Outbound Labs – Our Compass in the Storm of Rapid Change

Kenny Mackenzie, Chief Product Officer

22 October 2019

Outbound sales can be a fickle practice. Just when you think you’re onto something and you start getting some hard-won traction…things change.

No matter how strong your value proposition and how fine-tuned your knowledge of your market (or markets) is, what worked well in outbound today won’t necessarily work well months or years down the road. And, of course, what worked well months or years ago probably won’t work well today. 

Case in point: when Aaron first published Predictable Revenue he wrote that a trained SDR could expect about a 7% conversion rate from email to booked meeting. Today, 0.7% is a decent conversion for the same metric. That’s right, 0.7%.

It’s survival of the fittest out there – to stay ahead in the fluid world of outbound sales, and keep that pipeline full of qualified opportunities, you have to experiment, stay nimble, and adapt quickly. 

Failure to do so will leave you behind. 

The foundations of outbound

Outbound sales is made up of four distinct pillars:

  • Targeting (the publicly identifiable attributes you use to define and isolate your market, the methods you use to build lists, and the methods you identify the right person at the right time)
  • Messaging (what you say to prospects so they see you as the way to solve their problems)
  • Channels (the avenues you employ to share your messaging – phone, email, social media, direct mail, targeted ads etc.)
  • Tactics (the tools you use, the automation you employ, the sales process you design, your sales team’s composition, and your rep’s various specializations)

The former pillars, targeting and messaging, can vary slightly from prospect to prospect. Every target has their preferences, and outbound professionals should do their best to accommodate those. 

The latter pillars, channel and tactics, are broader in scope and vary from market to market. Some verticals are simply more used to prospecting than others; as such, they are comfortable receiving sales emails and sitting in on demos. Other verticals, however, are less advanced and prefer face-to-face sales.

All four of these pillars, of course, evolve over time.

Outbound Labs

To best serve the latter two examples (channels and tactics), this year we created a new internal innovation program at Predictable Revenue called Outbound Labs to drive continuous improvement of our service.

(Editor’s note: you may have heard about another of our outbound innovation programs called Outbound Validation. For more on that cutting-edge program, click here)

Think of Outbound Labs as an incubator for both channel and tactical experiments. For example, each month, we systematically analyze the problems and bottlenecks we’re experiencing when connecting with our clients’ markets.

Is there a specific channel that is underperforming? Is there a new tactic we can employ to get better results? What new trends in the prospecting world discussing that we should investigate?

These are just a sample of the questions we ask each month before we incorporate new channel and tactical experiments. At Predictable Revenue, we subscribe to an 80/20 rule when it comes to innovation: we spend about 80% of our time keenly focused on the tactics and channels that we know work and drive results for our clients, and about 20% of our time experimenting with new approaches (organized via our Outbound Labs program) in the hopes that some of them work and we can standardize the new practice across our company.   

Some of what we learn is directly relevant to how we operate and doesn’t make much sense to share publicly. Sometimes though, what we learn we think can be very useful for anyone doing outbound, so we publish it on our website.

For instance, last spring we ran over 30 experiments that tested various ideas we had about what could impact email deliverability. We shared a lot of what we learned here.

The importance of predictability  

To standardize new tactics and channels, however, requires an exercise in predictability. When we first test a new channel or tactic and the results are positive, we test again. And then we test again. A positive result in one campaign is tested in at least 5 more campaigns before we begin incorporating the idea in our standard offerings.

Alternatively, a test that yields a negative result in a campaign isn’t necessarily given up on either. We can continue to iterate, test, and measure if a new channel or tactic just doesn’t seem quite right. We do all this by following the scientific method, documenting our processes, and sharing results across our team.

Because that’s how you stay ahead in outbound sales – navigating the new and unknown, while simultaneously optimizing what works great. It’s why we created Outbound Labs, and it’s how we continuously refine our approaches to help our clients achieve predictable revenue.

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