We get a call from an unrecognized number, and our response is often a "hello" that's not spoken as a greeting but rather posed as a question, as in "Hello — who's this?" or "Hello — what do you want?" We don't know what the caller wants or what we'll say next; there's no way to prepare for that.
We can't always prepare for an inbound call, but we can always prepare for an outbound call. Since we control when we initiate our outbound calls, there's no excuse for not being well-prepared.
What's the best way to prepare for an outbound call?
- Think ahead. Consider who you hope to reach, what you hope to accomplish if you reach them, and what you want to leave as a message if they're unavailable. List your objectives for both scenarios and have them ready when you place the call.
- Study up. If it's an outbound sales call, learn as much as you can about your prospect. Use your resources to understand the needs that this prospect might share with others in her/his demographic. Then study up on your own products and services and be ready with a few different options that might benefit this customer. For outbound support calls make sure to read the account notes in the customer database. Check to see if there are any outstanding issues, even issues unrelated to the one you're calling about, and check on their status so that you'll be able to report on them (they're going to ask about these anyway, so you might as well be proactive and have this information handy).
- Plan your questions. Whatever type of call you'll be making (sales, support, survey, etc.), you'll be more effective and efficient if your questions are organized and printed out before you make the call. Well-worded and carefully ordered questions can increase your credibility with a client/prospect, yet you should also be ready to deviate from a list of prepared questions as necessary.
A great webcast on "10 Tips for Effective Questioning" can help you learn to present your questions like a real professional.
- Get centered, get some water and get going. Once you feel like you're ready, take a few deep breaths, focus your thoughts, take a sip of water and make your successful outbound call.