B2B Sales

Outbound Sales: What It Is and Why Should You Use This Strategy

A phone that won’t stop ringing. Countless voicemails from qualified, interested prospects. If this sounds like your sales job, you are living the dream.

Unfortunately, that world is far from the norm, no matter the skill of any marketing department.

As a B2B sales rep, you cannot always rely on prospects coming to you. Most of the time, you have to go out and find them. 

You have to be a hunter with an entrepreneurial mentality who is not afraid to make cold calls or send cold emails. Self-reliance is key.

To become an emblem of self-reliance in business, master the art of outbound sales. 

So, in this post, we give you a complete guide to outbound sales. You will learn how to set up an outbound sales process, the benefits of outbound sales, and some tips to boost your success.

Happy hunting. 

What is Outbound Sales? 

Outbound sales is a sales process where a seller initiates contact with a potential buyer. Sellers make contact using various methods: cold calls and emails, social media touches, and networking events. 

If you spend time at your desk dialing down a list or using sending out personalized emails to contacts, you are involved in outbound sales. 

You also probably know it is one of the toughest aspects of sales. On average, it takes 18 calls to connect with a buyer. It is important never to give up because that next big deal could be one more call away. 

Outbound sales can also be a numbers game. 

How? The more dials you make, the better chance you have to connect with someone who has the pain your solution solves. 

The more demos you hold, the higher the chance someone will fall in love with your solution. Not to mention, the more actions you take, the better you get. 

Where Do Outbound Sales Leads Come From? 

Customizing your pitch to a potential client increases your chances of closing a deal, so it is important to keep in mind where you found them. After all, a prospect who already has an idea of what you can offer will require a different approach to the one you’ve scouted out cold. So what’s the difference?

Cold Leads

Often, in outbound sales, the seller is reaching out to “cold leads” – prospects that have never expressed interest in the seller’s product or company. On most occasions, the cold lead has never even communicated with anyone from the seller’s company before. 

These “cold leads” should be decision-makers at companies that fit your ideal customer profile and would receive great value from your offering. 

The actual leads and their contact information (names, titles, phone numbers) usually come from a list that is created by a lead generation software, such as Soleadify. 

Warm Leads

There are also “warm leads” – prospects who have expressed interest in your service by attending a webinar, filling out a contact us form, or reading a blog post. These types of leads are more likely to take a meeting when you give them a call. 

The best process for following up with “warm leads” who filled out a contact-us form is simple. 

Just do a quick google search of the company and the prospect. Figure out which marketing content they interacted with. Then give them a call and say: 

“I was happy to see you filled out our contact-us form. What was it you needed help with today?” 

Then listen and ask them some qualifying questions to see if your company can help. If it’s a fit, book a meeting on the calendar for a discovery call or a web-demo, depending on your process. 

Who Does Outbound Sales in the Company?

In the B2B space, a lot of companies employ Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) to follow up with warm leads and reach out to cold ones. The SDR’s ultimate goal is to generate qualified leads for their Account Executives (AEs) to close. 

This means the AEs can spend their time working deals in their pipeline, without having to spend a tremendous amount of time it takes to prospect for new business. 

A lot of sales reps start as SDRs, especially in the SaaS space. At times, it can sort of feel like you are doing the dirty work to make the higher-ups rich, but you won’t be in there forever. 

And you’ll gain valuable knowledge about the product, the fundamentals of sales, and how to overcome fear and rejection. These skill sets will set you up for success when you become “a closer” in a year or two. 

Here are some sales positions that do outbound sales.

Sales Development Representative 

As we said, SDRs prospect for leads to pass onto closers at their company. They do this through emails, cold calls, and networking. 

Business Development Representative 

The title of BDR is pretty much interchangeable with SDR. At most companies, they share the same functions, and the title is arbitrary. 

Once in awhile, companies will separate the two roles and have SDRs focus on outbound prospecting cold leads while BDRs focus on calling warmer leads (or inbound leads).

Lead Development Representative

LDRs call only upon leads that have expressed interest by attending an event, downloading an ebook, or something else. 

