What is Outbound Sales? [and 3 Ways to do it better]
What is Outbound Sales?
You have probably heard the term and may have asked yourself, “What is outbound sales exactly?”
There has been a ton of hubbub around the subject of inbound sales over the past half decade or so.
Especially since the creation of a little company called HubSpot. In 2004, a bunch of MIT folks started talking about how to attract the right people to a brand using inbound techniques and BOOM!
But this post is about outbound sales.
You see, all the talk about inbound methods have made some think that finding a good quality lead and trying to get a hold of them via cold email and cold calling isn’t effective anymore. We hope to dispel that half-myth today.
We can go on and on, back and forth on the subject of cold outreach. Is it dead? Is it dying? Or, is it still a legitimate tactic?
Some are adamantly against cold email/calls while others still use it daily. Successes are on both sides of the aisle.
But we’re not going to argue outbound vs. inbound sales either—they’re both great.
What we hope to do is:
- Define the term “Outbound Sales” accurately.
- Challenge the stereotypes, straw man arguments, and misconceptions.
- Give a few tips to brush up on your outbound sales skills.
Let’s get started.
Defining the Term “Outbound Sales”
Outbound Sales: The process of sales reps making sales calls and sending emails to potential customers (leads) for the purpose of generating interest and selling a company’s products/services.
Sounds simple enough, right?
We’ve just scratched the surface. The process described above has a lot of moving parts that we’ll also have to define.
Where Do the Leads Come From?
Leads are generated in a number of ways.
This is typically where the misconceptions start coming out (but we’ll get to those further down). Finding leads to reach out to come in three basic ways.
- Buy a List: The least effective method (most of the time). Purchasing a list of names that meet basic criteria often leads to the lowest response rate (from cold outreach) and a pretty abysmal conversion rate. Unfortunately, many believe this is the only way to do “cold calling”.
- Researching Contacts: A process that involves the salesperson developing a list of potential buyers based on intel, ideal customers currently using the products/services, and research skills to find contact information before reaching out. A very effective and profitable outbound method.
- Leads Contacting Company: There are times when a lead will reach out to a company first. Through a contact form, by phone, email, referrals, or possibly advertising. These leads should be contacted as soon as possible by those who are responsible for qualifying and setting appointments.
Inbound Leads: Generally acquired through content marketing, SEO, and advertising. These leads aren’t typically part of the outbound process and will typically be handled differently and perhaps by a different role on the sales team entirely.
Who’s Responsible for Outbound Sales?
During the initial stages of your business, the founder or CEO will likely take on the prominent sales role. After all, you know the company best and need revenue.
Using a lead gen software will help, especially if you’re trying to construct a list of quality prospects for your cold outreach efforts. Side note: We know about a software that even sends your cold emails for you (while helping you optimize for maximum response rates).
Small, shameless plug over. Now back to the matter at hand.The primary sales role that will be handling outbound lead acquisition will be a development rep. Click To Tweet
Some companies call this role a sales development rep (SDR) and others (like us) call it a business development rep (BDR).
We like to differentiate with SDRs being primarily responsible for setting appointments from inbound leads while BDRs are responsible for breaking new ground and finding high-quality cold leads.
Bonus Resource: For a detailed look at what a BDR does and some of the best practices for researching leads, check out our post here.
Tackling the Straw Man
Some really good arguments against some elements of cold outreach exist. Seriously.
That said, the ones worth reading will typically give credit to the many benefits of the method overall. In fact, many inbounders will go as far as to say that both inbound and outbound should be used to achieve growth.
Articles and posts that aren’t worth your time are straw man arguments.
You know, the type of thing that puts up common (but totally wrong) misconceptions that can really rally a crowd and make the thing being discredited seem really bad and often makes the presenter of the argument look really good?
No, we’re not saying people are intentionally leading people away from outbound. Most have excellent intentions, but let’s look at a common definition of our term in question.
Less Accurate Definition: Outbound sales is the process of sales reps making outbound sales calls to prospects. Outbound sales sometimes involves making cold calls to leads on a list, though often reps call leads that have previously demonstrated demand for a product by engaging with a brand’s content, filling out a form, emailing a business or making a previous call to a business. (Emphasis ours.)
No mention of developing a list, using great data to ensure the quality prospects, or even cold emailing (a vital part of outreach nowadays).
We love outbound, but this definition doesn’t make us feel like cold calling.
The way the word “list” is used makes you feel like it’s one purchased from a third party. And the term “sometimes” isn’t really an accurate representation.
- Outbound reps are either researching new leads, contacting fresh leads, or nurturing contacted leads—all the time.
- Buying a list isn’t terrible, but generating your own leads will lead to a much higher conversion rate.
There are a couple of other reasons outbound isn’t dead.
When you are venturing into new territory and don’t know if it’s worth having a full-on inbound marketing campaign; why not try some cold outreach?
Having BDRs reach out to some similar companies in other markets could shed light on how successful your products may be in that sector.
Not to mention that you can gain ground in said sector while you are trying to rank for those key terms via SEO and develop that awesome content for your new inbound funnel segment.
No matter how many leads come to you, there will always be new customers waiting for you to call them.
They may have been to your site, clicked on your ad, and liked an Instagram post—but won’t buy until you reach out. It happens all the time.All a new client needs is the invitation to hear more about your stuff. Click To Tweet
Sometimes it’s due to a disorganized organization. No one knows who’s buying what. Or, other times, it’s misconceptions about the differences between your solution and the one they currently use (“aren’t they all the same”).
Whatever it is, there always has to be someone going to “them”. Or else you’re losing potential revenue.
Start, ReStart or ReInvigorate Your Outbound Sales
Now that we’ve built a definition for the term, removed a few misconceptions, and made an argument for the process—it’s time to share a couple of tips.
Again, we think building a quality list is crucial to the success of an outbound process. We’ve already talked about that at length in this and other posts. Here are the three ways to do it better.
Way Number One: Research More than Stats
Using data is awesome.
Growth marketing, buyer personas, and business forecasting are places where data is king.
Outbound though, is a bit different. You’re reaching out to real people that make up those facts.
Often times having a bit of a connection with a lead will entice a greater response rate. The cool thing is that those generating new leads don’t have as many. Fewer, but better quality, leads may give you the time to do further research (e.g. looking at LinkedIn profiles).
Find something that you can mention in your email, make a personal connection. It works.
Way Number Two: Build Up Credibility
Don’t just walk into a new market like you own the place. Get your footing, follow people of influence in that industry—know what you’re talking about.Understanding your world is less than half the equation. Click To Tweet
You have to understand the prospect’s concerns, responsibilities, and pains (in relation to your products).
Pro Tip: Acronyms are a big part of every industry. Getting acquainted with these is like gold. It’s like you speak their language and they’ll open up to you more seeing as how you “get it”.
Way Number Three: Offer Incredible Value
Inbound is all about offering value to visitors. A great lead magnet goes a long way to warm up new leads.
Outbounders can do this too.
Maybe via content suggestions, but it’s more valuable to give them strategies in relation to your product.
Example: You sell an app that helps video game developing firms collaborate. How about offering a one-on-one to help them implement strategies that lower development time (with or without your product)?
Do You Use Outbound Sales?
If you are a young company with a bootstrapped budget, it’s highly likely that you rely on outbound sales to generate revenue. If so, what are your best tips?
Larger organizations and those who are trying to scale, do you use outbound to leverage as much growth as possible? If not, why?