Cold calling is an art form and it was time an expert came to the show to discuss this in detail. Philippe Lehouck is the CEO & founder of Outbound Partners. Before starting with outbound partners he founded and ran several cold call centers.
Philippe takes us deep into the setup of the cold call, how to measure it, how to set up the team, GDPR, KPI’s and performance…and so much more, difference between inbound and cold calling, setting up call scripts…
Links mentioned in this episode: https://www.outbound.partners/
Listen to the podcast or read the full transcript below.
Never miss a prospect by perfecting your cold calling techniques
Michael Humblet: Welcome to the Sales Acceleration Show. My name is Michael Humblet, and I’m the founder of Chaomatic. In this show we discuss all topics sales and marketing to accelerate your business way faster.
Michael Humblet: One of the questions that keeps popping up in every single day it’s about the art of cold calling. So I thought let’s ask an expert. Philippe, tell our viewers what you do.
Philippe L: Hi. I work on outbound telemarketing projects. Two main axis, one: I coach and train inside sales teams to improve-
Michael Humblet: On cold calling.
Philippe L: On cold calling, of course. We also work on outsourcing projects for telemarketing.
Michael Humblet: You have your own business.
Philippe L: So what companies do not do or do not want to do themselves, we outsource it to our team of inside sales experts.
Michael Humblet: Let’s start with some tough questions I always get. One: GDPR means you can’t do cold calling anymore.
Philippe L: I think on the contrary.
Michael Humblet: Don’t do two hours on GDPR.
Philippe L: No no no no no no. I’m not a lawyer, so always consult a lawyer. But in terms of GDPR, actually, GDPR is, I think, good for cold calling and acquisition by phone, because indeed as of May 25th, you can no longer send cold emails to prospects. That’s out of the question, that’s for sure. For cold calling, actually nothing changed. Emailing has become an opt-in system since GDPR, indeed.
Michael Humblet: Yeah, [crosstalk 00:01:36].
Philippe L: But for cold calling, there has always been the do-not-call-me register in most European countries-
Michael Humblet: Exactly, exactly.
Philippe L: … which are opt-out lists. So you have to-
Michael Humblet: But nothing, nothing changed in essence.
Philippe L: No, you have to opt out of being called for marketing purposes. That did not change. Looking forward as of May 25th of 2018, if companies still want to do acquisition, which I assume everybody wants to continue.
Michael Humblet: That’s the name of the game.
Philippe L: Being the fact that email acquisition can no longer be done without prior opt-in, I think that cold calling is absolutely not that.
Michael Humblet: I wanted to ask you.
Philippe L: On the contrary, if sending cold emails is no longer allowed, I think, and I think the numbers will be coming in by the end of the year, there are some studies that exist. I think you will see a shift towards more outbound and cold calling.
Michael Humblet: I … yeah.
Philippe L: There’s a nuance between cold calling and outbound calling. We have to …
Michael Humblet: I’ll get there [inaudible 00:02:47]. I’ve seen the amount of questions that get to me rise very dramatically actually, so I do feel there is a shift in the market and you too see, but there is a lot of confusion also.
Michael Humblet: One of the things I wanted to do today is talk about what you just said, what’s the difference between cold calling, inbound calling, and then let’s look into the structure of such a call.
Michael Humblet: So, what’s the difference between cold calling and inbound calling, Philippe?
Philippe L: Well, cold calling, for me, is something that you do on typically lower-value volume items like telecom and utilities type of contracts, which is something that we still do today outsource. There you have full-time call agents who are calling 7, 7.5 hours a day, doing 30, 35 calls an hour, which is a very highly controlled environment, with predictive dialing-
Michael Humblet: Full automated.
Philippe L: Yes.
Michael Humblet: It’s impressive when you see these rooms and …
Philippe L: Yes. If you’ve ever been to a real call center, either inbound or outbound, you see rows of people doing a high number of calls.
Michael Humblet: So what’s then outbound calling, if you make a difference?
Philippe L: Outbound calling, for me, is cold calling, which is still an art, I believe, but extended with social selling and other types of selling, which typically we see in more B2B and high-end contexts where the value of the product, the sales cycle is much longer if you do just cold calling, they’re reaching out via phone. That’s not going to be sufficient. You have to work around it.
Michael Humblet: And is then also part of sales [inaudible 00:04:31].
Philippe L: Yes. Indeed.
