I love inbound for its 5X effect (5X leads and 5X conversions). However, Inbound is not the perfect solution for every business at all times because it needs an extended period of nurturing and it takes time to deliver results. Not days or weeks but months and years. This is where outbound sales steps in like a Viking knight to save the day and provide velocity to sales.
Depending upon the stage of your business, priority at that point and the size of your war chest (cash reserves) founders and sales leaders must choose wisely between for an Inbound, outbound or Hybrid sales strategy.
As a Software as a service (SaaS) Technology startup – Alore CRM, we believe in the power of hybrid sales strategy – While Inbound is helping us in building the brand and lead generation, outbound sales is setting the initial momentum.
Outbound sales is faster and has a comparatively shorter turn around time and like I said – quicker results. When done at scale and executed well, it can bring in greater revenues than Inbound.
In this article I’ll talk about getting started on Outbound sales from scratch and what it takes to set the initial process and momentum.
In my next one, I’ll talk about getting started on Inbound so you can decide for yourself what works best for you.
HOW TO PLAN THE OUTBOUND PROGRAM :
Creating an outbound program is a great idea but a lot depends upon the effectiveness and productivity of your Sales Development Representatives (SDRs). To set them on the right path, here is how you can start on the path and then gradually over time flex it to your needs.
1. Getting the basic right – Prospect Personas
A building weathers storms when the foundation is strong. Step 1 to any strategy Inbound or Outbound is getting the prospect persona right. You have to know who you are targeting and why.
The earlier you get this right, the faster you can ramp up your pace. We launched Alore CRM in Jan 2018 but we began working on our personas around mid-2017. We took the help of two very smart ex-BCG Principals and sat with them to formulate a series of questions to figure out prospects’ persona from the sales vantage point. (The widely used buyer’s persona is very marketing focused and delves into a lot of unnecessary info that salespeople don’t need to waste time finding)
(We’ve built it into a prospect persona creator tool for Alore customers that’s free to use – For maximum benefit, I suggest you use it when you have 10 -12 minutes of uninterrupted time – That will ensure you get the closest to real snapshot of your prospect)
2. Set the first sales process for your company:
As a founder you must do the first ten sales yourself. When you do this you will build a good picture of how your ecosystem work. Form your experience into a process even if it’s just six steps on paper. This will give the incoming Sales head or SDRs to have a practical foundation and framework to work upon and refine over time.
Do not fret over the process being perfect because, with technology changing, sales processes will too. e.g., Ten years back social selling wasn’t a thing and today it’s huge.
3. Set the right targets for your sales team
Only when you have made a few sales as a founder will you know what to practically expect and that’s workable.
Depending upon the length of your sales cycle and stakes involved will 200 customers/month be realistic or 2/year.
Pro Tip: Most sales require at least 5 – 10 touchpoints before anything materializes, be very clear on what you’re expecting here.
4. Equip and Train them well
Outbound sales is a game of numbers. The wider you cast your net, the higher the conversions will be. A well equipped and trained sales teams will be able to thus reach out more, schedule more demos and meetings and hence bring in more revenues.
Tools you need:
- Lead gen tool to extract email IDs and personal info of prospects. You can use tools like Hunter.io ($39/month for finding 1000 prospects), Alore email finder chrome extension, Dux Soup ($15/month) etc.
Here’s a small video to give you an idea on how these work.
- A robust CRM to take care of your database. You could try Alore CRM, (Free for up to first 100 prospects and $49/seat/month for 1000+ prospects) Pipedrive,( $29/seat/month for a normal plan) Zoho CRM or Salesflare ( $35 /seat/month)
- A DRIP email campaign tool to schedule reach outs and follow ups. You can use tools like Mailshake( $29/perosn/month for basic plan) Woodpecker($40/seat/month for basic plan) , Alore CRM ( Free for up to first 100 prospects and $49/seat/month for 1000+ prospects)
- Click to call tools to make, record and transcribe the outbound calling. You can use tools like Hubspot calling, Alore CRM ( Free for up to first 100 prospects and $49/seat/month for 1000+ prospects)
( We, of course, use Alore CRM for its platform approach providing end to end sales capability – it extracts verified email IDs of prospects, auto updates CRM, helps you set DRIP campaigns from the tool and can make, record and transcribe sales calls to begin with. It’s free to use for up to 1000 Prospects ! )
- Create a stack of calling scripts and email templates the SDRs can begin with
- Teach them how to handle initial objections and get a meeting
- Walk them through your product or solution in detail. Conduct this training periodically to ensure any new features or amendments are perfectly clear to every team member.
