Like its best practitioners, outbound sales is just too persistent to be ignored. It’s been more than a decade since many experts predicted that outbound would become irrelevant amid the growing preference for inbound sales, and the rise in growth marketing. But the reports of outbound’s impending demise have been exaggerated. Accounting for the larger share of generated leads (55% vs. 27% for inbound sales), outbound operations remain crucial to the success of many organizations, especially for those selling into the enterprise market segment.
Lest you ignore the huge opportunities this tried and true sales model can generate, here are some outbound sales tips that might help propel your revenue performance.
What Is Outbound Sales?
Outbound sales encapsulates the classic nature of corporate selling where sales professionals initiate and drive customer engagement. In outbound sales, the seller actively seeks a potential buyer, then reaches out to the prospect via cold calls and emails, strategically moving the prospect towards a purchase decision through a process of follow ups, demos, negotiations, and close attempts.
In contrast, inbound sales relies heavily on marketing to execute various campaigns — such as content marketing and search engine optimization — that are designed to move potential buyers into initiating the engagement themselves by calling, filling out a form on your website, posting a direct message on social media, or sending an email inquiry. Unlike the “cold" leads in outbound sales, such “warm” leads already exhibit an interest in the company’s product or service and are actively seeking more information or advice to help them make a final decision on whether to purchase or not.
How To Do Outbound Sales
In a nutshell, a good outbound strategy depends on having the right Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) for your business, the right playbook, and an effective means of measuring performance or success.
Right at the onset, outbound sales professionals face daunting challenges. Their main role is to make contact and build relationships with total strangers. The trouble is, people naturally dislike receiving unsolicited calls, emails, and direct messages. They resent interruptions, especially ones where they are asked to buy something they don’t know anything about.
Obviously, it takes a) talent, b) a clever strategy, c) a predictable process, and d) the best tools to hurdle these challenges early in the game. A successful outbound sales operation requires a team of highly-skilled and motivated sellers, as well as a data-driven strategy and tech stack that optimize the sales process.
One way to blunt the sharp edges of outbound prospecting is to do diligent prospect research by collecting readily available information about potential buyers. Gleaning data from corporate websites, news, and social media activities is a good place to start. Meanwhile, technology — such as software that collects and stores useful data — will help warm up the process of cold prospecting.
Types of Outbound Sales Reps
All outbound sales reps are involved in building relationships with cold prospects. However, depending on the company, the market, or the structure of the sales organization, outbound sales reps may be classified into different categories.
Both B2C and B2B sales may employ outbound sellers. The difference primarily lies on the target customer: outbound B2C sellers engage individual end consumers while their B2B counterparts engage corporate buyers, each having multiple decision makers.
Depending on the stage in the sales process, outbound sellers may also develop specialized skills and roles:
- Sales Development Reps (SDRs) are the most common practitioners in the field. Owning the process of outbound prospecting, SDRs routinely make cold calls and send cold emails to potential buyers. They help screen and nurture potential buyers with the aim of creating a short list of sales-qualified leads/contacts for the closers, or Account Executives.
- Business Development Reps (BDRs) often have identical functions with SDRs (they are synonymous in many cases). But in some companies, they perform a distinct function: serve as the link between marketing and sales by helping develop business with potential customers and referring sales-qualified leads to closers in the team.
- Lead Development Reps (LDRs) or Market Development Reps (MDRs) are sales reps who fully support inbound operations by initiating contact with prospects essentially raise their hand to be contacted. These potential buyers have already visited the company website, downloaded a report or signed up for an event. These actions demonstrate interest but not all active users end up as inbound leads. By focusing on these warm prospects, LDRs/MDRs fill the gap.
- Account Executives (AEs) support both outbound and inbound sales operations. These senior sales professionals make presentations, conduct demos, send proposals, handle objections, and ultimately close deals.
Outbound sales refers to a selling dynamic where the seller actively initiates the sales conversation. In contrast, inbound sales describes a model where potential buyers — whose interests are piqued by the information they acquire from websites, news, or ads — initiate contact with a sales professional.
The methods of outbound sales include the traditional means of corporate selling: making cold calls, sending cold emails, and following up. On the other hand, inbound sales uses methods that have been made possible by advances in digital technology: search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, publication of white papers and industry reports, online ads, influence marketing, blog posts, and social media activity.
While both inbound and outbound sales reps need to be empathetic and serve as problem solvers when engaging prospects, the idea that modern sellers should serve more like trusted advisors started and became more pervasive in inbound sales.
Finally, potential buyers in inbound sales are described as “warm” while prospects in outbound sales are described as “cold.” The descriptions denote the degree of apparent interest demonstrated by the potential buyer.
