As of late, marketing news and blogs have been focused on the “how to’s” and benefits of inbound marketing strategies (earning customers attention and drawing them to your website by producing interesting content).
Having been involved with outbound sales for close to three years now, we’ve come to learn there are three scenarios when a company needs to do more and use outbound prospecting techniques.
- When marketing is not producing enough leads
- When marketing is not producing the right kind of leads
- When you have clear set of target customers
If any of the scenarios above describes your current business, it’s time to get a dedicated sales team to add outbound prospecting to your marketing mix.
Many new entrepreneurs have zero experience with building an effective sales strategy, so we’ve gathered 15 important elements of an effective outbound sales strategy, with resources to help you kickstart your marketing efforts.
1. Before you begin, understand how to measure success
Before you even think about launching your outbound campaign, you are going to want to understand the metrics needed to gauge the success of your campaign. Lisa Fugere gives The 5 must know metrics to understanding the effectiveness of your outbound strategies in her article for Radius.
These metrics include:
Lead Conversion Rate: This is the number of leads that convert into opportunities. This number can gauge the success of market segments targeted for new campaigns offering insights into where you should invest more marketing spend vs. where you should hold off.
Call to Close Ratio: This is the number of leads you have contacted that convert to sales. This number reveals the effectiveness of your campaign strategy and if it’s adequately aligned with your acquisition strategy.
Email Click Through Rate: This is calculated by dividing the number of click throughs by the number of tracked messages delivered in a campaign. This can be an important indicator of whether your message matches your lead generation strategy.
Cost Per Opportunity: A modern strategy focuses on determining the lead quality after they have approached the first hurdle to determine the cost per opportunity. It’s ideal for an outbound strategy to have a small volume of high quality leads.
Time to Close: A rule of thumb is that your outbound leads should close faster than your inbound leads. If it’s not then you need to tighten your acquisition criteria.
2. Your outbound strategy must create a sense of urgency
We all want to know how to close a quality sale in the quickest time possible. The key to creating urgency is by understanding what these priorities are by doing your homework on the company, as well as, asking the right questions to uncover these answers.
Summarizing these priorities for your client explaining how your solution is both in alignment to and will help them accomplish said priorities is the way to showing your client the immediate need for action. Continue to confirm their priorities and your solution’s role in their achievement in all follow up communications.
3. The voicemail you leave a potential lead matters
There is a certain format to a voicemail that differs in sales versus just leaving your contact information and a reason for your call. The CEO’s of RingDNA and Ringlead came together in a webinar discussing 12 strategies to maximize the success of receiving a response to your voicemail.
Here are few of the strategies they cover (for all 12 check out the full article):
- Provide Context: This means providing a reason why you are reaching out them. Mention that you read their latest E-book, or attended a conference where they spoke.
- Keep it short: People do not have the time to listen to long voicemails. Try to convey the key points in a 30 to 40 second time frame.
- Never EVER reference a previous outreach attempt. This puts the prospect on the defensive. Each call should be a stand alone attempt.
- Ask for what you want. This means keeping your ask simple, clear, and easy.
4. A sales script with the freedom for sales representatives to experiment with their own style is best
There is a great debate as to whether sales scripts should be used, or if a company should let each sales representative speak from their own messaging and approach. However, the CEO of Close.io believes that a script that includes freedom to tweak and make personal is the best approach in your outbound efforts.
He advocates that the best sales script is created by everyone on the team, and should be repeated over and over so that each sales member knows the script by heart.
Once each team member knows the script, they should then be free to experiment with their individual tastes and approach to make the script come alive. Monthly meetings should be scheduled to gauge the effectiveness of the script and see where it needs tweaking.
5. The right “cold” email can get you a meeting with a company like Twitter
Iris Shoor, co-founder at Tapiki, produced cold emails during the launch of her startup that got her in the door with companies like Twitter, Klout, Linkedin, Google, and more.
In her in-depth article she covers the elements that led to her success with cold emailing versus intros.
So who do you write to, and how do you find the right contact information? Here is the gameplan Iris implemented that led her to success:
- Make a list of companies you are interested in.
- Although Linkedin seems like the logical place to look for prospects, Iris found that other social networks work better. Her efforts found that people more active on Twitter, at meetups, blogs, or contributing to open source projects are far more likely to answer a cold email.