- Sales is as much about the team as it’s about individual performance. Ensure you’re instilling the company culture and team spirit from the start. Teams are always more productive.
- Ensure they have the latest decks
5. Sales Enablement
A sales team may be super talented and hustle like a pro but they WILL need additional support. It would be in the form of tools and training as mentioned earlier but also in terms of collateral and often having marketing support. This may also include buying lists in the beginning when you don’t have a starting point. (Over time, however, the effort needs to be on building your own lists because they convert much better than generic bought ones.)
6. Incentivize well
Depending upon the nature of your business, you need to create bonus programs and commission structure. Here are some ways you could create your incentive program to begin:
a) Assign Multi-level targets:
Having three tiers in your targets will keep the majority of salespeople motivated to achieve the base tier on a bad month and exceed the top tier on most.
b) Gamify sales:
Adding a competitive element to the sales team and rewarding the top performers with prizes was seen to motivate the top performers.
Pro Tip – Try keeping the prize non-monetary. This helps infuse a healthier competitive spirit.
c) The Bonus program
Have a quarterly bonus in place. It works better than an annual bonus in keeping teams motivated. and if you have the budget and ramp – keep both!
d) Maintain a public leaderboard.
In smaller setups, keeping a public leaderboard often works in motivating the lagging team members to strive harder to meet targets and avoid being at the bottom of the list.
Insider Tip: Outbound sales reps generally get 2-3 times in commissions than inbound in B2B Tech.
7. The right person for the right job:
SDRs with a variety of experience apply generally. If the applicant is promising you just hire them regardless of their experience level. In my experience and from what I have seen in the industry, experienced SDRs tend to perform better in Inbound sales and convert faster. They know the right thing to say at the right time and handle objections etc better.
Lesser experienced SDRs when trained well are great with outbound leads mostly because outbound is a numbers game and their energy levels are much higher.
8. Create a backup – Business Continuity Plan (BCP)
You can not depend your business on the performance of star players right. What if they decide to leave for some reason and you can not do anything to retain them? Worse still- they take all their relationships with them.
While this is a sensitive topic to most salespeople and they hesitate to share every trick they know with a colleague, find ways to have them contribute positively.
Have mentor-menteee programs – If your sales team is large enough have the senior salespeople mentor the SDRs in a formal program. Have their bonuses tied in or credited with the performance of the SDRs they are mentoring.
Pro tip: A great practice here is to have your salespeople keeping their CRMs updated and ensure transparency in CRM database with their managers etc.
GETTING STARTED ON OUTBOUND REACH OUT
By now you have your ‘prospect persona right, there’s a process in place and you have the sales team motivated and excited to begin. Time to get started on the outbound reach outs.
Once you have your persona right, you will know what the most preferred channels of communication are for your target audience – email, phone, social media, live events, forums etc.
Step 1: Brainstorm with your sales team:
You need to check with your sales team on what heuristics they are using to decide their priority list. Are they targeting 100 companies at the same time or do they have them segmented into batches of twenty and in a priority list of reach out.
Let’s assume that Design agency owners are your target market. Here’s how you can go about segmenting the data:
Step 1: Make a list of agency owners location wise – UK, US, Canada, China, Singapore etc.
Step 2: Next segment the data based on company size, funding status etc.
Next, you need to prioritize the segments based on key heuristics:
- How many cities are they present in (Indicates their growth and dependency on automation and communication processes in place)
- Are they attending a lot of events recently (Shows activity and inclination to take action, and that that engaging them at events might be a good plan)
- Is the top management active on social media (Indicates an open culture and easier accessibility)
- No of marketers on the team (LinkedIn indicates this well)
- Collaborations etc.
Based on indicators like these you will be able to create sets of people who you need to go after.
