There is always something to learn in the sales industry, which is why I love it. So, In this guide to outbound sales, I will explain what outbound sales are, the difference between outbound and inbound sales, and outline the stages required to set up your first campaign.
Whether you are just starting outbound sales or looking to improve your current outbound sales process, this guide will get you started.
What is Outbound Sales?
As someone who makes a living doing outbound sales, I can tell you one thing (whether you believe me or not is a different story…). Outbound sales still works.
Outbound sales or prospecting can still drive some of the best results in the shortest amount of time of all the different lead generation and business development techniques available.
Yes, cold calling, whilst challenging at times, still works.
Outbound sales is the process in which sales representatives contact potential customers proactively, usually via telephone, email, social media and even snail mail.
The key word here is proactive. Outbound sales representatives make the first contact with potential customers rather than waiting for inbound leads or referrals.
With outbound sales, the engagement is initiated by the seller, not the buyer. With outbound sales, it is up to the seller to build enough interest in the product they are selling, often through multichannel communication, that inspires the potential prospect to take action. This action may be in the form of booking a first meeting, joining a webinar, filling out a form for marketing purposes or participating in a trial.
Outbound sales have a direct impact on the success of your business. In addition, outbound sales are directly correlated with how much business you close at the end of each month, so it is essential to start doing it.
The role of outbound sales is sometimes the responsibility of the account executive. Still, more often than not, the role becomes the sole responsibility of SDRs. Also known as Sales Development Reps.
Sales Development Representatives are part of the sales team that focuses on generating new leads and business opportunities.
SDRs are tasked with prospecting potential customers through cold-calling, emailing and social media outreach.
The goal of an SDR is to book meetings for the account executives or salespeople to attend rather than working on the sales process or closing opportunities.
This role ultimately frees up the time of the account executive to allow them to spend more time leading their current opportunities through the sales funnel and ensuring the quarter’s target is met.
Additionally, sometimes the outbound process is the responsibility of a Lead Response Representative. These sales reps work similarly to an SDR, except they are only focused on responding to inbound through marketing channels rather than generating their own opportunities.
A lead response representative ensures that every lead that comes into the business, whether through webinar signup, form submission or even a phone call, receives a timely and personal response.
The main focus of the lead response representative is twofold;
First, they need to quickly qualify each lead to determine whether it is worth pursuing from a sales standpoint.
Secondly, suppose the lead is deemed worthy of pursuing. In that case, the lead response representative needs to work to book a meeting for an account executive.
B2B vs B2C Outbound Sales
When performing outbound, a sales rep will often work within one of two channels; business to business or business to consumer outbound sales.
Business to Business Outbound Sales
What is Business to Business Outbound Sales?
Business to Business or B2B outbound sales is used to describe the process of a sales rep contacting a company to sell a product or service.
This type of outbound selling is often more complex than Business to Consumer sales as there are often multiple stakeholders involved and business timelines to adhere to.
How is B2B Outbound Sales Different from Inbound Sales?
The main difference between Business to Business outbound sales and Inbound Sales is that with B2B outbound sales, the sales rep initiates contact with the potential customer. In contrast, with inbound selling, the likely prospect has already made the first move and engaged with the company selling the product.
Business to Consumer Outbound Sales
What is Business to Consumer Outbound Sales?
Business to Consumer or B2C outbound sales is used when a sales rep contacts an individual to sell a product or service.
This type of selling can be seen as less complex than Business to Business outbound sales, as there is often only one stakeholder involved in the process. However, more emotion can sometimes be involved in the sales process, which can be tricky to navigate.
Whenever you enter a retail shop and the sales reps engage with you – this is an example of business-to-consumer inbound sales.
Whenever you get a sales rep knocking on your door to sell you a charity or some other goods or service – that would be business-to-consumer outbound sales.
A B2C outbound sales process will often involve a lower Average Order Value than a B2B sale, as products and services are generally cheaper when aimed at the consumer market.
The Benefits of Outbound Sales
As I have mentioned previously, outbound sales still works. Outbound sales in highly effective for the following reasons:
- Engagement can be highly targeted; you can choose the market you reach out to
- Your business gets instant feedback based on the results of your outreach campaign. If some part of your sales process isn’t working, you will get much quicker feedback on that compared to inbound sales.
- You build a database and generate leads based on your specific target audience, which you can use to reach out to regularly
- You have complete control over your results with the help of data analysis. How many sales do you need per month? How many meetings do you need to get those sales? How much data do you need to work on to generate those meetings? All of this can be calculated with outbound sales strategies.
Based on the above, it is pretty clear why outbound is such a practical approach to building a successful business. First, you develop a lead generation process and refine that process over time to ensure you achieve the best possible results with your allocated resources.
Also, because you ultimately control the outbound sales process, it is entirely up to you when you scale or contract. Need to make more sales? Reach out to more prospects based on your current conversion ratios. Established a specific vertical market isn’t working for you? Remove resources from that campaign and divert them to something else.
