The Predictable Revenue Guide To Outbound Sales
Learn about outbound sales, including what it is, why use it, how to know if your organization is ready for outbound sales, how to build your sales team, and more!
“You want growth that doesn’t require guessing, hope, and frantic last-minute deal-hustling every quarter- and year-end.” – Aaron Ross – author of Predictable Revenue.
While inbound marketing and sales have their strategies… As a company that was co-founded by Aaron Ross, who helped increase revenue by more than $100 million in his first few years at SalesForce, believe us when we say outbound sales development has a place in many organizations.
What Is Outbound Sales?
Outbound sales are initiated by sales professionals contacting prospects through cold calling, cold emailing, cold SMS texting, or social selling. The difference between inbound and outbound sales development lies in the origin of the lead. Inbound leads are actively seeking out your product, service, or solution and outbound leads potentially don’t yet know you exist or haven’t been actively researching your specific solution.
The holy grail of most businesses is revenue that is predictable, repeatable, and scalable. You want to be able to set up a sales system where you can say: if I am able to hire 1 more salesperson they can perform this activity to yield this result. This will allow you to invest in your business and watch it grow. Without a robust documented process you won’t be able to estimate how much new business a new salesperson can generate or the time it will take.
Most of our clients ask themselves these questions when considering establishing an outbound sales team:
- How much should I pay a salesperson?
- How many salespeople can I add to my organization?
- How should I document our sales process?
- How can I create more predictability in our sales team’s efforts?
- Who should I target?
- Where should I find leads?
- Which channels should I use to target them?
- What outreach approach should I use?
- How can I grow my revenue?
Let’s step back for a second and focus on why establishing an outbound sales function makes sense for many organizations.
Why Use Outbound Sales?
Let’s take the guesswork out of where your next lead might come from! By using outbound sales strategies you take advantage of four key elements:
- Highly targeted prospecting (ie. decision-makers)
- Relationship building with your future customers
- Predictable lead generation
- Predictable sales pipeline
Here are the 3 key elements to outbound sales:
- Predictable Lead Generation: identify your target market, your ideal customer profile (ICP), build your list and then track your conversions.
- A Dedicated Sales Team: once you’re ready to hire your second sales person they need to specialize. We’ll discuss that a bit further. Have someone focused on lead generation and someone focused on providing demos or discovery calls and closing opportunities.
- Consistent Sales System: document your sales process so all members of the team are following the same process and you’re able to analyze reliable data and results.
And here is the process to establish predictable lead generation:
- Identify your target market
- Identify your ideal customer profile
- Map out your buyer personas
- Build your list of prospects
- Outreach using outbound best practices
- Qualify leads
- Handoff leads to account executives (closers)
- Sales calls
- Close deals
- Feedback loop
How Do You Know If Your Organization Is Ready For Outbound Sales?
Since there are so many kinds of businesses and business models… ultimately you have to try different things, test what works and use your judgment on where to focus.
If you do mostly offer consulting or coaching services, if your sales depend on you or your existing team, if you don’t have any customers that are worth $10,000, or if none of this makes sense…avoid outbound prospecting and focus on inbound sales and marketing first.
If you’re one of those kinds of businesses, you can use outbound sales tactics but use the approach as a way to learn who your customers are or are not, and what they want or don’t want. However, don’t expect it to generate much in terms of profitable revenue.
Read through the Sales Development Methodology Principles to gauge if you have taken the steps necessary to be successful at outbound sales. Once you’re able to address the principles of sales development you’re ready to implement the playbook.
Once You’re Ready To Hire Your First Outbound Sales Rep
So you’re ready to hire your first outbound sales rep? You’ll know you’re ready when you’ve hit at least 5 of these 10 signs.
- Inbound leads have plateaued
- Innovative new solution to the marketplace
- Product or service is expensive and targeted at enterprise customers
- Longer sale cycles
- Product or service generates attention at conferences and events
- Higher profit margins that allow larger commissions to be offered
- Target market is receptive to cold outreach
- Very specific target market
- Moving away from founder led sales
- Average deal size is over $10,000
Quick Review: Why Sales Roles Should Be Specialized
Remember, for ANY kind of b2b lead generation program that involves people to succeed, and to maximize your sales growth, you MUST specialize your sales roles:
- Inbound marketing requires “Market Response Reps” that can focus on the fast response and high-volume required to handle inbound leads.
- Outbound prospecting will not work consistently unless you have reps who are dedicated (at least 90%) to prospecting.
- Customer Success won’t reach its potential until you have someone or people whose job it is to help your customers succeed (don’t let them sink or swim after the sale).
- If your Account Executive closers are juggling too many other responsibilities, they won’t be able to put their best focus on their pipeline of active prospects.
When we mean specialize, we mean specialize. So when you’re ready to hire your first outbound sales rep keep this in mind:
- Prospectors need to focus on bringing in outbound leads.
- Your prospectors should not close.
- Your prospectors should not respond to inbound leads.
- Your prospectors should not act as part-time telemarketers for marketing who want to fill their events.
- Your prospectors should prospect (90% of their time/focus).
There is one exception and that is if you have a product that’s being sold with just one or two phone calls (a “one-call close”), then it can make sense to have one person fielding the lead and closing too.
Also, a big benefit in specialization is creating a career path for your people. Your best people usually will be the ones you develop internally over time through this path, and it keeps the best ones interested and engaged.
