Outbound sales strategies are more viable than ever been before.
By the end of this guide, you’ll know exactly how outbound sales work, how they fit with the rest of your sales strategy, and what steps you can take to master your outbound sales approach.
Table of Contents
- What Is Outbound Sales?
- Inbound vs Outbound Sales
- The 6-Step Outbound Sales Formula
- 9 Tips to Master Your Outbound Sales Game
What Is Outbound Sales?
We’ll start simple.
What is outbound sales exactly?
“Outbound sales” is a sales strategy consisting of tactics where you reach out to people directly. You’ll initiate contact with a person, and hopefully, sell them on your company’s products or services.
This is best understood in contrast with “inbound sales.” Inbound sales is a sales strategy that relies on attracting people to your brand.
For example, you might write a regular blog covering topics that are important to your audience; if 1,000 people read those posts, 20 might reach out to your company, and 10 of those might become paying customers.
It’s a great approach. But it lacks something.
Outbound sales tend to be more direct and capable of reaching more people.
Outbound sales tactics include things like:
- Cold calls. Cold calls give you an immediate conversation with a qualified prospect.
- Cold emails. Cold emails are easy to scale and automate.
- SMS texts. SMS texts get attention quickly and are easy to manage and scale. You can also send bulk text messages to reach all of your possible customers at once.
- Tradeshows. Some companies benefit from attending tradeshows and other external events to find and talk to new people.
You can use almost any channel as part of your outbound sales strategy.
Inbound vs Outbound Sales
So what’s the difference between inbound sales vs outbound sales?
Put simply, inbound sales strategies focus on pulling people in, like a magnet, while outbound sales rely on manual and automated outreach efforts.
Advantages of inbound sales
Inbound sales strategies have some advantages compared to outbound sales strategies.
- Builds trust. Inbound sales gives you the opportunity to build trust with your prospects. Over time, people read your content. They get to know your brand. They grow to trust you. Then, and only then, do you try to close the sale. It ends up being much warmer because it’s often the prospect’s idea.
- High scalability. Also, inbound sales strategies tend to be very scalable, with a high return on investment (ROI) over the long term. It’s cheap to get started with a strategy like content marketing or SEO, but it doesn’t pay off right away. That said, if you’re consistent with it, it can offer an incredible long-term return.
- Long-term investment in your brand. Inbound sales strategies like SEO and content marketing represent a permanent investment in your brand’s online footprint. It’s like building equity in your home rather than paying rent.
Advantages of outbound sales
So why would you use outbound sales?
There are several strong advantages to pursuing outbound sales:
- The personal touch. Your content might be persuasive. It might be entertaining. It might even be hilarious. But even with a huge injection of personality, there’s nothing more personal than a one-on-one conversation. With outbound sales, you’ll be connecting with leads and prospects directly, so you can get to know them and engage on a human level. Inbound sales skips over this step entirely, leading to colder interactions – despite outbound sales being the strategy saddled with “cold” calls.
- Targeted prospects. The outbound sales approach also requires you to target specific prospects. With inbound sales, you’ll use your content and other tactics to naturally attract people within your target demographics, hoping for the best and expecting the worst. But with outbound sales, you’ll have more control. You can qualify your leads and eventually work with only the most likely people to convert.
- Immediate feedback. Someone reads your on-site content. They like it, but they’re not persuaded that your product is a good fit. They leave and never come back. This is a tree falling with no one around to hear it – does it really make a sound? Unfortunately, with inbound sales, you’ll have a lot of invisible interactions like this. But with outbound sales, when you’re speaking with people directly, you’ll often get immediate and transparent feedback. You’ll understand exactly what people feel about your product and your company, and you can self-correct in real-time.
- Faster experimentation cycles. Similarly, outbound sales strategies tend to have faster experimentation cycles. Rather than waiting several months for your tactics to kick in and retroactively analyzing them, you can talk to people and figure out what’s going on. You can switch in new scripts and messages and see what effects they have.
- Lower upfront costs. Inbound sales are super cost-efficient once you’re established. That said, the upfront costs are high, especially when you’re not seeing great results to make up for your investment.
Comparatively, it’s cheap to pursue outbound sales – and the results can be amazing from day one.
The 6-Step Outbound Sales Formula
Whether you’re trying to get a bunch of email responses or you just want to close more deals during conversation, you’ll follow a similar approach in outbound sales.
1. Define your customer persona.
Before you draft an email or pick up the phone, you need to know who your audience is. Market research, brainstorming, and internal development will help you define your customer persona – and learn the best ways to get them to respond.
