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Phone prospecting:
how to optimize the performance of your phone prospecting campaigns?

Telephone prospecting is still widely used by companies to find new customers.
Its main advantage is that it allows direct telephone contact with the prospect. Yet, decision-makers are increasingly difficult to reach.

How to optimize the performance of your telephone prospecting campaigns?

Summary of the article

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What is telephone prospecting?

Telephone prospecting refers to all commercial actions carried out by telephone with the aim of finding new customers for one’s company.

In general, these telephone actions consist in contacting a potential buyer in order to obtain a commercial appointment.

Telemarketing is often disliked by buyers who find it intrusive. For their part, sales people find it thankless and difficult because of the reluctance of the recipients.

Nevertheless, it has certain advantages that justify the practice continuing in spite of reluctance.

Why make sales by teleprospecting?

Telemarketing is a delicate exercise that does not always arouse great enthusiasm among sales representatives. However, prospecting by phone remains essential in a company’s acquisition strategy, even in the digital age.

Of course, companies are investing in inbound marketing and digital prospecting techniques. But there is still a great deal of mistrust among salespeople towards inbound leads. Many consider that inbound produces leads but complain about the lead/customer transformation rates.

Indeed, without direct contact, it is not always easy to accurately assess the maturity level of the prospect.

This is the great advantage of phoning.

Since the salesperson has the prospect directly online, he or she has access to his or her reactions. He can answer his objections live and influence his decision.

Thus, teleprospecting allows to better qualify the prospect and to obtain information at the moment on his problems, his brakes, his need, his project,…

However, in order to reach this level of qualification, it is necessary to perfectly master the techniques of telemarketing and to have well prepared your calls.

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How to prepare your telephone prospecting?

Select and analyze prospects to contact

Before taking action, you must first establish a prospecting file containing the contacts to call.

This step is essential in the success of telephone prospecting actions for several reasons.

First of all, if you call contacts from a non-updated base, the ROI of the campaign will be lower. By trying to reach contacts that no longer exist, are no longer in place or are not the decision maker, sales teams waste time and energy. This generates frustration and hinders performance. It is also necessary to think of cleaning the database, in particular by merging the duplicates.

Then, you must make sure that the contacts to be called correspond to your company’s business targets. When building the telephone file, it is important to select the contacts according to the type of company, the sector of activity, the turnover, the targeted geographical area but also according to the position held.

However, selecting prospects to approach is not enough. We need to go further and investigate in order to gather as much useful information as possible when we make the phone call. To do this, you can use the data collected by marketing and/or cross-reference the information in your file with the LinkedIn profile data of your contacts.

Prepare your phone call script

The success of a sales call depends on the quality of the telephone exchange you have with your caller.

If you have segmented your contact base beforehand, you already know some of the general characteristics and problems of your contact. The objective is clear: to obtain an appointment. These are your starting point and your ending point.

Now, the success of the sales process depends on the path you take to get from one to the other. The telephone script allows you to structure your calls and prepare your sales pitch. This is a written document in which you will establish the typical structure of a call.

A good sales script consists of the following elements:

  • The contact: it must be short and punchy. You only have a few seconds to introduce yourself and convince the other person to continue the conversation.
  • Key arguments: they are used to maintain the prospect’s attention and to encourage him to accept a sales meeting. It is important to list the key points of your offer that respond to the problems of your target.
  • Handling objections: when preparing the script, you must anticipate your contacts’ objections and prepare precise answers.
  • The closing: the desired conclusion is to make an appointment. This is where you summarize the key points of the interview, validate the appointment and specify the terms.

Depending on the information you have about a prospect, the key arguments will not be the same. Also, each person will have different objections. The script is therefore not a linear framework or a mantra to be recited systematically.

On the contrary, a good script provides for different scenarios. It is similar to a decision tree with different branches. Depending on the prospect’s reaction, the conversation will take a different turn. We will therefore avoid fixed scripts to keep agility.