To make the most of your outbound efforts, you can leverage your inbound activities to improve conversion rates. Did a prospect visit your website? Reach out to them. Did they click on a link from some email marketing? Reach out to them. It’s amazing how much business can be done when a salesperson isn’t afraid to lead the sale and turn interested opportunities into a closed deal.
The Outbound Sales Process: A High-Level Overview
A few key things need to happen to start a successful outreach campaign, and a lot of this happens before any cold calling starts. Key steps include:
- Identifying market segments
- Generating leads (this includes finding contact information like emails and phone numbers)
- Performing outreach; this includes making cold calls, cold emails, and social selling
- Qualifying and closing the meeting and/or deal
I will now run through each stage in more detail.
Step One: Identify Market Segments
As they say, it’s no use fishing in a pond with no fish, and in sales speak, that’s to say, there’s no point in prospecting leads you know aren’t going to be a good fit for your product.
Some startups that come to us at Sales Science aren’t sure who their target market is – and that’s ok. Through outbound sales, we can find and build an ideal customer profile that is more suitable for the product you are trying to sell.
So the first question to ask yourself is, who will you be selling to? What qualities define your target audience? Then think about what sectors would most benefit from your product. Is it construction, accounting or something else? Who are the titles that you want to target? Who in your target organisation experiences the most pain your product can solve?
Without this information, you aren’t going to hit the mark when you get on the phone with a prospect. Hence it is imperative to get this right.
Without getting too complex, you can also test different markets – segment your cold outreach into smaller groups and see which performs best.
Step two: Build a database of prospects
Building a database of quality prospects with good contact information is essential to the success of any outbound sales strategy. However, suppose the data you have is out of date. If the emails bounce or the phone numbers are incorrect, you are wasting valuable prospecting hours.
Many reasonable solutions help you build quality lists, including phone numbers and email addresses. Products such as Lusha, SalesIntel or Cognisim can be an excellent place to start. For more solutions in this space, check out my blog post on the best sales tools here.
Once you have decided on a solution to provide data, you need to develop a database of quality leads. This is where you need to refer to your target market in step one. Where can you find contacts for your target market? Linkedin is often an excellent resource for list building. On the platform, you can filter contacts with various parameters such as geography, titles, industry or function.
Linkedin is currently my go-to for list building.
Other options include pulling company information from industry publications or membership services. If you are still struggling, you can even purchase a list.
A word of warning, if you do purchase a list, make sure it is from a reputable source and that you can segment it.
Segmenting your list will allow you to personalise your outreach which I will come on to later.
A final point on this subject, it is essential that as well as an email address, you have a direct dial telephone number for each contact.
Step three: Outreach – the art of cold calling
The best place to start with outreach is often with a cold call.
A cold call is “the process of approaching a potential customer whom you have had no prior contact with, to try and sell them a product or service”.
There are two types of cold calls:
1. Prospecting – where you are trying to generate new leads
2. Appointment scheduling – where you are trying to book an appointment for a sales meeting
When making a prospecting call, you need to be prepared because most of the people you speak to will not be welcome to the call – we’ve all had those phone calls from a salesperson…
Putting your leads into a sales sequence or cadence is a good idea when performing outreach. This allows you to automate some of the processes for your sales reps so that your sales team can work more leads daily.
A typical sales sequence or cadence could look like this
– Day 1 – Send a personalised email
– Day 2 – Follow up with a phone call
– Day 4 – Send another personalised email
– Day 6 – Follow up with a phone call
– Day 8 – Leave a final break-up email
There are countless sequence strategies to try, so it is a good idea to test a few and establish what works best for you and your product.
Step Four: Qualifying and Closing the Meeting
Once you get your foot in the door with a prospect, it is time to qualify them.
You need to establish whether they are a good fit for your product and that there is an opportunity to do business.
To do this, you can ask a series of questions
1. Is this a need or a want?
2. How soon do they need the product?
3. Can you solve their problem?
4. Do they have the budget to buy your product?
5. Who else is involved in the decision-making process?
6. What is the likely outcome of the meeting?
Once you have qualified for the opportunity, it is time to ask for the close. This is typically in the form of another meeting or demo appointment. Still, if your product is more transactional, you may even try to get the sale.
For closing a demo or second meeting, I often like to use a line such as:
“Is there any reason you wouldn’t be open to learning more about how we’ve helped others in this space?”
By phrasing the closing question this way, the prospect has to think of why they wouldn’t want to meet rather than just defaulting to the automatic “no” prospects often say on a sales call.
Outbound selling is initiating contact with potential customers who have not already been contacted by your company.
Outbound selling can effectively reach new customers and grow your business when performed correctly.
When undertaking an outbound sales campaign, it is essential to remember that not every lead will be a qualified opportunity.
With this in mind, managing your time and resources effectively is essential to making the most of your outbound efforts.
In other posts, I will do further deep dives on these steps in the outbound sales process and provide different sales strategies and cold outreach examples.