You can refer to this guide for help creating your ideal customer persona.
2. Lead generation.
Your next goal is generating leads. You can use a number of different strategies here (including some inbound sales strategies). But the end goal is getting the contact information of lots of people who fit your target demographics. For help, see these guides:
3. Qualify leads.
Quality matters more than quantity when it comes to leads. If you want to manage a successful sales strategy, you’ll need a system in place to filter and qualify those leads; by the end, you should have filtered out anyone who isn’t a good fit for your brand.
Try these sales discovery questions to qualify your leads.
4. Make initial contact.
Once you have a pool of high-quality, qualified leads, you can proceed with initial contact. This is usually a phone call, email, SMS text message, or similar form of outreach. It’s a great chance to ask some discovery questions and get to know this person better.
For help, use these email outreach tools and these sales email subject lines. Or if you want to make contact via LinkedIn, see our guide to LinkedIn outreach.
Unless your product is truly astounding, chances are your prospect isn’t going to buy after the first conversation. They may not even respond to your first message. If you want to be successful, you need to follow up. Sometimes that means following up many times.
6. Close the sale.
Finally, you’ll need some way to close the deal. There are many viable closing strategies, and they may kick in at different phases of this overall process.
9 Tips to Master Your Outbound Sales Game
Outbound sales isn’t a strategy you can master overnight – or with the help of a single, 10-minute reading session (though thanks for reading this anyway!)
It requires time, effort, and ongoing experimentation. Even if you’re a natural talent, it will take you years to perfect the strategy.
But let’s focus on the near-term.
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These tips, tricks, and tactics will get you started on the right path in outbound sales:
1. Your sales team is key.
If you’re a small startup or you’re just a superhero in terms of productivity, you might be able to manage an outbound sales strategy on your own. Otherwise, you’ll need the help of a fully developed team.
Much of your success will depend on your ability to recruit, hire, onboard, educate, and train the right people. Positive, persuasive, charming, and self-motivated candidates are key.
2. Differentiate your brand.
Yeah, yeah – your prospects have probably heard about this type of thing before, from one of your competitors. So what? What makes your brand different?
For your outbound sales approach to work, you need to have something that makes your brand stand out. Is it a great price? A different approach to customer service? A free deep-tissue massage with purchase?
Focus on these key differentiators.
3. Document your process.
You see that outbound sales process we outlined in the preceding section? Your company’s outbound sales process doesn’t have to look like that. But it does need to look like something – and it should be formally documented.
This is going to make it easier for your team to work consistently, and it will make training new people a cinch. Plus, it will make it easier to swap in new tactics and experiment with things.
Great benefits all-around. For help, check out this guide to building the ultimate sales process.
4. Use a variety of channels.
I love email. It’s a high-ROI communication medium that gets a ton of traction. But it’s foolish to focus on email, or any single communication channel, exclusively.
Use a variety of different channels so you can appeal to different types of people and experiment more effectively. Over time, you can filter out the channels that aren’t doing you much good and double down on the most effective ones.
5. Qualify your leads carefully.
Your time is valuable. Calling someone who doesn’t fit your target demographics is a waste of that time. It’s much more effective to qualify your leads thoroughly – that way, you’re only reaching out to people who have a high likelihood of converting.
There are many lead qualification strategies that work well, but you’ll need to have something in place if you want to be effective.
6. Personalize everything.
Sales isn’t a battle. Or at least it shouldn’t be. It should be an exercise in building relationships. If your prospects feel like they’re being forced through automated process of a machine, they’re not going to feel very engaged. Instead, you have to make them feel seen, heard, and valued.
One of the best ways to do this is by personalizing your strategy as much as possible – and catering to individuals. Just including someone’s name in a subject line can increase engagement rates.
7. Focus on benefits.
Salespeople are often tempted to drone on and on about how great the product is or how much innovation it brings to the industry. This is fine, sometimes, but you’ll see much higher engagement rates and close rates if you focus on the strict benefits.
If a customer buys this, what tangible benefits are they going to see? How is their life going to improve?
8. AB test and experiment.
It’s hard to say which messages or tactics are going to give you the best results. You’ll need to experiment and tinker with the variables to see what works.
One of your best tools will be AB testing – the practice of experimenting with two different versions of a given message or setup to see which one outperforms the other.
9. Get lots of feedback.
You’re already talking to interested prospects, so ask them some important questions! What do they think about your product? Do they genuinely want to buy? If not, what’s stopping them from moving forward?
The more you learn, the more you can refine your outbound sales approach.
Ready to master outbound sales?
Hold that thought.
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Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.