- Look through blogs, presentations, and social networks to find the right person to reach out to about your product. If it doesn’t feel right, then don’t waste your time reaching out.
- If a person’s email is not public, Iris recommends using Rapportive. Companies have a standard email format they use for their employees. Here is her full guide to finding Anybody’s email address.
She also has a guide to getting meetings with 4 out of 10 people you cold email, and offers the following advice:
- Add specifics of your product offering, and the company’s name you are reaching out to in the subject line.
- Email a specific person, rather than the general company email.
- Focus on the immediate needs of the company your product can solve in your email content.
- Keep it brief, but make sure it’s easy for them to find more resources.
- Ask for specifically what you need.
- Explain why you are reaching out to them now.
- Make sure the sender is relevant to the request of the email.
- Check out the full article for more great tips from her success with cold emails.
6. Smaller companies and startups have the advantage in getting referrals
Of every sales method out there, referrals consistently remain the most effective of all lead generation methods. Trust is the number hurdle in a sale, and when a friend or colleague is referring a new client that barrier is crossed because they have trust in the person recommending them.
Here are three ways to get more referrals from your clients.
Ask for the referral after you deliver. You’ve just asked a client to take a risk buying from you, so you absolutely do not want to ask them to take another risk until after you have delivered what you promise. Once you have wowed your customer, ask them if they have friends or colleagues that should be doing business with you too.
Give your customer a referral first. You know a lot of people too right? Plus, the more money your customer has, the more they have to spend. It’s a win-win.
Have your customer convince the referral why they should meet with you. Instead of getting their contact information and reaching out yourself, it is much more effective to have your customer convince their referral to meet with you.
7. Make sure you have quality lists
There are hundreds of list providers in the sales world that all promise to give you qualified leads. Certain providers cater to different needs, so it is crucial that you have your end goals in mind when choosing providers.
If your startup targets other B2B startups, make sure you also check out Founders Connect for a hand curated list of startups who are in growth mode – either those who are hiring aggressively or those who have just raised a round of funding (which is the assumption these startups need solutions as they are growing at a fast pace).
8. Managing sales through the funnel is crucial for success
Rick Faulk, having run large marketing operations at Lotus, WebEx, Cisco/WebEx and PictureTel covers the 7 most important elements to managing sales leads from his 20 years of experience.
Here is a brief overview:
- Define a qualified lead. Sales and marketing need to have a granular definition or rule to when a prospect becomes a true lead. Leads that have not been fully qualified yet need to be nurtured by the marketing department.
- Make sure to nurture leads.
- Distribute leads quickly because they age.
- Track the lead source.
- Deploy a CRM solution.
- Quality always beat quantity.
- Measure EVERYTHING.
NetHunt explains this process in a very detailed infographic that is definitely worth reviewing.
9. How you begin your call will determine its fate
We can’t think of a better person to teach us how to open a sales call effectively, than the author of one of the most well known best sellers in the history of sales training, Dale Carnegie. He offers 6 tips to better engage your prospect when you first open up a phone call, including:
Grab their attention: A really effective way to do this is by using the prospect’s name, and gearing the conversation towards their needs. You will be stand out from the 99% of other sale reps that make the conversation about them.
Make them feel important: Congratulate them on a recent accomplishment or talk about their industry. Yes this involves doing your homework first!
Be time conscious: People are busy. Show them you respect their time by asking how much time they have to speak.
Tell them why you called: This is where you tell them how you have helped others in their industry. Testimonials are a huge bonus!
Never make a promise: Never EVER promise the same results as another client. This will set you up for a future disaster.
Set a follow up meeting to get to the close: Ask them to speak further, and try to get the face to face meeting.
Most importantly, remember that everyone is different, so keep your approach open and flexible to each prospect’s personality.
10. Start lean, and create your sales funnel tracker in Excel
Again, tracking your leads in each stage of the sales process is crucial! A sales funnel is a great way to see how many leads are in each specific stage of the sales process at any given time.
It’s an all encompassing look to where your outbound strategies stand, and where you should be focusing your efforts. Luckily, tracking this does not require expensive software, and cash strapped startups can easily create a sales funnel tracker in Excel.
Here is an overview of the 5 steps to creating your sales funnel in excel. Makes sure to check the article for more in-depth explanation and resources.
