend – an oversaturated market, waning customer loyalty, and a reduced opportunity for upselling and cross-selling. So where is it going wrong for outbound sales?

Are you drowning in data?

A key turning point in improving your success when it comes to outbound selling is to really utilise the data available to you. We are facing an abundance of data due to it being so much easier to access in modern times, with people being asked to enter their details online and this information being sold on to countless organisations. This is precisely why strategies often focus on digital avenues and ignore voice, a channel traditionally difficult to reap insights.

There are some clear problems facing agents and managers who work in outbound sales:

Attempting to retrain inbound agents to perform outbound selling: Some people just do not like outbound selling, and being a true salesperson takes a certain skillset. Instead of retraining inbound agents and expecting them to excel in outbound, recruit specialised agents that have signed up to perform outbound sales.

Bland scripts for agents that discourage any improvisation: Not long ago we discussed how entirely removing scripts doesn’t empower agents, but in fact makes their life more difficult (click here for the full article). But there is a fine line between creating a culture of simply reading from the script and creating a script that encourages moments of improvisation and genuine connection between agents and customers. This will help to build that all-important customer loyalty.

Agents overwhelmed by data: Contact centre agents often have several programs running across multiple screens whilst they are on a call. We must ask whether it’s fair to request that they interpret and analyse countless data points on top of their current tasks. It’s vital that when you’re asking agents and managers to interpret data, you also provide them with the correct tools to do so.  

Fear not, there are two simple fixes to these problems:

  • Provide the best training and coaching possible amongst teams. Make your coaching agile and data-oriented so your managers can reduce administrative burden where possible.
  • Provide your teams with the best tools available to further enhance the understanding of data, and the speed at which this takes place.  

Coaching the individuals, not the team

Whilst it’s vital that everybody is working together as a team, it must be remembered that your team is made up of individuals with their own preferences and skillsets. Side-by-side coaching is an excellent way to build a greater connection with your team and understand where you can praise them and where to offer coaching. Certain people management tools can even further enhance your coaching quality whilst giving a better opportunity for agents to understand their own progress so they can self-develop.

“Look after your individuals in the team, develop them, nurture them, inspire them and motivate them to do a fantastic job.” – Marianne Withers

Additionally, instilling the mindset that agents are adlibbing in their scripts (we like to think of it as performing) will help reduce potential stress and enhance their confidence in calls. They are, after all, simply playing the role of an outbound sales agent. It sounds far-fetched but behavioural science tells us that you don’t necessarily want your agents to be always completely empathetic, you want them to have ‘managed empathy’. This helps agents build that important connection with customers without putting too much weight on their shoulders that could lead to burnout.  

Using tools to help vulnerable customers

In an inbound contact centre identifying a vulnerable customer is slightly easier – you likely have pre-existing data about the customer, and they will sometimes highlight vulnerabilities themselves. It’s much different when it comes to outbound, with little-to-no data available on the person at the other end of the line.

A large part of identifying vulnerable customers often comes back to the education of agents, but with all the other tasks they are performing is it fair to put the entire onus on them? Software available to contact centres, such as conversation analytics, means that the identification of a vulnerable customer no longer relies solely on the agent. This massively reduces the pressure that agents face and creates more room for them to focus on other tasks at hand.

Creating scripts that have built-in moments to help an agent identify vulnerable characteristics further improves the chance of successfully recognizing vulnerable customers whilst taking a bit of the pressure off agents. This also allows moments for improvisation and a better connection between agents and potential customers – not pressuring agents to rush through their calls will improve the chance of them taking time to actively listen to customers and gain a better understanding of any potential vulnerabilities they face.

It's also worth acknowledging that vulnerability is a spectrum, and most people have at least one or two vulnerable characteristics. By developing better models to not just identify vulnerable customers, but identify how vulnerable they might be, you’re improving due diligence straight away whilst providing a better experience for these people.

In conclusion

The best way to summarise how you can improve your outbound sales strategy comes down to three key areas:

  • Understand the potential of your campaign by evaluating your data and helping your teams interpret it.
  • Let the available tools and software do the heavy lifting for you so your agents can focus on their real work – building customer relationships.
  • Coach and nurture managers and agents to help develop their knowledge and understand the art of outbound sales.

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