Wouldn’t it be fun if you could yell that every time you called, emailed, or messaged a prospect? It would be almost as fun as closing a deal where you initiated the conversation with that warning.
Taking the outbound method is a tenacious approach to selling, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a part of your business’ overall strategy. While there are plenty of customers who know exactly what they want, there are just as many who have no idea.
It’s possible that all they need to figure it out is a tap on the shoulder from one of your outbound sales methods.
What is outbound sales?
Outbound sales refers to the process of a sales representative initiating contact with a lead from their end. In the case of outbound sales, the seller begins the customer engagement process instead of the buyer.
The key feature of outbound sales is that you are contacting your leads through prospecting as opposed to them reaching out to you. This proactive approach allows for highly targeted outreach, giving you the opportunity to only contact the people who fit your ideal customer profile. And since you’re initiating the conversation using specific methods, you can measure whether or not they were successful with predetermined sales metrics.
If you need to close more deals, you reach out to more prospects. Outbound sales places the ball in your court.
Most businesses will rely on outbound sales, but also account for the inbound sales where conversations are initiated by leads, as opposed to their own reps. To see the most success and fuel your pipeline full of healthy leads, you should definitely use both inbound and outbound sales strategies.
Inbound vs. outbound sales
Consumers know what they want, and they aren’t afraid to ask for it. This presents another type of initial customer engagement known as inbound sales.
Inbound sales refers to situations where a lead is generated because a person reached out to a business to present their interest or curiosity in the product or service they provide. On the other hand, outbound sales is where leads are generated as businesses reach out to potential customers to see if they might be a good fit for their solution.
The key difference to remember with inbound and outbound sales is where the lead originated from. Because your sales team does all of your cold outreach and prospecting, they are responsible for outbound sales goals. Inbound leads, on the other hand, fall into the hands of your marketing team, because their job is to raise awareness of your business, boost your marketing presence, and find ways to appeal to your target market.
Leads generated from inbound sales are often referred to as “warm leads” because they have proactively expressed their interest in your solution, which can make businesses presume they are more ready to buy. However, this can be a dangerous assumption to make as it isn’t always the case. Some inbound sales leads will reach out to simply explore their options without the intent to buy, and you might find that some aren’t even qualified to buy your solution. Similarly, not every prospect you contact with outbound sales techniques will result in a new lead.
The good news is that you don’t have to choose just one. Both inbound and outbound sales can add value to your pipeline.
But for now, let’s focus on outbound sales.
Outbound sales strategy
While the idea of outbound sales is to reach out to leads and convert them into customers, you don’t want to go about it by dialing at random. Without an outbound sales strategy, you likely won’t see the success you’ve been anticipating for this method.
While outbound sales strategies will vary from business to business, there are four stages that every effective approach goes through.
1. Identify your target market
Before you even think about selling using outbound methods, you need to first determine who you are going to be selling to. This group of likely buyers is referred to as your target market, ideal customer persona, or buyer persona.
Identifying your target market doesn’t mean you won’t sell to anyone who doesn’t fit within it. Rather, it simply allows you to focus your time, energy, and resources on a specific group of people who are more likely to buy. For example, if you were selling snow blowers, you probably wouldn’t air a commercial in Florida since they rarely experience measurable snowfall. However, if a Floridian asked you to sell them a snow blower, you wouldn’t hesitate to do so.
Here’s how you can go about identifying your target market:
- Look at your current customer base: Analyze the types of customers that currently buy your solution and pick out qualities that make them a good fit for your business.
- Evaluate your solution: Come up with a list of features that your solution offers and use your business savvy to ideate who could potentially benefit from them.
- Be specific about qualifications: Make a clear and specific list of qualifications that someone needs to hit to be considered an ideal customer. Pay attention to things like industry, role, and company size.
- Evaluate: After coming up with methods for identifying your target market, make sure that your list gives you a substantial amount of leads to work with. If not, do some reevaluating.
From those data points, create an image of who your ideal customer persona is. Recognize that it might be necessary for your business to come up with more than one target market, and that is perfectly alright. Smaller and more specific target markets allow for more focused and effective marketing and selling to that particular group.
2. Generate leads
The next part of your outbound sales strategy will be to generate leads based on that target market you’ve identified. While you’ll generate a large number of leads, not every single one will convert into a customer. That expectation is unrealistic. The purpose of generating a lot of leads is to account for the lack of conversions you’ll experience, as some will ultimately fall out of the pipeline due to disinterest or poor qualifications.
