In any sales-led growth strategy, the purpose of marketing is to get new leads into the sales funnel that drives new business. However, only a small percentage of potential customers will ever see your ads or read your content — especially when marketing budgets are under pressure.
Sales teams can make up the difference using outbound sales techniques. But given the rise of inbound sales over the past decade, some reps may have less experience with outbound motions.
For any salesperson or sales leader working to hit sales KPIs, learning to harness the basics of outbound sales can make ambitious targets seem less daunting. Here’s how to make it work for you.
What is Outbound Sales?
Outbound sales, also known as sales prospecting, refers to proactively starting conversations and building relationships with potential customers. Cold calling, cold email outreach, and networking are common examples.
Inbound vs. Outbound Sales
The difference between inbound and outbound sales revolves around the first point of contact.
Potential customers who ask for pricing information, join your mailing list, or sign up for a free trial are inbound leads. They’re already familiar with your brand, so sales reps can focus on converting these leads into paying customers.
In contrast, outbound leads come from sales reps reaching out to individuals who haven’t yet interacted with your brand. By definition, reps working outbound processes need to work a little harder. This approach also requires a slightly different set of skills.
Advantages of Outbound Sales
The details will differ depending on your industry and the size of your company, but overall, outbound sales remains essential for driving new business, connecting with prospects, and achieving revenue goals.
Here are some key benefits of including outbound techniques in your sales strategy:
- Proactive lead generation: Rather than waiting for leads to emerge, businesses use outbound techniques to chase potential customers proactively. This is particularly important in the early stages of a startup and when marketing channels are having difficulty filling the pipeline.
- Targeted leads: While you can attempt to qualify inbound leads after they arrive, it’s never completely accurate. In contrast, reps using outbound sales can start from an ideal customer profile (ICP) and use advanced data, such as buying committees, org charts, news and announcements, and intent spikes to tightly target prospective buyers.
- Faster sales cycle: When used correctly, outbound sales can convert a complete prospect into a customer in a few calls, video meetings, or email threads.
- Higher revenue and growth potential: Adopting an outbound sales strategy can be used to drive faster growth. This more active approach to sales can rely on the expertise and knowledge of your revenue team to find multiple champions within a single account, unlock bigger deals, and increase overall revenue.
Outbound Sales Techniques
Successful sales teams tend to blend multiple outbound techniques when working deals. The ideal mix will vary depending on the pitch, the target audience, and the skills of reps. The most common choices include:
The oldest technique requires persistence — the majority of calls will go unanswered.
However, sales calls that reach the intended individual have a fair chance of succeeding. A conversational tone on the phone is much more personal than a written sales pitch, and speaking directly with a prospect allows reps to address problems and handle objections immediately.
Email is the most popular cold outreach channel today. Every person in the industry has gotten a pitch in their inbox, or sent one to drum up business.
While the overall conversion rate for email outreach is low, sales automation makes it possible to send hundreds of personalized emails every day. If only a tiny percentage of recipients respond, this outbound strategy can work.
What’s more, 80% of buyers say they prefer to be contacted by email. But be sure to follow best practices to avoid being flagged as a spammer.
Social Media Prospecting
Platforms like LinkedIn provide unique opportunities for outbound sales reps to find and connect with decision-makers.
Social media profiles reveal key information about the status of an individual or target company, along with their views, preferences, and working process. Reps can also tap into extended networks, send outreach messages on platforms, and extract contact information from profiles.
Given the amount of competition in email inboxes, social selling is becoming increasingly popular with outbound sales teams.
In-person outreach is by far the most powerful approach to building rapport with potential customers. Networking events bring together many individuals who match buyer personas, allowing outbound sales reps to speak to many prospects in a short time.
Speaking directly with potential clients unlocks additional benefits. For instance, people are much more likely to make a referral after having an informal 10-minute chat. At the same time, qualifying prospects accurately is much easier in conversation.
In B2B contexts, business development teams will send packages to potential clients that include gifts. This won’t work for every brand, but bundling your sales pitch with delicious cookies is a sure way to get noticed.
5 Tips to Improve Outbound Sales
Success in outbound sales is not only about choosing the right channel. Teams with the best results tend to follow tried-and-tested sales tactics, both in initial outreach and throughout the buyer’s journey. The following best practices provide a solid foundation for outbound sales efforts.
Focus on Ideal Customer Profiles
Attempting outreach without a clear sense of direction is likely to end up in disappointment and wasted time. Outbound sales teams that consistently hit quotas tend to focus on creating detailed ICPs (ideal customer profiles) and finding prospects that match these personas.