Plan your telemarketing actions

The lists of prospects to contact are ready. The sales teams have established a detailed call script. It’s almost time to get started.

It’s time to settle the last practical details. Preparation is essential in telemarketing. Nothing should be left to chance. Planning the actions allows to maximize the performance.

First of all, it is necessary to define whether to carry out the phoning actions internally or to outsource them. In B2B, on a target of decision-makers, it is often preferable to entrust prospecting to your own sales representatives, who have a good knowledge of the target buyers.

Then, based on the segmentation, each prospector should be assigned the segment he or she knows best, the one in which he or she performs best.

Finally, the sales manager sets performance objectives for telemarketing campaigns. The number of appointments made, the ratio of appointments to calls made and the number of calls handled are common objectives for a phoning campaign.

From this point of view, it is a question of finding the right balance between ambition and realism. Indeed, if telephone prospecting is not appreciated by salespeople, it is partly because they consider that the objectives assigned are often unattainable.

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How to make successful telephone prospecting calls?

Passing the secretary dam

You have carefully prepared your call campaign and your sales pitch. But when you take action, the first obstacle is the secretary.

Decision-makers are very busy and do not like to take salespeople online. Therefore, the secretary acts as a filter. It sorts out the « useful » calls from the prospecting calls.

Surely you know the refrain? « He is not available, please call back later. » And, later, the same thing again…

How do you get around this « secretary’s roadblock » that wastes a lot of time, generates frustration and hurts the performance of your campaigns?

The first method is to use force. You introduce yourself in a firm and decisive tone: « Hello, Madam, Pierre Durand, from MagiLeads. Can you put me through to John Doe, please? This method consists of making the caller think that you know them personally and that your call is important.

Second method: bypassing. You ask about the secretary’s schedule and make sure to call when the secretary is no longer there. Indeed, there is a good chance that your contact will arrive earlier and/or leave later than his secretary.

Finding your phone voice

In teleprospecting, everything is done by voice. It must be firm, warm and pleasant at the same time. Be careful with the flow too. Speak calmly and clearly.

Throughout the interview, you must appear serene, motivated and in control. Your interviewer will quickly sense if you are uncomfortable or lack confidence. He will take advantage of this to rush into any breach.

Even if the prospect objects, you should never lose your professional attitude.

Present the purpose of the phone call

In the framework of your telephone interview, the first step is to introduce yourself and briefly explain the purpose of your call.

In order for your contact to identify you, start with your first and last name, as well as the name of your company. Then, in a few quick, clear sentences, tell them why you are calling.

Since you have prepared the call, you must have listed a few arguments likely to echo the prospect’s issues. During your start-up pitch, these are the elements that you must put forward.

Under no circumstances should you be expected to debunk your entire sales pitch. The idea here is to:

  • Based on the supposed problems of your contact
  • make sure that he/she is encountering this problem by asking for confirmation
  • explain concisely how your offer meets these requirements

The movement is always from the prospect to your proposal. If you launch into a long monologue about the merits of your offer, the prospect will not feel involved and will only want to hang up.

Maintain the prospect’s attention

You have a specific objective in mind: to get a sales appointment or, more rarely, to make an online sale.

To achieve this, you need to keep the prospect’s attention from one end of the phone call to the other. This is one of the reasons why spouting your argument is unproductive.

Teleprospecting has another objective: to gather additional information about the prospect. Maybe he doesn’t have a short-term need that requires a quick appointment. But he may nevertheless be concerned by your offer and/or have a project in this sense in the medium or long term.

In all cases, the prospecting call must serve to qualify the prospect for future contact, whether near or far. This is why active listening and questioning are at the heart of successful sales calls.

The art of asking the right questions

Bad telemarketers think that what makes the difference is their propensity to put forward a lot of arguments. In this vision, the good salesman would be the one who speaks eloquently, the « tchatcheur ».

That’s pretty far from the truth of the matter. The good telemarketer knows how to keep the prospect’s attention and how to listen actively.