Lead generation is all about increasing awareness of your brand, picking people’s curiosity, and getting them to take a specific action so you can officially consider them an interested lead.
Here are some strategies for doing that:
- Gate your content: Within your content marketing, pick out some valuable assets like templates, reports, or other downloadable content.
- Host an event: Put on an event that will provide value to your target marketing and get attendees’ contact information as they register.
- Offer a coupon or discount: Get the attention of people already interested in your business by offering money off your solution with a coupon or discount code. All they have to do to get it is give you their information.
- Provide a free trial: Anyone that signs up for a free trial is interested in what you’re offering, and using it will only make them more likely to convert.
The key factor of all of those strategies above is that they all attract people who are interested enough in your business to hand over their contact information. Whether it be a piece of content, insight from an event, or money off your solution, they will bring in the right crowd.
With all of the tactics listed above, the one thing you must remember to do is only allow access to those items if the lead gives you their contact information. This way, you can grow a list and start doing some outreach.
3. Conducting outreach and qualifying leads
With your list of people to contact in hand, it’s time to start your sales cadence by conducting outreach and qualifying leads. Now, it’s important to remember not to get ahead of yourself as you enter this stage of outbound sales. Notice that this step does not say to sell anything to anyone. Before you can start that, you first need to qualify your leads.
Qualifying leads is all about determining which people on your list are most likely to buy your solution and offer the most long term value to your business. This way, you strategize even further and prioritize the most promising leads. Most sales reps will undergo lead qualification by using the BANT method, which stands for budget, authority, need, and timeliness.
As you conduct your outreach, you must determine the following criteria for each lead:
- Does this person have the budget to buy my solution?
- Does this person have the authority to make buying decisions, or am I speaking with a gatekeeper?
- Does this person have a need for my solution?
- Will this person be able to make a timely purchase?
With those answers in mind, you can place leads in a few different buckets based on their likelihood to make a purchase and then prioritize your time, energy, and resources accordingly. If you conclude that some leads aren’t worth pursuing, remove them from your list. If they are showing promise, move them down the funnel.
Your lead qualification process will include research, but you’ll also need to conduct outreach. This initial contact will also act as the start of your relationship with the lead. After you’ve come up with a prioritized list, start your outbound sales process and follow it all the way through with each lead.
Remember, the purpose of this stage is to qualify leads and make sure they would make promising prospects, opportunities, and loyal customers.
4. Sell, sell, sell
At this point, you’ve thrown out all of the dead leads that likely won’t go anywhere and divided your qualified leads (prospects) into different groups based on their priority. Now, you can focus on selling. Finally!
Starting with your most promising prospects, schedule meetings, calls, or video conferences to have a discussion about what you can do for their business. Then, prepare for those meetings.
The most important asset in your sales toolbox is going to be your value demonstration. Ask yourself why your customers should buy from you and convert it into a presentation. Pick out all of the most important features of your solution and really sell it. Explain it to its entirety and add personalized details that that specific prospect would want to hear. Make sure that each sales rep on your team can deliver a version of your value demonstration at any time. You never know when you might need to use it.
It’s important to note that your value proposition will likely change over time and you might have a different one for each solution your business offers. As your industry, company, customer base, and offerings change, the manner in which you present it must adapt to reflect those changes.
After your value proposition, your prospects might come back at you with some questions, comments, or concerns. Part of any sales reps training will be to handle these objections. The moral of the story is to always come back to the value while also presenting the risk of not using your solution. Show the prospect what they might be missing out on, or a pain point they might keep experiencing if they don’t decide to buy.
Outbound sales techniques
As you move through your outbound sales cadence, you’ll want to use a mix of three outreach techniques: cold calling, cold emailing, and social media messages. Make sure to use all three of these methods until you get a response from a prospect and determine which channel they prefer. Then you can move forward accordingly.
Cold calling is one of the pillars that make up the structure that is outbound sales. It refers to the initial sales call that a sales rep will make to a prospect without having any other type of contact beforehand.
Reps are typically trained to handle a few varieties of conversation they might experience as they cold call prospects. Make sure to train every cold caller on things like what to say if the prospect doesn’t seem interested, or if they are receptive to the information. You’ll also want to train them on how to leave a solid sales voicemail. When prospects answer the call, the rep needs to follow the flow of the two-way conversation. However, if they need to leave a message after the beep, it’s all on them to make it worth listening and responding to.
Cold emailing also holds up the foundations of outbound sales, as it is a quick and easy method to contact a large number of prospects at once. Certain email software tools allow a mass amount of messages to be sent at once. While this offers convenience and frees up time for reps, don’t let it stand in the way of sending a personalized email that will actually make the prospect want to respond.