Michael Humblet: That really fits within sales [inaudible 00:04:34]. Let’s have a chat about the call itself. How does it work? I’m a company, I know I need to … I’ve been doing it, but I need to fix it, so how do I look at this? That’s what you do, you consult [crosstalk 00:04:45]-
Philippe L: Yes, indeed.
Philippe L: Well, a good thing to start is of course start listening what you’re actually doing today, what people are using as an argument to get the rendezvous, to get the sales. You have to be aware that, okay, why should anyone make time to listen to you for the next five minutes of that call, but also make time, 45 minutes, an hour, for a physical meeting or an online demo. That’s something you have to think of first. Why? What do I have to offer? Just the fact that … being the fact that you called, there’s not much added value in that. For you yes, but for the other side, no. So you have to think, “What am I … What pain am I resolving? How am I unique?” That is part of the argument that you will have to develop in a sales script.
Michael Humblet: You have to have a sales script, number one.
Philippe L: Yes, absolutely. I do not believe … Of course, the converse would be a conversation that has to be natural, but before being able to be natural in a conversation, you have to be prepared, and how you prepare? By making a sales script. The questions that you want to ask, the added value that you bring to the table, that you have to write down. The only way of doing it is write it down as a support for your sales team to be able that they all use the same argumentation. Because very often, you do a training and you set the standards, and then a few weeks or a few months later, you see variations-
Michael Humblet: Everybody …
Philippe L: … on the theme or what has been discussed, and then measuring, and measuring becomes very difficult. You can still measure, but it’s not representative, because everybody’s doing their own little thing again. Why specifically is something working or not work … Does somebody get a higher score than somebody else? You have to put the standard and stick to it.
Michael Humblet: You always told me there are three parts in a call. The beginning … I think, for me, the hardest part is you dial a number and then you get somebody on the line. Do you have some advice on that how to get the first three sentences?
Philippe L: Indeed, indeed.
Michael Humblet: That’s so difficult.
Philippe L: That’s a bit of a trick, and you’ve seen it work and-
Michael Humblet: That’s why you’re here.
Philippe L: Yes yes, I know.
Philippe L: Actually, there is that part, but there is also a little part prior to it, that’s planning the call. Freeing up time in your agenda, blocks of one hour, one hour and a half, to really do nothing else but cold calling. You put away all the distraction, because very often, the phone seems to be a very heavy thing to pick up.
Michael Humblet: Yeah. Its gravity is really really heavy.
Philippe L: There is always a hundred excuses why I didn’t get to do X cold calls a day.
Michael Humblet: It’s actually one of the biggest thing every sales VP or founder tell me, “Michael, my sales guy should call more.” And when I talk to them, it’s like, “Yeah, I don’t have time.” It’s every single time.
Philippe L: Yes, [crosstalk 00:07:54] mail, or this, or that. Yeah, true.
Michael Humblet: [crosstalk 00:07:55]-
Philippe L: That’s the planning part. Once that is done and in the agenda-
Michael Humblet: So you suggest have two, three days a week fixed moments where you block everything out and do the calls.
Philippe L: Yes, indeed. For inside sales, where you get to the software and the bit higher-end in terms of value, definitely plan calling blocks of three hours, some mornings, some afternoons, to really do nothing else but cold calling. Prepare a list and make sure you handle those calls in that amount of time, and do not be distracted by anything else. That’s the first. Plan it.
Michael Humblet: That’s first. Plan it. Then I pick up the phone.
Philippe L: Then you pick up the phone.
Michael Humblet: “Yo dude.”
Philippe L: You dial the number, or the number gets dialed for you via clicking or whatever, and then it’s all in the opening. Because at that point, you have to intrigue the person you’re speaking to to make time for you. In those first 10 seconds, you have to earn the right to talk to him, five, maybe 10 minutes if all goes well.
Michael Humblet: It’s trust, yeah.
Philippe L: There a strict script is specifically helpful, because there are some tricks of the trade that you can use to intrigue a person, to make him say yes in the conversation.
Michael Humblet: Early on, and they have to …
Philippe L: Early on in the conversation, indeed. All in purpose of being able to continue the rest of your conversation.
Philippe L: Yeah, that’s the first phase. In terms of scripting, you know I’m quite strict in that.
Michael Humblet: Yeah.
