With hundreds of meetings, demos and deals under our belts, we’ve become a team of outbound sales veterans. But we weren’t always confident in our approach to outbound, especially in the beginning – and that’s why we’ve put together this guide: to help you learn outbound sales best practices from our experiences.
This guide will show you the exact steps you need to take to start your outbound sales process from the ground up. And if you already have an outbound program in place, the methods, metrics and tech stack that we will share in this post will give you plenty of new ideas to incorporate. So let’s begin.
Two Prerequisites for a Great Outbound Sales Program
- A product
It might sound like obvious advice, but in order to successfully launch an outbound sales program, you must have a functioning product that you can sell and charge customers for. Outbound isn’t meant for products in the idea-stage, or before an official launch.
- An average deal size of $3,000+ ACV
If the annual contract value (ACV) of your average deal is less than $3,000 (or about $250 per month), it doesn’t make financial sense for you to develop an entire outbound program. Hiring an outbound prospector to do the demos and sales process is not going to pay off if your software costs $29.99 or even $99.99 per month. In this case, you’re better off going the self-serve route with paid ads, SEO, gated content and website forms.
Once you’ve met these prerequisites, it’s time to start building your outbound process. Here are the 5 steps you need to take to make that happen.
5 Steps to Creating Your Outbound Sales Process
1) Develop a buyer persona (Outbound ICP)
Before you make a hire or do any prospecting, you need to know who you’re selling to by coming up with a buyer persona, or ideal customer profile (ICP).
You can develop your ICP in two ways: 1) by using your understanding of the market and 2) by leveraging knowledge of past customers you have had success with.
It’s important to note that your outbound ICP may differ slightly from your general ICP. Here’s an example to illustrate why this might be the case:
You know you’re selling to companies in North America with a marketing function that have 250 or more employees. In this case, the VP Marketing would be the obvious choice for your ICP. You know this based on your instincts, knowledge of the market, and a couple of deals you’ve closed with similar companies.
However, even if you have a client whose VP Marketing signed off on your deal, you need to revisit your outbound ICP. You may find more luck reaching out to Marketing Operations Managers, for instance, because they are more likely to be researching tools and taking meetings. Once they’ve met with you, then they’ll bring in the VP Marketing to make the final decision.
Too often outbound prospectors go after VP-level targets, when they should be focused on the employees doing the gatekeeping and research. Often, VPs are too busy to initiate a purchase, and will be brought in at a later time.
Note: You may not understand this distinction in your own market right away, but it’s important to keep this in mind when refining your outbound strategy.
Typically when prospecting, it’s not one buyer that buys from you, especially in larger organizations, Multiple decision-makers who have input creates a complex sales process, so it is imperative that you develop multiple outbound ICPs to target per organization.
2) Separate your prospecting from other account development processes
Once you have internal buy-in for your outbound sales plan, it is imperative that you separate your prospecting activities from other sales and marketing activities. If possible, you should have a single person whose sole job is to do outbound prospecting – not to close deals, handle inbound leads, go to trade shows, not even to do demos. They should be prospecting into cold accounts, all day, exclusively.
What we’ve seen from companies with full stack account development processes is that the person who is in charge of closing deals isn’t usually motivated to do cold prospecting, because their success metrics are aligned differently. This causes prospecting to be put on the back burner, and leaves money on the table in terms of potential deals being overlooked.
Once the outbound sales person is up and running, assign them to reach out to a target number of prospects each day or week. There is no magic number here, as it will be defined by your strategy, time and bandwidth. However, we suggest starting with reaching out to 50 unique prospects per day, on average, within target organizations.
50 unique prospects is a good baseline to start with, but don’t assume that these prospects will all immediate jump at the chance to speak to you. In step 4, we detail exactly how to use personalized and automated email nurturing to boost your response – and meeting – rate.
3) Use LinkedIn like a pro
There are many tools out there to build lists and identify prospects, but by far the most popular – and cheapest (it’s free!) – is LinkedIn.
