10 Lessons I Learned Making My First 500 Sales Calls

No, this is not me. Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

Two weeks ago I started making outbound sales calls. I had never made an outbound sales call before, and to be honest I wasn’t just not looking forward to it — I was dreading it.

But two weeks and 500 calls later I’m pleased to tell you this has changed!

I learned a lot from the experience — and to my great surprise I even learned to enjoy it. I was shocked when I sat in the chair at the hairdresser last week and started thinking “I can’t wait to get back to the office and make some calls!”.

Here are 10 lessons I learned and 3 tools that helped me.

Before I made my first call I worked hard to create a compelling script. I didn’t always keep to the script (I was speaking with humans, not robots) but this helped me to approach the calls with more confidence.

I found it really motivating to set a target for the number of calls or time spent making calls in each session — and then go for it. This also kept me focussed and helped me avoid the ever-present opportunities to procrastinate.

I discovered that people were much more likely to answer the phone in the morning and this was also the time that I was most energised to call. Afternoons are the time to send follow up emails, do some reporting or prepare the call list for the next session.

After calling someone on the other side of the country who graciously answered at 7.30am, I learned the importance of checking where I was calling before I picked up the phone!

In my third session I left 4 voicemail messages and finally got through to speak to a person on my list — when he told me that I had called him yesterday. This was a valuable lesson in checking twice before calling to avoid annoying others and embarrassing me!

Making calls isn’t easy. I value and respond to non-verbal cues and there are none of these in a phone call. People are naturally suspicious when they answer a call from an unknown number, and some people will always be rude.

But I learned a lot from Jeb Blount through two books that I read over the last two weeks — Fanatatical Prospecting and Sales EQ.

Jeb said:

“You are in control of your actions, your reactions and your mindset.”

and:

“The mindsets that hold you back are procrastination, perfectionism and paralysis by analysis.”

And this was spot on. Making calls requires intentionally adopting the right attitude. I learned when I started a call session to get myself in the right frame of mind and to stay positive and optimistic until the end of the session. It is impossible to sell anyone anything (especially over the phone) if you sound tired, bored, disinterested or unenthusiastic.

Statistics via Airtable — see below.

I was able to speak with about 40% of the people I tried to call (this is still 12% higher than the open rates for the best-performing email campaigns), but I also left 123 voicemail messages. Given how frequently I would reach the message service, it was good to have a message on hand.

I also developed an email template that I sent via Polymail (see below) to anyone I was unable to reach by phone.

Not everyone is pleasant and a few times I found myself getting ticked off and worked up. But I resolved to never bite — this achieves precisely nothing.

I discovered that momentum is important. As soon as I finished up a call I quickly updated my notes and then dialled the next number, and kept on going until the session was over. Batching is an important principle for productivity, and it was just as beneficial in making calls.

Phone calls aren’t easy, but they can be very rewarding. I connected with people who were really thankful I had called them. I spoke with passionate people who wanted to join me in getting the word out. I heard stories of how people appreciated what we do. To put fuel in the tank I made a note of each encouragement and also shared these highlights on Slack.

3 tools that helped me

Hands-free and cord-free calling with Apple’s AirPods was fantastic — I was able to take notes as I spoke and even move around the room without any disruption to the calls.

I started out with a Google Spreadsheet to prepare my call lists and keep track of the calls but halfway through made the switch to Airtable. This was such a useful tool for quickly and easily recording the outcome of each call and any next steps.

In the next article I’ll share how I did this and provide a sample Airtable that you can use — subscribe below to be notified.

I also created UTMs — thanks Buffer (also stored in Airtable) for each of the links used in the follow up emails. I can now see in Google Analytics how much traffic is being generated as a result of these calls and subsequent emails.

I had earlier compared 24 outbound email tools, but narrowed this down to a few to trial in this batch of calls. In the end I landed on Polymail and created template emails that made it easy to send follow up emails in less than 10 seconds.

[Your wisdom here]

What you have learned (the hard way or the easy way — is there an easy way?). I’d love to hear about your experiences and the tools that help you.

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