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Outbound Sales Strategy
Outbound sales is a complex field requiring a laser-precise strategy drawn from actual data on the sales floor. Such strategy covers all aspects of the operation from the human talent that drives it and the sophisticated tools that augment their capabilities, to the changing behavior of consumers and the playbooks that guide engagement. Moreover, a reliable system for measuring success should also be in place in order to keep performance and efficiencies in a constant state of improvement.
As Growlabs CEO Ben Raffi said, “A proper outbound sales strategy has real science behind it. You can’t just start pounding the pavement with no direction and expect to achieve growth.”
How To Build an Outbound Sales System
In an article he wrote for Sales Hacker, Ben Raffi described the system Growlabs used to drive the company from $0 to $2.5 million ARR (annual recurring revenue) in just six months.
According to Ben Raffi, the keys to a scalable outbound process that leads to expansive growth are market segmentation and tailored messaging. Such systems begin with accurately identifying your Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) and reaching out to customers that fit the profiles using highly targeted and personalized messaging.
He outlined the process into six steps:
- Identify your most attractive markets via market segmentation.
- Establish a clear, value-based hypotheses that will guide the segmentation.
- Generate customer data and insights.
- Analyze data and group customers into ICPs.
- Evaluate the attractiveness of each segment.
- Find leads in each micro-segment.
Once you have a scalable outbound process, you’ll need more SDRs to grow revenue. You can watch this webinar if you are just starting to build a world-class SDR team. Otherwise, here are key points to remember when it comes to hiring, onboarding, or training SDRs:
How do you increase your outbound sales?
Outbound sales performance can be improved in three ways: 1) scale operations by hiring more staff and/or expanding territories; 2) drive process optimization and efficiencies; and 3) adopt sophisticated technologies such as sales engagement platforms (SEPs).
Remember though, that there’s a caveat to scaling up: prematurely doing so can lead to disastrous outcomes (i.e., making investments on capex or additional staff without verifying ROI or validating addressable opportunities can bleed the company’s finances over time). So ensure that the company is ready for the big league before taking the leap.
A stable outbound sales process, competent (and trainable) sales team, decent digital tools, and a reliable monitoring system are prerequisites of steady business growth. Once you’ve ticked off these baseline items, you can safely execute growth-focused strategies.
As demonstrated by the Agoge Team at Outreach, optimizing sales playbooks and sequences through A/B testing is one way to achieve expansive growth. Serving as an incubator for process and messaging innovation, the Agoge Team shattered previous records by achieving 243% quota and 100% sales rep participation.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
There are many performance indicators that tracks business outcomes. However, not every indicator that works for one sales organization will work the same way for another. The trick is to identify the specific performance indicators that will generate the best value for your particular business and sales operation when tracked and optimized.
However, four of the most common indicators that you should always track are:
- Sales Cycle Time - This shows how fast it takes a lead (on average) to complete the buyer journey and make a purchase decision.
- Cost per Opportunity - This is the calculated cost of generating a single lead. To optimize this metric, focusing on high-value leads may deliver better ROI.
- Click Through Rates - This measures the fitness or efficiency of your call-to-action messaging. A low click through rate negates all your efforts at reaching out to a potential customer. Improve performance by tweaking the approach, timing, or other aspect of your messaging.
- Calls to Close Ratio - This metric shows how many leads you need to contact, on average, for one call that results to a conversion or closed deal.
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Best Practices for Outbound Sales Prospecting
Success in outbound sales is the sweet spot where your strategy execution matches the realities of the market and the behavior of your ideal customers. It can only be achieved by iterating your best practices over time and by adopting best-in-class sales tools.
Arguably, the most fundamental asset you can have in outbound sales is adaptability. Change is a constant, which means you should be ready to ditch even your favorite playbook, selling method, or software when new market conditions arise. In a shifting landscape, the ability to test, measure, and improve sequences, tools, and techniques is priceless.
Outbound Sales Tools
Your CRM serves as the baseline tool for outbound sales teams. Without it, lending system and science to your sales process becomes impossible.
But just having a reliable CRM won’t get you far, especially when your competitors use sales and marketing software that help drive differentiation and competitive advantage. Email automation, auto-dialers, web conferencing, document management, market intelligence, and other sales enablement software should be integral to your technology stack.
Sales Engagement Platforms are the latest addition to these technologies and you should explore one that fits your business model, target customers, and long-term growth strategy.
Contrary to popular belief, outbound won’t die any time soon. Waiting for it to do so and focusing only on your inbound campaigns means losing huge revenue opportunities. So get smart and sell more by embracing outbound and being darned good at it.
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