“I’ll Call Back” isn’t enough: 8 tips that make the most of missed connections
It’s no secret: persistence leads to cold calling success.
Like most sophisticated lead gen and appointment setting firms, VSA makes multiple calls to each prospect on our clients’ lead lists: sometimes as many as 10 or 15. Rather than being a waste of time, this number of attempts allows us to gain “traction” on each record. Each call we make brings us closer to reaching the decision maker and moving towards a “yes” for the appointment.
Gaining this traction, though, isn’t always easy. It’s not enough just to call back! Converting a missed connection into a productive dial involves shrewdness, preparation, and the ability to think on one’s feet.
VSA’s BDRs use a wide variety of tactics to get the most out of each unsuccessful attempt. For instance, when we realize we’ll be unable to get past a gatekeeper, here are some of the questions we often ask:
- Is there a best time to call back? What time of day are they usually available? Sometimes, this innocuous little question makes all the difference. Of course, some gatekeepers won’t know (or won’t want to tell you) the answer. But when they do tell you—and you call back at the right time—you’ll be much more likely to reach your target. It seems obvious, but many people forget to even ask!
- Am I correct in thinking that they are the best person to talk to? Is there someone else who would also be interested in this? If you’re pitching a complex product, it can be effective to give a brief description of your offering to the gatekeeper and ask if they can think of anyone else at the company who would be interested. At best, you’ll end up on speaking with someone who could represent a real opportunity. And even if you don’t, you’ll likely end up with the names of more contacts—increasing your chances of getting through next time.
- Can I send them an email? It might seem like a long shot, but really there’s no reason not to ask to send an email. At the very least, it gives you something to refer back to on your next call (“I’m calling to follow up on the email I sent you…”). And many times, the prospect will reply to your message, expressing interest. It really does happen!
- Do you mind if I ask what your name is? Get to know the gatekeeper! Even if it’s just their first name, knowing a tiny detail about who they are can warm the lead up next time. Gatekeepers instinctively bristle at cold callers who sound robotic. Humanizing the connection (even just a little) can help them bring down their guard.
Of course, many calls don’t even go through to a live person. What do you do then?
While it’s a lot tougher to gain traction on a cold record, there are a few techniques that can make it just a little bit warmer. Here are some that we recommend to our BDRs:
- Note what time you called. Even if you still don’t know when the best time to call is, if no one’s answering the phone, chances are good that this isn’t it. The least you can do is log what time you called—and when you try again, pick a different day.
- If you navigated through a switchboard, note what numbers you pressed, and in what order. The need to capture this information isn’t always intuitive, but it can save a ton of time for the next caller. If the next person knows exactly what combination of buttons to press to get to the right department, they can save time by punching those digits in quickly, instead of waiting for the automatic prompt. In turn, that improves how efficiently your team can move through the list as a whole.
- Check on the web for an alternate number. Some people think this is a waste of time—but whenever BDRs are unsure whether the number they dialed actually went through to the targeted prospect, we urge them to double check. After all, it only takes a few seconds to look for an updated phone number on Google or the company’s website, and the task pays off tremendously when we reach a decision maker as a result.
- Stop focusing on non-productive leads. It’s important to concentrate on leads that have the highest likelihood of converting to appointments (and thus sales). That’s why VSA eventually does limit the number of times we call non-producing records, putting more emphasis on more promising leads. Though we have occasionally set an appointment on the 30th call, it’s usually wiser not to waste our clients’ investments on leads who remain cold after we’ve repeatedly tried all the tactics outlined above.
While it’s true that a good cold caller never gives up, it’s equally true that diligence alone doesn’t lead to the best results. If you really want to make the most of multiple rounds of calling, you’ll need pay just as much attention to the calls that don’t get through to a decision maker as those that do.
Above is just a small sample of the dozens of subtle tactics that savvy cold callers can use to make records “smarter”—and they’re just some of the strategies we employ at VSA. Whatever approach you choose, just remember: simply calling back isn’t enough!