How do you feel when you need to:
– Start the renewal process for a customer who hasn’t been using your product
– Explain that an important product feature has been delayed
– Make an outbound sales call… but you’re not a salesy ‘type’
Anxious? Uneasy? Stressed? Nervous?
That’s why these calls live at the bottom of your to-do list.
As a Customer Success Manager, your priority is to protect your customer. Here’s the counterintuitive part; sometimes your instinct can work against you. It may present itself as procrastination.
Even though you know you should dive right in, you tiptoe around the issue. Maybe you wait until a better time to chat. Perhaps you rationalize that no news is good news. That’s how a tiny task can transform into a big, ugly monster on your to-do list. It vies for your attention. It creeps into your mind when you’re on your way to work, at the gym or worst of all, while you’re asleep. When you finally pick up the phone, you’ll be so worked up that your customer will sense it in your tone.
In this post, we’ll share 7 proven tactics for overcoming outreach anxiety. Let’s do this!
1. Make a tiny commitment
Take a quick first step to get in front of the issue. Block out 25 minutes on your calendar as soon as you can. Use this time to define your exact next steps and answer the following questions:
– What is the issue?
– What is the potential impact of this issue?
– Who do I need to involve to resolve this issue?
– How will I communicate this to my customer?
Taking this tiny step will give you a small win and more perspective on your next steps. If you wait, the building pressure might begin to overwhelm you.
2. Prepare for success
When you have a plan in place, tough calls become 10x easier.
I spoke to a handful of experts in sales and public relations to learn their process for making outbound calls. Consistent principles of preparation apply to:
– setting appointments with executives
– pitching deadline-driven journalists
– helping your customers succeed
Your preparation sheet should include:
A scripted introduction. Write a brief script to help introduce the issue. You don’t need to repeat it word for word, but you can glance at it if you get stuck or start feeling nervous.
A list of objections and solutions. While you’re on the call, make notes of objections, issues, problems and solutions. This is especially helpful when you need to make a lot of calls. Your list will help you to empathize with your customer and thoughtfully address their concerns.
Next steps. Take the lead on documenting and assigning clear next steps. Be explicit about exactly what will happen next.
Your customer will love you for being so organized.
3. Contact your customer
Now that you have a plan in place, it’s time to get in touch with your customer. Send them a short and thoughtful note. When you introduce the issue, use language to show that you’re in control of the situation. Compare these two email subject lines:
URGENT: Feature changes that will impact your account
Update: New feature rollout, let’s discuss potential impacts
The URGENT message will not inspire confidence, it may incite panic. On the other hand, an ‘Update’ is consultative and helps you set the tone for a meeting between partners.
Use your words wisely to take the lead.
4. Get in the zone
If you feel like your anxiety is taking over before you pick up the phone, take a deep breath. Inhale for six seconds, hold for two seconds and exhale for seven seconds. Deep breathing will trigger your parasympathetic nervous system and stimulate your vagus nerve. This lowers your heart rate and will decrease your anxiety.
Instead of slumping over in your office chair, create a routine to help you get energized. You could go for a walk around the block or eat a banana. Inject energy into your system and your customer will hear it in your tone.
Finally, if your office is loud and your colleagues are raucous, find a meeting room to make your call.
5. Do it first
Productivity expert Brian Tracy calls this ‘eating the frog’. If you’re facing a tough issue, resolve it first thing in the morning.
Your energy, willpower and happy disposition will fade throughout the work day. You will have a positive and energetic conversation when you’re bright-eyed and bushy tailed.
You can use this approach for other tasks, like writing. I write for two hours every weekday from 9 AM to 11 AM. I’ve been doing it for months and it’s transformed from a task into a habit.
You might imagine that your customer has planned to churn before you get a chance to say ‘Hello.’ That is unlikely.
Remember, your customer has built their business process with, on top of, or around your product. They won’t rip out their plumbing before doing some exploration. Approach the call with an equal number of questions as answers. Your customer might not grasp the value of a new feature; so you can ask powerful questions to learn more about their business. Then, explain how your product can help to fill that gap.
7. Ask your team for help
There is at least one person in your team who has a knack for having awkward conversations. Maybe it’s your team leader or Director of Customer Success.
You could eavesdrop, but you’ll only get one side of the conversation. Instead, sit side by side with them to learn exactly how they navigate sticky situations. Take copious notes and praise them on a job well done. Then, apply what you learn and ask them to listen to a few of your calls. Their feedback will build your confidence.
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