Philippe L: That has to be written down, even for me. I do cold calls regularly, my partner in the call center is also doing cold calls very regularly, and we have a script and we use it especially in the beginning. Once you work with more senior people, when you get to the middle of the conversation, then you can be a bit more loose.
Michael Humblet: Yeah yeah, of course.
Philippe L: You still have to have a number of questions, qualification that you have to do, but in the start of the script, those first 20, 30 seconds-
Michael Humblet: Be with the script.
Philippe L: … they have to be well thought of and scripted.
Michael Humblet: Then you go to the middle part, that’s more the value prop. Problem you’re going to address, solve, or are you asking questions? One of the things I always get is, “Michael, sales you need to ask questions.” Yeah sure, you need to ask questions. There is a limit to it, and you need to show a bit that your words, asking questions, by the way. What do you suggest there?
Philippe L: Well, what I always try to do there is indeed ask one or two questions at the start, but always in the meaning of intriguing the person to be able to continue further the conversation. Generally that is-
Michael Humblet: Aimed to the person that you …
Philippe L: … addressing a pain that you assume is typically happening at the customer or in the industry as a general.
Michael Humblet: A classic one is that you start talking about yourself, “Hi, this is what I do. Dah dah.” It’s a no-go zone.
Philippe L: No, no.
Michael Humblet: I fully agree.
Philippe L: Keep in mind, you are calling somebody else that you are disturbing. Per definition, you are disturbing them.
Michael Humblet: Humble.
Philippe L: Yes, be humble.
Michael Humblet: We should call it the Humble Show. No.
Philippe L: There’s the pain part, what pain is there or is there possibly? Then you can start talking about how you are resolving that pain. And then if you really want to do it well, then you start talking about how you are resolving it uniquely. Because you probably have competitors-
Michael Humblet: Frame the question for [crosstalk 00:11:53]-
Philippe L: … who offer a similar service or there is already a similar service happening at the customer. Tell them how you are unique in solving that problem.
Michael Humblet: When you do that, the final part, is it then drive to action? What’s the goal there?
Philippe L: Well, the goal is indeed to have the sale. The sale can-
Michael Humblet: Or the meeting or …
Philippe L: A sale can be many things. A sale can be a next conversation by phone, or an online demo, or a physical meeting.
Michael Humblet: Yeah, okay. Perfect. Okay.
Philippe L: An action. You want an action or a commitment.
Michael Humblet: If I then … We have the script, we’re starting to call. How do I … I spend the time to three times a week, I organize it. What do I measure? What’s the key KPIs I should look into? This is a tough one always.
Philippe L: Yes, indeed. The first one, there is a bit of debate on that one is the cost. The number of call attempts that you’re actually doing. That’s a very basic one. Very easy to measure also. Most CRM do have-
Michael Humblet: Call attempts.
Philippe L: Call attempts. Because-
Michael Humblet: Yeah. Okay, okay.
Philippe L: … you’re going to do, in general, five to ten attempts to reach your decision-maker that you’re trying to reach, very rarely you reach them on a very first call. There are the call attempts, and then there is the number of meaningful conversations that you had with a decision-maker.
Michael Humblet: Good or bad, doesn’t matter.
Philippe L: Indeed. The times you had, your-
Michael Humblet: That’s something I learned from you. Good and bad.
Philippe L: … decision-maker on the phone. That’s what we call a ‘qualified call.’ You have to see it there as a line in your database, like you say. Tick. Okay, I called that one. I spoke to him. It was a positive or a negative conversation, but I got a reach of him.
Michael Humblet: Then the next one is the-
Philippe L: Those are two. You have the call attempts and the number of connected calls, qualified calls, that you do with your decision-maker.
Michael Humblet: This is very general, but how much calls, if you just look into number of calls … I get that question a lot, so … “Michael, what does it mean, how many calls can you do?” Do you have an average where you say, “Michael, think of you need about that amount of calls to reach somebody.” There must be some averages.
Philippe L: Yes. Well, depends on the target group, of course.
Michael Humblet: I agree, I agree.
Philippe L: SME or large corporations, the larger you go, the more assistants there are, the more hurdles there are to take. Reception, assistant, et cetera. But in terms of call attempts, I would never go less than six.
Michael Humblet: Six call attempts to reach somebody.
Philippe L: If you haven’t done six call attempts to reach the decision-maker that you want to reach, that’s too few. At least 6 and up to 10. If you haven’t reached them in 10 calls, try something else. Call back in a few months.