Before you called, the prospect didn’t care much about your offer. He may have lived very well in this relative ignorance. You have captured his attention. How to maintain it and turn it into interest?

The objective here is to find the points of contact between your offer and the needs of your interlocutor. But the prospect is not going to go on and on about his problems. The only way to know them is to make him talk.

To do this, you must master the art of asking questions. To store information, you need to ask open-ended questions:

  • What are the challenges you are facing?
  • How is your performance evaluated?
  • What solutions have you put in place to meet these challenges?

These types of questions open up the discussion and give you a way to position your arguments. On the other hand, when you want to focus on a specific point, you can dig deeper by asking rhetorical questions to which the prospect will be forced to answer affirmatively. For example, you can rephrase a point they made and ask for confirmation.

This alternation of open and closed questions should allow you to get the prospect to where you want them to be: your offer is the solution to the challenges they face.

What is active listening?

What if listening was the first quality of a good telemarketer?

The quality of a prospecting call depends on a well-balanced questioning of the caller. It’s about discovery, not interrogation.

But questioning is useless if you don’t know how to listen properly to the answers. Not just hearing. Listen.

Active listening consists of recording the prospect’s answers and using this material to guide the interview towards its goal. To do this, the telemarketer must take notes during the call, make sure he or she has understood the caller’s message, rephrase if necessary and prepare appropriate responses.

But listening well goes even further. It also means hearing what the other person does not necessarily say. Interpret a silence. Realize when the prospect is digressing from the issue. Refocus the conversation on the issue you are interested in to gather the desired information.

Finally, active listening also allows you to detect signs of interest in the prospect. If they start asking questions about your offer, about specific features of your solution, about your prices, it means that their attention turns to interest. In short, you are not far from the goal.

Respond to telephone objections

On the phone, it is common for the prospect to raise a number of objections. There are two categories:

  • Formal objections: these are objections aimed exclusively at ending the appeal prematurely.
  • Substantive objections: you’ve gained the prospect’s attention, but he’s digging to make sure your offer is of interest to him.

Here are some common form objections and how you can counter them:

  • « I’m busy, I don’t have time »: in this case, simply propose a new time slot. By giving a date and time, you are more likely to be successful in scheduling a new call.
  • « Call me back in X months »: get your prospect talking: why the delay? Will the situation have changed? Is there a need in the medium term? Will a budget have been released by then?
  • « Send me your information by email »: you accept and offer to call the prospect back a week later to answer his questions.
  • « I’m not interested / I don’t need anything / I already have what I need »: start with a problem and offer to explain how your solution meets it.
  • « I’m not the one to take care of it »: take advantage of this opportunity to get the contact information.

The substantive objections arise in response to the arguments you put forward. This confirms that you have earned the prospect’s attention. Otherwise, he would have already tried to close the call.

These objections should not scare you because you have prepared them in advance. And above all, they allow you to complete your sales pitch and give the prospect contextualized information.

Engage the prospect

Telephone prospecting requires subtlety. To engage the prospect, it is best to start with their issues and show them the improvements that could be made.

In this way, you will get them to project themselves into a future where their difficulties fade away. And, to do this, you don’t need to lay out the benefits of your offer up front. By letting them see the value of your proposal for themselves, you engage them as the conversation progresses.

Ideally, in this case, they should be so enthusiastic that they want the next contact. But, of course, if not, it’s up to you to skillfully bring up the subject.

This can be a difficult pivot for salespeople. Because, in the end, that’s where it all comes down. Will you succeed or fail in getting the appointment?

To trigger this pivot, you must know how to analyze the signs of interest of the prospect:

  • Has he confirmed that he is facing the problems you mentioned?
  • Did he give any nods of approval to any of your arguments?
  • Did they ask questions to invite you to add to what you said?
  • Did he raise any objections that allowed you to clarify the proposal?
  • Do your answers to his objections seem to have convinced him?
  • Did you make sure they had no further questions or objections?

If the prospect seems ready, you can move on to the next step and offer them the appointment.