They fully support the sales team by qualifying these leads and passing them onto the Account Executive, saving AEs the hassle of potentially calling on someone who’s isn’t a good fit. 

Account Executives

Account Executives are the closers at the company. Once a lead is qualified, they take them through the rest of the sales process. They host demos and presentations, handle objections, and negotiate the contract. 

Inbound vs. Outbound Sales, Which Road to Take?

Unlike in outbound sales, in inbound sales, the prospect initiates the first contact. They are interested in your solution, so they pick up the phone to call you and learn more. 

Inbound sales can be thought of as a magnet, while outbound can be thought of as a fisherman. 

The fisherman sails out into the market and tries to attract prospects through messaging (the bait). Each cold call is a cast of the rod.

Meanwhile, the magnet (inbound sales) seeks to attract leads to the company, with the marketing team working on the website’s SEO, advertising, and social media campaigns to attract the right leads to their service. 

If the inbound marketing strategy works, prospects will call into the company with questions or interest in a demo, eventually leading to a purchasing decision. A lot of the time, companies that are well-known in their industries will have more sales reps dedicated to inbound sales because prospects already have them in mind.

For instance, Salesforce probably gets more inbound sales than a new CRM software startup. 

Which Type of Sales Should You Use? 

Usually, it’s best to employ both an inbound and outbound sales strategy. That way, you can capture the maximum percentage of the market. 

But when you are choosing which strategy to emphasize, here are some things to take into account. 

Inbound sales is good for your company if:

  • You have cheaper, less complex solutions.
  • Your company is well-known in the market.
  • Your market is aware of the problems your solution solves.
  • Your prospects are active on the internet (e.g marketers, startup employees, younger business owners).

Outbound sales is perfect for your company if:

  • You have expensive, complex products with long sales cycles.
  • Your decision-makers like talking with sales reps.
  • You are a small player in the market.
  • Your market isn’t aware of their problem, or that a solution exists.
  • Your prospects aren’t active on the internet or social media (older Industries, real estate, large corporations).

Benefits of Outbound Sales Strategy

Hard aspects of life are usually hard for a reason: they create results. Here are some benefits of outbound sales. 

Predictable Revenue 

Outbound reps take a systematic approach to generating sales. They might make 60 calls a day and send 50 emails a day. If the company has a good value proposition, you can almost predict your efforts’ success rate. 

Plus, you can test and adjust a standardized outbound system until it’s perfected. So, outbound reps aren’t leaving their success up to chance. 

In outbound sales, reps take action consistently, so growth is limited only by the number of cold outreaches your company can make. 

You Control Who You Talk to

With an inbound strategy, a lot of your leads will be either small or unqualified. 

In outbound sales, you pick the companies and people you want to connect with. That means you can focus on companies that are perfect fits for your solution. You can focus on finding decision-makers

And, if you are prioritizing revenue, you can focus on larger accounts that will bring in more money. 

When time is of the essence, this is a better approach than sitting and hoping for a prospect to see your marketing material enough times to call in for a quote. 

Best Way to Test New Products and Messaging

If you release a product or service that your market is unaware of, you have to get out there and test your messaging and see what resonates. 

Do this before setting up your inbound marketing strategy, and you can ensure that your future ad copy and marketing emails influence potential buyers. 

Like scouts, get out there and see what resonates with your prospects. Through hundreds of conversations with people in your target industry, you might even uncover a pain point that you didn’t know your solution solved. 

Outbound Sales Requirements

Goals

It helps to have a north star to move towards. Set up goals for your outbound sales efforts. These goals should include quarterly goals like new revenue generated or new clients added. 

A goal for the future will help direct your actions and plan your months, weeks, and days. 

KPIs

Set up KPIs (or lead goals) that will help you hit your overarching goal. These are the goals your team must hit every day or week to ensure success. 

Here are some common KPIs for outbound reps:

  • Number of cold calls made per day
  • Number of follow up emails sent per day
  • Number of new opportunities created each week

There are also some more mathematical KPIs for tracking performance. For example:

Average Sales Cycle Length

This is how long it takes a qualified lead to sign a contract, which helps you determine roadblocks in your sales process. 