The extra legwork required to find prospects that closely match ICPs is usually rewarded. Reps spend less time nurturing unsuitable targets and more time on high-quality leads.
In an attempt to reach a higher volume of prospects, some businesses send generic email pitches en masse and use templated call scripts. As a general rule, personalized outreach is much more effective — particularly for B2B sales and higher-value deals.
Simply personalizing the subject line of an email can make all the difference. To land one particular eight-figure deal, the ZoomInfo sales team reached out to a prospect who had previously worked as a fruit picker using the headline “Cherries, Apples, and Data.”
Speaking to the interests of individual prospects makes them more likely to open messages and listen to what reps have to say. They tend to feel more like valued customers, too.
Audience segmentation is another key ingredient in successful outbound sales. Separating prospects into groups makes individual personalization less time consuming, and allows for greater automation.
Offer Value, Don’t Just Pitch
One major challenge of outbound sales is convincing prospects to engage. Decision-makers have busy schedules, so make sure your call is worth their time.
Outbound sales reps need to offer value first, before delivering their pitch. This could be making a human connection first or providing advice on the prospect’s problems. Reps can also share relevant resources created by the marketing team, such as eBooks, webinars, or industry guides.
Beginning with industry expertise establishes sales professionals’ trustworthiness. This makes it easier to win over prospects when delivering the full sales pitch.
Follow Up Consistently
Outbound sales reps are often ghosted. What makes a rep successful is a willingness to follow up.
Busy decision-makers regularly miss messages and calls, so persistence is essential. Your team should only move on when a prospect has continually been unresponsive.
Track and Optimize Campaigns
To improve outbound sales performance, you must track key sales metrics and continuously optimize based on the data.
Metrics to monitor include:
- Email open and response rates
- Leads generated per campaign
- Sales qualified leads
- Opportunities created
- Revenue generated
Many prospecting tools have this kind of tracking built in. Alternatively, you may be able to use your CRM.
Top sales teams also break down these metrics by channel, campaign, segment, sales rep, and time to find opportunities for improvement.
For example, if emails sent on Tuesday get 30% higher open rates, it makes sense to send more emails on this day. Likewise, if a specific direct mail campaign generates twice as many SQLs, it’d be worth doubling down on that outreach type.
Optimizing your sales approach like this is particularly important for outbound strategies because they require a significant time investment from sales staff.
Key Tools for Improving Outbound Sales
Building an effective workflow doesn’t need to be costly. In fact, most businesses already have access to essential software.
Contact Tracking Tools
Effective outbound sales involve prospect outreach via multiple channels. In some cases, several reps are involved. Maintaining necessary coordination means tracking every lead’s progress.
Industry standard CRM platforms, like Hubspot and Salesforce, are more than capable of handling this task. Even tools with more affordable pricing, such as Streak, provide the necessary features.
That said, it’s a good idea to choose a CRM that also has strong analytics features. These allow sales leaders to access campaign optimization insights without a separate tool.
Email and Call Automation Tools
The best outbound campaigns tend to involve many emails and calls. Given the volume, investing in automation tools can significantly free up reps’ time to close more deals.
For instance, Zoominfo’s sales engagement platform guides conversations across channels between reps and prospects automatically. The platform uses myriad data sources to identify the best channel for reaching out to individual contacts. Additionally, ZoomInfo coordinates outreach campaigns for account-based selling.
Contact Research Tools
Understanding who you are addressing is important for any successful outreach campaign. This information allows reps to personalize their messaging and value proposition.
Tools such as ZoomInfo’s Contact and Company Search feature speed up research for GTM teams. Instead of manual LinkedIn and Google searches for prospect info, reps look up potential buyers in seconds.
This type of database provides quick access to contact information, which is essential for effective multi-channel outreach.
Conversation Intelligence Software
To guide outreach strategy, sales leaders need to pinpoint where deals are won and lost. While it’s possible to sit in on sales calls to diagnose issues affecting individual reps, seeing the bigger picture is much harder.
Conversation intelligence software, such as Chorus by ZoomInfo, assists with this task. This software uses machine learning to transcribe and analyze sales conversations, giving team leaders practical insights.
The data collected by such tools can be used to forecast prospect behaviors, meaning reps can stay one step ahead.
Start Driving More Revenue With Outbound Sales
From emerging startups to established corporations, outbound sales techniques can dramatically affect revenue. Even when teams have an empty pipeline, a few well-placed calls can turn prospects into qualified leads and increase high-value deals.
If you would like to bring outbound sales into your strategy, contact our team to learn how ZoomInfo can give your reps an unfair advantage.