Michael Humblet: How many calls is reasonable to do in a day or in half a day? What do you expect if you … You go to a company, you look at the inside sales, for instance, of a sales guy, and you say, “I need you to do X amount.” How much? What’s realistic?
Philippe L: Okay, inside sales?
Michael Humblet: Yeah.
Philippe L: Yeah.
Philippe L: Inside sales, for me they have to do typically between 10 and 15 call attempts per hour.
Michael Humblet: Per hour.
Philippe L: Per hour. I prefer to talk per hour, because often the job description varies a bit, and then in terms of number of hours for inside sales, I would say four hours in a day outbound calling is the minimum.
Michael Humblet: Sales guys? Okay, so inside sales, is there a difference or not?
Philippe L: Well, field sales actually, I’m a strong believer of splitting the role of inside sales with field sales.
Michael Humblet: You see, it’s not only me saying this kind of stuff, right.
Philippe L: The field sales people who are really good at their job, really good at convincing people in a face-to-face conversation, they are rarely very good at cold calling. If you split that up, you get a focus on both jobs, a focus on responsibility. The inside sales has to produce qualitative appointments for the field sales, field sales has to close those qualitative appointments.
Michael Humblet: Very good. You know each time, because you just gave us a blueprint for cold calling, and we’ve learned that cold calling is not that. That’s for me a very important statement. I always ask my guests some questions at the end. Some rapid-fire questions. Let’s jump in there.
Michael Humblet: Where do you get your inspiration? What’s your favorite blog or book, or is there something you read that you say, “Got to read that one?”
Philippe L: Yes, actually I read a lot. I read a lot of business-
Michael Humblet: I thought you would be calling the whole day actually.
Philippe L: I see a lot of calls happening. I learn from those too, of course.
Michael Humblet: Where do you go?
Philippe L: I read a lot of books on sales, sales methods. How to organize inside sales, how to approach sales. There’s plenty of good stuff out there. If you want to keep informed, you follow the right people on Twitter, and they push that content to you.
Michael Humblet: [crosstalk 00:17:05].
Michael Humblet: Clear. So how do you focus? So much stuff going on. How do you bring focus to your day?
Philippe L: That’s a difficult one. Saying ‘no’ as a sales guy can be hard.
Michael Humblet: That was the third question. How do you say no? It’s very close.
Philippe L: It can … You want to please the customer, of course. But block time. That’s …
Michael Humblet: Block time in the agenda.
Philippe L: Block time and do not deviate from those blocks.
Michael Humblet: What’s the biggest failure or mistake you’ve made that you wouldn’t make again? Or you said, “That’s something I should have done really, really different?”
Philippe L: Okay. I think that would be jumping to conclusions too soon.
Michael Humblet: Not asking the question, just …
Philippe L: Yeah, or at some point in time going too soon on a hunch or an impression rather than-
Michael Humblet: Yeah. Gut feel.
Philippe L: Yeah.
Michael Humblet: Last the question.
Michael Humblet: What would be … You already gave a lot of advice, what would be your best sales advice? Somebody starts or somebody comes to you, what would be the advice you would give them?
Philippe L: In terms of outbound calling?
Michael Humblet: Yeah.
Philippe L: Do it yourself. Start by doing it yourself.
Michael Humblet: That’s a good one.
Philippe L: Start by calling your prospects. Start by developing your argumentation, and do it yourself before you …
Michael Humblet: That’s a really good one. That’s why I want founders to touch on sales really well before they can push it out.
Philippe L: Make some time every week to effectively do some calls yourself and speak and hear what is happening.
Michael Humblet: That’s a good one.
Philippe L: If you have the right tools, there are voicelog conversations, which is pretty standard in most tools. Listen to those. Benchmark good conversations coming from your team in a benchmarking-
Michael Humblet: In a learning environment, yeah.
Philippe L: … meeting with your people.
Michael Humblet: Good idea.
Michael Humblet: Where can we learn more about you and your company, or say let’s say your company?
Philippe L: www.outbound.partners
Michael Humblet: Very good. Philippe, thanks a lot for coming on the show.
Philippe L: Thanks for having me.
Michael Humblet: I think we had really a good blueprint to do cold calling.
Michael Humblet: If you like what you’ve heard, give it a thumbs up and subscribe for a lot more [inaudible 00:19:30] coming your way. Bye.