Just a little patience: the importance of investing in the journey of outbound sales

Collin Stewart, CEO

19 September 2018

Point me in the direction of an entrepreneur, executive, or sales leader and you are, almost certainly, pointing me in the direction of someone that likes closing a deal.

And for good reason – the more deals a company signs, the more revenue it generates. That additional revenue is what supports hiring, product growth, and, in some cases, international expansion.

It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?

One particularly effective method to fuel that growth is outbound sales. Sure, inbound sales is great. So too is a killer product, and responsive customer service. All play their part in the success of a company. A high-functioning outbound sales team, though, fully ramped and actively working its market, can deliver consistent pipeline like no other company function can.

But it takes time, and patience, to get outbound to that well-oiled point.

A common misconception of outbound sales – particularly in today’s hyper-growth startup world – is that outbound sales teams can start producing results immediately. All you need is a couple of Sales Development Reps, laptops, lists, and some software.

The rest will take care of itself.

This is the wrong way to approach outbound, and, unfortunately, an impulse we see time and time again. Once your outbound team is up and running, scaling reps becomes more plug and play but getting your first wins and dialling in the process is anything but predictable. Rather, building an outbound machine is a full-time journey that takes between 12 – 24 months to launch, refine, and, ultimately, get right.

So…why does it take that long, you ask?

Because instituting successful outbound sales is an iterative process, rife with learning and adaptation. For example, in the first 6 months, you’re just learning the basics: who your ICP is, how to refine your messaging, how to book your first meetings, and how to make sure those meetings into the pipeline. There is a lot of experimentation going on during this phase.

The following six months is all about refining the playbook, making sure your AEs have a strong process for following up, and growing the team. Your first deals are likely still 1-2 sales cycles away at the beginning of this half and anyone that has been in a sales cycle (like many of you reading this) know how long that can take. If you sell a product that costs in the realm of, say, $25,000, those tend to be shorter sales cycles. As such, closing a deal within the first 6 or 7 months of launching outbound is a possibility. But, if you sell a more expensive or technical product or service, you’re likely looking at closing your first deal within 9 – 12 months of getting outbound off the ground.

Our company, which specializes in designing outbound sales campaigns for clients in every conceivable vertical, is no exception to this rule. Our average deal size ranges between $60,000 – $120,000, and the first outbound deal we closed with our newest SDR, Peter, came during his 7th month on job.

Since then, he’s sourced at least one deal per month for us – some of which were in our pipeline before he even started. For instance, we started working with Paro.io earlier this year, but they were originally an inbound lead that came to us at the beginning of 2017 (Jason picked up the lead, and started working it after numerous unsuccessful attempts). Similarly, we started working with PlayerLync this past spring, after first connecting with them at the end of 2017. We traded emails late last year, and actually deemed them not to be a fit after a qualification call. It was only when Jason re-engaged them that, after another lengthy sales cycle, we closed them.

(Editor’s note: we had Chris Bryson, Head of North American Sales Development at SmartRecruiters on the Predictable Revenue Podcast a while back to talk about how he trains his SDRs. Our in-depth chat is a great look at how seriously SmartRecruiters takes its SDR onboarding, and sheds more light on the time it takes, even for established international companies, to fully ramp new prospectors. You can read about our discussion here, or listen to the podcast here).

Some of our clients have also experienced great success months into their journey with outbound. Connectria, a St. Louis-based company offering cloud computing and managed hosting solutions, just closed a $180,000 annual recurring deal in their ninth month.

Another client, Activation Systems, just closed a staggering $1,000,000 deal, and they’re in month 18. They’ve had smaller deals along the way, and were happy with their outbound results, but now they have this big whale. And it’s awesome.

A critical caveat to this timeframe, however, is whether or not you have to hire new team members to execute your outbound function. If you are hiring new team members (we suggest hiring a sales manager first, and having them bring on two SDRs to start) it can be an additional 3 – 6 months to find the right candidates.

If that is a requirement for your business, then fully-ramped outbound sales – that beautiful, revenue-generating machine – could take north of two years to find its groove. But once it does, your business will have a consistent, predictable source of new opportunities every month.

And that’s a powerful place to get to. It just takes some time to find.

Get started today with outbound.