Sometimes it makes sense to go directly after what you want—like asking a neighbor out, putting yourself up for a promotion at work, or calling a potential client to explain why they should purchase your product or service.
In the business world, this kind of outreach is a traditional approach known as outbound selling—and under the right conditions, it’s an effective way to close a deal. Learn how successful businesses use outbound sales tactics to find high-value clients, build relationships, and boost sales.
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What is outbound sales?
Outbound sales is any sales activity in which a sales representative initiates contact with a potential customer. Its primary goal is to make sales by identifying and approaching high-value prospects.
Outbound selling is often thought of as a business-to-business (B2B) strategy, but it can be useful for business-to-consumer (B2C) companies, including small businesses. Since outbound selling often results in a higher cost per acquisition (CPA) than other sales strategies, it’s popular with businesses that have a high average sale value or high customer lifetime value.
5 types of outbound sales techniques
Any tactic that involves cold outreach to a potential buyer is an example of an outbound sales technique. Here are a few common types:
1. Cold calling. A sales rep makes a phone call to a potential buyer.
2. Cold emailing. A sales rep emails a potential buyer.
3. Door-to-door visits. A sales rep goes to a home or business to pitch products to potential customers.
4. Social selling. A sales rep contacts potential customers on social channels.
5. Attending business events. A sales rep approaches potential buyers at conferences, trade shows, or business networking events.
What are the benefits of outbound sales?
Operating an outbound sales strategy can be resource intensive, but it also provides businesses with a high degree of control over the sales process. Here’s an overview of the benefits:
1. Personalized outreach
The targeted leads are typically corporate decision-makers and other high-value prospects. Since this pool of potential sales contacts tends to be small, outbound selling allows your sales team to focus on personalizing outreach and cultivating valuable customer relationships.
2. Shorter sales cycles
An outbound strategy can pay off quickly. Instead of waiting for your customers to find you, you can call them directly.
3. Control over your sales pipeline
Outbound selling gives you full control over your sales pipeline, allowing you to speed up or slow down the pace of customer acquisition as needed, based on outreach.
What’s the difference between outbound and inbound sales?
Both inbound and outbound sales are designed to generate leads and nurture them through the sales funnel. The key difference is how the company makes initial contact with the sales contact. In an outbound sales strategy, a sales rep reaches out to a potential customer, while in an inbound sales strategy, a customer initiates contact with a company.
With inbound sales, customers are typically responding to inbound marketing—an ad, search engine result, or social media post. Once customers have expressed interest in a company, they are considered inbound leads, and a company’s lead response rep may approve additional outreach. Inbound techniques include content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, and paid advertising. While inbound sales strategies can be a cost-effective form of lead generation, the pay off is slower than outbound strategies.
How to create a successful outbound sales strategy (7 steps)
- Identify your target audience
- Find outbound leads
- Organize your leads
- Plan your sales pitch
- Contact prospects
- Qualify leads
- Hold sales calls and offer demos
An effective outbound sales strategy puts you in direct contact with customers who will benefit from your products or services. Follow these steps to integrate outbound sales strategies into your sales process and position your team for outbound sales success.
1. Identify your target audiences
The first step in the outbound sales process is identifying the target audience for your selling efforts. One method is to cross-reference your target market research with existing customer data to determine your most valuable audience segment. If you find the owners of independent hardware stores have a high customer lifetime value and convert at high rates, your outbound sales reps could target this group.
2. Find outbound leads
The next step is finding leads, also known as outbound sales prospecting or outbound prospecting. There are a few ways to go about building a list of potential sales contacts. You can browse company websites and social media channels like LinkedIn for contacts, work with a lead generation agency, or even purchase a lead database.
Lead generation tools can scrub websites to automatically pull together a list of contacts that your outbound sales representatives can use as a starting point for further research.
3. Organize your leads
Outbound sales tools can help you conduct outreach and store information on potential clients. You can also use customer relationship management (CRM) technology to keep an organized, centralized record of all sales outreach. This makes it easier for your sales reps to share information and collaborate on accounts.
4. Plan your sales pitch
Before you start contacting prospects, put together a sales script to help your outbound reps align on key messages. You can also discuss personalization with your team, including how your reps might customize offers and messaging based on a prospective buyer’s needs. Mapping out potential conversations and corresponding sales rep actions can set your team up for a successful cold-calling campaign.
5. Contact prospects
Once you’ve planned your outreach, you’re ready to start making outbound calls, sending emails, and approaching customers on social media channels.
It may take many attempts on multiple channels to reach a prospect. Research from Crunchbase shows making an initial connection requires an average of eight cold calls, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get an answer on the first try. Follow up with potential leads and record attempts in your sales CRM or other tracking tool.
6. Qualify leads
When your sales team reaches a potential lead, the next step is to gather more information and continue the lead qualification process. This involves assessing prospect needs, company information, and additional buying signals (like engagement with sales emails, downloadable resources, or your company website). Use these data points to predict how likely it is that a potential lead will convert to a customer.
Ask your sales representatives to take detailed notes in your sales CRM or other tracking tool so you can use lead qualification information to plan future outreach and allocate outbound sales resources across accounts.
7. Hold sales calls and offer demos
Use your lead qualification information to plan future outreach. The more likely a lead is to convert (and the greater the value of a potential deal), the more you’ll likely invest in sales efforts. If closing a particular deal will bring in a sizable increase in revenue, you might send sales reps to meet with the potential customer and provide an in-person demo of your product or service. For smaller clients or those with less interest, you might focus on inexpensive outreach to avoid taking a loss on your outbound sales strategy.
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Outbound sales FAQ
Is outbound sales B2B?
Outbound sales strategies are more popular with B2B companies than with B2C companies, but they can also be used effectively in the B2C space. Since making outbound calls is resource-intensive, outbound selling is a particularly valuable tactic for companies with smaller numbers of high-value clients.
Is it possible to measure the success of outbound sales campaigns?
Yes. Outbound sales are easy to track because your representatives are directly involved in nurturing customers through the sales funnel. Many companies use outbound sales data to evaluate the performance of individual outbound sales reps.
How can technology and automation enhance outbound sales processes?
Sales automation software can save your outbound sales team time and provide a centralized location for all customer and sales-related data.