To get started, your outbound salesperson can search LinkedIn by job title, and filter by company size, location, industry and more to target based on your outbound ICP. From the resultant list of prospects, you can examine the description of the company, posts made by employees and more to uncover the best prospects to target. Here’s an example:
Say your tool integrates with several popular account-based marketing products. You can use LinkedIn’s advanced search to discover prospects who are talking about specific tools or account-based marketing in general, and narrow down the list this way. Or, if you know you’re going after CTOs and your tool integrates well with AWS, filter out any company that doesn’t mention AWS in its description.
Once your prospects have been identified, you need to get their contact information. This is one place where LinkedIn won’t help you, as they don’t share their members’ email addresses or phone numbers. Instead, you can use one of the tools outlined in our tech stack below, like LeadIQ, Prospect or Clearbit, to scrape the contact details for you. This is an essential step, and will require a relatively cheap (and good value for the money) investment.
4) Become an email ninja
To start, focus on email as your main method of reaching out to your 50 (or whatever number you land on) prospects per day. Personalized email nurturing has a good success rate and lends itself to automation, which will help you scale as you grow your program.
For each of the 50 prospects, send a personalized email introduction. Then, continue to send four to five email touches over a three to four week period. As we’ve discussed before, persistence is an essential skill for any good salesperson.
There are many tools that allow you to create a personalized, automated email nurture sequence, including Outreach, Reply and Yesware. Put each of the 50 prospects you’re contacting into your chosen tool, assign them to an email sequence, and the emails will be sent on autopilot.
The key here is having good, crisp email copy. The typical cold email is too long, generic, self-serving and lacks a true value proposition for the prospect. Yours should be different. Keep it short and sweet, and continue to refine it as you get responses back.
As you send your emails, you should also do some A/B testing to determine what’s working, and what’s not. You’ll want to test two things:
i) Your copy
Begin with two versions, and test them against each other. One might be straight to the point, while the other is more humorous, contains social proof, includes an anecdote, etc. Keep what works, and discard what doesn’t.
ii) Your buyer persona
Let’s say you’re going after IT teams. You could test reaching out to people with “software” in their title alongside those with “product” in their title to determine who is a better target buyer. Like your copy, continue to revise your target persona as you learn about your market.
Your email sequence can include anything you deem worthy, but if you’re stuck for ideas, here is a high level overview of what we recommend:
Intro email. This first, brief email should explain how your solution could help your prospect. Include a clear call to action, and ask permission to set up a call if they are interested.
Follow-up email. This email should bolster your credibility in some way. Share a high level overview of what you’ve done for similar clients, and include numbers if you can (like mentioning that you have increased performance by 200% for clients in their industry, for example).
Social proof email. Give your prospect more evidence that you can help them by including a case study or more statistics and social proof.
Quick check-in email. This should be an extremely short email, checking in with them and letting them know you are happy to hop on a call. Again, include a clear call to action.
Valuable content email. Include a valuable piece of content in this email, like an ebook, whitepaper, webinar or blog post.
End of sequence email. Clients don’t buy from you based on your timeline – they have their own budget life cycles, internal pressures and more. So just because you stop reaching out doesn’t mean they will feel pressure to buy. At the end of your sequence, let them know that you are pausing outreach, and you understand that the time might not be right for them. However, don’t close the door if you haven’t heard a firm “no” at this point: ask to reach out again in 90 or 180 days.
During this sequence, you might notice that a number of clients do not respond but they do open the email and click on your links. This passive engagement shows some interest, so be sure to make note of who engages and recycle those contacts, using fresh email copy, after a 90 or 120 day period.
Congratulations! You now have solid outbound ICPs, a distinct prospecting process, you’re using LinkedIn to discover prospects and your email nurturing is running smoothly. These are the essential ingredients in any great outbound sales program – you’re officially up and running! Now it’s time to reflect on what’s working, watch the leads come in, and scale your process to grow with your business.
In our next post, we will discuss the metrics you can use to measure the success of your outbound program, an ideal tech stack that will get the job done for a relatively low cost, and key things to watch out.