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Understanding Outbound Calls: Types, Tips, and How Software Can Help

This article was published on February 18, 2024

Outbound calling can be a very effective way of developing leads, winning new business, collecting customer feedback, and more. But there’s no doubt — making it work can be challenging at times.


Find out about the different types of outbound calls, the best ways to approach the process, and how modern communications software can make it work for your business.

Illustration of a call center agent with a headset and sitting in front of a desktop computer.  Speech bubble icons represent a conversation.

What Are Outbound Calls?

So, what is an outbound call? Put simply, it’s any call placed by an employee on behalf of a business — often from that business’s call or contact center.

Outbound call centers exist for a variety of purposes. They’re most commonly associated with sales teams, but they can also be useful for things like conducting market research or improving customer service.

While many businesses run their own outbound calling teams, it’s also possible to hire third-party representatives to place outbound calls, meaning smaller organizations don’t need to lose out on the increased revenue and improved brand recognition that this kind of approach potentially provides.

Inbound vs. Outbound Calls

It’s crucial to grasp the difference between inbound and outbound calls, because the skills required for dealing with each are slightly different.

Inbound calls, as the name suggests, are calls made to a company. For example, if a customer calls needing service support, that’s an inbound call. In general, employees picking up inbound calls will have a slightly different focus.

After all, there’s no need to persuade an inbound caller to stay on the line, since they voluntarily contacted the company in the first place. On the other hand, engaging a prospect in conversation is a key skill for anyone working on outbound calls.

Different Types of Outbound Calls

As we’ve already mentioned, outbound calling is used to accomplish a variety of tasks. Here are a few of the most common:

Sales Calls

Outbound sales calls have been a staple of the business world since telephones were first installed in offices. Of course, with modern digital outbound call center software, the setup looks a little different these days — but much remains familiar.

Outbound sales calling generally falls into one of two categories: calls to existing customers and calls to prospects. When it comes to the former, you can benefit from the insight you already have into their behavior to select cross-selling and upselling opportunities.

But what about new prospects? According to surveys of U.S. sales professionals by HubSpot, 61% of B2B companies and 52% of B2C companies still favor cold outreach as a sales strategy.

Of these, 73% (B2B) and 64% (B2C) use phone calls to do so. The survey revealed that the success rate hovers around 2%. This might not sound like much, but it can represent a solid boost to revenue over time.

Marketing Calls

Making outbound calls for marketing purposes is closely aligned with the sales process, so there may be some overlap.

That said, there is a distinction between the two. Marketing calls are specifically about developing and qualifying leads. This may involve cold calling, but team members placing marketing calls might also be contacting warm leads to gain a better understanding of the potential customer.

Any cohesive outbound call strategy should include both, since skillful marketing professionals can contribute hugely to their sales colleagues’ eventual conversion success.

Market Research

Given how critical market research is to improving service delivery, it’s not surprising that outbound calling is often used to generate actionable insights. Placing outbound phone calls to reach out for feedback from existing customers can be a great way to quickly get valuable tips..

Segmenting your potential audience is key. Bear in mind that some groups will be less willing to engage in research calls than others. You should always have alternative methods of reaching them to ensure you’re getting comprehensive information.

Proactive Customer Service

There may be occasions when you need to contact your customers to keep them in the loop.

This could include updating them on product changes or even forewarning them about a service outage. This kind of proactive approach will boost your brand reputation, as long as you use it sparingly. There’s no need to call your customers to alert them to every bit of company news.

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Outbound Calls Tips and Best Practices to Help Your Team Get Them Right

If you want to improve the effectiveness of outbound sales teams, there are a few basic tips that are vital to follow. Here are some best practices:

Set Clear Goals

It’s crucial to define your objectives in advance so you can monitor progress. Be specific. Track important metrics, such as:

  • The average number of outbound calls per hour

  • Average handling times

  • First-call close percentage

  • Call conversion rates

The exact metrics you use will depend on the purpose of your calls. For instance, while tracking the first-call close percentage helps determine the performance of your sales team, it’s not so relevant for market research.

Set challenging but realistic targets and share them with the whole team. This will encourage them to strive to succeed and keep them focused on the task at hand.

Know Your Audience

There’s no point trying to pitch a new car to someone who doesn’t have a driver’s license. The last thing you want is for the staff making your outbound calls to be chasing leads that are doomed to failure — it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

So, before calling, they should know:

  • Who the customer is

  • Where they are

  • Their position within the company (if relevant)

  • Their behavior patterns

Understanding your customers goes beyond the basics, though. It means grasping the challenges they face and what their pain points are. You need to persuade them that you have the solution to their problems, but you won’t be able to do that if you don’t know what issues they have.

Use the Script Wisely

When representatives place an outbound call, they’re often given a script to follow. This can be something of a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, it guarantees a certain consistency in their approach. On the other,  a slavish devotion to the script can be counterproductive. That’s because, for the conversation to be genuinely engaging (and therefore more likely to succeed in its aims), it has to flow naturally.