Specify the next step

At the end of the call, there are 3 possibilities:

  1. The prospect is not interested in your offer
  2. You reached your goal and got the appointment
  3. You must follow up with the prospect later

In all cases, it is a good idea to recap the points you have made with him or her and to take notes to document the call.

Even if you are turned down, you need to record the objections and reasons for failure to improve your sales pitch. Perhaps you were confronted with an objection that you had not anticipated.

If you need to follow up with the prospect, agree on a new time slot. Check with him/her if, in the meantime, he/she would like you to send him/her information by email.

If he accepts the appointment, it is advisable to specify together the modalities of the commercial meeting.

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How to track your prospecting calls?

You got your prospect online. You just hung up. What’s next?

It is essential to keep a record of each call. To do this, the telemarketer must establish an interview report.

Ideally, a CRM solution should be used to record maintenance reports. But, in any case, you will need a prospecting file.

The prospecting file allows to report :

  • The practical data of the call: date, identity of the caller
  • The record of the conversation: points raised during the interview, expressions of interest, objections made, acceptance or refusal of the meeting proposal, reason for refusal (in case of failure)
  • An opinion on the follow-up to be given: probability of conclusion (in the form of a score), relevance of a follow-up (and if so, in what timeframe)

This information will be invaluable in preparing follow-up calls or a subsequent prospecting campaign by benefiting from a better knowledge of the prospect.

How to manage telephone prospecting?

Telephone prospecting is time consuming and often requires multiple follow-ups. To achieve the objectives assigned to a campaign, it is imperative to set up a steering process.

The campaign management consists in ensuring that the prospecting actions are carried out in accordance with the forecasted planning and the initial objectives.

Upstream of the campaign, it is therefore necessary to define the KPIs that will make it possible to measure the performance of the campaign:

  • Number of daily calls
  • Number of successful calls (the salesperson was able to talk to the target contact)
  • Ratio of appointments made to calls completed
  • Number of reminders to be made

The campaign manager will have to collect and aggregate all the data to generate an activity dashboard or automatically generate a dashboard in his CRM solution.

Campaign tracking is essential for:

  • Take preventive or corrective actions: for example, if we notice that the campaign is progressing less quickly than expected, we can allocate additional resources to finish on time
  • Readjust the schedule by including in real time the reminders to be made: here too, a CRM solution like Magileads’ automatically synchronizes the reminders with the salespeople’s agendas

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Can we combine telephone and digital prospecting?

Telephone prospecting remains an effective practice. However, 70% of decision makers hate being harassed by sales calls. In addition, the number of calls required to reach a prospect is increasing.

In these circumstances, a first solution would be to focus on better training of salespeople in teleprospecting. If they are better able to avoid obstacles and hold the prospect’s attention, the ROI of the phone campaign is interesting.

The other solution is to give up cold calling and run campaigns on leads from digital prospecting, on the web. By working on inbound leads, sales people make contact with prospects who already know the brand and have expressed interest.

In practice, however, it is important to have a virtuous organization based on close collaboration between marketing and sales. Together, the two departments must agree on what a business opportunity is and when the handover from marketing to sales should occur.

What tools should I use to prospect by phone?

The MagiLeads solution offers several features to optimize your prospecting campaigns.

First of all, our B2B contact database allows you to identify prospects that correspond to your targeting criteria.

You can then enter these leads into automated email campaign scenarios.

Then, at the end of these emailing campaigns on the web, the prospects interested by your offers are automatically integrated into your CRM. The CRM centralizes all the information you need to launch a telephone prospecting campaign.

This way, you launch your telemarketing campaigns on interested contacts. You can even organize your campaigns more efficiently by sorting prospects according to their status, scoring or follow-up date.

Telephone prospecting is sometimes criticized, but it still offers convincing results provided that each step (creation of the file, preparation of the campaign, progress of the call, follow-up, management) is perfectly optimized. By combining digital and telephone methods, you can further improve your performance. In this case, team collaboration and tool synchronization must be encouraged.

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