Now that you have your list of targets ready, its time to get into execution mode.
Cold emails have worked great for us always and in fact in all my ventures. When done right it brings in enviable results.
Personalization and relevance are the key to conversion here. The better you can personalize your email campaign and lead the conversation meaningfully, the better you can sell.
Some quick pointers here are:
Delivery Rates of emails depend upon sender reputation – Ensure you use a trusted Email service provider to schedule your email campaigns.
Open Rates of emails depend upon – Sending time, Subject Line relevance. Give a lot of thought into crafting subject lines and timing them well as per the local time zone of recipient.
Response Rates/ Clickthrough rates depend upon – personalization of email copy and clear Call to Action (CTA).
Cold calling is not dead. In fact, it’s a great way to find new customers for many industries.
However modern consumers are more alert with their time and choices. It’s imperative for SDRs to begin well by having done a thorough research about the persona and not make the prospect feel like a name on a list.
So we have the ability to make, track, record and transcribe calls from Alore CRM via a service called Twilio.
When our first SDR began making calls in end 2017, I as a founder would later listen to the calls, see what works what doesn’t in the script and therefore figure out what part of our communication prospects loved the most and what we could do away with. It helped tremendously.
From that exercise, I can share the top three things that most SDRs ensure in their script:
- Something very recent their company did – Check the latest announcements of the prospect’s company
- Know the exact role the person is at and ensure you understand the expectations of that role. This is critical to building a bridge with the prospect. In fact, this should be Number 1 in your priority list.
- Have one extra non-work tidbit to connect upon – Easy to spot it from Facebook or Twitter e.g. interest in Sailing or traveling etc.
Cold Calling 2.0
This is the modern version of cold calling popularized by Aaron Ross from Predictable Revenue.
Aaron’s strategy is pretty neat and worked wonders during his time at Salesforce where he developed this. Here’s how it works:
Let’s say you want to call Samantha in Sales:
Step 1: First call Jim from marketing and most subtly ask him to help connect you with the right person in Sales.
Step 2: Most likely Jim would connect you with Samantha or her colleague.
Step 3: Now when you call Samantha you say Jim referred you to her and you’d like ten minutes of her time.
It’s not really a cold call anymore and Samantha will listen to you attentively as her colleague referred you. What you did here was to lower her guard against random tele-callers and thus you stood out.
Pro Tip – This methodology can be easily transposed to cold email as well.
Social selling is a huge component of modern outbound sales. This is where you interact with prospects on social media channels by engaging with them on posts, commenting, liking etc. and gradually trying to build a relationship with them over call or email. However, its is a less direct and most time taking method in outbound sales as its difficult to scale rapidly.
This is an outbound strategy all right but an expensive and unpredictable one. Expensive understandably because it takes costs to set up booths or send attendees to conferences.
Unpredictable because unless you’re the one organizing the event you can only depend upon other trade bodies or companies to organize the event and you gaining entry to them. However, SDRs who actively attend events and engage with attendees who are prospects can actually really connect come back with quality leads in the pipeline. We wrote a detailed note on how to not waste time at networking events. You may find it useful on how to qualify leads at events and not waste time there.
In my experience attending events is great because it charges you up and you figure out a lot on your prospects and competition. However, attending too many isn’t worthwhile if the same set of people are going to attend them.
Pro tip: Events work great for when the ticket price of your solution is high.
P.S. – I am not talking about Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and advertising here in outbound because that’s more for the marketers to execute than sales.
Outbound sales is a great way to build velocity when ramping up your business and when you have the right customer persona identified. When starting from scratch it will be worth all the effort if founders take time to sell the first 10 deals themselves to understand the reality of sales for their product or solution in the industry they operate in.
Thereafter founders must spend time on setting up internal processes and support mechanism to keep their sales teams on track and motivated by the right training, incentive programs and external support. Depending upon the relevance in the niche you operate in to decide which strategy you want to follow and then go all in.
Will share my thoughts on setting up the inbound campaign from scratch and how to implement the Hybrid of inbound and outbound in our next blog.
Meanwhile happy to have a one to one chat on outbound sales campaigns as a founder. Drop me an email on email@example.com
Rooting for your success!