- Set up your data (add the stages, customer count, and spacer formula), then take the data and create a Stacked Bar Chart.
- Reverse your category order to create “the funnel”.
- Change your Gap Width to 0%, which again gives the overall feel a more funnel type look.
- Change your space bar color to “No Fill”.
- Add the final formatting to the chart, so it is presentation ready.
11. Everyone on the team needs to be a “sales person” for the company, but eventually you need to build a sales team
After your startup sees some initial growth, it is logical to ask the question “Should I hire a sales team?”. Many founders are not sure when this step is necessary, and when it is they are unsure on where to begin and have a lot of questions on the process.
Sales expert, Steli Efti, published a very helpful sales hiring guide for B2B startups in particular, which can be applied to any startup.
He breaks down the sales hiring process into 4 different stages, and speak in-depth on each stage, along with how to successfully execute your sales strategy during each of those stages.
He breaks the sales hiring process down into the following stages:
Stage 1: Founder-driven Sales
Stage 2: Founder-led Sales Team
Stage 3: Junior Sales Leader
Stage 4: Senior Sales Leader
He ultimately shifts the founder from heading sales into a smooth transition of someone best suited for the area taking over. He provides incredibly helpful tips on the types of people to hire during each stage, how to interview them, what to look for, and types of goals to accomplish in each stage. We highly recommend every founder checks out this guide.
12. Sales positions have high turnover rates, so you need to understand how to set up sales roles that allow those employees to grow and expand their skillset
Individuals who flourish in sales are driven by milestones, and seeing a clear path on how they will continue to grow and expand in their careers.
Creating specialized roles within your sales team enables individuals to grow by helping them build specific skillsets within the sales arena, and these roles should build upon each other to groom the individual for more responsibility and leadership within your organization.
Some of these roles include a lead development rep, a business development rep, inside sales, field sales, and lead the way up to sales management and director positions.
13. Woohoo, you have a sales team! Now you have to pay them.
There is always that happy medium that needs to be met where your sales team is motivated by their compensation to deliver results, but also scalable for the company.
Many founders ask the question: “Should I offer a salary or a bonus driven payment plan?” While there is no best answer, the plans that lead to the most reward for both the employees and the company happen when you leverage compensation to results.
This guide is fantastic for details on how to compensate specific sales roles, covering questions on commission capping and payout frequencies, tying goals to compensation, and common mistakes made when founders create sales compensation plans.
14. Deadly mistakes to avoid while building your outbound sales team
CRO of Hubspot, Mark Roberge, grew their sales team from $0 to $100M and has broken this “formula” down into a science that he trains others to do. Through his experience, he has identified 10 common mistakes he sees business make when scaling sales. Here is an overview of the 10 mistakes to avoid:
Hiring with your gut: Just because they did well at another company does not mean they are a fit for yours. Make sure you identify specific success criteria for your company goals and industry.
Under-utilizing the sales compensation plan: Align your plan with desired strategic change.
Mis-aligning the sales and marketing teams: Quantify deliverables that each team is expected to provide one another.
Make sure the sales manager uses coaching over forecasting: Managers should spend the majority of their time coaching their salespeople, over spending all of their time managing the sales pipeline.
Motivate through metrics, not fear: We all know that fear never works. Your employees will find another position where they are motivated through their contribution.
Using shadowing as sales training: It’s not scalable or predictable.
Buying technology for sales management: Technology that helps the sales manager, rather than forces them to slow down is best.
Not experimenting enough: Always work on expanding and tweaking your sales funnel.
Using outdated demand generation techniques: Stay up to date on the most effective outbound strategies.
15. Tools to help your overall outbound sales process run smoothly
Yes! You’ve made it. You are ready to set up your outbound strategy and your team to execute. Many of the sales techniques and daily action involves repetitive actions, and requires updating and managing that can be better managed with the help of a tool to streamline the process.
Here are 7 tools to help your outbound sales team save time, and focus on what they do best: qualify and close leads to grow your business.
Right Inbox : Track your emails with Gmail
TimeCamp : Time tracking program
YesWare : Template your emails
BriteVerify : Verify you are sending your message to active emails
Founders Connect: Sales leads for B2B startups.
Streak : CRM your inbox
Pardot : B2B marketing automation
FullContact : Discover social data about leads