3 Impressive Outbound Calling #Fails to Learn From


Guest post from Craig Rosenberg, leader of the Focus Expert Network at Focus.com

This post is about calling people for the first time (both cold calls and lead follow-up).

I think as you get older, you get more calls and you get more intolerant of people wasting your time. I have always been sympathetic to the prospector; I know all too well how many times I have tried to get through the door (or someone who works for me has tried).

Here is my problem: There is so much information out there to help you, you should not suck at it. Here is how you should think about it: What is an irrelevant, canned message in the world of email? Spam. Do you want to spam the VP of a fast-growing Internet company? I didn’t think so.

Training, messaging, and professionalism are more important than ever.

What follows are some memorable #fails I have experienced recently.

#Fail 1: Groundhog Day
A woman – who, incredibly, has held the same job for two or three years – has called me once every three months. For clarification, I told her the first time she called that I was not the person she needed. Out of sympathy for the cold-caller, I even gave her the name of the right person. That person still works for Focus.com and is still the contact. Nevertheless, every three months she leaves me a series of voice mails, acting as though we have never talked. It’s the same pitch every time.

After a year or so, I started to answer. She says the same thing to me, and I tell her the same thing. It’s amazing. I now answer when she calls, just so I can see if she is going to pitch me again.

The bottom line: This is embarrassing, and the company she represents is killing their brand if she is doing the same thing to everyone else. Not only that, my guess is she is calling VPs, which means the company is damaging its reputation with decision makers.

Lessons learned:

  • Use your CRM: To have to include the tip to use CRM to track interactions in this day and age is ridiculous. Truly. Just update the application so you don’t call me again and instead please follow up with the person I have told you is the contact. Oh, and please put a note outlining the conversation. If aforementioned caller is making the note but still calling me, it’s even worse than I imagine.
  • Look at our previous interactions: Look at our previous interactions and at least mention them. The amazing part of this is ignoring the fact that we just talked. Who does that? You are basically making the call a cold-call again. If you are going to perpetuate this Groundhog Day, then at least mention our past interactions. Tell me you couldn’t reach the other contact and you need my help.
  • Do your research: If you can’t even look in the CRM, you probably aren’t doing any research before your call. If you are going to call VPs, you have to spend five minutes catching up before the call, not only in the CRM but on the Internet as well.
  • Train, train, and train again: This is on the company, not on the caller. They aren’t training and managing their resources here. If someone put up a billboard on the highway and misspelled something, people would be fired. Why wouldn’t the same standards hold for someone on the phone? ABT – always be training. Sit with them and see how they manage their day. If someone there had done this, they would have identified an issue and done something about it.

#Fail 2: Insult the prospect
I once did an interview with a CEO from a unnamed company. The next day, someone from the same company called me to find out “what my (fill in the blank) needs were.” I said, “Dude, you have to be kidding me. Go to your blog. That’s ME being interviewed on your blog.” His reply: “Awesome, so what are you needs?” #fail.

Lessons learned:

  • Again, research before you make the call: In another strikingly ridiculous example, I just spoke at a conference and now cold-callers from exhibiting companies are calling me right now as if I visited their booth. #fail. This isn’t about the CRM, this about using the Internet to know something about the person you are calling. Social media and blogging is the “look at me” application providing marketers and sellers ample information to know something about the person before you call. How about this? A cold-caller from the recent conference could start with, “I heard from numerous attendees how great your panel was. We are reaching out to thought leaders like you to talk about what we are trying to do with product X.” Ego assuaged.
  • In the previous example (where I just did an interview), this is a total #fail. What a great opportunity lost. I was just on their blog, so I would never hang up on the caller. As a matter of fact, if played right, he would have had a conversation. Also, based on the interview on their site, he would realize I am not a good prospect. Today’s buyer has zero time and more and more opportunities to spend their time elsewhere; you have to go into a call with every advantage.
  • Mistakes breed opportunity: Sure I was rude to tell him to look at his own site, but don’t ask the same question again. Yes, I was agitating, but I am engaged now. The best sales trainers don’t view objection-handling as a way to keep the conversation going; instead they view it as a way to have a meaningful next step with the prospect. Instead of repeating yourself, admit you didn’t look at the site, tell me I’m a thought leader, and tell me you would relish the opportunity for five minutes with a luminary in the business.

#Fail 3: The incredibly bad follow-up to a “how to follow-up” offer

The irony of this story was too good to not mention. Someone had tweeted about a white paper by a company who had studied lead follow-up. For me, that type of information is worth filling out a form. On the form, there was an open notes field where I typed in: “I no longer run inside sales team or have any responsibility in this area. I am a blogger who is interested in the info.” The voice mail I quickly received was a canned follow-up to talk about their company and their products. The timing of their follow-up was good, their message and approach was bad.

Lessons learned:

  • The content should guide the next message: First of all, the content was not vendor-specific, so if you are going to call, you should seriously consider a different voice mail. Right? If I had downloaded a vendor sheet, then OK. But I downloaded a research study. Calling to want to talk about your company is actually NOT what I signed up for. I love third-party content, it is what buyers want. But if you want to leverage that to talk to me about your product, then you need to transition with something un-canned. In this case, potentially talking more about the content or nurturing me until you get a better indicator that I am a buyer.
  • Score: Why have a notes field if you aren’t going to pay attention to it? Scoring is hot, but I am not talking about a complex scoring model. Instead, how about simple form, blocking and tackling that can save your inside sales rep’s time and your company’s reputation? I pretty much laid out that I would be a waste of time to sell. If you don’t believe me, fine. But you made a mistake by sending an email saying that, because I downloaded a particular document, I must want to spend 30 minutes talking about buying your product. Address the notes.

Thanks for letting me share these #fails with you. What #fails have you experienced?