Social media messages
Don’t forget to take advantage of the digital age. Make sure that social media messages and interactions are also a part of your outbound sales techniques. Gauge how active your prospect is on their social channels, and tap them on the shoulder a couple of times.
The cool thing about using social media for outbound sales is it doesn’t have to be as direct. As long as you are reaching your audience, that’s a win. For example, one touchpoint might be a direct message, another might be liking their photo on Instagram or replying to one of their tweets.
Outbounds sales tools
The combination of those techniques mentioned above might sound a bit daunting, but there are plenty of tools you can use to simplify it. Equipping your sales team with everything they need to go about your outbound sales strategy is necessary for them to maximize productivity and effectiveness. After all, they are your revenue generators, so here are some software tools that’ll make their lives a heck of a lot easier.
Above everything else, you must provide your sales reps with a customer relationship management (CRM) system. The purpose of using a CRM is to help businesses track and manage all of the data they have on all of their customers, which includes interactions born from outbound sales methods. CRMs hold all customer contact information, show their current position in your sales pipeline, and create reports based on your progress towards goals.
To make cold calling more of a breeze, reps can benefit from using an auto dialer. This software will automatically dial a prospect’s phone number, eliminating the tedious task of doing it manually. While this may seem like a miniscule problem in a cold caller’s day, anything that frees up more time for a rep to focus on the customer and content of the message is a step in the right direction.
Email marketing software
In a similar sense, email marketing software can automate the process of sending cold emails to your prospects. While adding a personal touch to each email, including the prospect’s name (obviously) and a connection that is reason enough to reach out, there are a few other elements of cold emails that are going to be the exact same for each send. Email marketing software can also segment your lists based on their engagement levels with your messages.
Business intelligence software
Every effort made toward your outbound sales strategy can be properly evaluated with business intelligence software, which is a tool that provides visibility into all of your company’s data. As you implement all of your outbound sales methods, measuring success will require evaluating data and drawing conclusions about what’s working and what needs to be changed. With that insight, sales reps can make more informed decisions as to how to move forward when selling.
Outbound sales tips
At this point you’ve got your outbound sales strategy, techniques, and tools at the ready. You’re almost there. To ensure your outbound sales efforts are providing your desired results, make sure to keep the following tips in mind as well.
Educate your team
Selling can take a lot of different routes. Due to the variety of questions, concerns, and objections that could be encountered, your reps need to be educated to a point where they can handle anything that is a prospect might throw at them. Your entire team needs to have all of your value proposition points ready to go at all times. They should also be able to sell anyone on the fact that your business is different and more valuable than your competitors.
Focus on being helpful
This tip is more of a general sales strategy, but it’s relevant nonetheless. As your sales reps implement and use your outbound sales strategy, make sure their priority lies in listening intently and helping the customer. Prospects aren’t oblivious to the world of sales – they know you have a quota to meet. So if they catch on to you being too pushy or sneaky, they won’t feel very comfortable or valued as a customer.
Put the customer first and make sure to keep their best interest in mind. If that ends up meaning that they don’t buy your solution, then so be it. It’s better to have a reputation of being helpful than selfishly hungry to make a sale.
Automate where you can
With the outbound sales tools listed above, make sure you are automating wherever it makes sense. Don’t sacrifice the effectiveness of a personalized email or phone call, but when it comes to things like entering information, analyzing data, and creating reports – rely on automation. This will free up time for your reps to focus on the actual customer, rather than their data.
Use multiple channels
Your outbound sales cadence should include a variety of channels. Until you figure out which method of communication your prospect prefers, approach them from all angles using a mix of different outreach techniques. Once you determine the channel on which they are most present, record that preference in your CRM.
Ask for referrals
If you’ve given your customers the positive experience they deserve and you end up closing the deal, remember to ask for a referral to generate new outbound sales opportunities. Word of mouth marketing to get new leads is incredibly valuable, as the customer who made a purchase will likely speak highly about the experience they had with your brand.
Think outside the box
That was a lot of information. On the bright side, as you find your flow with outbound sales and determine what world best for your particular business, solution, and audience, you can run with it. While it’s always a good idea to constantly be evaluating your overall sales strategy, make sure to hold onto what works. Especially when being assertive with outbound sales.
It’s possible, and likely, that it’ll take a few extra conversations to actually reach a business’ decision maker. Here are some tactics for getting past the gatekeeper.