Average Call to Close Ratio

Tells you how many calls it takes to close an account. This number tells you if your outbound strategy is successful or needs tweaking.

Cost of Generating a New Opportunity

If you have 10 BDRs producing unqualified opportunities, you are burning through money. It is better to have fewer opportunities that are highly-qualified than a bunch of lousy ones. 

Close Ratio

This number tells you how many opportunities end in a sale. The best-in-class companies close 30% of their qualified leads. 

Pro Tip: Try to create KPIs that you know you can hit. That way you won’t feel demoralized when you can’t keep your commitments. 

It might be a good idea to put “conversations had” as a KPI in cold outreach. A conversation is a step in the right direction. So count it as a win and get a boost of confidence. 

Tools

The most effective salespeople maximize the time they spend selling by automating any nagging administrative work. 

Finding leads, sending emails, and pipeline analysis can all be automated with technology. Unfortunately, salespeople still spend just 1/3 of their days talking with prospects. 

If that sounds like you, here are some tools to help. 

This is what a tech stack for an outbound sales rep looks like: 

Lead Generation

Don’t waste time searching for companies and leads. Instead, use lead generation software like Soleadify

You can plug in the attributes of your ideal customers and then receive thousands of accounts and prospects to call on. 

That way, you can call down a list, and access “flow,” instead of interrupting your call blocks with account research. 

Sales Engagement Software

Sales engagement software, such as Salesloft and Outreach, helps you send out more emails in less time.

You can put prospects into cadences – basically sequences of email templates. Then you can use the email templates as a base, and personalize the other 20% of the email for each prospect. 

These two types of tools save salespeople hours. 

Process

It’s critical to create a standardized, documented process that you and your sales team can follow when doing outbound sales to each account. 

The keyword there is standardized—you want you and your team to operate in the same way so you have data to analyze. 

For example, suppose that several of your team members struggle in the negotiation phase because prospects keep mentioning competitors’ low prices. In that case, you know you need to change how you discuss your differentiators. 

With a standardized sales process, your team can: 

  • Understand how far along each deal is in the sales cycle.
  • Accurately measure sales analytics (close rates, cycle lengths, etc.).
  • Forecast sales revenue. 
  • Optimize your process to increase revenue.
  • Uncover chokepoints in the sales cycle. 
  • Quickly train new hires. 

Methodology

Just like with your process, you want a standardized sales methodology that fits your business’s goals. 

A sales methodology is an overarching philosophy that dictates how you make your prospects feel and what you want your prospects to know about your solution. 

How they feel and what they know should lead them to make a purchase. 

Here are some examples of sales methodologies:

The Challenger Method

With this method, you act as an advisor, a rather tough one. Your goal is to challenge your prospect’s beliefs and assumptions about their business. 

You use your industry and product expertise to shed light on new ways they can improve their business with the help of your solution.  

SPIN Selling

SPIN stands for Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-Payoff. The method focuses on asking the right questions in each stage to lead the conversation where you want it to go – a sale. 

The method has been around for 30 years and is excellent for figuring out exactly what your prospect needs so that you can deliver it. 

Other sales methods include the Sandler System (relation-ship focused), Solution Selling, and many more. If sales methodologies interest you, check out this post

Outbound Sales Process Overview

A sales process is a series of steps that take a prospect from uninterested to a paying customer. 

It’s important to have an outbound sales process that you can believe in and repeat. Why is belief important? 

If you don’t believe in the process, you will be less motivated to take the necessary actions to reach the end goal. You wouldn’t cook breakfast in the morning if you doubted you’d be able to eat it. 

A good sales process acts as a roadmap that you and your team can follow to success (and high commissions). 

“Businesses that use a formal sales process perform better, and their revenue growth is 18% better than in companies without a defined sales process.”

Here is an example of a potential outbound sales process for a B2B SaaS company:  

  1. Prepare a list of best-fit accounts 
  2. Research the account and the decision-maker
  3. Prospect for the decision-maker until you make contact
  4. Book a meeting
  5. Have a discovery call
  6. Host web-demo 
  7. Handle objections
  8. Send contract
  9. Pricing call 
  10. Close deal

Of course, within each of those steps, there are mini-processes, such as which questions to ask or which parts of the software to show. 