Train your staff to understand when to stick to the script and when to depart from it. This means developing skills like active listening so that the customer feels heard.

It’s also a good plan to revise the script regularly, incorporating feedback from those making the calls. After all, they’re the ones who talk to customers, so they’re bound to have some excellent ideas to contribute.

Review and Follow-Up

Regular reviews should be a standard part of outbound call management. First, look at the data and check to see whether your team is hitting their KPIs. You might find they’ve exceeded some but are falling a little short on others.

That’s OK. The main thing is to get a fully rounded idea of where you stand. From there, you can begin to address any aspect of your service that needs improvement. But be careful not to focus too heavily on any one individual metric.

It could be the case, for instance, that simply measuring how many outbound calls per day take place turns out to be too rough a guide and doesn’t genuinely reflect the eventual conversion rate. After all, if a representative is successfully engaging potential customers, they may be spending more time talking to each one, therefore making fewer calls overall.

Take Advantage of Tech

Using the right outbound call center solutions can make all the difference. One major plus is if they have integrations with other business tools, which makes it much more straightforward to achieve measurable results.

They’ll also help you track the metrics you want to target. This means you don’t have to set up separate analytics, saving time and making it easier to run truly collaborative outbound call-handling projects.

In addition, because these platforms are cloud-based, they’re flexible. You can scale up or down depending on call volume, which is particularly handy for companies whose needs vary seasonally or are experiencing a rapid growth phase.

What To Look for From Software for Outbound Calling

It’s worth looking into the kinds of options that come with outbound call tech in a little more detail. You may find these elements spark ideas for approaches you might not have considered before for your day-to-day operations.

Dialer Capabilities

Ideally, you want software that gives you a choice of dialing options, since this helps you reach out to more prospects more quickly. Using an auto dialer, for example, can improve the efficiency of the outbound calling process.

This lets you set up automated outbound calls, dialing the next number on a contact list automatically to save time. If the call connects, someone picks it up. 

Similarly, click-to-dial functionality allows your team members to move on to their next calls with a single click.

Voicemail Drop

Another useful feature you might come across is voicemail drop. This time-saver allows reps to leave a preset voicemail message for a call recipient with a single click.

This means there’s no need for them to waste time repeating the same message over and again whenever the number they’re calling goes to voicemail. 

Over the course of a single shift, those seconds add up, so this is a terrific way of streamlining the outbound call process.

CRM Integrations

You’ll collect a lot of customer data in the course of running your business. Your CRM acts as a centralized repository for this and, to make full use of it, it’s vital to integrate it with your other systems.

When it comes to outbound calls, it’s crucial that you can leverage this data to give you the best chance of achieving your objectives.

For example, suppose an employee is contacting existing customers to try to cross-sell them a recently launched product. If they have real-time access to customer data in-call — provided by integration with your CRM — they’ll be in a much better position to make the sale.

Coaching Features

You can achieve a lot with training sessions, but it’s impossible to prepare your staff for every eventuality in advance. There’s no substitute for learning on the job, which is why it’s a good idea to choose software that enables real-time coaching.

Today’s outbound calling solutions sometimes incorporate features such as whisper coaching, where a supervisor can join the call but only be heard by their colleague, so the customer is none the wiser. It’s also possible to have three-way calls, where the supervisor openly sits in and can speak to the customer as well.

Alternatively, you can take advantage of a secret monitoring mode, which allows the supervisor to listen in without either the rep or customer being aware of their presence. This can be useful for checking in on progress and developing performance feedback.

Analytics and Reporting

Modern businesses run on data and analytics, so having the ability to analyze information built into the calling platform is essential. Your staff should be able to access both historical and real-time data to help them during calls.

It’s also crucial that the system has some notification functionality to help with accurate reporting. If a metric has been missed, you ideally want to know about it immediately so you can take steps to rectify the problem.

Cracking the Code on How Outbound Calls Improve Sales, Marketing, and More

Whether your team is making sales, marketing, or research calls, there are a few basics that have to be in place to empower them to meet their objectives.

With Vonage Business Communications, you get essential calling features and integrations with a wide range of popular business tools so you can fine-tune your approach whenever you need to.

Reach out to a Vonage expert today to learn more about how VBC can help take your outbound calling to the next level.

Still Have Questions About Outbound Calling?

One of the biggest challenges is learning how to handle outbound calls in a balanced way that achieves results but doesn’t inconvenience potential customers. There’s a lot of skill involved in getting it right, which is why regular training and feedback are key.

Another issue is compliance. Laws on cold calling vary from region to region, so it’s crucial to bear this in mind when compiling contact lists. This is the responsibility of the company, but it’s best if individual employees are well-versed in the legalities, too.

Modern communications software can vastly increase the efficiency of outbound call centers using a variety of features. These include dialer functions, like click-to-dial and auto-dial, which reduce the time it takes for an employee to move on to the next call.

Nothing could be simpler! Just reach out to our Vonage experts today, and they’ll be more than happy to guide you through the process and answer any questions you have.

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