9 Steps to Build Your Outbound Team
We’ve put together some resources for you to review as you get ready to build your outbound team, or look to get buy-in from your organization. Make sure your executives buy into the value and vision of the team, so that if you hit snags they don’t quit too easily:
- Read chapters 1-4 of Predictable Revenue: These chapters are the ones that focus on outbound prospecting, aka “Cold Calling 2.0″, providing the backstory at Salesforce.com and a lot of detailed “how to” information.
- Read the practice section of our Sales Development Methodology: This covers high level how to set up your outbound team for success.
- Want benchmarks, or need to convince executives? Read Aaron, I Want To Copy What You Did At Salesforce.com, How Do I Do That? – this article gives you a lot of detail for your financial planning and expectations, around budgets, ROI, revenue, etc. How much revenue should you expect? That sort of thing, plus tips on helping sell the idea to your execs.
- Would outsourcing help or hurt?: It’s something to consider if you don’t want to hire prospectors yet.
- It takes 6-12+ months from scratch to see regular revenue: Have realistic expectations, if you’re building a team from scratch, expect it to take 4-6 months to be generating quality sales opportunities consistently. It can take another 3-6 months after that (6-12 total) to start seeing regular revenue coming in. Here’s an excellent post by Devon McDonald at OpenView Partners on Realistic Expectations When Launching an Outbound Prospecting Team.
- You’ll need a minimum viable tech stack: You can’t track leads, opportunities and deals in Outlook and Excel, you NEED a sales automation system, though the tool you use isn’t as important as your process and people. For a CRM, we recommend Salesforce.com, because it’s proven to work, most extra applications integrate with it, it’s a lot easier to hire people with experience using or managing it. There are lots of interesting alternatives out there, and one may be better for you if you’re a small team or business; but if you’re getting ready to grow FAST, I haven’t seen anything better (yet). Here are 8 simple tips on making salesforce.com easier to use. And for the rest of the tech stack have a read through the tools section of the Sales Development Methodology.
- How to hire top performing SDRs: Once you’re ready to hire, use the ideas in this approach, and read our private client guide: Predictable Revenue Guide To Hiring Great Prospectors. Your first hires can make success very easy…or make it really hard.
- Compensation: You’ll want to ensure you are compensating your sales team accordingly.
- An eBook on metrics: InsightSquared released a free ebook (with our help) dedicated solely to “Key Seeds, Nets & Spears Metrics”, which you can grab here.
Outbound Sales Strategy: Guide for Sales Leaders
The B2B sales industry is everchanging, and as a sales leader, it’s essential to stay on top of trends.
In this ebook, you will learn:
- How to perfect your value proposition
- Why you need to identify your Zebra
- How to build a pivot-ready sales development team
- Tips for tracking and analyzing Growth Data
- How to avoid common growth potholes, and
- Counter experience asymmetry on your outbound sales team.
Together, these tips will help you build a sales development team that generates predictable, repeatable, and scalable revenue.
4 Things To Keep In Mind As You Begin Hiring Your Outbound Team
- Who Owns It? The outbound prospecting team should report into Sales, rather than Marketing. Why? Because prospectors need to work very closely with Account Executives, and the role should be part of the sales career path. The exception: whichever leader is most passionate about making the team a success should own it – regardless of whether they’re in sales or marketing.
- Territories: Prospectors (and salespeople) need some kind of focus: We always advise clients to assign geographic territories or an industry; also have different people focus on simple/small clients and others on more large/complex ones. If you need help understanding why, read: Why Your Salespeople & Prospectors Need Territories.
- Hiring Ratios: The ideal ratio of people is 1 prospector for every 1-to-3 salespeople, depending on how much extra pipeline your salespeople need. A good prospector can easily overload a single salesperson. When a prospector actively supports more than three salespeople, the quality of the working relationships and focus go down, and results suffer.
- Initial Training / Onboarding: For your first hires, don’t just throw them on the phones after a few days. Make sure they spend a lot of their time during the first month learning about your company, culture, products and customers. They’ll be slower to start, but faster to ramp.
Need help establishing an outbound sales team from the start? Without the pitfalls, that could happen? Have a look at what coaching or consulting service might be the right fit for your organization.
You Already Have An Outbound Team But You’re Ready To Develop Them Into Experts
What if you already have an outbound sales team? It’s an investment to build a proficient outbound team. But if you can turn them into experts, you are golden…
- Quality Over Quantity: Are you generating leads, but struggling with quality? Read “Too Many Appointments Our Prospectors Set Up Are No-Show Or Not A Fit – How Do We Improve The Quality Of Appointments & Conversion Rates?”
- Go For Bigger Deals: The easiest way to increase revenue from a prospecting team is to focus on finding bigger deals. Here are 7 Principles to Finding Bigger Deals.
- Detailed Case Study: Review this case study to hear what it sounds like in real life when a company puts the ideas to work: Acquia, On The $100 Million Track or How HealthCatalyst Created $12.1M in Their Pipeline.
- Develop A Full-Time Manager: You will need a dedicated manager who’s good at coaching and at process to your outbound team. Perhaps promote one of your prospectors who shows leadership. It makes a tremendous difference. Learn how to develop closer relationships with your SDRs.
- Learn How To “Map Calls”: One of the first techniques we teach clients is how to make “Mapping Calls” aka “Talk To The Right Person Calls”. Check out A Friendly Kind Of Cold Call. Especially work on this call if a) your emails just aren’t working, and b) your messaging is terrible.
- Refine Your Messaging: Being able to describe yourself in simple terms to someone who doesn’t know you makes a big difference in whether they’ll be interested or not. Find how to write more relevant messaging based on the chain of relevance.