Make sure your team is on the same page about your outbound processes so that you can spot areas for improvement. 

Outbound Sales Tips for More Sales

Now that we’ve covered the requirements and the process, we can move onto a few sales tips that will help you close more deals.

Focus on the Value Proposition

As a good sales rep, you might be excited about how your tech will change the world. While that may be the case, most prospects don’t care about the shiny, cutting-edge features. They want to see the value

Phrases like workflow automation or automated image capturing don’t mean much to the non-techie, who has plenty of other things to worry about besides deciphering your lingo. 

To generate interest, focus on the value proposition of your solution. Here are some questions you need to answer:

  • What pains will it remove? 
  • How will the prospect’s life be better once they have your service? 
  • What annoying work will they no longer have to do because of your technology? 

Now it’s time to share the answers with your market. 

Ipod’s advertisement slogan, “a thousand songs in your pocket,” sounds a lot more enticing than “1 GB of storage”. 

The same goes for your solution. “No more paperwork or excel” is better than “intelligent documentation.” Focus on the value proposition. 

Work Accounts, Not Just Leads

In the B2B world, there will often be more than one decision-maker at your target company. Don’t just target one C-suite exec. According to Google, 81% of employees not in the C-Suite influence purchasing decisions. 

So, it’s best to target a group of decision-makers in each of your accounts. And make sure to give each of them their own personalization in your outreach. 

For example, your target account might have a Director of Marketing, Director of IT, and COO. All of them could be involved in the buying process, so you might as well hit all of them with cold emails and calls. 

If one of them isn’t actually a DM, they will pass you to the person who is. 

Also, if you have the resources, bring in your marketing team for help. They can lower defenses with effective Account-Based Marketing

They can do things like sending a series of marketing emails or direct mail (cards, swag, socks) to the prospects at the account. 

That way, when you connect with some of the DMs, they will have already heard of you, and are therefore more likely to give you a shot.

Use a Script as a Guideline Only

To script or not to script—that’s the dilemma of many sales reps. 

They want to keep structure to their cold calls without losing their quick feet, which gives them the ability to adjust creatively to whatever the prospects say. 

Luckily, there’s a great way to find a healthy balance between script and no script. Use it as a guideline. Craft the opening and keep your end in sight. 

For a cold call, try to script out the opening sentences and know your goal—a booked meeting. 

To ignite the best response from your opening, try mentioning pain points early. Say you are calling because a lot of companies like theirs are struggling with {pain point A} and it’s causing them to {pain point B}. 

If you have this scripted, you can use it over and over again, and build up your confidence. That means faster calls. 

Plus, you receive feedback of its success so you can edit it as needed. If you want to work on your cold calls, here are some cold calling best practices

Now, a script for a demo or presentation needs to be even more of a guide. Figure out which elements of the demo you want to show, but don’t hesitate to change course if you hit on something that interests them.

Always dive into any interest or pain expressed by a potential buyer. 

Pro Tip – Create Talk Tracks: If there are common objections or questions that you hear from prospects, do your best to memorize the best responses. These “talk tracks” will become habitual, saving you precious mental energy in sales conversations. 

Document Your Processes and Update If Needed

Documenting your processes will help you improve them.  

As you know, you can only improve what you track. If you want to gain muscle, you have to track your macronutrients and weight, and if you want to improve your sleep, you need to monitor how many hours you sleep each night. 

The same goes for sales. You need to track what you do each day to find what is and isn’t working. The parts of the process that work beautifully you lean into. The parts that need work, you change. 

Also, don’t be afraid to take some risks and try new things. Then, if they work, add them to the process. 

The Master of Your Fate

If anyone thinks of you as just another cold caller, don’t pay attention. They haven’t had to overcome constant rejection and failure on a journey to an almost impossible goal: turning a stranger into a paying client. 

Most jobs have security and comfort. Most people’s income isn’t directly tied to their output. In outbound sales, it is. 

And that is a blessing. Because the only limiting factor to your success is your own skill and determination. So, take these outbound sales tactics and revel in the fact that you are the master of your fate in this profession.