Outbound Sales is Dead, Right?

It’s difficult to be an evangelist of outbound marketing strategies today. In fact, inbound marketing mavens dismiss outbound strategies and claim that they are all but extinct.

 

So it was a relief to see David Skok’s recent blog post, “Why Salespeople Shouldn’t Prospect.” The post is a refreshing read, and it tells us exactly why outbound strategies are still critically important for marketers. Skok is a VC, entrepreneur and thought leader in customer development strategy, and is a huge inbound marketing advocate and investor.

However, he is also open minded about exploring all customer development options for each unique situation.

The question is: What provides the lowest customer acquisition cost (CAC)?

In his post, David interviews Aaron Ross, the author of Predictable Revenue. The book leans heavily on Ross’s experiences at Salesforce.com, where he had an epiphany while experimenting with outbound marketing strategies that eventually netted $100 million in incremental business.

This interview provided some fascinating insight into the state of outbound sales, and it covered some key points that we should all keep in mind:

Outbound sales is not dead.

 

All B2B marketers must have an inbound marketing strategy. However, I also believe that in certain situations, you need a great outbound strategy to complement inbound and digital marketing tactics.

When should you use outbound sales?

From my experience in B2B sales, there are very few companies that can rely on a pure inbound lead generation strategy.

Skok and Ross cover a couple of scenarios where it makes sense to include outbound sales:

  • When inbound isn’t generating enough leads or the right kind of leads to reach sales goals.
  • When your best prospects can be clearly targeted, researched and approached with outbound tactics.
  • When average gross sales per customer in the first year exceeds $10,000—a rough estimate that probably covers the expense of a sales team.

I would add that when “discovering” the right sales and lead generation strategy, outbound sales should be tested to determine the cost of customer acquisition in order to profile customer buyers, influencers and their social networking patterns. For example, are they using LinkedIn? Are they bloggers?

Outbound sales interactions and feedback are critical in start-up situations, as well as new product launches in expansion stage companies.

Outbound sales techniques that work

One of the knocks on outbound marketing is its fruitless use of old tactics based on “interruption marketing.” From my field-tested experience, here’s what I found still works in outbound sales with adjustments to today’s “buyer in control” market. I think you’ll see they complement and build-on Ross’s ideas.

Email: I use blind emails all the time. These aren’t email blasts, but rather carefully crafted messages that grab attention, but respect the recipient’s time. They’re short and to the point. Why do they work? Great business leaders are looking for good solutions to solve their problems. If your email is professionally written, personalized and respectful, you’ll find that it will prompt some action.

I also build templates so that they can be personalized and sent in volume. You should only send an amount that can be managed within a couple of days (i.e. 200, expecting a 5-15 percent response rate). I’d also recommend using a CRM system that can manage personalized email delivery and tracking.

 Telesales: I am still amazed by the number of telesales organizations that measure their success by how many times they called someone before reaching their contact or leaving a voicemail. That’s old school.

In reality, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll actually reach someone directly, and if you do you’re probably catching them by surprise.

Be prepared to leave a voicemail on your first try. I’d also suggest using a written script, but not reading it verbatim. Get used to talking through key points on the script without reading. Practice, update and use a conversational tone. When you connect, tell them you’ll follow up with a brief email with more details and contact information.

Emails that reference a voicemail are great reinforcement. They can be forwarded, and they confirm personalization and professionalism. Ninety-eight percent of marketers don’t do this, and so you’ll stand out when you do.

David Skok’s interview also builds on the strategies above and covers other relevant and important topics, such as:

  • Outbound sales team specialization: Don’t let your rainmakers (closers) prospect or research.
  • Aaron’s breakthrough at Salesforce.com: Short, clear emails and responses from C-level executives.
  • Research activities to feed the team and identify the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

If you want to learn more after reading the post, check out Aaron’s book, Predictable Revenue. It’s a great read, and I highly recommend it.

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